Despite most of the Six Nations games ending as many expected, there were several interesting moments worth analysing. France were victorious over a brave Italian side, effectively claiming victory following a moment of madness from Sergio Parisse. France displayed a strong attacking intent, with Virimi Vakatawa giving a strong performance.
England beating a brutish Scottish side wasn’t much of a surprise to fans either. The English seemed to exemplify Dylan Hartley’s mentality by overpowering the Scots. Scotland showed why they are a force to be reckoned with as they displayed a promising attacking performance with the ball in hand.
Wales justified their favourites tag by coming from behind to draw against Ireland in Dublin. Ireland exhibited strong character after heavy criticism following their World Cup exit. They demonstrated a remarkable strength in depth, which many analysts doubted.
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While the Welsh won’t be happy with the result of the game against Ireland, they will be delighted with avoiding defeat after overcoming a 13-point deficit. Having lost their key playmaker, Dan Biggar, the result was all the more impressive.
There was a noticeable change in strategy from the Welsh, following Biggar’s untimely exit. Warren Gatland will be pleased with his side’s tenacity in attack and defence, and the dominance they displayed at the breakdown and in scrums.
Ireland’s opening half hour reminded the rugby world why they are Six Nations champions. Irish rugby has been in a dark place over the months following the World Cup, but Ireland conveyed hunger, desire and conviction to get on the ball early on. CJ Stander had a remarkable performance and kept the ball rolling at the breakdown.
The injury to Tommy O’Donnell will be a real headache for Joe Schmidt, as Ireland struggled to maintain possession at the breakdown following his injury. Ireland’s absence of a genuine open-side flanker has been detrimental in the past, and it seems more problems could arise in the coming days. Ireland face a tough trip to Paris on Saturday, and will need to pick themselves up to win.
Eddie Jones and his team will undoubtedly be delighted to have picked up a win over Scotland at Murrayfield. However, the style of play was largely unattractive. England will struggle against Ireland and Wales if they adopt a similar strategy.
Doubts have also been raised over starting George Ford and Owen Farrell - although this issue may have eradicated itself - if Farrell is cited for his push on Greig Laidlaw. England will certainly need to adapt, or perish.
Despite being overpowered by the English, Scotland did show some degree of promise in possession. However, they lacked any real composure and failed to put away clear-cut chances. Their inability to score tries will cost them dearly during the tournament.
Scotland have a potentially devastating team, with a solid scrum, and a quick, effective backline - but they need to utilise the likes of Stuart Hogg and Mark Bennett more effectively for results to go their way.
The French were mesmerising and devastating in attack, and for this reason, they avoid bottom spot.
Defensively France were beyond woeful. Men seemed to simply fall off tackles, and would slog back to realign in defence. The four teams above would make France pay dearly for their lacklustre defence. If they resolve the prevalent defensive issues, they will certainly push for a potential championship. But based on this performance alone, French fans should be concerned.
While Italy will be disappointed not to come away with a victory in Paris, they can remain positive with the performance, although they won’t come across another team who were simply abysmal in defence.
Michele Campagnaro reminded Italian fans of his speed and strength with several key line breaks. Despite missing a few clear-cut chances, Carlo Canna put in a strong display at out-half.
However, the Italians will be facing England in their second fixture, and it seems they will be battling hard to save themselves from the dreaded wooden spoon.
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