Five Things We Learned From The Opening Round Of The Six Nations
Got your breath back yet?! Scintillating performances, shocking scorelines – and, of course, that dramatic drop goal – lit up the first weekend of the Six Nations, with the tournament wasting no time in reminding us just why it’s regarded as the best in the world. There’s a long way to go, of course, but we’ve already discovered a lot from the opening ties; here’s five things we learned over the past few days…
IF YOU TRY, YOU WILL SUCCEED
Johnny Sexton might have saved Ireland with his monumental drop-goal, but the men in green would do well to remember just how close they came to losing a game they dominated for long periods. Controlling territory and possession is one thing, but it needs to show on the scoreboard – and while three-pointers can add up, accumulating scores in fives and sevens makes it an awful lot easier. Ireland needed a miracle to avoid being undone by a single French try for the second time in three years – crossing the whitewash is a must from this point forward.
FRANCE CAN FIND THEIR FEET
With the unceremonious departure of coach Guy Noves, a distinctly disappointing track record in recent years, and an apparent crisis in some key positions, many wondered if France were at an all-time low. But while Sexton’s boot denied them an unlikely victory, there was plenty of evidence to suggest that those writing Les Bleus off altogether may have been a little hasty. Off-pitch controversies may rage on, but on the field they remain capable of causing any side problems…
WALES LOOK THE REAL DEAL
With an injury list as long as the road to Llandudno, a lot of commentators expected the Welsh to struggle against a rejuvenated Scottish side. Instead, Warren Gatland’s men roared out of the blocks with a pair of early tries and never looked back on their way to a dominant 34-7 win. With ten starters from Scarlets’ dominant Pro14 winning team, their attacking intent shouldn’t have come as a surprise; their success, though, was as clear a warning shot as one could ever imagine.
THE ITALIAN JOB HAS NO SHORTCUTS
A 31-point winning margin suggests overwhelmingly one-way traffic, but England’s seven-try victory over Italy wasn’t nearly as straight-forward as the final scoreline would imply; at the halfway point, there was a single score in it, and 12 points separated the teams on the hour. Conor O’Shea’s charges may not be challenging for top honours – ante-post predictions of another wooden spoon are more likely to prove correct – but any side expecting to coast to an easy win could be in for a surprise!
ENGLAND REMAIN THE SIDE TO BEAT
With the combination of George Ford and Owen Farrell looking more dangerous than ever, Six Nations debutant Sam Simmonds grabbing a brace of tries, and star performers chipping in all over the field, the back-to-back winners already look the part. While coach Eddie Jones looked to downplay their favourites tag, there’s no doubting that the three-in-a-row is within reach – and it will take an almighty effort if anyone is to stop them…
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