Tuesday, February 04, 2014

6 Nations Rd 1 - My Perspective

Earning his first cap today for HoR2 please welcome Big Joe Shep as he gives us his take on last weekend’s Six Nations action

Rugby Opinion

Wales v Italy

On Saturday we saw an indifferent Wales and a still- improving Italy at the Millennium Stadium.

Italy under a new coach clearly came to play an attacking game; they seem to have lost a little in the strength of their pack but are playing a much more expanse wider / outfield game. I won’t even cover the howler from young debutant Esposito that lead to the Welsh try instead I was very taken by the skill and play of their centre Campagnaro who scored 2 tries and some excellent kicking by young Tomasso Allen.

Wales showed some good aspects and I was impressed as ever with Jamie Roberts who together with Williams combined some good play. North, Cuthbert et al weren’t that outstanding but did enough, clearly. In sum a scoreline that mostly flattered Wales, who for me looked slightly ragged, tired, made too many un-Wales like mistakes and were unconvincing. NOW before anyone starts questioning this, I am conscious that the same start occurred last year! I just wonder whether the winning / championship “Window” of opportunity for Wales has closed and they have had their day? Dublin next week will be the true marker for them I suspect.

France v England

The French……………….well who can play that poorly for large spells and still win? You simply don’t know which French team will turn up. Huget, Dulin, Yannick Nyanga, Dimitri Szarzewski all played well when France eventually opened up the play on the occasions they did and especially towards the latter part of the game. Basteraud was a powerhouse but Wesley Fofano was extremely quiet by his usual standards. Their 2 tries were lucky but hey that’s the way a game can go but the last try by Fickou wasn’t and a tired England let it slip. I would put an early marker out that I don’t believe France will win the 6 Nations!!

I DO feel for England. A terrific display at times by some elements of their team. I was particularly taken with Burrell, Twelvetrees (though many wouldn't be), Lawes and Wood however I was especially taken with the vision, speed and attacking flair of Danny Care and the sheer power, strength and awareness of Billy Vunipola. Here’s one where I’ll take some stick no doubt, I really am not sure on Owen Farrell or Brown and I think Robshaw is a tad overrated?? Perhaps there’s something I’m missing? There is however a belief in many of the English players that bodes well and I just think that they are not quite gelled together as much as a team needs to produce win after win after win. I’m not actually convinced Lancaster is that type of coach, you know the Joe Schmidt type who REALLY gets the best from each individual and gels them as a complete team? Their displays in the Autumn Tests and yesterday do say they are a potential. Can they live up to and realise that potential though?

Ireland v Scotland

A game of 2 halves at The Aviva saw Scotland come to Dublin to attack and play an open game which they did for most of the first half. Stuart Hogg, Alex Dunbar and the ever rampant David Denton allowed Scotland to play an attacking game which threatened Ireland and only a great defensive display from O’Mahony and Murray stopped a certain try by Denton. Phew! Ireland were slow and almost were in a defensive mindset. Missing Paulie O’Connell from the line out perhaps they feared losing ground there? They definitely missed the carrying and bulldozing of Sean O’Brian but when they did open up you could see the potential of where open and wide play could take them. The only real highlight was Sextons run which an outstanding defence by Scotland prevented a certain Heaslip try.

The second half however was different. Scotland made little in ground or threats to Ireland in real terms. On the couple of occasions they did, the Irish defence was excellent. Ireland played with an increased intensity and more belief and the game simply opened up. Terrific displays by the Kearney brothers, O’Mahony, Heaslip all added to the fray. Likewise as ever Cian Healy’s surging runs and carries were evident (Clearly I will ALWAYS favour a prop!) and Chris Henry showed why he deserves his place. The outstanding playing for me though was Conor Murray. His vision, technical ability, strength and simply being just about everywhere on the pitch and was very impressive. Oh, and for those who believe I’m Leinster biased (Of course I am!!), I will still maintain I’m not sure on big Devin Toner at Lock. I believe he has ability but he’s not there yet. The problem is O’Connell won’t be around at RWC 15 so I’d like to see more of Ian Henderson playing with Dan Tuohy amongst others. A good start though for Ireland then but let’s see what the Welsh game brings next week.

Overall Team of the Round

Italy (For their grit, determination and improvement)

Overall Referee of the Round

Craig Joubert : A good fair overall match which in the main flowed, but especially for his comments to Scotland captain Jim Hamilton : “Jim, every time something funny happens, you seem to be involved” to which Big Jim replied, “But I’m just sticking up for myself”. Sometimes it’s the little things that makes the game go well!

See you for Round 2. Cheers Folks!

@bigjoeshep is the Owner and Head of Information & Knowledge Management at Digital Knowledge Zone.   An avid Leinster & Ireland Rugby fan, he came to rugby at the late age of 24, was a tight head prop, had at least 2 good runs in every game and retired at only 36 after 3 operations on his legs and now forms the 4th "virtual" person in a front row each time his beloved teams are playing (much to the annoyance of his suffering girlfriend who has to put up with being "embraced" by the Big Fella at each scrum!!!)

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Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019