Six Nations 2013: A fan’s point of view

rolland ref

Off the pitch – Beer and banter
The first weekend is one of the great sporting moments of the year, a weekend on which the hopes of millions can either soar or plummet. Rationality flies out of the window to be replaced with a patriotism and partisanship which, uniquely, somehow manages to be both rabid and friendly at the same time. Therein lies the beauty of the Six Nations. There will be some sniping of which some will be true and most won’t but there will be no hard feelings, and tongues will largely be lodged in cheeks in those rare moments when they’re not filled with beer. Of all my Six Nations wishes, this is the one I am most confident will come true. It always does.

On the pitch – Blood and thunder
The Six Nations always starts with a bang. It is an explosion of passion and patriotism which often leads to some compelling games. As the tournament progresses, things often get a little more turgid. Much of the intervening weeks is spent doing analysis on self and opponent and, as so often, analysis can lead to paralysis. I would love to see the vibrant optimism and ambition which most teams carry into the Championship survive the second round of games.

By definition some teams will be on the back foot and caution is understandable. But I hope that the coaches don’t drag players back into their shells so that in any given situation they are trying to remember what they were told to do on Wednesday rather than reacting to what they see on Saturday. I hope every match feels like an occasion and that, even if one or two of them are a bit turgid, you never doubt that the players are giving it everything and have been allowed to give it everything.

Line breaks
Remember line breaks? Proper midfield line breaks? A show and go from the 10, a deadly line from the 12, a drift on to the outside shoulder from the 13? They are fewer and further between these days but it would be nice to see attack getting on top of meticulously organised defences. Having an organised defence is the best way for a team to stay in a game and hope to burgle a win. And good luck to them, it’s one way to skin a cat. But I hope that teams who go in like that get torn to shreds by opponents prepared to grab the game by the balls and run with it.

Where in the midfield is this likely to come from? For Wales, Jonathan Davies runs sumptuous lines and James Hook is a bit of a locksmith. Ireland are reliant on BOD recovering his best form as Gordon D’Arcy hasn’t made a line break since about 2004. Scotland, Italy and England look to lack cutting edge in the midfield with Manu Tuilagi needing to graft greater subtlety and understanding on to his extraordinary power. He also needs a threat inside him to give him some space. This leaves France. Wesley Fofana is a throwback to a bygone age; a willowy, quick, skilful centre capable of ghosting through gaps nobody else has seen. He does it several times a game. Only the French would therefore decide to play him on the wing.

Trash talk
Do I like trash talk? I’m not sure. Generally yes but rugby people, particularly British rugby people, are rubbish at it. Maybe that makes it even funnier. We expect everybody to have pop at England anyway. And we know that if any of the England camp dare to have a pop back they will be accused of arrogance. I won’t dare accuse anyone of hypocrisy though. I’d be accused of arrogance. Jim Telfer’s got in first with the arrogance card before anyone has even said anything. It’s the card he played with the Lions in 1997. As an Englishman I hope it is not as successful this time.

Common sense refereeing
Referees have come in for a fair amount of stick this season. I am not one to get on referees’ backs either as a player or a supporter as they have a very tough job but it has to be said that much of the criticism his year has been merited. My gripe is with whoever is instructing the referees. The men in the middle have clearly been instructed to enforce the letter of the law in certain areas with no recourse to common sense.

Too often referees seem to be reffing to their assessor rather than the actual match. Too many referees seem intent on making a decision when none is necessary and they could just let the game flow. For example, the breakdown has joined the scrum in becoming a lottery as referees either focus on only one infringement all game or are intent on running through the rulebook. By my reckoning almost every breakdown sees at least two infringements (at each, count how many players get up off the floor when they should have been on their feet). So either referee them properly and the infringements will disappear or ignore all of them, but don’t just guess, ref by numbers or be inconsistent. ‘If in doubt blow the whistle’ seems to be the mantra – but not for a squint feed of course. This is probably a separate article in itself but it would be great if, from balanced observers at least, referees are not prominent in post-match discussions. And don’t get me started on the tip tackle rule which was clearly written by someone who has never actually made a tackle.

What else I hope to see
At least 20 montages with Eddie Butler voiceovers. After another incorrect scrum penalty, Brian Moore to march on to the pitch and demand the whistle. Pubs overflowing into the street (guaranteed). A win for one or both of Scotland and Italy against someone other than each other (preferably not England).

What I hope not to see
Alain Rolland. Andy Nicol in a studio. Sopranos leading the national anthems. Lazy talk of ‘typical Gallic flair’, something not seen for about a decade. Alain Rolland. Penalties for tip tackles when the torso is not beyond the horizontal (the position of the legs is irrelevant). People over 45 wearing replica shirts. Did I mention Alain Rolland?

by Stu Peel

26 thoughts on “Six Nations 2013: A fan’s point of view

  1. Do want to see games with skill and flair to remind everyone that the southern hemisphere does not have exclusive possession of these.

    Don’t want to hear any comparison between French scrum halves and Napoleon.

