Six Nations Round 3: 5 things we learned


1. This is not soccer

These words have been immortalised in the rugby community by Nigel Owens, but this week they have been uttered by rugby fans everywhere. France’s Louis Picamoles has been axed from their squad following his sarcastic clap of referee Alain Rolland’s decision to sin bin him against Wales. The decision has been lauded by most fans, who rightly claim this kind of petulance has no place on the rugby pitch. But is it really the right call from France? With Nyanga and Fofana set to miss the rest of the tournament, France are now without their three most influential players for their tricky trip to Murrayfield. Also, Morgan Parra has been added to the squad, despite being red carded for a head-butt at the weekend – he now awaits a disciplinary hearing this week. Double standards much?

2. Down to the wire

Had France and Ireland won, it would essentially have been a two horse race for the title. As it is, there are four teams still in with an excellent chance of winning it this year. Ireland are still the favourites, given their superior points difference (+42 – England are on +21, Wales +6 and France +1), but do face that trip to the Stade de France on the final day, a ground where they have not won since the year 2000. The French, for their part, were so insipid in Cardiff that it perhaps wouldn’t be that surprising if they come unstuck against Scotland. So the winner of England and Wales at Twickenham will be in with a great chance of challenging for the title on the final weekend – as if this fixture needed any added spice.

3. Sensible substitutions – finally

After the France game, Stuart Lancaster came in for a lot of stick for bringing off his best players and arguably handing the momentum back to the French. Similarly, Scott Johnson has been lambasted in the media for some bizarre substitutions in recent weeks. So it was great to see, then, that they both seem to have learnt their lessons. Against Ireland, Davey Wilson was clearly not going to last the full 80 minutes, meaning Henry Thomas would have a job to do off the bench. There were doubts about whether he is ready for this level, but in throwing on Dave Attwood, an excellent scrummaging lock, and shifting Launchbury to the blindside at the same time, Lancaster gave Thomas plenty of ballast behind him to ensure the set piece remained solid. George Ford also stayed on the timber, absolutely the right call given the situation of the game. Scotland brought on Chris Cusiter and Dave Denton to up the tempo, while Geoff Cross steadied the set piece from the faltering Moray Low. Sensible decisions all round, and not a Ross Ford in sight.

4. Fullbacks firing

The home nations are incredibly spoilt for choice when it comes to the gatekeepers at the back. Leigh Halfpenny, star of the Lions tour and for so long the best the Northern Hemisphere has to offer at the back, is arguably sitting third in that chart at the moment. And whilst the Welshman has had a good championship so far, England’s Mike Brown has been one of the players of the tournament; ditto Ireland’s Rob Kearney. Stuart Hogg has shown glimpses of his immense potential, and has impressed most with his kicking game. In short, were there a Lions tour this summer, there would be a very tricky decision to be made.

5. Italy and Scotland prove their worth

We said it after the last round, and they proved it at the weekend – any talk of either of these two dropping out of the competition is complete rubbish. Saturday’s encounter in Rome was fascinating – particularly the second half, which saw three brilliant tries and the momentum swinging this way and that, and culminated in a brilliant drop goal winner from Duncan Weir. It wasn’t the highest quality game of the tournament, but it was certainly up there with the most entertaining. Scotland now head home to take on a France team plunged into disarray by injuries, poor performance and lack of player discipline – what price them stealing a win at Murrayfield?

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

104 thoughts on “Six Nations Round 3: 5 things we learned

  1. I’m not sure it is double standards to bring in Parra. For one his hearing hasn’t happened yet so we don’t know what they’ll make of it (I’m not 100% it was even deliberate, it happened just as three players piled in behind him, that kind of jolt could easily have taken a lean or even an aggressive nudge into a full headbutt).

    Secondly, and most importantly, aggression against another player is not the same as disrespect to a referee. It’s one of the big dividing lines between rugby and football. Although players often get a bit feisty and fights break out and people just forgive and forget – no one forgives disrespect to an official, and for good reason.

    Parra’s red card was a good reminder of what’s not acceptable against other players, it was a huge hit to his squad. But disrespect when a card has already been given? That requires a harsher penalty.

  2. Relegation is rubbish for now, but I think it could add that extra bit of spice to the competition.

    Imagine Georgia got promoted, and their first three 6 Nations games at home were England, Wales and Ireland.

    The strength of the other European teams would grow, as would the all round competition of the 6 Nations. Imagine if one of the bigger teams had a crap season and ended up relegated. It would be a brilliant idea.

      1. Can’t see it happening Andy. When you say

        “Imagine Georgia got promoted, and their first three 6 Nations games at home were England, Wales and Ireland.”

        I genuinely think that you would see 3 whuppings for Georgia and 2 “home” RU’s in financial meltdown due to the reduced ticket and TV revenue.

        I’d be tempted by the idea of a home/away (or perhaps 1 leg only, with the team that may come up playing home) playoff to at least ensure some parity of rugby quality and give the “lower” teams chance to improve?

  3. Not the most auspicious picks of players for the right hand side of the photo above! Hope Robshaw isn’t the next to be dropped!

    Parra v Picamoles. I guess Picamoles was stupid on French duty and Parra was with his club. Would hope the latter gets dropped if/when suspended.

    I do believe that SL is learning – he may not be the finished article yet as far as a coach goes but he seems to be improving all of the time and taking on lessons. What more can you ask for?

