13 Feb 2012

6 nations rugby, or is it 4 nations?

The annual 6 nations international rugby tournament is back again in Europe, as is a snap of very cold weather that seems to have caught some with their pants down.

The last 2 weekends should have seen the first two matches completed between all teams from the six competing nations: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. It didn't quite happen this way because the match that was to have been held in Paris on Saturday evening was cancelled at the last minute when the refereee deemed the pitch at the supposedly modern Stade de France to be unplayable because it was frozen in patches. The game was between France and Ireland.

Since then, the French have been playing their usual game of passing the ball very fast, as if it were a hot potato, to determine who is reponsible for this fiasco. One should bear in mind that the event involved aboit 79,000 spectators having paid good money to see a game (many coming from far away) which was cancelled at the last second despite the pitch having been covered all week under, apparently, heated covers.

A derisory last minute attempt to thaw the pitch in Paris. Seems to me like using an iron on a Christo wrap of Central Park!

Everybody knew that the weather was cold, and indeed had been for almost 2 weeks. Other games took place during the weekend, and the Stade de France is supposedly a modern stadium. Yet it is clearly ill-equipped, and one might add that the decision to play a key game at 9pm in Febuary in a stadium with no roof was not perhaps the most sensible choice initially.

Philippe Saint André, or PSA for short, the new French trainer

Now what about the games that have actually been played? It is interesting to note that 3 of the 6 teams involved have new trainers who have just taken over: England, France and Italy. Four teams have now played 2 matches (out of 5) each so far, so let's look at them first.


Leigh Halfpenny, the Welsh fullback, scoring one of his two tries against Scotland on Sunday. He also kicked a lot of goals.

England and Wales have won both their games. Wales just beat Ireland in Dublin and more convincingly beat Scotland at home. Both games were superb and have confirmed the considerable talents and promise of the current Welsh team, as revealed during the recent World Cup. 

England were lucky to win both their games, each played away. Curiously they won each game due to a charge-down try made by their fly-half, Charly Hodgson, and in each case against the course of the game. Italy scored 2 tries against them and only lost this weekend's game in Rome because they do not have a goal-kicker. They lack a bit of depth in terms of replacement players but they have never been closer to winning against the other European nations as the narrowing score sheets show. Remember that they just beat France in Rome last year.

Charly Hodgson congratulated by Owen Farrell

a battle in the snow in Rome: the English team spent more time defending than attacking 

the Italian winger, Venditti, breaks through for the first try

Sergio Parisse, the Italian captain and the best player on the field, tackled

Scotland were unlucky to lose to England at home, but were more clearly dominated by Wales. They are good to watch as their game is one of constant movement, but I have to say that their huge numbers of passes sometimes lack direction and they rarely manage to break through defenses.

We shall now have to wait for another couple of games to see who looks likely to win this year's tournament. I would pick Wales as my favourite, with France second. The game between these two should be a key match and a kind of revenge for the Welsh after the closely fought semi-final they lost to France during the World Cup. England lack experience, with a lot of young and promising players. If they win, it will be a considerable surprise, but at least they are building for the future and are not giving away masses of silly penalities all the time like they did during the World Cup.

Goodness knows when the France vs Ireland game will be rescheduled!


  1. French friends traveled up to Paris to attend what turned out to be the cancellation.
    Now there seems to be some question of whether or not to reimburse the ticket price...
    They are not too well pleased.

  2. David, I agree the real question to address is whether (weather in this case !!!) programing (programming ?) an international event in that stadium in the mid of winter makes sense. But I would find it SHAMEFUL to heat pitches all over Europe just for the sake of the entertainment of the happy few (and well paid professionals) when thousands of roofless people wander throughout the continent, some even dying on the pavement under the circumstances!

  3. Yes Luc, of course one can argue this, as well as the matter of spectator sports being opium for the people. But, given the circumstances, the point here is that this game, in France's biggest and supposedly most modern stadium, was cancelled at the last minute when everyone know what the weather was going to do and other games of rugby took place the same day under worse conditions (Clermont played on their pitch where it was minus 16). So the people at Stade de France are just incompetent. And we are not just talking about a "happy few" here. An estimated 4 million people could have watched the game on TV, not just the 80,000 in the stadium. And not that many of those are exactly rich !

  4. The game has now been re-scheduled on March 4th, creating some havoc amonst the clubs who will be missing their internationals for one more weekend, not to mention all the spectators who will not be able to afford to travel to Paris once again to see the game, even if their ticket is valid. The fact that the French rugby federation (FFR) is trying to shift the blame onto the 6-nations tournament organisers, or even onto the broadcasters, is pathetic. The blame should be shared by the Fdereation and the Stade de France, who are co-responsible for the pitch and its state on the appointed day.