Ireland win the 6 Nations but England look like a dangerous side in the making!
This year’s RBS 6 Nations final day was a real cracker with the three kick-offs staggered that helped produce some incredible rugby. In the first three rounds a total of 27 tries were scored, the same amount scored in this single final day. First up were Wales who set the bar high by running riot in Rome, obliging Italy and England to follow. It really became a day of who dares wins with Wales scoring 61 points away from home and England passing 50 against France for the first time. In the future people will stare at this bizarre score-line and assume it was a triumph. Seven tries against the French, it must have been an incredible victory!
No top rugby tipster would have envisaged that a team who managed to score 18 tries in the championship, a figure exceeded by no other country in Six Nations history, would not end up victorious. England have now Finished as runners-up for four consecutive years and if one thinks that with just one more converted try against Scotland last week, in a match where England had squandered plenty of chances, they would now be celebrated as great champions.
6 Nations winners Ireland are a great side, exceptionally coached and led, and worthy winners of their first back-to-back championship titles since 1948 and 1949, but if England hadn’t managed to win this tournament, they have though, beaten their World Cup pool opponents Wales and Australia inside the last five months and run New Zealand repeatedly close. Over the course of this season they have either found or revitalised four players, George Ford, Ben Youngs, Billy Vunipola and Jonathan Joseph. They can win playing in a variety of styles. In that respect, the small print of a championship table is not absolutely the be-all and end-all. Instead of ripping everything up and starting over, with England it’s more a case of tweaking in a bid to ensure they win these close matches and take all the chances they get. Furthermore, the best rugby predictions take into consideration the fact that England’s injured players, Manu Tuilagi, Alex Corbisiero, Joe Launchbury, Ben Morgan, David Wilson, Brad Barritt and Owen Farrell will certainly add a great deal to an already strong side when the squads will assemble on 22 June for the pre-World Cup training camp. There are though some areas that need some real work: defensive organisation has to be tightened, as only Scotland and Italy leaked more tries than the 11 conceded by England, but the main worry is in the head as the game plan soon flew out of the window once again and for the third time inside two months, England had to scramble rather than dictate terms.
No matter what team one supports this was rugby union’s best sales pitch in years. As the stadiums shook and television viewers across Europe, not least in Ireland, pulled their hair out, even France did their best to join in the fun. They managed five tries of their own but the abiding image, will be England pouring forward late on, their attacking shape as good as it has been in ages. Ford has made a huge difference in that department and Jack Nowell’s lovely second try was no less than both the scorer and creator deserved. Could they complete mission impossible? Lancaster and his players felt the ball may have been grounded over the French line prior to the final penalty but it was a forlorn hope. At least Chris Robshaw’s side went down more honourably than two years ago in Cardiff.
Earlier in the day, as the video replays showed that Stuart Hogg and not grounded the ball thanks to last gasp tackle from Ireland’s number 8 Jamie Heaslip which was just enough to stop the Scottish full-back from grounding a try that would have handed (in hindsight) England the 6 Nations Trophy. Instead, the score stayed at 40-10 and in the end, of course, Ireland won the Championship by six points from England. They say luck is what you make it, that the harder you practice, the more of it you enjoy. But when you have won a championship that spans 15 matches and 20 hours of play by such a slender lead, you have to acknowledge all the little things that fell right along the way. Ireland coach Joe Schmidt agreed: “Such fine margins. We’re champions because England didn’t quite get that drive over at the end,” Joe Schmidt, said, referring to that last desperate lineout against the French, when Chris Robshaw had furiously ordered George Ford to throw his 13st frame into the fray in the hope it would add the precious few extra pounds-per-square-inch that would carry the ball over the line. “And because Sarto scored in the corner, and Orquera kicked that goal, and because Jamie made that tackle.” Since Schmidt took charge, Ireland have lost only four Tests out of 20. Of those, the losses to England at Twickenham and New Zealand at Lansdowne Road were both, by three points or less. They have been soundly beaten twice, once by Australia in Schmidt’s first major Test in charge, and then in the seven-point defeat to Wales.
A sports betting expert will place Ireland as the top, non Southern hemisphere, team at the 2015 World Cup but as happened for so long with Andy Murray at Wimbledon, you have to believe England will get there eventually and it might just be in September.