Six Nations Round 2: 5 things we learned

dan cole

1. Where now for Wales?

Warren Gatland has been saying in the media recently that Wales do not need a ‘Plan B’, because they are yet to even execute ‘Plan A’ properly. This does not seem to make a great deal of sense. Surely if you can’t get Plan A to work, as was the case against Ireland when aggressive tackling and dogged breakdown work prevented Wales from getting their powerful runners going, then you need some sort of other option?

James Hook, a man capable of mixing it up a bit, was again left on the bench against Ireland – what’s the point in having him there if you’re not going to use him even in a game when you so obviously need to try something a bit different? Fitness may also be an issue for some of Wales’ big names, but whatever the problem is it needs to be sorted before the visit of the in form French.

2. England’s tighthead crisis

Dan Cole has played more rugby than most tightheads this season. The absence of Castro at Leicester means he has been substituted increasingly late in games, so it is somewhat surprising that he has played all but five minutes of England’s opening two games, too. Fatigue has looked like it has been setting in in the second halves thus far, so why has he been left on so long and, in the case of the Stade de France, allowed to play the whole 80 minutes – an increasingly rare feat for a prop?

With Dave Wilson ruled out through injury it points to a lack of faith from Lancaster in Henry Thomas. Why else would he not be brought on for more of the Scotland game, when England were dominant in the scrums and the game was won after 50 minutes? It is worrying, especially when you consider there are next to no other tightheads that would be ready for international action at this stage. Dan Cole needs to be wrapped in cotton wool.

3. France aren’t being very French

France showed real backbone to beat England in the opening round of the Six Nations, something that had been glaringly lacking from any of their performances in the past year. It would then have been the French thing to do to lose disappointingly the following week to the Italians. But no, they produced a professional if not completely convincing performance, featuring a super 10 minute surge in the second half, to comfortably dispatch Italy from Paris with their tails between their legs.

There was lots of chatter before the Championship that France ‘always win the Six Nations the year after a Lions tour’, but the general consensus was that they had been so bad in the past year that couldn’t possibly come to pass this time around. Could it?

4. Ireland finally find some consistency

Ever since their Grand Slam in 2009 Ireland have flattered to deceive. They have put in some brilliant performances, such as the first forty minutes at the Millenium Stadium against Wales last year, but have always failed to back that up – they did not win another game after that one last year. Under Joe Schmidt, that seems to have changed. Australia in the autumn now seems like a blip, after performances against New Zealand, Scotland and Wales have all been exemplary.

Schmidt was obviously hugely successful at Leinster, which is helping him get the best out of their national representatives, but what has been more encouraging has been the form of those from outside the Leinster family, such as Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray and Andrew Trimble, under Schmidt. Whisper it quietly, but Ireland look like genuine title contenders this year.

5. Talk of Scotland leaving the Championship is hugely premature

Scotland have been rubbish so far – that much is obvious. But bad enough to leave the Six Nations? That is garbage. It is only a year since they finished third, rampaging past Italy and beating Ireland. They are clearly a team in transition. It is never likely to be easy for a team managed by an interim coach, knowing that they are going to have a new boss in a few months’ time.

There may well be deep-rooted issues within the game north of the border, such as the difficulty in transforming talented youngsters into first rate internationals, but talk of expelling them from the top table of Northern Hemisphere rugby is hugely premature – and not likely to be beneficial to their redevelopment, either. They are a colourful part of the Six Nations and, provided they can sort out the shambolic excuse for a pitch that is the Murrayfield turf soon, they deserve to stay that way.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

15 thoughts on “Six Nations Round 2: 5 things we learned

  1. On Dan Cole/Henry Thomas…

    You’re damn right there is a lack of faith in HT – he’s liable to have his balls put into a vice against premiership props… let alone international ones.

    1. Is there anyone else who can take his place with Wilson out?

      Who knows, perhaps if Thomas is given a chance, he’ll rise to the international arena in the way that Ben Morgan does

  2. “There may well be deep-rooted issues within the game north of the border, such as the difficulty in transforming talented youngsters into first rate internationals” -> they do ok, Tomaso Allan looks pretty good to me…

    The anti-Scottish bilge from some of the lazy English press was inexcusable. This wasn’t 65-4, it wasn’t even 30-3, it was a 20 point margin, two tries. Yes, Scotland suck really hard but to see a 20 point losing margin is enough to question your value in the tournament would mean we would very quickly not have any teams in it.