    1. Agree it’s signs of progress from SL. I think the teams under coaches such as Meyer, Schmidt and Mckenzie have made far more progress in far less time. He’s got a long way to go before we can consider him a top class international coach, but I’m never going to complain over signs of progress, or learning from and correcting previous mistakes (whether they were admitted to or not)! Hopefully the mistake of repeatedly selecting Goode will be corrected soon as well ;)

      What he does over the Vunipola/Morgan replacement situation is now an interesting test. For example has he got lucky with the backrow balance because the 3 form picks have worked well together? Is the Care/Farrell partnership working better through design, or just lucky that Care had overtaken Dickson on form? Selecting units/partnerships that work and not just the form horse is still a bit of a question mark for me. A ‘next-cab-off-the-rank’ policy of Kvesic or Johnson into the 23 for Vunipola would lead me to conclude the learning opportunities are not over yet.

      1. I noted in previously, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Slater added to the 23 (he is in the Elite squad remember).

      2. After Johnson, any coach who goes forward and learns by mistakes is an improvement. At the end of the day the RFU went out on a bit of a limb and picked a very inexperienced coach in SL, and don’t underestimate how much progress he made in a very short time after he was appointed based on the mess that he inherited. Since then it has been more gradual. Still how many teams have beaten NZ in the last couple of years!

        1. The off field things were largely sorted by the first game, the defence was excellent from the first game, this was huge progress from the amateur rugby tour (aka the RWC) and an exceptional achievement. Selection, game plan, accuracy/execution, strike moves to unlock international defences, etc have been on a much lower trajectory/still WIP.

          As the saying goes, it’s not where you start but where you finish that matters. Hopefully the upward trend will continue and it’s just taking a bit longer because the coaching group is collectively so inexperienced.

      3. I would not discount “lucky coach”. Everyone needs one. Warren was lucky with injuries that Priestland ever played at 10 for example.

        1. Napoleon had that right. But if something has worked well through luck it’s still important to recognise why it worked and be able to replicate it again in the future. The obvious example being how critical Morgan’s carrying was in the wins over NZ and Scotland and how we subsequently suffered without any formidable ball carriers in the second or back row (and only Youngs in the front row).

  4. This talk of relegation is just plain silly. The competition is ancient. It was a big move adding France to the format, and an equally big one adding Italy. Georgia, Romania Portugal etc. need to improve a lot more to warrant the extra pain on already long hard seasons. It’s foreseeable in the future – the Distant future.

    I for one am really impressed with Joe Schmidt’s savvy at international level thus far. We didn’t win but that England team was firing and we delivered. I’m glad he also trusts the potential of Dave Kearney who for me is looking every bit as sharp and bright as his brother.

    “This is not soccer.”

    Rugby is the game of heaven. That is all.

  5. Rugby is a thug’s game played by gentlemen. Even if Parra did drop the nut on the Clermont guy (and I’m afraid it looks pretty deliberate Gray!), he probably shook his hand and bought him a beer after the match.

    I’m not saying Parra shouldn’t be carded/banned (he should), but Rugby is brutal, and this kind of impact happens all the time accidentally. It’s the game.

    Picamoles actions, on the other hand, were just just petulant and cowardly, and I Wouldn’t have blamed Rolland if he’d upped the yellow to a red. But then Rolland would have got no end of grief. Being a ref is a pretty thankless job, particularly at this level, and none of them deserve to be disrespected on the pitch.

    Bravo to St Andre for dropping him and making an example.

    1. I tend to agree that Parra’s actions were not accidental.

      However, it has to be the most inoffensive “use of the head” that I have ever seen. It would not surprise me if he didn’t get banned.

      I got the impression that whilst the ref was trying to get his headpiece to work, the expectation was more of a red for Ranger, than for Parra.

      1. I thought the red card was rather harsh, as was the yellow card for Ranger. Certainly didn’t look a bad tackle, and I don’t think there was any real use of the head.

  6. 6) The Welsh ‘Plan A’ is Looking Good Again.

    I know Gatland is marmite and gets a lot of criticism for not having any plan beyond A, however rather than spending 2 weeks inventing a B or C he spent the time correcting the reasons A didn’t work.

    For me the Welsh weren’t fit enough over the first 2 weeks to implement plan A successfully (line speed wasn’t there). With another 2 week break (and no doubt some more punishing conditioning work) I expect they’ll be producing a performance closer to the England 2013 one than the Ireland 2014 at Twickenham.

      1. Agreed. Its one thing knowing what they are going to to do, stopping it however, is another thing entirely

        It’ll be a massive boost to the Welsh if JD2 is fit and North goes back to the wing. He’s done well at centre but showed a few defensive frailties against the French.

        12Ts had better be getting Burrell to run at him all week for tackling practice…

      2. Wales are a good side but I do feel people are overblowing how good they are. 2 years ago a callow England team pushed a grandslam side all the way. England are so much better now. Are Wales? I don’t feel they’ve progressed all that much, accepting they were already an accomplished side. This isn’t the Millensium stadium and the roof isn’t closed (why the latter should matter I do not know but it does seem to – Johno was right to prevent this in his 2 visits).

        I know Adam Jones and many others feel that Twickenham holds no fears but it should. Their other win in 2008 was quite frankly an incredible result that I can’t see ever being repeated unless we ever get another selector as mental as Brian Ashton. Balshaw at fullback, Vainkolo on the wing, Cipriani making his debut at outside centre ffs, plus the injuries to Strettle, Tindall, and 2 of our back rowers.

        Seriously we need soem perspective here. Yes I’m worried about the scrum, but hope Wilson wil be more match fit, but we’ve shown against France and Ireland that we can still win (even if we didn’t ultimately in the France match) with a weaker scrum.

        1. “Their other win in 2008 was quite frankly an incredible result that I can’t see ever being repeated”

          Maybe I’m misunderstanding this, but are you saying you cannot see how Wales can ever win at Twickenham again?

          As a Welshman, I’m possibly my most confident at the prospect of a trip to Twickenham than I’ve ever been.

