Please welcome Fergal Nolan to HoR2 and be sure and visit his new blog. Here’s his thoughts on the weekend ahead…
First up Wales entertain France in the magical Millenium stadium. I feel a backlash is on the cards. Wales will be reeling from the defeat to Ireland in what was a fairly one sided affair, to put it lightly. France have no structure but they have individuals who ooze talent and sheer class. If only Phillipe San Andre had a proper tactical team structure, we’d be all shaking in our rugby boots. The Welsh on home turf will be well rapped by Mr Warren G. He will have the team well regulated (I’ll get my coat…). Should be an exciting game, especially seeing two tanks collide in that of North and Bastareaud. Look forward to a try fest. Wales by single digits.
Italy v Scotland. The only thing I’m looking forward to in this is the Italian national anthem. Joking aside, Scottish rugby is in a mess much worse than Murrayfield two weeks ago. Dave Denton, the Scottish No. 8 doesn’t start. A bad move in my view. He’s a good player and performs to the max when asked. The Italians, although beaten by the French, are playing good structured rugby…if only they had a decent kicker. They keep it simple. They are physical. They are a well drilled team. With the magnificent Parisse leading the team, expect heart and passion. Also expect the two try six nations debutant Campagnaro to feature quite a lot. Italy by 10.
Then there is the big one. England v Ireland. I could write for 80 minutes on this match up. Both teams are well structured in terms of defence and set pieces. Lancaster has a youthful and evolving team, gearing towards their home RWC. Schmidt has tailored a revived Irish squad. Tactically, Schmidt had it spot on against Wales. No doubt he will have a strategic game plan for the English. In a sense of irony, I believe, the forever daunting English scrum will be targeted. We have the advantage, especially with the formidable Dan Cole out injured. (Although, the weather is for dry, fine weather, rain and a weathered pitch would be more favourable for scrums).
From reading another analysis of the game , I concur that Sexton and Murray will need to be on top of their game, acute and aware at all times. They will look to dink the ball behind Danny Care, as from previous games there seems to be space in this area to be taken advantage of. This won’t work on every occasion so it must be done effectively. On another note, the English backs are elusive in attack but lack overall game experience. Our centres are more experienced and provide a greater reading of the game. This is crucial.
Conceding only nine points in our last two games, our defence will be key. Plumtree and Kiss have done a fantastic job so far. Expect some unseen back line moves. We have an experienced side who have won Triple Crowns, a Grand Slam and European Cup titles. Let’s emulate on this talent and provide a game plan so effective the English have no match. A simple kick or moment of magic could decide this game. Let’s hope it’s for the men in green. Ireland by a score with my green tinted glasses.
Fergal is on twitter as @IrishRugbyBlog