Six Nations Review

Saturday saw the curtain close on another thrilling year of Six Nations action. Ireland were crowned Grand Slam winners on St Patrick’s Day and England came fifth in what was tipped to be the year they would make history and claim their third consecutive title.

Ireland looked world-class in their victory at Twickenham on Saturday, claiming their third Grand Slam and their third title in five years. A year ago, they slammed the door shut on England’s Grand Slam ambitions at Dublin and managed to hold back England at repaying the favour this year.

A narrow and somewhat fortunate victory at the Stade de France aside, Ireland have looked assured and dangerous throughout their campaign, producing a level of rugby often expected from the All Blacks. Importantly they have proved the depth of their talent, with many players matching up to be the best in the world in their respective positions.

Tadhg Furlong in particular has had a huge impact to the Irish pack, being named Man of the Match at Twickenham with 18 tackles and 12 carries. Ireland are now ranked second in the world and will feel confident going into their three-Test series against Australia in June.

England were the favourites going into the tournament coming from back-to-back Six Nations titles and a strong Autumn international campaign. Many, Eddie Jones included, will be scratching their heads at where exactly England went wrong. Their failings at the breakdown, lack of discipline and inability to create a strong attacking play were the key aspects of their game that lead to their downfall.

England scored only two more tries than Italy and conceded 59 penalties across the five games, both miserable statistics for a team ranked in the top four in the world. The only silver lining England can take away from their fall from grace is that they now have 12 Tests in which to improve their game before the World Cup in Japan.

Wales managed to claim the runner-up spot after an ugly win against France, and they can take heart in a much-improved position from last year, but they will need to keep up this forward momentum if they hope to have a respectable showing next year. Their resolute captain, Alun-Wyn Jones, was awarded man-of-the-match in their game in Cardiff and has made a big difference to Wales this tournament. Other players in the Wales line-up have struggled this tournament and there is still much improvement to be made.

Scotland were tipped as the dark horse of the tournament after an impressive autumn series but failed to turn up in their opening game against Wales, losing 34-7.  The Scots managed to regain their composure in their matches against France and Italy, and pulled off a historic victory against England, but couldn’t match indomitable Ireland.

Gregor Townsend will be reasonably satisfied with three victories, but there’s a feeling Scotland could have done much more. Still, there’s plenty of positives to be taken from Scotland’s performance this Six Nations and Townsend will be looking to improve on their third-place finish next year.

France have had a far from perfect tournament, with some glaring errors across the board, but have produced some of their best rugby since the last World Cup. A narrow defeat against Ireland and a victory over England will be the highlights of their campaign. Head coach, Jacques Brunel, will go away with much to improve on, but perhaps France have at last got a foundation on which to build a strong team on.

Italy remain the tournament’s perennial whipping boys. That’s not to say there hasn’t been improvements in Conor O’Shea’s team, but their improvements have been overshadowed when compared to their Six Nations counterparts.

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