          I don’t see England having the edge in the scrum – given the injuries at LH/TH.
          I do see Lancaster doing something silly with the back row when Morgan runs out of puff.
          England haven’t faced a backline as big as Wales yet. Roberts looks to be finding form, not 09 vintage, but the best he’s been for a while and 36 is defensively suspect from what I’ve seen so far so I expect traffic down his channel.

          We need to keep Brown quiet. I.E. not kick it down his throat.. I am worried about Priestland here.
          It’s an absolute given that England will target the Lineout. It’s hard to tell whether we’ve improved there or whether France just couldn’t be bothered.. I’m leaning more towards the latter.
          Burrell is a mild concern for me, he seems to be the first English centre in a long while who can run an angle. Hoping JD2 is back who is a bit more defensively sound.

          It’s fascinating, I cant wait, I can see us sneaking a tight game.

          1. I was talking about the nature of the win as per in part helped by Ashtons bonkers selections and the glut of injuries during the game.

            I just don’t see why Wales & their supporters are so confident and by contrast the English so nervous. This England side is lightyears better than the 2008 and 2012 version and we have only narrowly lost to NZ at Twickenham in the last year.

            Not taking anything for granted of course Wales can beat us just surprised by the contrast in fans views. I think there was less pessimism for the last NZ game!

            1. If it helps, I’m as amazed as you appear to be that I feel this way as my Welsh rugby pint glass is perpetually half empty..

              1. I think guys, that there was a lot of English confidence in the lead up to the last game at the Millennium Stadium, if not for an England win, then at least for a narrow defeat that would have earned England the Championship.

                The loss, and the manner of the loss really surprised many, so this is still very fresh in many memories, with the “improving” Wales appearing to take the same incremental route to the England game.

                I can recall very well that I questioned Tipuric’s ability to influence a game from the start!

                1. I didn’t have confidence last year. I hoped, but that was as far as it went. I think most of us thought we had a chance as Wales had been fairly lacklustre against Scotland and France. England had been beyond poor against Italy, so any England who was surprised by their performance must have been blind or missed the match, I just think we didn’t see the Wales performance coming, plus I don’t think we thought our scrum would get so utterly marmalised (regardless of the legitimacy of these calls, england should have reacted better).

                  This year I genuinely think England are playing the better rugby and we have so far managed to negate our scrum deficiencies unlike last year in Cardiff.
                  Plus we’re not at the MS which will make a huge difference.

        2. My view is that the Welsh national setup is one of the top 2 or 3 in international rugby. They struggle with summer tours, AIs and starts of 6N campaigns because a lot of the players come to them short of peak form and fitness which takes a while to get back.

          I’m very fearful of the 2015 group match, the RWC is unique in that it is the only time the national coaches get so much preparation time with their players and the Welsh took by far the biggest steps forward (of the home nations) in this prep period in 2011. In the context of 2015 it’s critical for England to win this one, it’s a far bigger game than the 2013 GS game in that regard!

          1. I know this perception has built up since the 2011 world cup and subsequent GS, but the reality is that wales weren’t great at the World Cup. They got to semi final by virtue of beating Ireland. That’s it. They lost to South africa, stuggled versus Samoa, lost to australia and the worst french side ever (as did England yes but no one is saying that team was great).

            Don’t wish to knock their best World cup result in 20 years but lets have some perspective, and I in no way take anything away from the subsequent GS, I didn’t think anyone would get one that year, but they probably benefitted from being the most stable out of the main sides (both France and England were rebuilding – England virtully from scratch).

            However if they win on 8 March, I will be worried about 2015 as this is the last time we will play them at Twickenham before the world cup and that will be a HUGE psychological advantage.

            1. Hmm good spin Benjit ,a worse French side ever who were the better side in the final but lost by a point courtesy oh a home town banker of ref and who in turn needed 15 men to beat 14 a side Wales . Wales mullered an Irish side that had already beaten Australia and arguably were the better side against the Boks .Samoa was a hard game (as South Africa also found out ) but I don’t think Wales “struggled ” .Third place play off the Welsh boys didn’t want to be there as everyone this side of the border knows they should have been in the final .

              1. Really like your spin, but I think Benjits is closer to the truth.

                Wales were outstanding against Ireland. There is no other game you can point during the 2011 WC that suggested Wales were ever going to win the thing. Fair play, semi final is still a good outcome for a WC, but it has been massively over-hyped.

                There were very good in their GS year in 2012, but Benjit is right in pointing out that they were far more stable. That isn’t a criticism, simply a fact, and if anything that is a compliment. England can only blame themselves that they had not planned well under previous regimes, and that is a criticism of them.

                Since then, I don’t think Wales have progressed. Yes some of their young exciting players have proved themself to be top class internationals (I’m thinking North, Davies and Halfpenny in particular), but significant progression as a team? I’m not so sure. England and Ireland in particular have, and therefore closed the gap, making all three teams very even.

          2. I think the problem is Benjit and Jacob is that it’s a “glass half empty” approach to talk about a lack of progression; to then contrast that with a less successful team who have “progressed better” can appear as if there is some merit in the “better” progression i.e. it comes across as a way to claim England are better at something, even if it is only progressing.

            Prior to the last WC Wales were all over the shop. No idea who our 10 would be when Jones retired. A lot of untried/new combinations all over the park, no solid plan for a goal kicker, no idea who was going to partner Jones at centre and no idea who was going to replace Shane. Since then this side have progressed by developing stable combinations and winning an unprecedented, for us, two championships on the bounce – losing just 1 match in 2 six nations tournaments (or 2 matches in 2.5 to bring it up to date). We’ve unearthed depth such that Scott Williams, Liam Williams. We’ve developed Cuthbert and Halfpenny into world class back three players. We’ve blooded front 5 replacements that should see us with some depth going into WC 2015. I see a solid progression there. There have been missteps along the way but, to use the England example as apparently they have progressed better, England and Ireland have had woeful performances in that time as well.

