Has the Six Nations lost it’s sparkle?

Already I can hear a clamour of voices rising up in outrage at this very statement and most of those will be coming from west of the river Severn. But before the lynch mobs sharpen their pitch forks and dust off their torches I still believe there is a case to be made. The most coveted tournament in the world is in danger of becoming stale and unimaginative.

Six Nations

Aside from the Welsh, who still have not fully convinced me, there is not a team in the tournament who you feel could guarantee a positive performance of quality rugby. In the two rounds of matches we have not seen, aside from Ireland vs France, a game that has really set the pulses racing.

An improved performance from England at the Millennium Stadium cannot hide the fact that they are still nowhere near an acceptable standard. True, they are a young team still developing but this lack in quality has been the case since the glory days of 2003. There comes a time when potential can only take you so far – now we need to see performances and results.

Scotland don’t seem to be able to piece together a strong performance, though there is hope with the inclusion of the mercurial genius of Gregor Townsend installed as the new backs coach. The Evans brothers have injected some pace into what have otherwise been two fairly lacklustre displays, and the prospect of their game with Italy does not suggest a Six Nations classic.

France are still their usual Gallic selves, brilliant one game and woeful the next. A forward pass for the try masked over the fact that their display in Paris against the Scots lacked their trademark flair. Gone it seems are the days when we will see the likes of Blanco running the ball from under his own posts or the brilliant interplay of half backs Galthie and Merceron. France have the potential to set the world alight with players such as Heymans, Jauzion and the brilliant Dusatoir, but just can’t seem to shake their inconsistencies from their performances.

Italy continues to struggle and only have realistic expectations of possibly beating Scotland and posing little threat towards any other team in the competition. Led by their indomitable captain Sergio Parisse they have been making progress but the gap just seems too large to bridge.

As many have said Wales are the leading light in the Northern hemisphere, though what was plain to see on Saturday evening was the absence of a real plan B. England were not good enough to exploit this but had one of the SANZAR nations been there it would I fear have been a different story. The absence of their main firework Shane Williams was keenly felt and will be needed if their quest for consecutive Grand Slams is to be achieved. We can only wait and see if Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards can turn the men in red into genuine world beaters.

Ireland seem to be on their way to recovery after long term absence – Brian O’Driscoll and co seem to have found a new lease of life under Declan Kidney, but only time will tell how they will fare. The Golden Generation have underachieved and underperformed, and when the men in green take to the field, you are never quite sure if you’ll be on the edge of your seat or hiding behind it.

Gone are the days, hopefully only for now, when top quality rugby was on display for what was arguably the world’s best competition. I hope to be eating my words come the end of March but I fear that the gulf in quality between north and south is only going to get bigger before it gets smaller.

By Bobby Damerell

5 thoughts on “Has the Six Nations lost it’s sparkle?

  1. The six-nations certainly hasn’t lost its sparkle. There is no sport in the world where everygame is a classic and the six nations is no exception; Sometimes you get brilliant entertaining rugby, sometimes you don’t. For me the sparkle started to fade when England or France were garanteed to be topping the table and you new the winner of the tournament after they played each other, sometimes on the first day of the tournament. Admittidly I am from the western side of the bridge but even if Wales weren’t flying high I would still be of the opion that the Six Nations is the greatest sporting tournament in the world bar none. Every fixture has it’s unique atmosphere and flavour; be that a forwards battle of a Scot v Eng game in a stormy Murryfield or a free flowing Ire v france game at Stade de France.

    I do have two concerns for the future however, one minor, one major.

    Firstly these Friday night games are not good as discussed in other threads, butmy major concern is if the French side becomes second fiddle to their national league. This will spell bad news for the tournament as a whole but also for the England team as well as the French if they can’t get their players released for a decent amount of time.

  2. /\ “For me the sparkle started to fade” – I meant “If the sparkle has started to fade”.

    I wish there was an edit option for your posts.

  3. Lost sparkle no . Was there much sparkle when England were hammering all and sundry apart from the one game a year they usually lost (except for 2003).Well yes there was actually because there was always the hope of that one defeat .

    If you go to the games the atmosphere is still there and you still get hair at the back of the neck standing up moments.Why would playing on Friday night for example generate such debate if the old tournament wasn’t still much loved.

    I’ve watched Tri-Nations games which have been pretty turgid affairs , do you get one classic game a year out of that tournament -one might be an average why apply a higher standard to the 6 Nations. Anyway if you follow rugby at a lower level club or region or whatever isn’t there just as much sparkle in a good game .I don’t think it’s right to measure enjoyment by some hypothetical idealistic “Southern Hemisphere ” standard which probably doesn’t exist in the first place.

  4. I’m going to go slightly against the grain here, but I think it has lost some sparkle, but the damage needn’t be permanent.

    In saying that, I’m not having a dig at Wales – they deserved the Slam last year, and probably would have done it even if the competition had been a bit stronger from the other teams.

    As a tournament all round though, I thought last season’s was poor. Two sides sacked their coaches remember, one of them took 3 games to find the try line was for, and Italy went a long way backwards from their best ever tournament in 2007.

    The 6N has some ground to make up this year. Ireland v France went a long way towards this, and the Wales v England game was a close one with a lot of tension. And I think the Wales v Ireland game could be a cracker, so there’s definitely a good chance that we could look back on this tournament as a very good one.

    I’m with you Paynie on your fears about the French structure, and I would add that what you’re saying could happen in France has already happened in England.

    The more strong teams we see in the tournament the better it will be, but it’s good to see Ireland in resurgence and if the French can calm down the experimentation just a tad we could see three genuine contenders next year.

  5. What is spoiling rugby is the number of penalties, especially kicks receiving points, as the decisions by referees are extremely subjective and often their mistakes can swing a match in one direction or other.
    I’m at present watching the Scotland / Italy match and frankly the referee, in the vast majority of cases, can only see one way direction, that of Scotland whereby he is missing many Scottish misdemeanours and so penalising Italy.

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