We’re well into this year’s Six Nations and, depending on which fan’s you ask, it’s been a typically entertaining tournament. As we approach the first break, it seems a good time to reflect on what’s happened up to this point. By going through team by team, we can judge who has lived up to expectations and who has fallen short. Here’s the lowdown thus far:
If you were to ask most England fans about the Lions’ team in their first two games, they’d maybe describe their side as a good one but not yet a great one. Nonetheless, England remain unbeaten and their gritty and determined win against Wales was as impressive as their romp in Rome. The fixture against Italy helped sharpen their attack whilst the battle against Wales showed the resolve and togetherness of their team. They now travel to Murrayfield heads held high and with the Grand Slam well within sight.
Disappointment is what greeted so many Scottish fans following their dismal 34-7 thrashing in Cardiff. This deflated feeling is, for many, nothing new as previous tournaments have shown. They did, however, show a gutsy performance in their win over France with Greig Laidlaw the stand out performer. His kicking and superior judgement showed to many that his days in a Scotland shirt are far from over. It’ll take a lot for the Scots to finish at the top of the table, but at least the fans may go through the rest of the tournament with a sense of realism rather than the overblown hype they began with.
All hail Johnny Sexton. He has proven himself to be invaluable for the Irish on multiple occasions. His mouth-watering drop goal following a considerable team move against France showed just how important his own self-confidence is to the team. Despite an early stutter in Paris, Ireland overcame and won before going on to demolish Italy comfortably. If any team truly looks ready to rival England to the Calcutta Cup, it’s the Irish. They’re still to face Wales and Scotland at the Aviva Stadium where they currently remain unbeaten in 5 years under their current manager, Joe Schmidt.
A truly inspiring brace of performances from the Welsh means that their 12-6 defeat at Twickenham should not be frowned upon. In fact, it demonstrated both intense determination and impressive strength in depth. Regardless, it’ll be hard for them to not be a little disappointed that they weren’t able to put able to put England away despite multiple chances to do so. Leigh Halfpenny has proven their most valuable player and, if their defence remains in reasonable order, they still have much to offer in this championship.
Another tournament, another string of disappointing performances and results for Italy. So long the whipping boys of the tournament and this does not look set to change as they suffered their 14th successive defeat in the tournament following their 56-19 destruction to Ireland. Having already conceded 15 tries and having being handed an itinerary from hell with two more away games in succession against France and Wales, they may be cast adrift. Despite having promise in the form of Matteo Minozzi and the ever-present Sergio Parisse, it looks like same s**t, different day for the Italians.
France’s performances thus far would indicate they’re still going through a transformation under new coach Jacques Brunel. Despite a few encouraging moments against Ireland and at Murrayfield, against Scotland; they are yet to discover a style to their play. Admittedly injuries have hampered their progress, but the French remain a team that are still looking for an identity. Two, albeit, close run defeats but two defeats nonetheless mean France must secure a win in their third game against strugglers Italy to avoid total disappointment.
Here’s what you have to look forward to at all Last Orders pubs:
Friday 23rd February
France v Italy | 8:00pm
Saturday 24th February
Ireland v Wales | 2:15pm
Scotland v England | 4:45pm
Saturday 10th March
Ireland v Scotland | 2:15pm
France v England | 4:45pm
Sunday 11th March
Wales v Italy | 3:00pm
Italy v Scotland | 12:30pm
England v Ireland | 2:45pm
Wales v France | 5:00pm