            Yep, we need that SH win but that’s not the only mark of progression. It rankles with all of us Welsh that we’ve not got past that post but we don’t discount everything we have achieved just because we have not beaten one of those teams, no matter how many times less successful teams’ fans tell us that the only thing that really matters is how many times we beat SH teams.

            I agree with you that England have progressed but I disagree that Wales have been stagnant while England have come on in leaps and bounds. I still don’t see a creative midfield, a Corbs replacement worth of his salt, a game making 10, etc.

            1. I never said you were stagnant nor did I say that our progress has been better. You have progressed less because you had less progression to make. As I said you were already a settled and accomplished side 2 years ago.

              My point was that with home advantage you found it hard 2 years ago. England now vastly improved so why the general range of opinion is fear on the English side and an overabundance of confidence on the other. Last year England arrived at the MS on their knees. We got worse as the campaign went on. This year it’s different. Should be a close match. Could go either way. Jebus.

    1. Agreed Matt. All those clamouring for a plan B were doing so in the situation where plan A was not being executed due to poor performances. Rocket up the backside and some improved fitness and we get it going. As we know from experience, we are a confidence team who usually improve through the tournament so hopefully we get better now.

      Eng game is looking interesting – no Vuni or Cole. Morgan is a great backup but I think they will miss Cole and are def missing Corbs. However, we have the centres problem and possibly (though Jake Ball was excellent) a 2nd row problem. Lawes has stoked the fire by pointing out that England see our lineout as a weakness (not sure if that statement would be appreciated by SL or will SL not care because it is obvious so doesn’t give Wales any forewarning of tactics) and a source of winning ball. Counting down the days….

      1. Not so sure Vunipola is a dreadful loss against the Welsh. He tends to run straight and hard. So with Lydiate playing, I’d imagine the Welsh would aim to chop him down behind the gainline and go for the turnover.

        Morgan is a bit different – he’s faster and tends to run at gaps slightly further out rather than going straight into contact.

        More of a question for me is who SL picks for the bench. As has been said so many times on this blog, I just hope his plans don’t involve Wood at 8 in any way

        1. Pablito I understand your concerns, but there is a big difference with Wood or Johnson filling in for the last 10 minutes if Morgan is spent, than playing from the start out of postion. The game will have broken up and having 3 tackling flankers (not that Morgan shirks that function) could be useful. None of us had a problem with this approach before Morgan’s injury last year.

          However I would be concerned if SL doesn’t bring another 8 into the squad in case Morgan gets injured in training as it would show he learnt NOTHING from last year. For me Dickinson looked the best of the bunch for the Saxons.

          1. That is true – however, what if he does go with Wood or Johnson as contingency and Morgan unfortunately get crocked in the first 10 mins?

            I didn’t see the Saxons games sowill take your word for it. From watching premiership rugby I’d have plumped for Ewers as he seems to be a beast of a man, but the Saxons is probably a better guide

            1. Yes but you can’t plan for every eventuality. The same could happen to Wales or any side. Most sides don’t have specialist 8s on the bench.

              I agree with you on Ewers. His early season form was phenomenal but he was so anonymous vs the wolfhound whereas Dickinson really took it to them and led the fight back so I’d say he has earned it.

              1. True, you can’t plan for any eventuality. But this England team are slightly lacking amongst the forwards in big, line-breaking ball carriers.

                If Morgan does happen to go off early, we need an option on the bench that replicates him. We don’t need another 6/7 cover as in that eventuality we already have players that can cover those two positions in Launchbury and Lawes

                Bringing in Ksevic or Johnson seems redundant to me. A specialist 8 in Dickinson or Ewers who can also cover 6 seems so much more sensible

          2. 10-20 mins at the end of a game isn’t necessarily catastrophic (he did it against the ABs 2012 and there weren’t too many complaints!), but the lack of injury cover concerns me. Also consider the impact that Morgan brings off the bench, I don’t think Kvesic or Johnson give you anything like that kind of dynamism, they are players you start or don’t have in the 23, Dickinson looks a far better impact option (and provides useful cover for 6).

            Where I’m in 100% agreement is on the importance of bringing an 8 into the squad. Otherwise we get one injury and rather than playing any one of about 10 superior specialist 8s from the premiership we are back to having Wood cover because he’s the one that is part of the squad.

            It was poor luck to lose Wade and Yarde in 1 week, but is was compounded by a poor decision to not add May to the squad as soon as Yarde was unable to train. With no additional tighthead’s added to the squad and no news on any 8’s being called up I’m far from convinced this lesson is learned yet.

            1. Kvesic would add speed and dynamism like tipuric but would also be a liability penalty wise. I imagine Johnson will get the spot.

  7. I wonder whether either coach will have a “plan b” approach with their bench picks. In a Championship where points distance is crucial I wonder whether Yarde/ Eastmond or Watson will make the bench in the (unlikely) scenario that we have some distance between us going into the last 10 minutes (or if we are chasing the game). What do we actually lose in dropping Goode?

    1. Highly doubt we are going to see any shock inclusions on the bench. Obviously a replacement for Billy V but I would expect Goode to stay in.

      I feel that England have missed the boat with regards to trying players. There is pretty much no scope for trying unproven combinations from now until the next WC, other than the tour to NZ if lots of players are involved in the Aviva play-offs, which is arguably the worst place to be trying out new players anyway.

      1. Doubt we’ll be seeing Watson or Eastmond, but I’m hoping Yarde’s return will still be enough to dislodge Goode.

      2. Johnny, in the context of testing for high pressure World Cup places, arguably New Zealand is the very best place to try out new players.

