Six Nations Week 1: Wayne (Barnes)’s World

Week 1 has passed, and nothing really has changed. France are still great, England are still rubbish, Ireland still have no gameplan, Scotland can’t score tries, Wales are quite useful and Italy don’t win away.

But we decided to flesh out the above into something more concrete instead.  Our Week 1 Review, split by champions and old nags:

The Winners’ Enclosure

France

A four try win with a minimum of fuss is a reasonable start for France.  They didn’t look any great shakes for large stretches, but late in the second half you could see them start to enjoy themselves.  Wesley Fofana had a good debut, and his partnership with Rougerie is going to cause a lot of teams a lot of problems.  Louis Picamoles was transformed from a pussy cat at the World Cup to his wrecking ball best here.  Happily for France, their favourite opponenets, Ireland are coming to town for their habitual beating next week.  The fixture list is set up nicely, and the final game against Wales could be a decider.

Happiness Index: 3/5 – decent start to the new campaign, but the French public will demand a more complete performance next week

England

Ugh, that didn’t make for pleasant viewing.  New players, new captain, new gameplan… but the song remains the same.  It’s reassuring to see some things never change, and England just can’t fall out of love with the bosh.  Their backrow was thouroughly outplayed, and only when Morgan came on did they have any decent carrier on the pitch, but they defended doggedly and allowed Scotland to shoot themselves in the foot just enough to win the game.  For a scratch team it’s not the worst of starts, but going to a passionate Stadio Olimpico in Rome will be tough. The media loved it though – Stephen Jones was even saying how good Botha, Dowson and Farrell were.

Happiness Index: 3/5 – one away win in the locker, if they can get another next week they are looking at a successful championship

Wales

Missing four tight forwards, losing Warburton at half time, and with Rhys ‘Toto Schillachi’ Priestland having a shocker, you’d think the writing was on the wall.  But oh me oh my, what a group of matchwinners these guys have.  A sensational backrow, and the biggest, bruisingest, and skilfulest backs in the competition.  Roberts looked short of form, but Jonathan Davies boshed hole after hole in the Irish defence, while George North looks like the player of the age.  Hard running, clean lines, great angles. 

Happiness Index: 5/5 – Wales will be thrilled.  Gatty once again outfoxed Kidney and is a shoo-in for the Lions job.  Scotland at home next, and a great chance to build momentum.

The Losers Corner
Ireland:

Gerry Ending: Blind Dave Pearson! *foam* Wayne Barnes!! *froth* Les Kiss does know how to run an attack!!! *thumps desk* Mother Deccie of Kidcutta!!!!

Farmer Farrelly Ending: Sexton missed kicks! *thumps desk* Miniscule Leinster centres!! *foam* Where is Ooooooooooohhh James Downey!!! *froth* Padre PiO’Mahoney!!!!

Mega Happy Honest Ending: Ireland were like pussycats at ruck time – only substitute Donnacha Ryan attempted to slow Welsh ball, and he got speared for his troubles. Without BOD, Ireland were clueless at the breakdown, and clueless on how to play. Oh how we hoped the noises about an actual gameplan were true – why we believed them is another thing. The personnel sweep all before them in Europe at provincial level, but look like befuddled fools in a green shirt – it’s time for some coaching please. And by coaching, we don’t mean putting the video analyst in charge of attack. 

Happiness Index: 1/5 – very difficult to see how Ireland can have a good championship from here.  Paris beckons. Tomorrow we’ll be looking in more depth at Ireland’s woes.
Scotland:

Now, this is a tough one. Yes, Scotland lost in desperate fashion. Yes, they butchered countless chances. Yes, Robbo did select Dan Parks, who will surely never play for his country, or Scotland, again. And yet. We felt there were some chinks of light. When the Embra halves came on after 55 odd minutes, they played with real speed and purpose. The laughable handling of the players outside killed a lot of moves, but in at least some cases, they were genuinely unfamiliar with the whole “gainline” thing Greg Laidlaw was at and had to reach for flat passes. And the Scottish back row were brilliant, Ross Rennie’s mastery of ruck time harking back to the days of JJ and Finlay Calder. Robbo made a serious boo-boo in picking this team, and confidence is no doubt rock bottom, but they might actually have something to build on – if Laidlaw gets picked to start, Scotland might actually have *whisper* a platform.

Happiness index: 2/5 – at least they’ll get the right team on the pitch now.  All is not lost, but that was a huge opportunity blown

Italy:

An 18 point defeat was within the bookies pre-match spread and Italy will be happy with that. Granted, the French barely broke sweat, but this was a match Italy were never going to win – what they needed was to leave Paris with their dignity intact. And they did that. They looked pretty breezy, contributed to a good quality and open match, and looked kind of rejuvenated. Clearly, without a 10, they are going to struggle, but they have a great back row, a good coach, a decent pair of centres and, now, a spring in their step. In terms of next week, they got the ideal result from England – an absolutely dire performance with a win, which means few changes are likely. Italy have never beaten England, but they will be waiting in the long grass of the Stadio Olimpico this Saturday.

Happiness Index: 3/5 will feel they’ve a good chance of grinding England into the dirt

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