It feels like forever when waiting for the Six Nations to come around each year, and yet after what only feels like a matter of days, round two of the 22nd edition is complete. Now the first mid tournament break is upon us. Gone are the days of five games in five weekends.
With now a 14-day intermission until round three glues the avid rugby fans to their TV screen for 48 straight hours, it feels like the perfect chance to see what has been learnt thus far from the opening fixtures.
Round 1: Wales 21-16 Ireland / Round 2: Scotland 24-25 Wales
Stand Out Player: Louis Reece-Zammit
After the nightmare of finishing fifth last time out, not much was expected from the Welsh, however two rounds in and they sit top of the table with nine from ten points available. Perhaps the red card for the Irish was the turning point in the victory in round one, but they performed well to hold on to the points, that and some wayward kicking from Irishman Billy Burns.
The victory did appear to be a fluke at first though, as in game two Scotland took them to the sword and led 17-8 at the break. But everyone loves a comeback. Again, the turning point may have been the Scottish red card, but Wales pegged them back and after a superb second try from Welsh winger, Louis Reece-Zammit, in the 70th minute, it helped Wales edge a thriller by one point.
Dark horses turned favourites, round three will be the serious test for this Welsh side as they welcome England to Cardiff. Provided the England from 2019-20 turn up then it will be a corker.Embed from Getty Images
Round 1: Italy 10-50 France / Round 2: Ireland 13-15 France
Stand Out Player: Charles Ollivon
France were extremely unlucky to finish 2020 without a title. An exceptional Six Nations campaign saw them finish second on points difference, the closest they’d come to winning since 2010. They were even more unlucky not win the Autumn Nations Cup after England pegged the score line back to force extra time and finding a winning penalty to inflict more misery.
Two games into 2021 and they find themselves behind the Welsh on points difference, again with two wins from two. Two very different games showcasing to different aspects of French rugby. The first against Italy showed the attacking prowess meanwhile the match in Ireland showcased how far they’ve come defensively.
Head coach Galthié and defence coach Shaun Edwards have revolutionised this team and new era of French rugby has begun. Should they continue their form, when the 2023 Rugby World Cup comes round they should be competitive and hopeful of reaching their fourth final.
As for the Six Nations, this is their best chance for a while to take the illustrious trophy back across the channel.Embed from Getty Images
Round 1: England 6-11 Scotland / Round 2: England 48-14 Italy
Stand Out Player: Jonny May
England are one of those nations where they can be the best in the world, but they always make it difficult on themselves. One moment they’re defeating New Zealand in a World Cup semi-final and then on the other hand, starting the defence of their Six Nations title with a defeat to Scotland.
Eddie Jones’ rugby philosophy is kick for territory yet and it was clear to see that implemented against Scotland. England’s rivals found a way to take this away from them and they struggled. However, when playing ball in hand England are one of the best teams around.
They returned to this format again Italy and although struggled to get into the game early on they adjusted. Four tries before, scrum-half, Dan Robson was brought on to increase the tempo, he was pivotal in scoring a further two tries to increase the score-line.
Provided England can fix the mistakes they should finish the tournament in the top three however this year could be blown wide open in the coming weeks.
Round 1: England 6-11 Scotland / Round 2: Scotland 24-25 Wales
Stand Out Player: Stuart Hogg
The Scottish kickstarted their tournament with a dominant victory over their most bitter rivals England, not only to regain the Calcutta Cup but to win at Twickenham for the first time in over 30 years. Thoroughly deserved too. Scotland took everything away from England and asserted their dominance and game plan.
Scotland seemed early pace setters and possible title challengers and that seemed the case against Wales in the opening 40 minutes. But, after a red card for front row prop, Fagerson, the game began to turn in favour of their opponents. Only losing by one point in a thrilling game and doing so with a man sent off though is impressive stuff.
Continue as they have been and Scotland should be in the top three towards the end, that is for certain.
Round 1: Wales 24-16 Ireland / Round 2: Ireland 13-15 France
Stand Out Player: James Lowe
Missing out on the title with a defeat to France in 2020, Ireland were tipped to be one of the favourites once again for 2021 but after two games, they languish down in fifth with only two losing points to their name.
Ireland seem a shadow of their former selves. Part of their defence rigour did return against France which saw the opening quarter of the match remain a stalemate until the Irish broke the deadlock by a penalty kick in the 21st minute before the French replied with a try and once the lead was lost for Ireland it did not return.
Some impressive play from James Lowe in the backs is something to do positive about but overall some serious work needs to be done over the break. A stuttering Irish team in the tournament just doesn’t feel right.Embed from Getty Images
Round 1: Italy 10-50 France / Round 2: England 48-14 Italy
Stand Out Player: Monty Ioane
Start as you mean to go on for the Italians. This year more then ever, pundits and commentators are suggesting a relegation spot after their defeat at the hands of England, now 29 games with a win in the Six Nations tournament. The last being a 22-19 victory against Scotland at Murrayfield in 2015.
An improvement though from week one after only one converted try and a penalty. Italy took advantage of the lackadaisical English, after defeat one week prior, by exploiting similar weaknesses to break through to score two converted tries. The first coming three minutes into the game to stun the hosts meanwhile the second coming in the 66th minute, which saw a breakup in attacking play from England.
The attacking threat coming from winger, Monty Ioane is something to get excited about as well as the influx of young players, but it’s hard to see Italy not finishing in last place again.
Week Three Fixtures
Italy vs Ireland / Wales vs England / France vs Scotland
Ireland should get back on track with a win over Italy. Unfortunately inflicting more misery on the Italians. Although Italy will be hoping that Monty Ioane can continue to add to his attacking threat.
Wales and England will most likely be the clash of the tournament given positions and form as well as the history. Too close to call. The hope is that both teams turn up and another classic rugby game is played.
A Scottish win will bring them back into the tournament, but a French win may see them start to run away with it given the points difference they’ve amassed so far.
But it is Rugby Union, and anything could happen…