by Felix Bolton
This year’s instalment of the Six Nations kicked off last weekend in its usual spectacular fashion. With the World Cup hangover now behind us, all six teams were looking to improve on performances in Japan. A breadth of new players and coaching staff, alongside familiar faces and experienced campaigners, promised an explosive weekend which did not disappoint, unless you’re an England supporter.
The first fixture of the Championship saw Wales host an Italy side looking to prove themselves amongst Europe’s rugby elite. Unfortunately for the Azzuri, they didn’t even make it onto the scoreboard. The Welsh came out as 42-0 victors in a game that displayed new coach Wayne Pivac’s insistence on an expansive style of play, whilst complimenting Gatland’s engrained defensive brutality.
Two impressive first half tries from Josh Adams mounted pressure on the Italians and was only compounded by the near faultless Dan Biggar boot. The second half was to be equally damaging for the visitors, as debutant Nick Tompkins crossed the line followed by a close range effort from George North. Adams had to wait until the 82nd minute to secure his hattrick as Wales ran rampant.
This crushing defeat only adds to the criticism regarding Italy’s involvement in the competition. Is it time to look elsewhere for the sixth nation?
Whilst the score line shows Welsh domination, Pivac won’t be completely convinced by his team’s display. They shared possession with the Italians and conceded more turnovers, perhaps exposing a chink in their armour. However, with the return of significant players such as Gareth Davies expected for the Ireland clash on the weekend, the squad has the depth and time to iron out any minor creases.
Whilst this game didn’t necessarily highlight the competitive nature of the Six Nations, Scotland’s visit to the Aviva stadium was to be a tighter affair. The error-riddled, physical encounter saw Ireland come away as 19-12 winners. However, the greatly improved Scottish outfit pushed the home side until the final whistle. The cagey match was dominated by both fly-halves as Johnny Sexton and Adam Hastings scored all of their respective teams’ points.
The pivotal moment was to come in the 50th minute, as newly appointed Scottish captain Stuart Hogg blundered an open-try opportunity, as he knocked the ball on over the line. It was not the captain’s contribution he would have been hoping for.
Sunday’s game saw World Cup finalists England take on France at the Stade de France. The mouth-watering battle between two old enemies saw England as stand out favourites before kick-off, but all expectations for a walkover victory were quickly banished.
The French raced to a 17-0 lead by half-time, meaning it was the first time an England side remained pointless at the break in the Championship since 1998. England’s 23 conceded turnovers highlights their inability to be clinical near the try line and will be a key point of focus for Eddie Jones and his management.
Without the individual brilliance of Jonny May’s two late tries, England would have been embarrassed by a ruthless new-look French side who will be looking to be Six Nations champions for the first time since 2010.
Although only one round in, Wales hold a slender lead at the top of the table and are on track to regain the Six Nations crown. However, with a dominant display from France and the constant threat of Ireland and England on the road, the tournament is still wide open heading into week two.