Ireland starting to gather injuries – Henshaw and Furlong:
Concern is rife in the Irish ranks given the injuries obtained during the Italian games yesterday. Furlong and Henshaw, two stalwarts of the Irish set up, sustained nasty looking injuries: Henshaw a dodgy elbow and Furlong a hamstring problem. Jordan Lamour replaced Henshaw (Keith Earls came into outside centre for the remainder of the match) and Andrew Porter substituted for Furlong and both played very well. However, with the crucial Welsh match up next which is paramount for Ireland’s ambitions for the tournament, it will be interesting to see whether Furlong, in particular, comes back. Henshaw looks to now be out for at least a couple of weeks, if not a few months, as he had to be given oxygen when he came off the Aviva Stadium yesterday.
Jordan Lamour shows potential:
With the anticipation for the 20-year-old Leinster player, Lamour has certainly proved why he was included in the squad. His electrical pace and dancing feet have only injected Irish fans with even more excitement as they are eager to see what more he is capable of. Slowly but surely, Joe Schmit is forming the new back line that Ireland will have after the Rugby World Cup in 2019: Lamour replaces Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose, when he’s fit, will get more games at 13, and Joey Carbery looks to be an admirable replacement for Sexton.
Last gasp Tackles Keith Earls and Sam Underhill:
Both of these tackles are remiscent of the desire of 7’s players making last ditch try-saving tackles, but both in different circumstances. First of all, Keith Earls, chased down Bellini of Italy saving a certain breakaway try and denied Italy the chance of a 4-try bonus point. What you also have to bear in mind, is that it was within the dying minutes of the game and Bellini had a 10 metre head start of Earls; a fantastic work rate from the Munster Utility Back. In contrast, Sam Underhill of Bath’s intervention proved pivotal to England’s win at Twickenham. Many have commented that Scott Williams was right in trying to score the try. I believe however, he wasn’t. If Scott Williams had jumped to ground, with the ball on the try line, the tackle from Underhill would not have counted as Underhill couldn’t tackle Scott Williams if he was still airborne. However, Underhill was able to slide in and save what looked to be a certain try for Scott Williams and Wales in the final minutes of the fixture at Twickenham. It was fantastic work from the Bath man.
Italy’s inclusion in the tournament still questionable:
This is a predicament that has arisen due to the of the poor performance from the Azzuri since joining the tournament in 2000. At the Aviva, Italy were really put to the sword by the Irish and truely revealed why they are a 14th ranked nation. Inconsistency, not fit enough, not enough quality. You name it, they have all been used to try and understand why the Italians have not had as much success in this competition. However, there must be a point where the 6 Nation Tournament organisers must think of a solution. However, there is not an easy one. Many have called for a relegation system, myself included, but the problem lies with which nations could fill the spot vacated by Italy. Romania and Georgia have been exemplary in the Europe Nations Cup. Many have seen the Georgians to be an enticing prospect in the completion as they are ranked two places above Italy in the World Rankings after all. However, the tournament organisers will be worried about the finances because Italy have brought a lot of money to the tournament and it remains to be seen whether Romania and Georgia could do the same.
Speed of England changing attacking style:
One thing that was very impressive was the rate that England were able to change the attack against Wales. Danny Care, on the occasion that he became England’s most capped Scrum-half, was always going to be a live wire around the breakdown. However, the forward pack were very impressive: from being dynamic with their passing game for a moment in a series of play to suddenly going for a pick and go option showed fantastic gameplay. The forward’s were able to lay the foundation for Johnny May’s first two tries. Owen Farrell can take credit for the first try. Ultimately his first touch of the match, a great death kick allowed May to scurry in and win the race against Josh Adams, the Worcester winger had a quiet game. For the second try, credit has to go to Joe Launchbury: a fantastic offload with two Welsh defenders on him allowed the Leicester winger in for his second try in the game and in the overall tournament. England were able to do this in patches from the 25 minute mark but it was not as impressive due to costly errors and good Welsh defence.
The try that wasn’t a try?
World Rugby have announced that TMO Glenn Newman of New Zealand made a mistake in not awarding the try Gareth Anscombe scored with just a quarter of the game gone. Eddie Jones has slammed World Rugby on the issue, and to be honest who can blame him. Last year Peter Fitzgibbon was wrapped in controversy of not spotting Yohan Huget biting George North in the France vs Wales clash at the Stade de France. Now that Newman has done this, it really calls into question the quality of the current officials that World Rugby and the 6 Nations Tournament employ. The TMO has done a lot for the game, but they need to improve once again. Like with Rugby League, TMO’s in Rugby Union should have a conversation with the referee while they analyse the footage. They should always put up the footage in question on the big screens for referees to see, but they don’t always. I also think there needs to be a second TMO to make sure as much of the analysis of what happens with regards to tries and incidences is accurate. Ultimately, without that try, it cost Wales the match; although if Scott Williams had finished by jumping into the try zone, things could have been different.
Have scrum feeds have gone back to where they were before?
A couple of weeks ago in the Scotland vs Wales game, there were free kicks given for feeds that were not straight. This is a positive as it allowed for more competition between the hookers and the scrums that were more of a contest. However, as quick as this notion was introduced, it was quickly forgotten in this round of matches. But why? World Rugby really have to make a stance on the issue and create another rule, perhaps a free-kick for one infringement and then penalties for persistent incredible feeds into the scrum. Of course, teams that have the ball to put in the scrum would want to have an advantage, but in terms of making it a fair competition encouragement must be given to referees to be stricter in that area of officiating the game.
Scrumhalves dominating the kicking battle between Scotland and France:
Laidlaw for Scotland and Machanued and Serin for France were the pivotal players in the Auld Alliance match at Murrayfield. All three had very good days from the kicking tee, especially Laidlaw with 8 kicks at goal. It certainly was a game for the purest rugby fan and towards the end it almost became inevitable due to the the ill-discipline of the French. Laidlaw was able to boss the show at Murrayfield, even from the Fly-half position as Finn Russell was taken off with 10 minutes to go. Serin and Ali Price offered a lot more pace to the game, but given the way that game went, both were not able to show fully what they were capable of but did show how important having two slightly different scrum-halves can be to a national side.
Teddy Thomas the most potent try scorer of the championship so far:
The winger from Racing 92 has certainly been able to find his way to the try line in the beginning of this championship with three tries already in the tournament. He just seems to be able to be at the end of some of the only good rugby France have produced so far. He was lucky with his third try as it almost bounced up into Grieg Laidlaw’s hands. There are a list of players that have scored two tries: Anthony Watson, Johnny May, Sam Simmonds, Robbie Henshaw, Jacob Stockdale and Leigh Halfpenny. All of these players have the potential to get more in the championship, apart from Sam Simmonds and Robbie Henshaw as both have been ruled out of either 2 or all 3 remaining tournament matches.
French Squad Members miss-conduct:
Reports have emerged that 8 players in the squad that played against Scotland went on a night out in Edinburgh and got caught up in sexual assault charges. They were cleared of any wrong-doing and were allowed to fly home to France. Jaques Brunel has taken swift action to discipline those players by suspending them from the squad. This includes two try-scorer Teddy Thomas and impressive backrow player Louis Picamoles. This has meant players coming back into the French set up include the man mountain centre from Toulon, Mathieu Basteraud. France are now on an 8 game losing streak and will face the Italians in Marseille, a crunch match for both sides.