State o’ the Six Nations: Week 2

The Six Nations Table after Week 2

The Six Nations Table after Week 2

Ireland 6 – England 12

In a nutshell
A disciplined English side hold their nerve against injury and knock-on prone Ireland in lowest scoring Six Nations match ever.

Beyond the nut
Handling errors from Ireland gifted possession and territory to England and became the difference between the sides. The first half was a comedy of errors: dropped catches from Jamie Heaslip along with knock-ons from Gordon D’Arcy, Mike McCarthy and Rory Best deflated the Irish team and put them on the back foot.

With poor performances throughout the field it’s harsh and unfair to single out one player for criticism, yet Declan Kidney must now consider either Ian Keatley, Ian Madigan or Paddy Jackson for the number 10 position in place of Ronan O’Gara. A younger O’Gara would have controlled yesterday’s game with astute kicks from hand and the penalty tee.

Yet on the evidence of yesterday it seems O’Gara – who will be 36 next month – is unable to compete at international level. His attempted garryowens were ill-struck, his kicks for touch from penalties were awful, and he sailed a crucial kick at goal wide. So slow was he in the loose that O’Gara was unable to pass on the run or feign a dummy, while on three occasions he failed the out-half’s most basic task of clearing his lines with the English pack tackling him before he could get his kicks away.

Injuries are a major worry for Ireland now with Simon Zebo out of the tournament and Jonny Sexton ruled out for the next match and possibly more. Sean O’Brien, Rob Kearney, Brian O’Driscoll, Mike McCarthy and Donnacha Ryan all picked up knocks so Ireland will have to make the most of the two week break before travelling to Murrayfield. Meanwhile Cian Healy could face a long term ban for an alleged stamp.

It seems England of 2013 with Owen Farrell are a cut and paste copy of England 2003 with Jonny Wilkinson. The England 2.0 game plan is simple: win territory, win penalties and let the out-half kick the points. Farrell was calm and assured in his play yesterday which belied his 21 years and he could well be selected at number 10 for the Lions this summer ahead of Sexton.

Defensively the English were superb with Ireland never threatening to score a try. England captain Chris Robshaw led from the front with a superb display of tackling, ball carrying and decision making. The leadership shown by Robshaw was markedly absent on the Irish side and the 26 year old was rightly named Man of the Match.

Were it not for a few missed kicks from Farrell the score-line would have better reflected the England’s dominance.

France 6 – Wales 16

In a nutshell
Wales out muscle poorly selected and largely uninterested French side in bish-bash-bosh affair.

Beyond the nut
Pffffff. Awful rugby match. Why Philippe Saint-Andre refuses to start world class players like Morgan Parra and François Trinh-Duc is a mystery and his decision to introduce Trinh-Duc as a number 12 substitute would bewilder even Sherlock Holmes.

Wales will be happy with their effort and completing the biggest Welsh win in Paris since 1975 will kick-start their season.

A lot of huff and puff, couldn’t watch it all.

Scotland 34 – Italy 10

In a nutshell
Two breakaway tries sealed a Scottish victory over on Italy side still celebrating their defeat of France in week 1.

Beyond the nut
With Italy and Scotland both recording a victory maybe France will get the wooden spoon this year.


Ireland Six Nations Preview: The good, the bad and the ugly

Six Nation’s time. The question is will Ireland show up for the party or will they just be like drunken also-rans flapping about on the dancefloor?

The Good
As 2013 is an odd year Ireland will face the two favourites for the Six Nations title, England and France, at home. Winning the tournament’s opening match in Cardiff against Grand Slam holders Wales would create huge momentum for Ireland, and home support against les Blues and na Sasanaigh could be enough for Ireland to reclaim the championship.

The success of Munster and Ulster in this year’s Heineken Cup has bred confidence in the likes of David Kilcoyne, Craig Gilroy and Felix Jones while in Ian Madigan, Paddy Jackson and Ian Keatley there is hope for a future star at out half. 22 year old Simon Zebo has solidified the potential he showed in 2011 and should play a major role as a try finisher and broken field runner this year in a green jersey.

Leinster’s failure to qualify to the knock out stage of the Heineken Cup is a blessing in disguise for Ireland. With places up for grabs on the Lion’s Tour of Australia this summer, the Six Nations represents the last chance for Leinster’s marquee players to showcase themselves on an international stage.

The Bad
Untimely distractions have come thick and fast for the Irish camp and as of yet the dust has not settled. Declan Kidney’s decision to permanently install Jamie Heaslip as team captain in the place of Brian O’Driscoll has left a bad taste in the mouth for what is to be O’Driscoll’s final Six Nations. While his position in the team has come under pressure, there was no need to replace O’Driscoll as captain, and Heaslip’s leadership qualities will be pushed to the limit if he is to guide Ireland to victory.

Jonny Sexton’s move to Racing Metro has bred uncertainty among the Leinster camp with Rob Kearney believing Sexton’s departure could “open the floodgates” for an Irish exodus to overseas clubs. It’s a professional game and of course money talks, but rumours that Sexton demanded the tag of “top player wage” from the IRFU means that unity is far from a given in the Irish camp.

Over the past year pressure has mounted on Declan Kidney and his coaching staff. Repeated backroom changes mean that Les Kiss no longer holds both roles of Attack Coach and the Defence Coach, with Anthony Foley taking charge of the latter. Kidney’s current contract ends after the Six Nations and should only be renewed if, 1) he is proven right about Heaslip’s captaincy; 2) he successfully mixes youth with experience in the backline; and 3) Ireland perform well at Lansdowne against France and England.

The Ugly
Since this time last year Ireland have played ten games and only won three of them; beating Italy and Scotland in the 2012 Six Nations, and then defeating an exhausted Argentina in the 2012 Autumn series. Anything short of a good campaign this year will see fans calling for change.

Ireland Six Nations Schedule
Wales v Ireland Millennium Stadium Sat 2nd Feb 13 13:30
Ireland v England Aviva Stadium Sun 10th Feb 13 15:00
Scotland v Ireland Murrayfield Sun 24th Feb 13 14:00
Ireland v France Aviva Stadium Sat 9th Mar 13 17:00
Italy v Ireland Stadio Olimpico Sat 16th Mar 13 14:30