The Six Nations always throws up some surprises and some great games. There had been witterings that this year’s version hadn’t quite lived up to expectations. These expectations were perhaps overly high following such a successful Autumn series for the home nations but the fans, as we always do, expected. We entered the final weekend of the tournament with Wales on the brink of another Slam, England waiting in the wings for a slip up and the Scots and the Irish in damage limitation mode. There was also a game in Rome, and whilst unfair to the protagonists, did anyone actually care?
Italy 14 – 25 France
Wales 25 – 7 Ireland
England 38 – 38 Scotland
The Grand Slam
|In real terms this meant the Warren Gatland’s prophecy came true and Wales achieved a remarkable 3rd Grand Slam in his 11 year tenure. He and his coaching team are amazing and deserve all the plaudits they get. They say a dog owner starts to look like his dog. The same, it seems, goes for a national rugby team and their defensive coach. Close your eyes for a minute and imagine popping your shorts on and getting ready to run into 23 Shaun Edwards. No thank you very much. Doubtless Mr Edwards would’ve been furrowing his brow when Ireland crossed for a consolation score in the final moments. All that remains to be said is that Alun Wyn-Jones is now amongst the game’s all time greats.|
Calcutta Cup Overfloweth
The game at Twickenham started off just as many had expected. Even after the result in Cardiff England roared into the Scots, did the usual and scored within a couple of minutes. They continued in the same vain for the next 25 minutes and into a 31 point lead. Some folks around the place were whispering 100 points. It was all tongue in cheek but what it really meant was that Twickenham was crying out for a bit of a contest. The previous games against Italy and France had not really produced any drama. Well, we got what we wanted.
|After a score just before the half-time whistle, Scotland emerged from their giant sporans, squeezed some extra juice out of the pipes before finally starting to play. Finn Russell and Ali Price started to run the show, while England did their level best to hand the game over on a plate. However, Scotland and Russell in particular, must take all the credit. Even from the most one eyed Englishman we could only watch on and marvel (and mutter, ‘we’ll not win the World Cup playing like that’.) Before, you could whisper pass the hip flask Scotland had scored their 6th try to lead 38-31. England’s answer throughout was the same old really: keep kicking the ball back and wait for the opposition to run at you. And run they did. England spend so much time in training practicing the close up tackling and line speed they seem to have forgotten how to tackle one on one. There was also the whiff of ‘we’ve been here before’.|
If we are to take – as an English fan – a positive from this England were able to summon some substitutes from the bench and score the final try of the game to take a very unlikely draw. It would have been easy to just shrivel up, lose and trot out the familiar clichés about not wanting to peak too early but England went from their own 22 and secured a converted try to draw.
After years of travelling the globe coaching and now supporting national teams our very own Mike Pyrgos sums up the game as this:
“In a fascinating final 6 Nations day at Twickenham it became clear that trying to predict the Home Nations World Cup chances is about as sure as trying to predict the weather. England played with skill, panache and real quality for 35 minutes and even when Stuart McInally scored for Scotland just before half time nobody expected the turn around that followed in the second half. Scotland played with gay abandon and looked as if the shackles had been released and Finn Russell was the ring master, calling the shots and sparking Scotland which allowed them to cause the greatest comeback in 6 Nations history. Only England’s determination not to lose allowed them to salvage a draw but even the most partisan supporter could not disagree that that is what makes the 6 Nations the greatest International Rugby Tournament in the World.”
The LWTL Awards
It is customary at the end of the tournament to award some prizes. Without further ado see below for some prizes. The winners may never know but it is important to give credit where credit is due. Or in some cases where it isn’t.
The ‘Our Man in Belfast’ award for most over-confident fans at the start of the tournament – Irish fans
Comic Villain – Close one this but Johnny Sexton for his petulance at being replaced and shouting at his teammates when he chucked the ball into touch towards the end of the game.
Silly Decision by a Coach – Joe Schmidt for asking for the roof to be kept open in truly awful conditions.
Eddie Jones Award for Silly Stats – Eddie Jones has to give this to himself. He was very incorrect when suggesting that Wales were tired after putting in the most tackles in the Six Nations before the final round. England had.
Pass of the Tournament – Tempting to give this to Finn Russell for every pass he threw in the second half in the England game but Jamie George nicks it for the left handed beauty he threw the previous week. Extra points for being a hooker.
Six Nations 2020
Although we have the small matter of the Rugby World Cup later this year we are now also ready to start thinking about the 2020 Six Nations. There are many known unknowns and unknown knowns to consider. Firstly will the tournament involve a World Champion? I think so. There’ll be a new coaching team at Wales with Wayne Pivac facing the tough task of filling Warren Gatland’s jock strap. Will France have a new coach? Will they even have a coach? Eddie Jones may not even be there either. Andy Farrell will be at the helm in Ireland for his first international head coach job. So much intrigue and therefore even more reason to start thinking about going to the games next year. Pre-register now for an opportunity to book your spot in Rome or Paris next year.
The Six Nations 2020 Fixtures
Feb 1: Wales v Italy (2.15pm), Ireland v Scotland (4.45pm);
Feb 2: France v England (3.0pm);
Feb 8: Ireland v Wales (2.15pm), Scotland v England (4.45pm);
Feb 9: France v Italy (3.0pm);
Feb 22: Italy v Scotland (2.15pm), Wales v France (4.45pm);
Feb 23: England v Ireland (3.0pm);
Mar 7: Ireland v Italy (2.15pm), England v Wales (4.45pm);
Mar 8: Scotland v France (3.0pm);
Mar 14: Wales v Scotland (2.15pm), Italy v England (4.45pm), France v Ireland (8.0pm)
SO what are you waiting for? To pre-register for our packages and to get first look when they become available click here.