Six Nations Rugby 2015

January 17, 2017

We can argue about England’s profligacy against Scotland but they have scored 11 tries in four games, more than anyone else in the championship and more than their title rivals Ireland and Wales combined. Three more against France and they will equal last year’s tally of 14, which England have bettered only once since 2005. While they are not yet taking enough of their opportunities, the ability of George Ford to put others into space with a delayed pass here or a cut-out ball there is unquestionable, as is the quality of Jonathan Joseph’s footwork. England simply need to be calmer when the chances do materialise and stay patient when they are not. If the same problem surfaces against France, the quest for deadlier finishers – Christian Wade? Chris Ashton? – will have to be renewed. Robert Kitson

Stuart Lancaster says he is not entirely satisfied with his side, despite defeating Scotland 25-13

2) Ireland must find spirit of adventure

No grand slam for Ireland but a second successive title is still in sight despite the most chastening 80 minutes of the Joe Schmidt era. The champions were out-thought as well as out-fought, 12 points down before they worked out the referee Wayne Barnes. The defeat ended a record-equalling run of 10 straight victories and, in the long-term, may work more to their advantage than if they had salvaged victory in the final quarter. Despite all the possession they won, they did not work out a way of bringing the dangerous Tommy Bowe into the game – one indictment of them is that an outside back has only scored one try this Six Nations, and that involved catching a kick – and struggled to create space as they were suffocated by a blanket defence. Wales did to them what Ireland did to England, taking them on at their strongest points and disarming them. Wales’s lineout has been arguably the weakest part of their game under Warren Gatland, but they stole four of Ireland’s 12 throws, including two five metres from their line. Wales were prepared in a way Ireland were not: play the same again this Saturday and it would almost certainly be a different contest, but Murrayfield should hold few alarms, even if they lost there two years ago. They need their big players, so anonymous on Saturday, to play as they can, and not regard offloading as a sin. They set out not to lose at the Millennium Stadium, but this weekend is all about winning. Paul Rees

— Accenture Rugby (@AccentureRugby) . 100 tests played for O'Connell. Both had huge games, here's how they compared.

3) Wales face voyage into the unknown

Wales will have to at least match their biggest Six Nations victory against Italy in Rome – 38-8 in 2005 – to put themselves in contention for a third championship title in four years. Three narrow victories after the opening day defeat by England have taken them to third in the table on points difference, which is markedly inferior to that of Ireland and the leaders England. Italy have scored only three points in front of their own supporters this season while conceding 55 and fell apart on the final weekend a year ago when they lost to England 52-11 at Stadio Olimpico. Wales are likely to approach the match as France did in Rome yesterday, building a lead and then taking advantage of Italian mistakes. Wales will be without their two first-choice props, Samson Lee and Gethin Jenkins, and contact work in training this week will be kept to a minimum as bruises fade. Wales’s last two results on the final day would be enough to set the other two a target: 51-3 against Scotland last year and 30-3 against England 12 months before, but both matches were in Cardiff. A win by any margin may be enough (mathematically, they could lose and still finish top), but going first they have the disadvantage of not knowing what will be enough. Wales being Wales, they will not chase the unknown but carry on regardless. Paul Rees

4) Cotter aims to derail his old mate’s campaign at the death

So two of the Six Nations’ Kiwi coaches enter the final weekend chasing the title. But the third, Vern Cotter, still has a part to play in its destiny. It is rather beautiful that his Scotland are hosting the Ireland of his old mate, Joe Schmidt. Cotter gave Schmidt his first break in coaching at Bay of Plenty, then his second at Clermont Auvergne. Now he’s in a position to ruin Schmidt’s tilt at a consecutive title with Ireland. Great friends they may be, but they’re ferociously competitive. After the England game, Cotter could barely speak above a whisper, so hard did he seem to take defeat. (What must he have been like after losing to Italy?) He’ll want it on Saturday. Badly. So too, you feel, will his team. And they can play. And they’ve beaten Ireland in their last two fixtures at Murrayfield (OK, so one was just a World Cup warm-up). And they have a wooden spoon to avoid. Talking points? Too right, everybody’s talking points. Or, more specifically, points difference. But to hell with that. Scotland have their own ambitions to focus on. Cotter, we can safely say, will ensure that focus on them is what they do. Michael Aylwin

5) France’s forwards can ruin England’s day if they can be bothered

The French pack can be stirred into action. But it happened in Rome only after half an hour of being pushed around. Allow England to dominate for 30 minutes and Saturday evening for France at Twickenham could be long and depressing. Once going in the right direction – and there must be a case to be made for starting with Vincent Debaty and Benjamin Kayser – the back row could still cause problems. Bernard Le Roux was tireless, Thierry Dusautoir is a class act and Loann Goujon looked full of promise. Behind the scrum they looked less threatening – lying deep only works if the runners come fast on to flat passes. France came forward cautiously. They do not really care for the Six Nations. They reckon they’ll be good for the World Cup, but not before. Eddie Butler

Rugby Union Six Nations 2015 Round 4 Italy vs France Full
Rugby Union Six Nations 2015 Round 4 Italy vs France Full ...
Rugby Union Six Nations 2015 Round 3 Ireland vs England
Rugby Union Six Nations 2015 Round 3 Ireland vs England ...
Rugby Union Six Nations 2015 Round 3 France vs Wales Full
Rugby Union Six Nations 2015 Round 3 France vs Wales Full ...
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