    2. Goode isn’t going to be dropped sadly. I think SL regards him as a safe pair of hands, which I think he is, but just short of pace for an international back three player. I think most of us would trade what security he does bring for a bit of flair or pace (or both!), however untested. Got to start somewhere!

      Interesting points regarding injuries, but it can happen to any team. You can’t lose too many players in a match and expect to replace them adequately ie. two wings! Therefore do you go for straight replacements on the bench who can adequately fill in if someone goes down in the first ten minutes or do you go for the more unreliable impact sub who is best used only when things break up a bit. (BTW if they satisfy both criteria they are probably already starting!).

      Worried that JD will be back. That sets up a World class back 5 for Wales. Already stated that I am worried about JR running through 12Ts. Robshaw is going to have extra tackling duty! AWJ will be up for this game as however he has played through the rest of this tournament, and he has gone AWOL a bit this year, it’s England so he’ll be crying through the anthem!

      Personally think the packs will be evenly matched but for me Wales have too much behind the scrum, although less experienced half backs may even that out a bit. We are also at home which will help. Going to be a cracker of a game (mind you I said that before last years game!)

      1. “Going to be a cracker of a game (mind you I said that before last years game!)”

        And you were right! :-)

        JD is a tricky one right now – do we drop him straight in? He has been released back to Scarlets to play this weekend does not leave us any wiser – he is probably being given match time and this doesn’t rule him out of the 22 for England but maybe it is the old fashioned “we won’t use in this game, go and play for your club” release.

        1. I think you have to pick him if fit. north is … ok as a centre, but a world class wing, so JD in strengthens 2 positions for Wales. Shame Scott Williams is injured.

      2. If only Goode did provide a safe pair of hands – I’d be happy with his selection!

        I wouldn’t get too hung up on 12ts stats for missed tackles. England work to a system that has been failry tight so far, apart form 15 minutes against France. JR has been closed down before.

        I hope JD2 does play. I don’t want to beat Wales and have the “oh but so and so wasn’t there so it doesn’t count”. I want this young team to play and beat the best, and I think they are up to it, but if their not then better we find out now.

        Can’t wait, I just pray there are no controversial decsions, I really want to see the teams compete and test each other at rugby not playing the ref.

          1. Poite. I don’t really have a handle on him. I hope I’m wrong but was he the ref in the 2011 GS decider who was very partial to the pumped up Irish team? That said I think/ hope that this team is more resiliant than they were last year. So even if the decsions do against us I will be disappointed if we fold like at the MS last year. I actually want to see a contest. Yes a roaring win thanks to a homer ref would be enjoyable, but we’d learn a lot more about this team if the win is both earned and deserved.

            1. I can’t remember. He was the ref in the last Lions game, so he’s partial to punishing a scrum that’s getting monstered.

              Let’s hope he’s alive to all of Adam Jones’ little tricks and is in the mood for some payback for the Welsh smashing his home nation.

            2. And “Dai Bach Steve Jones Tonypandy Llewellyn Gruffydd Walsh” (to give him his full name) is running the line.

              1. Noooooooo!!!

                We may as well concede the match. Odds on he’ll try to find some way to get himself on the cameras

                Actually, I’d like Nigel Owen, the best ref out there. Am sure he’d be scrupulously fair and even if he was and Wales won, we could blame it all on him…

                1. Can we have a fantasy refereeing league with bets on which ref looks at
                  themselves the most times on the big screen.

                  A win win situation – TMO put to good use and my house put on Walsh.


        1. I hope a fit and ready JD2 plays Benjit for the same reason – want to see the best teams out there. I’m nervous though – if we do play him and he is off the pace he could ruin the centres.

        2. Benjit. Disagree about excuses for having players out injured. Am I going to turn around and say well it didn’t really count because our starting props, no.8 and possibly both wings are all injured. A third of our team. No. It’s part of the game. The team that’s there on the day has to be the one to front up. If Wales win it will be because they are the better team on the day.

          Actually thinking about it Tuilagi would have been starting and Parling was a possible. So we have nearly half our best team out injured. Maybe we should be making excuses. Interestingly Wales will probably be at full strength bar a lock. We should be hiring their physios!

          1. You miss my point Staggy. I want this team to be tested against Wales at its best with all their top players and to be fair to Wales that is often a rarity as they often have the same injury crises that England have, though with less depth.

            I’d rather we lost to a strong side than beat a weakened one and have yet another false dawn. What made the Ireland win so great was that it was pretty much their best side, Bow and SOB outstanding which made this win so much more significant than the 2012 mauling when BOD and POP were missing.

            I want to see Robshaw best Warburton and Farrell out play Priestland or 12t have career defining match against Roberts! Not saying it will happen if course…

            1. OK fair comment. We all want to see the best players on the pitch. Not sure how many international teams would cope well with 6 or 7 starters injured, SA or NZ aside, but it seems like it is helping strength in depth which is a good thing!

      3. As for whether Goode gets dropped I am going to wait till after sunday. He isn’t the most versatile back in the world, but as a game changer there can surely be no one more dangerous.
        It would mean that if a wing got injured then we would end up with burrell out there again, not something im totally looking forward to tbh, but how else does he come back into the squad then apart from starting. Unless you put him on the wing I suppose which wouldn’t surprise me if it was tried at some point.
        I know it is very early to be even thinking about him returning but if he makes 3 clean line breaks and scores on sunday it would be hard to say no.

        He might be back soon

  8. This is what Wales Online (that bastion of fair minded impartial journalism) reported that Lawes has said of the Welsh lineout

    “Certainly, ours and Ireland’s are the top line-outs and we need to use that going into the Wales game,” declared Lawes.

