George and I didn’t really get to watch much rugby together this weekend so these are mainly my views. He slept through the Italy v Wales game, I was working for England v France and we missed the first half of Scotland v Ireland because he was at a birthday party. We did settle down with a beer to watch Ireland implode in the second half and I’m sure he gave me a look at one point that said ‘Daddy, even I can kick better than that’. He was right.
These are my talking points for the week.
Don’t Assume the Position
Anyone who has had the misfortune to talk to me about rugby down the pub will know I have a real problem with players playing out of position. In my eyes, if your first choice flanker isn’t fit, you play the second best flanker not another good player out of position. England took to the field with two of the back row playing out of position and it showed. They struggled at the breakdown in the first half and lacked a ball carrying number 8 to break the gainline. In contrast, France finally played Fofana in the centre and we all saw what he can do in the right position.
Plus ca change . . . .
Time for me to start repeating points I made in my previous post as once again the bench was vital at Twickenham. Haskell added balance to the back row, Youngs and Vanipola carried the ball well against a tiring French defence and Care kept the pressure on. The cheer from England fans that greeted Freddie Michalak is all you need to know about French substitutions. England stuck to the basics well and made fewer mistakes than France to end up winning comfortably.
On the Up
Leigh Halfpenny – although that should be ‘still’ on the up as I can’t remember the last time he had a bad game. It’s always nice to see full-backs on the gallop but there is much more to his game than that. He is defensively secure to the point of invulnerability and is able to kick with intelligence as well as ferocious power.
Scotland – After dominating the first half, Ireland were mugged in the second. Clearly spending 80% of the game in your own half without the ball gives you confidence as there was no panic from Scotland as they dragged their way back into the game. Meanwhile, Ireland caught a collective dose of the jitters and fell apart. I once delivered a kick very similar to the one O’Gara produced to detonate the Irish implosion whilst playing for the mighty Heaton Moor. After the game I was roundly mocked, nominated ‘dick of the week’ and made to down a pint whilst stood on a bar stool. I hope Ronan suffered the same fate.
Welsh Front Row – In round one I was going to write a paragraph about how annoying it is when Welsh pundits bang on about their ‘Lions front row’ when they are clearly passed their best. I’m glad I didn’t now, as although Rees has been rightly dropped, Jenkins and Jones dominated their Italian counterparts and set the tone for an impressive Welsh victory.
On the way down
England Back Three – Ashton is out of form, defensively suspect and prone to giving away penalties; Goode is solid but lacks explosive pace on the counter attack; Brown is looking increasingly out of place on the wing and yearning for wide open spaces. Something has to change.
Italy – It all should have been so beautiful but the Italian charge is crumbling. Any side would miss Sergio Parisse but Italy have also lost the flair in their attacking back line and even the fearsome front row crumbled under sustained Welsh pressure. It isn’t looking good.
As my prediction rate is in danger of dropping below the 50% mark they should probably be ignored. For what is worth I think there will be wins for England, Ireland and Wales in the next round.