RBS Six Nations review
By Philip James
Wales: 4 wins, 1 loss, 8 points, PD +56
Started badly, handing Ireland their only win and were not convincing against Scotland but picked up the wins in Rome, Paris and Edinburgh before finishing impressively against England. Their forwards were consistent and strong while their backs exhibited moments of flair almost entirely missing from all the other nations. Warburton’s return to form is extremely important for the Dragons and puts him back in strong contention for the Lions tour. Leigh Halfpenny and George North both improved their hopes of touring Australia while Jonathan Davies may have impressed enough to play centre.
Mike Phillips also impressed while Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Ian Evans and Toby Faletau had superb campaigns.
England: 4 wins, 1 loss, 8 points, PD +16
Started impressively but never really got going after that, with scrappy wins over France & Ireland before holding on to deny a brave Italy. Their lack of threat from the wings was clear throughout and those same players displayed some poor tackling when faced with the speed and skill of the Welsh. Captain Chris Robshaw was probably the best Open-side flanker on display and should have cemented a Lions tour place which was barely on the horizon just a year ago. Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell and Joe Launchbury should also make the Lions tour.
Scotland: 2 wins, 3 loss, 4 points, PD -9
The surprise package of the tournament, they had one tactic, they stuck to it, and it was enough to beat Italy and Ireland. Stuart Hogg was excellent throughout and Greig Laidlaw was the most consistent kicker throughout the tournament and both may have put themselves in with a shout of going to Australia.
Italy: 2 wins, 3 loss, 4 points, PD -36
The favourite of the neutrals after historic wins over Ireland and France, and to show it wasn’t a fluke over struggling opponents, they came pretty close to upsetting England. It remains difficult to see how they can really push on though to become a major force at the Six Nations year after year.
Ireland: 1 win, 1 draw 3 loss, 3 points, PD -9
A very, very disappointing tournament from Ireland. After an opening win against Wales they capitulated. Error after error meant a loss to a less than impressive England at the Aviva before somehow losing to Scotland in a game they dominated. They then contrived to lose a ten point lead at home to France before losing to Italy in a game which saw three players sin binned including Brian O’Driscoll in probably his last match for Ireland.
As for the Lions tour, it’s more of a case of who did not shoot themselves in the foot. Sexton was injured for most of the tournament so he may come away unscathed while Simon Zebo looked good in his one game before injury. Cian Healy’s stamp on Dan Cole won’t keep him off the tour and Sean O’Brien was one of the few positives for Ireland.
France: 1 win, 1 draw 3 loss, 3 points, PD -18
France were, well, French, but even more French than usual whilst showing very little of the French team that can beat anyone in the world on their day. World Cup runners-up to Six Nations wooden spoon? French.