12 Feb 2013

6 Nations Rugby 2013: chapter 2

Last weekend's round of international games between Europe's six major rugby nations held its fair share of confirmations, as well as a couple of surprises. Rugby is a complex game and hence fairly unpredictable as to its results. It is also very much a team game in which individuals can influence the course of the game by their inspirations, skills and courage, but never dominate it. Modern rugby is also highly athletic and combative, and, without being on top physical and mental form, with a very strong will to win, any team can be in for an upset. And the result of a game can also depend on a string of technical details that need to go the right way. There must also be a solid game plan, subtly combined with the capacity of both individuals and the team to adapt and adjust as the game unrolls. All of these parameters were in evidence this weekend. 


Tim Visser goes over for Scotland's first try and Sergio Parisse can do nothing about it

Scotland well deserved their convincing home victory over Italy, who played as the shadow of the team that had defeated France in Rome the week before. The Scottish backs ran as well as usual and were higly complementary, and their forwards matched and countered the Italian scrum effectively. I would not have bet on this last point having seen Scotland so dominated by England the week before...or Italy dominating the French scrum in Rome.

George North scores the only try in Wales' 16-6 victory over France in Paris

Wales came to Paris badly needing a victory after 8 defeats in a row from their last games, despite having won last year's tournament. France also needed to win, after their surprise defeat against Italy. So we were in for a tight battle, with defenses taking the upper hand. And so it was throughout the first half. But Wales were more agressive and better organised than France. They clearly took the upper hand in the second half and made the break with a fine try by winger George North after an inspired kick pass by the fly half Biggar. France looked messy and uninspired and will have to pull a major surprise out of the bag if they are to do anything at Twickenham in 2 weeks time for their game against England, which many thought would be the key game of the tournament before this series started.

Davies and Roberts are rightly pleased with their well deserved victory


I thought, before Sunday's game between Ireland and England in Dublin started, that this would be the toughest and tightest game of the weekend (in every sense of the word). I was not disappointed. Under constant rain, this was one of the most ferocious battles that I have seen for some time on a rugby field. Both sides played with rare intensity throughout, the Irish strongly supported by their army of supporters against a traditional enemy. No tries, and so not a spectacular hoooray rugby game. But for connoisseurs of the game it was fantastic and a true heart-stopper. 

The English team showed admirable solidarity in their battle in Dublin, won 12-6

England won on account of their capacity to keep or win the ball in the combat situations: rucks, scrums and line-outs, as well as on their better occupation and defensive organsation. The Irish defense was just as tight, simply they gave away penalties in the wrong places. Robshaw was again exemplary as a player, as was Farrell, whose defense, ball play and kicking were all excellent again. Cannot see anyone taking his place at fly-half for a while, and he can play centre as well. 

Goode at full-back played with skill and authority under constant rain... and a rain of high balls

What is most impressive with this English sqaud is their calm and maturity, despite their youth. They do not seem to panic easily, as was shown by their reaction when Haskell got sent off for a really silly piece of gamesmanship in a ruck. During the 10 minutes when they were 14 against 15, they scored 6 more points though penalities by Farrell and prevented Ireland from getting any. They can also play faster and with far more variation than I can remember seeing with previous teams. England are now clear favourites to win this tournamant, and have the opportunity to make the grand slam by winning all their games. The game against Wales, to be played at Cardiff, could well decide this one, as I don't see either France or Italy beating them if they stick to current form.

The English coach, Stuart Lancaster, who has done an excellent job forming this young team, seems to congratulate James Haskell after the game, but he must have been cursing him earlier on when Haskell got sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes. This could have turned the game in Ireland's favour.