    1. Completely agree – I want to see some better quality. For the last several years, at the end of the tournament, the consensus has been ‘it wasn’t a great standard’. There’s nothing to lose this year with no RWC seedings to consider, the RWC itself still ages away, and so we really should see some better rugby.

      Also, I think we’ll hear ‘Morgan Parra, the little general at scrum half’ from Eddie Butler before half time on Sunday.

  2. Re. refs – I don’t want to see anyone going to the TMO for a bloody penalty kick decision. Romain Poite’s performance in the England Aus test in November was one of the worst ever. Have some bloody conviction, and use the touch judges!

    1. Nb. I’m referring to the decision about whether the ball cleared the posts, from a place kick. When both touch judges are under the posts.

    2. Agreed, if the touch judges can’t tell if the ball’s gone over the bar when standing right underneath it, they don’t deserve to be in the job. Such a time-waster.

  3. Really nicely written article! I hope it all comes true. Although I can’t help but think that England are probably the team most reliant on defence and territory, especially without Manu.

  4. If Wales win some matches I don’t want to hear that we are yet again playing above our level – our true level is mediocre, anything else (Grand Slams, WC semi-finals) is just a blip apparently.

    I’d like to see Scotland beat England :-)

    I want the BBC to realise there are 2 other matches each weekend on top of the one England are playing in. Only just now I heard that “England and Scotland are opening the 6 nations on Sat…”. No they’re not, that’s the 2nd game you divs.

    In short I am now in full “anyone but England” tribal mode and shall enjoy feeling slighted and oppressed for the next couple of months.

    1. Ha Good banter Brighty. A few of my go-to (cliche and often wrong) arguments for the inevitable debates that will be coming up with good anti English people like yourself Brighty:

      1) Have you ever won a world cup?
      2) When was the last time you beat the All Blacks?
      3) Jonny Wilkinson is still the best player ever.
      4) Shane Williams is a poor man’s Jason Robinson.

      1. “Jonny Wilkinson is still the best player ever.” He’s certainly still England’s best player, pity he’s not in the squad…

        Jason Robinson is an English impersonation of a skillful winger. The best impersonator England have ever had.

        1. Do you remember that world cup winning try Shane Williams (or any other welshman) scored? No me neither.

          On a serious note would you have put Jonny in the 6N squad? i’d probably rather have him there than Farrell even if he won’t be around next WC. But i’d still have Flood and Burns ahead.

          1. I don’t remember an Englishman scoring one either? I remember a massive pack steamrollering JW into place for a drop kick… Take England’s 2003 pack and then put the Welsh 2003/4/5 backline behind it (with honorary, because he was so bloody good, Welsh centre Greenwood in there) and you’d have won that match without needing extra time.

            Yeah, I’d have Jonny in there if he was interested. The sad fact for England is that even at 2/3rds gas he still has more sense and vision than the alternatives. Farrel has the sense, Flood has the vision, JW has both. Going for Farrel doesn’t get the blood racing, does it?

          2. Farrell makes me sick. You’re my most reliable anti-Farrell companion on this blog I appreciate it.

            I personally wouldn’t have Wilko but start Flood with Burns on the bench. I think dropping Flood for the RWC after his really solid 6N was MJ’s biggest mistake. Admittedly Wilko is tearing it up atm but I think he looks better because of the domination Toulon always have. Also Jonny only has a season or two left.

          3. Hmmm…I seem to remember the game going to extra time mostly due to strenuous efforts of one A Watson

            Do you remember this Brighty?

        1. Just to aid your jitters, form over the millennium has you at a 23% chance of winning …. and a 77% chance of finishing 4th or lower! In 8 of the 10 years you have finished 4th or lower you have lost your opening game. I hadn’t actually realised how boom or bust it was until now or how critical getting off to a good start is. Good Luck!

  5. Good article not arrogant in the slightest :-) Pity about that picture at the top which just about made me spit out my lunch !

  6. OK I’ll Troll!

    “Give England some credit for what was an incredible result.”

    It was an unbelievable result – just like when Wales beat Ireland in the WC -Without cheating!!

    Ding Dong!

    1. Troll on.

      I prefer it when we beat Ireland by cheating – extra joy at watching the Irish get doubly frustrated by being beaten and feeling like it isn’t fair…

      It’s a pity we only scored 1 try by cheating, it would be nicer to be able to claim 2 whole victories rather than 1 solitary score.

      Troll off.

      1. I was at that game and if I am being honest I didnt realize we had been robbed until after the game. The only person during the game I thought had robbed us was paddy wallace and his stupid step inside when we had a 3 on 1 at the death.

        Unfortunately, this will be the first year in 3 that I havent been to the Millenium for a six nations game. Gutted as no better match day atosphere than Cardiff (even better than dublin). I am at the Ireland France grand slam decieder though (if only….)

  7. I think you are exaggerating when you say D’Arcy hasn’t made a line break since 2004, has he ever made one. He’s great at running into brick walls the trouble is the walls get bigger every year and he doeesn’t. Most fans haven’t got a clue about the rules but neither do the referrees. All we really want is consistency especially at the scrums. My only other wish is of course England to loose every match as they invented the stupid game and are so arrogant.

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