Oh, you again? I thought you’d come back. Your sort always does. Wanted to see what me and my poison pen nib made of this weekend’s Six Nations? Come on then, let’s have a look.
Everyone loves a proper Celtic ding dong. And so it turned out in Cardiff on Saturday night. Under the same roof, but a different name, the Welsh capital’s stadium roared into life as Wales and Scotland slugged it out, in what will be regarded as the game of the tournament so far (not difficult). Vern Cotter’s men held the Welsh waters back for the majority of the game and it was only in the final twenty minutes that the dam burst.
First Jamie Roberts, and then George North, poured through to condemn Scotland to their umpteenth straight loss in the competition and in doing so, had most Jocks wondering if last autumn’s World Cup had been just some sort of elaborate hoax. Opportunities once again went missing. There was contention around the first Welsh try but Scotland love a good refereeing blunder. Like chewing tobacco, they can stuff a dubious offside decision down next to their gums and gob out excess saliva for the next few months. It’s all part of the fun.
Wales are certainly starting to click into gear, like Adam Johnson at pick up time, and once this Antipodean experiment wears off, with Dan Lydiate restored to six (a position Sam Warburton isn’t as good at, because he’s a seven), the more effective the breakdown will become. The scrum still creaks and front row duties as a whole don’t shout confidence but you’d have to worry a little bit if you were due to play the Taffs anytime soon.
It is clear that wearing navy blue is meant to be painful; there’s some Irvine Welsh inspired masochistic pleasure derived from supporting Scotland. Here they were playing a lot better than they had done seven days previous but still not well enough to win. Expect them to stoop again against Italy and, if a win is recorded, it’ll be the sort that no one would want to own up to. Poor sods. The only upside; they’re not French.
Speaking of which, has there ever been a worse team to still be on course for a Grand Slam? Having concocted a performance against the Italians that put the poo in poubelle, Guy Noves’ side set about denigrating Ireland. The Paddies are performing without some of their better players and, despite a valiant draw to their name against the Welsh, stuttered and stalled against a France team determined to put people to sleep faster than Bill Cosby. As games of rugby go, it was catsick. Medard scored the match winning try but such was the lethargy, the Daily Mail failed to get his name right. Maxime became Maxine, as Britain’s favourite ‘immigrants carry cancer’ rag performed its very own rugby sex change.
And so to one of the world’s most romantic cities, Rome. Valentine’s Day, and most men put pay to any Sunday night hanky panky by choosing to watch Italy v England, instead of flicking through IKEA catalogues and talking about the future. Was it worth it? Um, kind of. England stole a march in the 52nd minute. Jonathan Joseph, who was being comfortably outplayed by his opposite number Michele (not Michelle) Campagnaro, intercepted a loose pass to stroll underneath the posts and the Italian resistance broke.
Tries started to come easy to an England side buoyed by the addition of fresh legs and when Farrell waltzed in for the pick of them, the Azzurri were well beaten. JJ, a name we call him when he scores lots of tries, notched up a hat trick, and the boys in white had handed out the hiding Eddie Jones had demanded. Kruis was outstanding, and the subs bench did a good job deconstructing an ailing Italian side but it all masks a few cracks. Many of us are still confused.
England have two 6s in their back row and two 10s in their midfield. Jamie George looks just the same player who was named by everyone as the new England hooker until Hartley got it by hunkering down on Jones’ didgeridoo. And Joseph bagging three doesn’t really detract from the growing feeling that Daly needs a go. And here’s a question. Where do you play Nathan Hughes? Cos you’re not telling me he’s not ready to go straight into this side. I feel England are ok at the moment, they could be a whole lot better. The upcoming three games will tell us a whole lot more. The fact that two of those are at home could be just the sort of push they’ll need. Hang on, this is sounding a lot like a proper article.
Do you see the people wearing pizza hats at the Stadio Olimpico? Twats. See you in a fortnight.
By Sam Roberts (@samrobertsrugby)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images