1. England’s back row balance still not right
On the face of it, the English trio of Chris Robshaw, Billy Vunipola and James Haskell played pretty well as individuals and Billy Vunipola has rightfully come in for high praise for an outstanding effort at Number 8. But yet again, as a unit the England back row failed to deliver cohesion and more importantly, quick ball.
Robshaw played his usual part by tackling all that ran towards to him as a good blindside should but unfortunately so did Haskell. The tackle stats look great but whilst all of this was happening there wasn’t anyone consistently looking after the ball at the breakdown or attempting to disrupt the Scottish ball.
After the Australian’s criticism of his predecessor playing Robshaw as a ‘six and a half’ during the World Cup, Eddie Jones has done exactly that with Haskell. England lost too much ball when they had it in attack through poor control of the breakdown and although not all fault lies with the flankers do they have a major part to play.
Italy would be the perfect game for Jones to try Jack Clifford or Matt Kvesic at open side and let Haskell and Robshaw battle it out to start on the opposite flank.
2. Parisse is no Zinzan Brooke
Believe it or not but Sergio Parisse has actually been successful with drop goals for both Italy and Stade Francais against Scotland and The Ospreys respectively, but his effort in the last seconds of the game at the Stade de France was quite frankly woeful. That said, there was only one successful attempt all weekend, so maybe the art of dropping a goal is deserting kickers.
George Ford, Finn Russell and Rhys Priestland were all guilty of woeful attempts but for Russell and Scotland it was at a crucial stage of the match. It was the last kick of the first half and would have handed Scotland a valuable half-time lead.
Drop goals are usually quick and easy ways of gaining three points and clearly a tactic that all teams are looking to use but the execution in the first round of matches was less than desirable.
3. CJ Stander looks good in any green
Born and raised in South Africa, CJ Stander is no stranger to wearing a green international shirt after representing and captaining the Springbok under-20 team but on Sunday he looked every bit a proud Irishman with his Man of the Match performance against Wales on debut in Dublin.
The Munster back row, who qualifies to play for Ireland on residency grounds, was signed in 2012 for the Limerick based side as a project player and what a project he has proven to be.
He has fallen into the captaincy at Munster due to Peter O’Mahony’s injuries but it has only added to his case to play for Ireland this year as he has been a shining light in a dark period for the Munster men.
Stander barrelled his way into any Welsh defender with ball in hand and smashed his way into every contact situation whole heartedly. At the age of 25 you have to believe that he is young enough to be a star of not only this Six Nations but many to come as well.
4. Eight straight defeats
With the hype that has been surrounding Scotland since their valiant efforts at the World Cup leading up to this tournament, an expectant Murrayfield crowd were let down on Saturday after a very typical Six Nations performance from the home team.
The style of their defeat was all too familiar. The first half was full of effort and good turnover ball, the use of which was insipid to say the least. England defended in narrow channels and a better team would have noticed and more importantly exploited the wider channels to stretch the defence.
As Eddie Jones said in his post-match press conference, Scotland score 69% of their points in the first 30 minutes so if you are ahead by then, the chances are that you will win. Of Scotland’s eight straight defeats in the Six Nations, they have only scored in the second half four times for a total of 22 points.
Scotland need to play for longer than thirty minutes in this Championship if they are to avoid the ignominy of yet another wooden spoon.
5. We need to stop asking ‘Which French side will turn up?’
There may be new man in charge and some new personnel in the playing ranks but Guy Noves’ side didn’t look all that different from previous French sides.
They conceded 19 turnovers in total and that was the main reason for such a disjointed and frustrating game to watch. This has become the norm for the men across the channel as they become less and less feared.
The fascination of having a goal kicking nine has its own charm but surely in match where you chase ruck after ruck and fire out 69 passes, most of which are from the floor the last thing you would want to do is kick at goal? It seemed that way for Sebastien Bezy at the weekend as his first three kicks failed to bisect the uprights and Jules Plisson had to step in to steady the ship including one monster kick for a valuable three points that put France into the lead.
Noves has raised a few eyebrows with his selection policy and it will be interesting to see his reaction to this performance and just how many more he will raise next week.
6. Not as Biggar loss as first feared
When Wales were 13-0 down and their first choice fly-half was sat in the stands after limping from the field you would have forgiven most fans for thinking that there was no way out of the hole that they were in. But Rhys Priestland entered the fray to slowly but surely steer the Welsh ship back on course.
Priestland’s lack of game time at Bath was something that worried the Welsh coaching staff coming into this tournament, but the former Scarlet proved the doubters wrong with a performance full of maturity and poise.
It wasn’t full of attacking flair but that wasn’t what the men in red required. He didn’t chase the game, but brought his big runners onto the ball on the gain line which invariably led to kickable penalties that brought the scores level.
Follow Andy on Twitter (@scrum5ive)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images