6 Nations Second Weekend Round-up
Wales managed to keep their Six Nations championship hopes alive by breaking Scottish hearts denying them only a second win in 12 years. It was close, very close, with the replacement prop Jon Welsh squeezing over in the final minute to halve the Welsh lead. Unfortunately for the Scots it was too little and too late. Four seconds after Finn Russell had landed the conversion Glenn Jackson blew for full time to a chorus of boos from a packed crowd, the referee having deemed there was not enough time for the kick-off. The exasperation was understandable, after seven consecutive defeats at Welsh hands Scotland had had the chance of a rare victory snatched away. Wales go to France next, while Scotland host Italy for what could, yet again, become the tussle to avoid the wooden spoon, which will be so disappointing especially considering their season started so optimistically. This performance was an improvement on the defeat in Paris and once again their backs caught the eye, Stuart Hogg scoring a scything 60-metre try, while the Scotland captain, Greig Laidlaw, was at his niggling best.
England have been warned that significant improvement will be required if Ireland are to be beaten in the potential Six Nations title decider on Sunday 1 March. Stuart Lancaster’s side have won their last four Tests and scored six tries in their 47-17 victory over Italy but are keenly aware the Irish, also winners of their two opening games, will pose a sterner test. The Irish have lost their last three Six Nations meetings with England and managed only two tries in their matches against Italy and France but Lancaster admits the trip to Dublin will shape his team’s campaign. The England captain, Chris Robshaw, is also wary of the Irish, who beat France 18-11 on Saturday. “They have an extremely smart coach in Joe Schmidt, who generally finds weaknesses somewhere. It’s about making sure we’re clued up, because we need to try and find their weaknesses as well.”
England have not won a Six Nations grand slam since 2003 and have managed only one title over the same period. They have finished second in each of the last three seasons but Lancaster is hoping their away win in Cardiff will give them the necessary self-belief in the Aviva Stadium. “The confidence we have gained down the years winning away in the Six Nations has been huge for us,” Lancaster emphasized. Joe Schmidt has attempted to defuse mounting expectation that Ireland’s clash with England in two weeks’ time will decide this year’s Six Nations, preferring to focus on avenging his side’s last loss, a 13‑10 defeat at Twickenham last February. “A game against England is our next one and that’s what we’re planning for,” said Schmidt. “I didn’t know that was a record,” said Schmidt of Ireland’s chance against England to equal their best-ever 10 wins on the spin. “I do know it will be a year since we last lost to England and we’ll be back facing the same foe, and it’s one that I have massive respect for.” The best rugby prediction does suggest though that the winner of this clash will end up as 6 Nations champion and a rugby tipster might suggest a grand slam victory too!