2017 Six Nations – the story so far…and what next?
What a tournament it’s been so far. Fans have witnessed nine epic contests unfold in front of record crowds packed out to see rugby’s greatest championship. We’ve had upsets, close calls, last minute tries and much more. With three rounds behind us and two more to come, we’ve had a look at each team’s tournament so far and what’s still to come.
Undefeated, on course for a second consecutive Grand Slam and still haven’t hit top gear. The Six Nations is without doubt England’s to lose after dispatching of France, Wales and Italy so far to sit top of the pile. Having said that, they haven’t hit top gear yet and have ridden their luck a little in those games. A 70th minute try from rugby league convert Ben Te’o was needed to oust France at Twickenham, and an even later one from Elliot Daly saw of Wales after being second best for most of the match. And as for Italy, they were all over the place after the Italians exposed the laws of the game to their advantage. Perhaps their most challenging game yet comes in the form of a Scottish side playing out of their skin. England
Perhaps their most challenging game yet comes in the form of a Scottish side playing out of their skin. England are lucky that one’s at Twickenham, taking the Scots on at Murrayfield would be a mountain to climb right now. Their final game could be a title decider as they travel to Dublin going up against a much improved Irish outfit.
France travelled to Twickenham on the first day of the tournament and almost ended England’s defence of the trophy before it began. They were unlucky to come out of that game empty handed after the likes of Spedding, Slimani and Picamoles showed the English up. They achieved their first victory of the tournament against Scotland the following weekend, Camilla Lopez punishing the Scots penalty count with five penalties. Confidence seemed to have been restored. The daunting task of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium the following weekend proved too much though, as they were undone by the boot of the returning Sexton.
Next up is Italy in Rome as they contest the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy, a trophy they’ve won eight out of the ten times they’ve contested it. Thier final one is a home game against Wales which could potentially be a battle for fourth spot depending on how other results go!
Joe Schmidt and his men got off to the worst possible start, going down 27-22 to Scotland – a team they haven’t lost to since 2013. The loss was unexpected giving the Autumn Ireland had, beating the All Blacks and Australia, but spurred them on to put a huge 63 points past a hapless Italian side in the next round. The return of instrumental fly-half Sexton for the third-round game against France was a welcome one as he slotted four kicks including a drop goal. A 19-9 win put them right back in contention for the title.
The Irish now travel to Cardiff looking to heap more pressure on an underperforming Welsh outfit – lose though, and their hopes of the title will be over. Their final game sees a showdown against an English side who could be on course for the Grand Slam and a record 19th consecutive victory.
Another lacklustre performance for Italy in the Six Nations sees them rock bottom after three rounds, with a points difference of -100. Their opening first half of the tournament saw them lead the Welsh and look on course for a huge upset. Unfortunately, their fitness gave way and Wales ran away with it in the second half, emerging 33-7 victors. They were completely outplayed by Ireland in their second fixture, conceding 63 points in front of a home crowd in Rome. But it was their third fixture that impressed the rugby world, well, impressed everyone apart from Eddie Jones. The Italians used a loophole in the ruck laws to leave England baffled and even lead after 40 minutes. The class of players showed in the second half though as England picked up a bonus point 36-15 win.
Next up are rivals France where they’ll be looking to go one further than last year when they narrowly lost out 23-21. And finally, they’ll take on Scotland which for some years has been a battle to avoid the wooden spoon, but could be very different this year.
What a tournament Scotland are having. Putting the sword to both Ireland and Wales in their opening fixtures to leave them as one of the favourites to pick up a historical title. 2016 player of the tournament Stuart Hogg inspired his side to victory in the opening game, scoring two early tries before carrying his form into their next game against France with a try in a narrow loss. If anyone thought the Ireland win was a fluke, Vern Cotter’s men backed it up with a stunning 29-13 victory against Wales, with Finn Russell, deputising for the injured Greig Laidlaw, slotting seven kicks.
A trip to Twickenham awaits the Scots next as they look to end England’s hopes of a Grand Slam and slingshot themselves in contention for a first Six Nations title since 1999. Their final games sees them travel to Italy.
With the absence of coach Warren Gatland, Wales have seriously struggled in this year’s championship. Thanks to some individual skill they edged past Italy in their opening game after a scare in the first half. Their second was against arch rivals England in Cardiff, a fixture they had all hopes of winning due to England’s poor record at the Millennium Stadium. They did put in a solid performance but as usual didn’t make the opportunities count and were undone by a clinical Elliot Daly in the 76th minute. A chance to put that loss to the back of their mind came in the form of Scotland – a team they hadn’t lost to since 2007. That wasn’t to be as the Scots put in a phenomenal second half performance, condemning Wales to their second loss of the tournament.
A make or break game against Ireland is up next where a loss could condemn them to fifth place. An away trip to France concludes their tournament.