Six Nations: Week 2: Cold Comfort

Okay so we didn’t get everything right this week either (although our Italy-England preview was almost bang on), but I don’t think too many people correctly called the farcical events in Paris either.  Here’s our Week Two round-up.

The Winners’ Enclosure

England

Holy hand. England, unbelievably, were worse than in Week 1. And yet they won again. They got bashed backwards at every Italian carry, were brainless in possession and played like schoolboys at the end of the first half. The second half started just as badly, until the arrival of Dickson and Morgan added some zest and go-forward ball. Yet they still needed opposition ineptitude and the enduring excellence of Owen Farrell from the kicking tee to win. This was astonishingly poor. A bright first few phases gave way to an embarrassing march backwards all over the park – Italy looked a hugely superior side, but the lack of any kind of playmaking gumption in the halves meant they kept England in it. Somehow, ten minutes of urgency and they stumbled over the line ahead on the scoreboard. We still have no idea how they did it.

Happiness Index: 2.5/5 – you can’t argue with 100%, but the real teams are next. If Charlie Hodgson’s fingers were an inch shorter, England would be looking at at no wins and a wooden spoon. We sense foreboding.

Wales

It took them 40 minutes to get going, but right from Cusiter’s botched take of the second half kick-off, Wales upped the ante, running in three tries in the third quarter of the match.  Their huge three-quarter line again caused all sorts of problems, and Cuthbert running straight over Greig Laidlaw is just something that’s going to happen every so often when you have backs that big and who run that hard.  The key to their game is their accuracy and aggression at the ruck, which leaves Mike Phillips with the ball on a platter, and he can do his thing.  Injuries are racking up but the replcements seem to fit seemlesssly into Gatland’s systems. Probably tournament favorites now.

Happiness Index: 4/5 – two from two and an inferior England team up next.  But injuries might take their toll; they don’t have huge depth of talent

The Losers Corner
Scotland:

If Scotland had played like this last week they probably would have won.  They looked a bit panicked by Wales’ hard-up blitz defence, and lost their way once Wales got on the front foot, but for 40 minutes they contained Wales admirably – though more could have been asked of the creaky Welsh lineout.  They got their reward for all their endeavour with a rare try in the second half (and had a terrific one lamentably and erroneously chalked out by Poite).
Robinson, though, needs to be brave, and put his best team on the pitch.  Stewart Hogg was sensational when he came on, and was tagged by many as their form back before the game.  Despite what appears to be progress, the wooden spoon is a real possibility.  Italy in Rome awaits, with only France still to come to Murrayfield. 

Happiness index: 2/5 – better, of course, but never looked like winning.  Robinson needs to put out his form team for the next game.

Italy:

Dear oh dear. A dominant pack. Ball-carriers routinely making 5 or 6 metres a carry. A solid defensive line from young confident backs. But Kris Burton and Tobias Botes, take a bow. Your utter ineptitde prevented your (adopted) country attaining a famous win. The forwards won this match, but the out-halves determined they won it by a negative number. Burton kicked the ball aimlessly away when keeping it in hand, specifically the hands of the back rows, would have resulted in easy points. He gave the team no direction or leadership and it was no surprise when he got the shepherds hook. Botes came on and look a bit less dumb in possession, but missed 2 of the worst kicks we have ever seen. Amazing. We venture that any of the Irish 10s currentl playing professional rugby could have piloted Italy to a win here, even Jeremy Staunton. Is Luciano Orquera that bad?? Hell, even do a Lievremental and pick Semenzato at 10 – he cannot do any worse than the curent clowns.

Happiness Index: 2/5 – the forwards and three-quarters were great, but the halves were appalling. We dont think they will go winless, but this was an opportunity lost.

The Freezer Section

France

With the game called off at farce o’clock, just farce minutes before farce-off, this could only be described as a farce.  France will be annoyed about it, and not just because of the embarrassment suffered.  This was an opportune time to face Ireland, just six days after a bad defeat, but the ship has sailed.

Happiness Index: Farce/5 – their pride will have been dented, but they’ll give a Gallic shrug and move on.

Ireland:

They didn’t lose in Paris for once, which is a plus. Amazingly, some domestic media suggested the French players didn’t want to play as they feared the Irish in those conditions. I doubt it.  Truth is, as Franno alluded to, this isn’t that bad a result for Ireland.  They can get their campaign belatedly up and running with a win against Italy, bed in Earls at 13, get O’Mahony capped, and maybe, just maybe, have a little bit of momentum going to Paris.  They’ll still lose the rescheduled game of course.

Happiness Index: 1.5/5 – the bile from last week is dissipating and a familiar misplaced optimism is returning to Irish rugby.
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