Guinness Six Nations 2020 – How Did The New Faces Fare In The Opening Games?
We’re only one week into the new Guinness Six Nations campaign, and things are already looking pretty tasty! We knew there were changes aplenty ahead of kick-off, but we still found ourselves blindsided across a weekend of magnificent match-ups; turns out there’s a reason it’s rugby’s greatest tournament!
So, following a Welsh demolition job of Italy, an almighty armwrestle between Ireland and Scotland, and the French springing a surprise against England in Paris, which of the ante-post shifts caused the biggest impact? Because whether on the sideline or on the field, it’s nothing if not different! As we prepare for the second dose of drama, with every match live on Virgin Media One, Virgin TV 103, here’s a look at what’s got people talking after week one…
In one sense, Andy Farrell will be quietly pleased with the nature of Ireland’s close-fought win against Scotland; built on tackling toughness, breakdown smarts and some tenacious goalline stands, it embodied the very qualities the new head coach was responsible for in his previous role of defensive coach. The only wrinkle is that his post now includes everything else; an accumulation of errors going forward will provide plenty of food for thought for both boss and lieutenant Mike Catt.
Of course, matters weren’t helped when Caelan Doris lasted less than five minutes before leaving the action following a head knock. The Leinster No. 8 made an almost immediate impression by forcing a turnover, but didn’t have the chance to build on that start. The appearances off the bench of Ronan Kelleher and John Cooney were solid, too, but this wasn’t quite the new chapter of Irish rugby we’d expected. Hey, at least we won!
And finally, spare a thought for Stuart Hogg, who dropped the ball – very literally – on the afternoon his captaincy began…
In our interview with Alan Quinlan before the tournament kicked off, he reckoned the arrival of defensive guru Shaun Edwards might just bring the structure that the French side has been crying out for. Well Quinny, you nailed that one! After years of disappointment and disorganisation, France were disciplined, focused and physical, repelling Eddie Jones’ men for over an hour – at which stage the game was done.
Mind, the precision extended to the other side of the ball, too; while they might have had a little luck on occasion, there was no doubting the efficiency with which coach Fabien Galthie’s players went about their business. With new captain Charles Ollivon leading manfully, and young talents like tournament debutant Vincent Rattez to the fore, they stunned the English from the start. One swallow a summer does not make and all that – but there might just be a new dawn in France.
FROM THE SUBLIME…
New Wales coach Wayne Pivac operates on a basis of width and wisdom; the kicking game is out, and running with ball in hand is in. Sure enough, a five-try annihilation of Italy served as notice of what they can do; Josh Adams galloped in for his second international hat-trick, George North made a scoring start to his outside-centre days, while debutant Nick Tompkins also crossed the whitewash. Plenty new, then – but the reigning Grand Slam champions are back where they left off, too.
Mind, it’s hard to know just what to make of it when their opposition is all a bit…yeah. Like so many rugby fans, nothing would give us cheer more than seeing Italy step up and manage a win – because goodness knows it’s been a while. Their last victory in the tournament was almost five full years ago, when ‘Uptown Funk’ was rocking the charts and cinemas were packed for Fifty Shades Of Grey. Newly installed head coach Franco Smith is making all the right noises, but it remains to be seen if we’ll see results to match.
You’ll find every game of the Guinness Six Nations live on Virgin Media One, Virgin TV 103 – and there’s loads more for sports fans to enjoy on Virgin Media Sports!