    “I’ve been keeping an eye on Wales’ line-outs. There’ll be a decent chance for us to put pressure on them.”

    Hardly goading. Just pointing out what is obvious to pretty much everyone. Including, I imagine, the Wales coaching staff.

    1. But Alan you’re missing the point! A fair minded assessment and analysis of another team by a player is hardly going to sell papers! ;-)

    1. Am assuming that this relates to my earlier comment about being the only team to beat NZ in 2 years. To which the answer is not at all. I’m expecting a 3-0 blackwash. Coming out of it with a 2-1 loss would be a result as far as I’m concerned. Just hope we’re competitive.

  9. Blub

    NZ a gd place to test out the kiddies?

    You’re kidding right?

    Er, why not the 6N already? E.g. Geo Ford v, say, Scotland.

    1. Don, I think that you will find that pretty much every English commentator on here thought it was a missed opportunity to blood Ford against Scotland. Still Burns did Ok on his debut against NZ, but admittedly that was at home!

    2. Don, no i’m not kidding at all.

      I didn’t say, or indeed imply, that we shouldn’t use the 6 Nations. I think they should, and in particular young George should have had at least one outing already.

      However, my point is that if a new player is tested first in New Zealand, then we will likely learn more about their suitability to play in a World Cup KO match, than we will with 20 mins against a tiring Italy (as an example).

      Or, to use a hypothetical example, better tested in New Zealand that a couple of games against a weakened Argentina.

    3. Don, I think you should be less focussed on what may or may not happen when a tired under strength England side full of kids comes for an end of season tour and worry more about the Boks who may well knock you off your perch.

  10. Matt

    You over rate the NZ win. The ABs, as you don’t wish to acknowledge, had the shites in that game, so you delude yrself. When NZ were fit nxt up, England lost.

    This is not, despite the Welsman’s potestations to the contrary that I was whining, about talking NZ up, but rather a diff in perception of reality between the NH’s & the SH’s mind set. NZ have a track record to back up what I say.

    It’s your loss to think or believe what you blog.

    I predict time will tell in June.

    1. England weren’t fully fit last autumn, missing several key players (with vastly inferior replacements in their place) and we still almost won. So a full strength fully fit ABs side can only just beat a 2/3rds strength England side, result isn’t too bad then. OK, great we’ve got an excuse for that loss now too. There we are it’s now 1-1 in the pointless excuse stakes.

    2. And just to correct something, they didn’t have the shites in the game, they were shite in the game.

      If the bug in the week had impacted them really badly they would not have come back into it late on. They didn’t use it as an excuse, so neither should you.

  11. Ha, Groundhog Day! Into the breach once more, for kicks….

    Matt – did you also know that when NZ lost the WC to SA in 95 that they were poisoned? That when NZ lost the WC semi final to France in 99 it was because the ref was biased? When they lost to Aus in 03 it was because … ummm, I forget, but I’m sure it was something. When they lost to France again in 07 it was the same thing, biased refs and cheating French. When they finally beat France in 11 it was a fully fit NZ team with a totally unbiased ref. You see – whenever NZ lose it’s external factors that make it happen. When everything is fair they can’t lose – their track record backs this up because all of their losses were due to illness/cheating/bad-karma. Deal with this and you’ll have much more useful discussions with NZ fans. They never whine when they lose, they just “speak the truth”. Yes, you or I might find “we only lost because of reason X” to be childish whining of the type we were taught back in school not to engage in, regardless of what we may know/feel inside, but it turns out that it is nothing of the sort when it is backed up with “the truth”.

    1. And what do you suppose makes that hysteria? There’s always some truth to these grudges. If sport could just be managed properly then nobody would ever give these people a second though. The most recent case is the Kim Yuna ice hockey debacle. She was clearly robbed in the olympic ice skating. Koreans have a similar mentality with losing when their chosen one/destined one loses – they were wronged. But it doesn’t help matters when you have a corrupt Russian judge or two on the panel. All I’m saying is bad officiating allows this kind of hype to prevail. It’s not purely that New Zealand expect to win all the time. They know they can’t and its usually been Australia who put them in their place. Actually, historically Australia have had the bigger chip from what I can see – now that might actually be a 100% natural potato chip..

  12. At least after Round 3 we all know where to get a ticket for future England home games.

    Andy Farrell’s young b+st+rd and his personal allocation

  13. Matt

    Correct nothing. Been dealt with, but get rid of yr inferiority complex; hanging on to fanciful delusion.

    I guess you’re confident of a clean sweep come June then eh, ranked 4th!?

    1. And to think that elsewhere on this blog the English are getting an earful about being arrogant…………………..!

    2. The history of New Zealand Rugby

      Played: 502
      Won: 390
      Drawn: 18
      Excuses: 104

      The lack of good grace to admit when you are beaten by a better side on the day (which I’m probably going to have to do a few times this summer) is astonishing.

  14. brighty

    Well I wasn’t actually addressing you Brighty, but as you’ve seen fit to stick yr oblique oar in, why not deal directly boyo?

    Still running with the hares & hounds I see.

    Ha, ha. Must have really got under yr skin musn’t I?

    Is yr complex bigger than Walter Mitty Matt’s. Could it be because your lot ain’t beaten the ABs since… when was it now? Oh yes, that’s it. 1953! Before you were were born?

    Makes me larf with all yr vitriol… & your being stuck with kiwi coach! Must really stick in yr craw.

    But good luck v England, altho it must some dilemma for you to know whom to shout for.

    1. Don I reply when you whine like this because for me it is one of the fundamental parts of sport, something I believe it is important to challenge.

      You and I agree to play a match. I win. After the match we shake hands and you say well played. I was brought up to believe that this is as expected as any other aspect of being a decent adult.

