There were some interesting happenings on the weekend in Six Nations.
This week we talk about bonehead plays, the alternate Six Nations, what chance the Lions, trending North, what’s up for grabs and trivial pursuits.
You see them every week—some hyped-up numbskull stuffs up and lets his team down.
England v Scotland
At 1 min 27 secs England winger Daly passes the ball then gets a late lifting tackle from Scotland hooker Reid, he lands on his “upper back”. Yellow card.
Joseph scores immediately from the lineout following the penalty kick and Scotland’s game gets off to a horrible start and never recovers.
See a Bonehead incident at 30 seconds
Wales v Ireland
Wales leads 15-9 with twelve minutes remaining but Ireland captain Best throws to a 5-metre attacking lineout. He is soon holding the ball again—at the back of the driving maul which is progressing arrow-straight.
It begins to rotate and is about to move Best over the goal line, then Ireland inside centre Henshaw flashes in to help his forwards. Good fellow.
What a blunder! Blind Freddy could see he came in at the maul in front of Best in the clear view of eagle-eyed referee Barnes.
Try? No, relieving penalty to Wales. Ireland could have led 16-15 and held on.
The other Six Nations
The same countries that belt each other in mens’ Six Nations do the same in the Under 20s and Women’s Six Nations.
Womens – The big surprise this year was in Round 3 when Scotland won their first match since 2010 despite being 0-14 down early against Wales. They won after a nerveless penalty goal to scrummie Sarah Law in the final minutes, snapping a 13-game losing streak to the Welsh side.
The winner next week between England and Ireland will win the Grand Slam.
Under 20s – As with the men, the England Under 20s clinched their Six Nations title on the weekend and will win a Grand Slam if they beat Ireland on Saturday.
The competition gives the teams a priceless leg up for the World Under 20s later on: they can get their systems working and fine-tune their squad selections. But it is not necessarily a good form guide—in 2016 Wales were Grand Slam winners but finished seventh in the Worlds in Manchester behind finalists England and Ireland.
Brian O’Driscoll 2010 – they play a different kind of rugby in NZ
Has Six Nations shown that the 2017 Lions can compete against the All Blacks?
I don’t think so. The Lions will have good players—and Ireland have proved that the World Cup Champions can be beaten, but its not the same thing as beating them at home.
As Brian O’Driscoll said in New Zealand after Ireland shipped 66 points to them in 2010:
It’s a different type of game that they play here: very different than anywhere else. Sometimes you wonder would you be the same player if you were born here.
It’s a question you’ll never be able to answer but it’s so different from the brand I’m used to at home, growing up and in my professional career. Understanding that, and confronting that, is half the battle.
The Lions will have to start well and keep going – something no team has done in Six Nations in 2017. Nor have any of them shown they could counter a high tempo game, let alone play like that themselves.
All Blacks to win.
George North – resurrection time
The Resurrection of George North
The big Wales’ winger has has a tough time recently. He’s been in patchy form all season and even looked like Neville Nobody in November playing against the Wallabies.
He also got knocked cold in a club game in December, though this was denied. This was the fifth time the 24 year-old has had trouble with his noggin on the rugby field, and knockers have suggested that his concussions have been the root of his inconsistent form.
In Round 3 at Murrayfield he was ordinary and had a run of threes – handled the ball three times, made three tackles and missed three.
Coach Howley was never going to drop him but he gave him a quiet serve to the press to rev him up.
It worked—he was back to his bashing best against Ireland when he scored his first try, and he was on hand to score another.
Howley would have been pleased and ditto for Lions’ Coach Warren Gatland.
Rhys Webb – closing in on Murray
Up for grabs
There are several good Lions candidates in several positions but the race to wear the 9 jersey in the first test on 24th June at Eden Park is going to be close.
At least three will be candidates for test spots but who would Gatland pick to start if he had a game against the All Blacks in a fortnight?
Before Six Nations started Ben Youngs and Conor Murray, the hero of Chicago, were the favoured scrum halves but Youngs’ chances were affected by the lethargic form of England in the first three rounds – or was he part of the problem?
Ignoring the injured Laidlaw, Murray was the no. 9 star in two of the first three rounds but the Wales’ scrummie Rhys Webb had a top game in the narrow loss to England. Moreover Murray could not compare to him when he was left on the field too long with a dead arm trying to stop North scoring his first try on Saturday.
Mike Brown – definitely won’t be dropped for Ireland game
• Italy won the wooden spoon for the ninth time in 13 years. Their defence was poor again and they reportedly missed 53 tackles (about one-third of their attempts), against France on Saturday. If only they played better in the second-half. In their four games they have scored only 12 points to 120 after the break compared to a reasonable 38 to 52 before it.
• There’s no way that Eddie Jones will drop fullback Mike Brown for the Grand Slam game against Ireland next Saturday—he will want him to break a record. England has won in the last 17 Six Nations matches that Mike Brown has played in and another will give him the longest individual streak in either Five or Six Nations’ history.
• The 61-21 result in England v Scotland meant 82 points were scored: the highest total in the classic ever and the biggest since the 42-20 England win in 2007, the previous highest. The winning margin was also the biggest – 40 points, 18 more than in the 2007 match.