Thursday, 19 February 2015

6 Nations!

The 6 nations is by far my favourite time of the year when it comes to rugby. International rugby is head and shoulders above club rugby and the 6 nations allows the world to see the greatest annual rugby tournament in rugby and sees the biggest rivalries clash.

A brief review and preview at 2 games in:

2 games and 2 wins, For me the Wales game had to provide a good performance. I wasn't too bothered at the result as to win at the Millenium stadium is extremely hard no matter how well you play. However, the performance was incredible! For a team that is awash with injuries this mix-match side made the Welsh look average at times and looked seriously good. The Italy game however was somewhat of a disappointment. The naive will say a 30 point difference at the final whistle would be a good result but England didn't really start till the second half.  Do that against the southern hemisphere sides, Ireland, France or Wales and it's game over by the time you go back into the changing rooms at halftime.
Summary in a sentence: The red rose not quite in full bloom but thorns are sharp nonetheless. 
Again 2 games and 2 wins, An away win at Italy was expected and though their performance was said to not be their best, they still got 3-26 win in Rome and that is a great achievement. I personally thought they would only be half the side after BOD leaving but they seem to have improved if anything. I think when Paul O'Connell calls it day then they will be without their leader and most important player and will need to restructure a bit. The win against France was never going to be predictable, you never know with France how they will perform but a win is a great result. I personally think the 6 nations is there's for the taking. However, if England win in Dublin the trophy is there's and the World Cup is within reach for the Rose. But I do think Ireland at home will be slightly too strong for a inconsistent England side.
Summary in a sentence: No God in BOD but playing stronger than ever.
Scotland are a team that people want to do well as the underdogs in every game but they can't quite get it together. The loss to France was incredibly narrow and the loss to Wales even smaller. They are not a team that should be taken lightly. Though they will never win the tournament they do cause a potential banana skin for every side. I do believe that in the next 10 years they will be a real force if they sort out their foundations. In Richie Gray, who is out for the tournament with injury, Stuart Hogg, Jonny Gray and Greg Laidlaw they have real quality. I think with players like Hogg and Richie Gray especially they need to build a team around them as they could get into the 25 man squad for any of the 6 nations sides. 

Summary in a sentence: Problem causers but rarely problem solvers.

Wales... They're a team I can't quite figure out. They have one of the best coaches in world rugby in Gatland. They have, for me, the best back 3 in Europe. George North is the most promising talent in world rugby and Halfpenny was the best Lion in the recent British & Irish Lions success down under. However, they seemed to have peaked in their 2013 championship winning year. The Lions that year was dominated by Welsh talent but I think what followed killed them for the future. The surge in players leaving for France and England has killed Welsh club rugby and left the national side a group of individuals not a tight group like the English or Irish. However, saying all of this, though the England loss was massively damaging and the win against Scotland incredibly tight, they are still the most passionate rugby nation in the world and you can never completely writ- off the Welsh.
Summary in a sentence: World class not quite making world beaters.

The Italians are a team that people watch with a sort of sympathetic patronising face. Everyone knows they try but really we know they won't win. They have arguably one of the best 8's and leaders in Sergio Parisse and one of the most charismatic players in Martin Castrogiovanni who has proven to be world class over his career. But the one problem I have with Italy is that people often put them in the same bracket with Scotland with quality and the threat they provide. I don't think they are the same. The Italians are expected to beaten by a high margin by most of the teams and usually are. There are the rare moments they cause an upset and everyone is raving about them but they aren't the same threat as the Scots. The two things they do have is Rome and they have made that a formidable place to go and the physicality they bring. They have 2 losses so far this year and I can't see them winning a game. When Parisse and Castro go they will be in serious trouble and the results could seriously become embarrassing if they don't find that world class again. 
Summary in a sentence: Nothing to lose but nothing gained.
The French a league is where the highest paid players in the world are. The French XV are most likely the best paid team in the 6 Nations as well. The players play with and against the best players in the world in the Top 14 and most of the French XV play like world beaters in their home nation. But Les Blues might have to be the most inconsistent team in world rugby. They only ever seem to produce at their best at World Cups. The 6 Nations should be a tournament they are favourites for every year and though the bookies might put them up there, any rugby fan will know they look good on paper but not always in real life. Mathieu Bastareaud, Wesley Fofana, Pascal Pape and Thierry Dusautoir are just a handful of the talent in their team and for club they are simply unplayable at times. For country... not so much. They have a loss against a very strong Ireland team and a lucky win against the Scots. They shouldn't be a big problem for England and Wales could snatch a win. Either way, they will not be winning this year's tournament, not that it probably bothers them too much when they get to go back to the clubs they play for and the salary they earn. 
Summary in a sentence: Everything says yes for them but the answer is often no.

Predicted finish:
1. Ireland
2. England
3. France
4. Wales
5. Scotland
6. Italy

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