      You on the other other hand play a game then after you lose you point out you were not really on top form and really, if you had been, the result would have been different. You then go on at length about all the others times you won as proof that this must be a blip you can blame on illness. You give your foe zero credit, it’s all about you.

      It’s one of the most heinous, whiny, mealy mouthed things you can do in sport. The immaturity it displays, the inability to just man up and take it, is gob smacking. I appreciate you have comprehension issues – you keep thinking that this is about “the truth” despite people constantly telling you it is not. It is about a basic decency – when you enter a sporting competition you agree to abide by the result, you don’t wait until you see whether you won or lost before deciding whether it was valid to play the game or not. To the victor the spoils. Always.

      Grow up.

  15. Staggy

    You completely miss my point. It’s not to do with arrogance. It’s to do with other’s views being, at least in part, erroneous on a specific pt, that’s all.

    Others disagree of course. Likely to have something to do with SH/NH takes, but what I’ve said is actually true regds England’s win. Their is some merit in same, but to deny NZ’s (I’m quoting Hansen, press reports) not being at full tilt is surely delusional. And to take it as an entirely merited win (as it seems to me) is somewhat disengenuoss & it thus does England (& her supporters) no favours at all. Also England’s following record wasn’t that flattering was it? And NZ had a ‘perfect’ season last yr.

    And for crying out loud, this, I repeat, is not about arroogance for me. The the teams’ respective, aforementioned records surely back my view up, @ least to some extent? That’s it.

    I do admit, however, to having failed my exams to enter the diplomatic core & so clearly this doesn’t do me toooo many favours. Yet my view is sincerely held.

    Obviously tho, others here don’t see it this way & see only criticism (esp the Welshman. Is he more English than you!). If they/you can get beyond seeing that (& my ‘direct’ approach), maybe they/you too could understand this. But them’s the breaks I guess.

    Ah well, back to the drawing board… & my steel helmet!

    1. “it wasn’t an entirely merited win”
      “Also England’s following record wasn’t that flattering was it?”

      Really? Since that NZ win in 2012 England team has lost to Wales (once) and NZ (once) while piling up 11 wins. Not too shaby – not perfect, but definitely not bad. And As others have pointed out, in Nov 2013 the England team who you beat by a mere 8 points was missing 5 starters so your ‘perfect’ 2013 wasn’t actually entirely merited.

      That your view is sincerely held in no way negates that it’s unfalsifiable.

    2. Don, to call Brighty more English than me shows a new level of delusional thinking!

      I think arrogance could easily be labelled at someone who can’t accept when they’ve been beaten and blame it on something other the other team playing better.

      I am quite happy to accept that the ABs are the undisputed best team in world rugby at the moment. Doesn’t mean they can’t be beaten. No one has a god given right to win everything. That I think is the point.

      1. Exactly – anyone who’s read one or two of my comments knows I am no England rugby fan. I was annoyed that the ABs lost to them that day as I knew we would get months of “we beat the all blacks!” coverage and the perpetuation of the “when you beat an SH nation” point in all Welsh rugby discussions with English fans. However, as I’ve said, you cannot take it away from them. They beat the ABs. Give em the credit, move on, and plot their downfall silently.

        Lest my moan about coverage above get confused with the Dai thread – I meant I’d find the coverage painful, not that it was unreasonable for the coverage to exist.

      2. It reminds me of 2003 when a kiwi friend told me that England’s WC win didn’t count because NZ were having a ‘down spell’.

        It’s just classic delusional thinking
        1. The ABs are the best team
        2. The ABs always win
        3. Therefore, when the ABs lose it’s not because they got beaten by a better team on the day, it’s because reality was tampered with

        So in the case I mentioned above, he honestly thought that saying England were only the best team in the world at the time, but not as good as the hypothetical ABs were in his head meant England didn’t deserve the win.

        To his credit this guy actually copped that was ridiculous.

  16. Matt

    NZ excuses 104. Ha, ha. V droll. Original.

    And so how do you exlain; ”England weren’t fully fit last autumn, missing several key players”. shades of SL? Pots & kettles?

    You remind me a bit of David Irving in that he too was a denyer.

    In 09 NZ 19 nilled SA in C’town with 8 of the prev WC team gone. Ok so they lost nxt up in NZ & it’s an isolated e.g., but the pt is that all teams have injuries.

    And what you (& others) are actually saying is that Hansen & prev Mains & Lohore, not to mention myself, are all Liars. I can’t speak for them & I may be a few things, but a liar I ain’t.

    But go ahead fella/s, knock yrself/ves out, I know what I heard from these guys. If it makes you feel better to talk about ‘gd grace’ be my guest. As aforementioned, you only see criticism, not what’s actually being said/wtitten.

    But my fault, should have known better, can’t tell a Pom (some) nuthing’ about rugger.

    And as Dale Carnegie said; ‘You can’t argue with a bockhead’, so any further comment is superflous.

    Over & out geezer.

  17. McMurphy

    You look Oirish, but… presumably 2nd/+ gen?

    Anyway, admittedly it’s decent enuff on paper, but you ignore the qual of oppo e.g. Scotland… & the Oz win was surely a bit streaky, what with Brown being out & that cheating Kiwi Hartley blocking the tackler.

    I put ‘perfect’ in inverted commas for a reason.

    I’ve never heard of ‘unfalsifiable’. Is it a real word? Or a Paddy 1?

    1. so, just getting this straight.

      For the english loss to NZ for last autumn (which people only said as an example of how anyone can make stupid excuses) you claim that everyone has injuries, you need to get over it.

      and then continue to claim the NZ loss to England as a perfectly valid excuse.

      I trust the irony isn’t lost on you. But that’s what I mean by unfalsifiable. There’s nothing that can break your fervent belief.