    Dan Cole is England’s Adam Jones then by the look of it, back when Adam was good :-)

    I wouldn’t wholly disagree with Gats. On one side I agree that plan A has not been executed well recently and he has to take a lot of the blame for that – he’s picking the wrong side of unfit players. Hook on the bench was a travesty – I don’t rate Hook myself but for the coach to put him on the bench but then not use him when a centre got injured, instead putting a FB on wing and moving a wing to centre, is just ridicolous if not downright spiteful bullying. I hear Hook has been unofficially offered a 50K a year sweetener by Perp if he “retires” from international rugby. Surely he must be very, very tempted now.

    On the other side I don’t see any other teams with much more than one gameplan. Scotland – no plan at all. England – tight up the forwards, see if Burrel/Tui/WingX can get on an offload by coming inside. Ireland – if running around them isn’t working then kick it to the corners (more or less the same as Wales plan except we do “through” rather than around and have a crap kicker). France – no plan, just be French. No, the problem with Wales is that their plan has now failed a few times on the trot and that’s as much about execution of the plan as anything else.

    1. Agreed on Scotland. Some of the bilge the English media has used to further insult the Scottish national team is simply out of order. What can we expect when they’re being run by a venemous, quip-loaded oaf with an utterly ridiculous selection policy who cares more about his paycheck than he does about the team.
      Nothing the media says can insult Scotland more than Johnson already has.
      To so nonchalantly disfigure the development of a sport that Scotland has been playing for 150 years and have the nerve to piss out wise crack after wise crack about his own failure is barely short of criminal. I sincerely hope the Scotland team has a dressing room revolt against the turd, it’s just about the only thing that will make the SRU open their eyes, especially when we’re doing nothing to help but rub salt into the wounds through nasty antagonistic journalism.

      1. Am I to understand that if the shoe was on the other foot and it was England having a particularly difficult that the Scottish press wouldn’t be sticking the boot in.

        Do me a favour.

  3. Erm, hang on. Ireland’s first half performance against New Zealand was exemplary, but if that’s the description you’d use for conceding 17 unanswered points in the second half to ultimately lose the match I’m a bit concerned that somebody has sold you a duff dictionary.

  4. That sounds like sore loser to me chuckles, Irelands consistenty since that game has been great and have the rest of the six nations teams doing a massive rethink, probably too early to say but Joe Shmidt is a massive positive and any team are lucky to have him!!

      1. Yes but I think he is referring to the fact that England have lost one game already and you are envious of the fact Ireland haven’t lost any.

        Anyway I think if Ireland nullify England’s greatest weapon I.e the pack, they should win. Especially with the gulf in class between the two out halves.

  5. Did it really matter if Wales had a plan A or B… or Z for that matter, they were beaten up front. Starved of the pill. What plan would have mattered? No one can score without sufficient ball. Looked good on paper, but maybe they had the squirts.

    England. Usually solid up front & on ‘D’. Crisis, what (prop) crisis? Most players in world rugger. But when are the wingers going to score a try? May as well bring back Cueto. Maybe Burrell’l continue to barrell over & Farrell’l play blinders in future.

    So far so good for Ireland. Or is it? Sexton kicked like a mule almost all game. Still always blame the wever. Surprisingly outmuscled the Taffs & scored like England often do? Thru route 1? Maybe need a better mix of game as per Scotland.

    France. Who knows? Got a couple of good bounces v England, but really had to dig that try out of nuthin’ @ the death. Shades of Jo Maso etc? But it was the England ‘D’ that DIDN’T tackle on that occasion which dun for them in the end.

    As for the Jocks, no need for more welly. Get Vern Cotter there pronto! Scott Johnno has them E 2 W1!

    1. The weird thing is Don P, that Wales did have enough ball, about 50% of it apparently. They just didn’t do the right things when they did have it.

  6. Well, from a french point of view, we do love the Scott even if they can be sometimes hard to play (i still have nightmares for a lose at stade de France in the early 2000’s. And England really need to teach couple of hints to the head coach instead.

  7. Dazza

    Well, that’s perception for you. It sure didn’t seem like it to me, but then, after gargling a couple @ the local battle cruiser, perhaps I was seeing double (Irish possession that is)!

    Dunno what the possion stakes were in the 1st 1/2 tho do you? Maybe Wales picked it up a bit in the 2nd?

    But I do agree, ‘they just didn’t do the right things when they did have it’.

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