  18. Staggy

    Are you Brighty’s mother? Like you, I’m sure he can look after himself.

    Never mentioned ‘god given’. Already replied to this stuff e.g. latest to Matt Morgan, US Marshall above.

  19. brighty

    But I’ve always spoken v highly of you.

    And you’ve already said all this stuff before. Yawn.

    You lecture me on decency, when prev, YOU perpetrated what amounted to a character assination of myself when I dared ? yr stellar intellect (which you presumably bought from MENSA) & when I demurred from yr view of life, the universe & oh, rugby. On the other hand, I, as I perceive from yr drift, have spent my life swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool… IYO!

    You appear to be playing a game the trick cyclists call, ‘I’m ok, you’re not ok’.

    I might simply call it yr being an arrogant Welsh twat… if I were so inclined.

    But I invite you to get down off yr high horse & stop talking down.

    We see things diff, that’s all. Besides, much, altho not all, of blogs are opinion & interpretation. Even us I dare say.

    Ditto re Matt blog to you too.

  20. PS McMurphy

    ‘…when a kiwi friend told me…’; Why’s he a friend then, esp when you grass him up so on this site?

    Glad you’re not my mate!

    1. Grass him up? seriously?

      He’s still my mate, and he copped to the absurdity of his claim. what’s the problem.

  21. Mitchell

    It’s gd to jump on the band wagon innit? Are you a lemming?

    ‘Australia’ ain’t generally ‘put NZ in their place’ for a little while now, just for yr record. You must watch more (rugger) TV.

    But I’m gald to see that you also put the boot into Oz too, just for some balance & a bit of gd ol’ fair play.

    And I do esp admire yr ‘100% natural potato chip..’ joke. Lafed til I cried. Nearly got chucked outta the library! A real hoot! Do you know any more? Jonglars are looking you know.

  22. Don, you’re embarrassing yourself. Your lack of decency, sportsmanship and FairPlay is only outdone by your lack of the basics of the English language.

    I’ve met plenty of passionate Kiwi fans, so I know you are not a real one. Just a plastic kiwi who doesn’t understand the basics of sport. If you were a touch more coherent you would shame the very sportsmen you pretend to follow.

  23. brighty

    Only IYO! Have sitting at home all day waitng to respond?

    Yr comment surely proves my contention of yr self agradisement.

    Why didn’t yr mother get u circumsised from the neck up @ birth?

  24. This is beginning to resemble one of those inane threads you see on the Telegraph, wind the necks in lads, don’t often see this site degenerate into juvenile name calling & trolling.

  25. Matt

    Thnks for yr concern regarding what I shud be worried about; i.e. the Boks.

    And of course you’re right, they may well knock NZ off their perch (altho not me personally I trust. I don’t play for the ABs). But then again, that’s what was said last yr wasn’t it?

    But it’s also gd that you get yr excuses in early about ‘a tired under strength England side full of kids comes for an end of season tour’. Not that you’re apprehensive of course. Still with a bit o’ luck & a following tail wind, the England kids might all get the Norovirus as well mightn’t they? Wouldn’t that be an ironic giraffe?

    1. Here’s a view from someone that you probably do respect ;)

      “If we’d fallen away at the end, you might have said [the illness was a factor], but we felt fine. We just struggled to get into the game.” Richie McCaw

      Yes, I’ve got my excuses in first for the summer, then if it comes to pass I can’t be accused of whining!

      I’m bitterly disappointed in the scheduling this summer, our best chance was to catch NZ cold in the first game. To be fielding a team that will have never played together before (and won’t do again afterwards) is ridiculous.

  26. Look Matt, it’s not that I don’t respect yr opinion.

    And I’m aware that Richie McCaw has been quoted counter to what I’ve heard Hansen say (as an aside rather than a complaint). And RM’s qoute seems to affirm ‘the illness was A factor’.

    My whole pt was that for England)/supporters to claim it as e.g. a ‘pivotal’ (Dallaglio) win was unmerited & it didn’t, IMO, do their cause any gd as the rest of the season seemed to verify.

    I’m coming from a posi of a diet of (In a blog to Dan on ‘’England Squad for 6N 2014’’), having for yrs been deluged by former players/media saying England have the most £, players, the H Cup being the ‘real thing’ & that the Prem League is ‘the best in the world, Ritcie’s too scared to play in it etc, etc’.

    It stuck in my craw, as I saw it, of E talking it up with a relatively modest record v the SH. That’s all. I was brought up to belive that you do it 1st & then talk afterwards if you must.

    Of course the whole thing, as Tesco, above, alluded to, has taken on a momentum of it’s own & subsequently supporters like you presumably see it as an out & out attack on E. It wasn’t actually, meant as such, certainly initially. However under the tsunami of criticism, I defended my corner… & here we are.

    In retro, I think that the NH & SH views of rugby are quite diff, that’s for sure. Also it may have been wiser for me to have been more circumspect in my views (not least for my as well as others’ blood pressure levs), but I was direct in my belief.

    Of course it didn’t help much when Brighty seemed to put on his English hat ( & boot. I couldn’t quite get my head around that 1) & accuse me of whining when I was just being truthful. I mean it doesn’t unduly bother me if the ABs fall off their perch. It’s happened before & will happen again, but I’m confident that they will get back on to the horse pretty quick. I don’t need to defend their record.

    Anyway, going on & on like a nun’s knickers sometimes works… or sometimes makes it worse, but it wasn’t that I disregarded yr opinion.

    So there, dunno if that was all worthwhile, but at least I gave it 1 last heave ho.

    G’luck Sun.

  27. McMurphy

    Well that’s alright then. Buy him a pint of Guinness,… or 2. To be sure, to be sure.

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