Six Nations: 3 lessons we learned from the round-two matches
1) Exciting England vulnerable for Ireland showdown
The 100 per cent record each side holds going into England’s trip to the Aviva Stadium makes the pair’s third game of the tournament the most pivotal.
Win and it will take a colossal capitulation not to land the Six Nations crown, lose and there could be no stuffing to build a comeback on.
Six tries against Italy at Twickenham made Stuart Lancaster’s side the highest scorers in the competition by some distance, but the three they allowed the Azzurri in return means they’ve shipped four in two games.
No side has won the Six Nations in the last three years conceding more than that in the whole event and England’s ability to become the first to do so looks threatened by Jonathan Sexton and Ireland’s playmaking abilities.
2) Scotland so close to making final step under Cotter
Although 1/7-certainties Italy will ensure the wooden spoon doesn’t head to Murrayfield this year, there must be an element of frustration among Scottish rugby that Vern Cotter’s side will likely finish second-bottom in the standings.
The three-point loss to Wales embodies that irritation perfectly. Time and time again Scotland played wondrous rugby to charge deep into Welsh territory, only for their naivety in attack to cost them as the tryline came into view.
Steps of improvement are clearly visible for the New Zealander’s side and it could be that welcoming the Italians to Murrayfield next time out helps shake off that attacking inexperience.
3) France and Wales’ World Cup tinkering must start in Paris
At 16/1 and 9/1 respectively, France and Wales’ Six Nations race looks close to being run. But for two sides that are struggling to find the right XV or form, there is a bigger picture the pair must adhere to for the rest of the competition.
Philippe Saint-Andre has a wealth of riches to pick from for France, but seems obsessed with filling his side with brute force, leaving the necessary artistry needed to win games on the sidelines.
Meanwhile Wales are coming to terms with the fact that they no longer have the calibre of player needed to win this tournament, instead needing to create one of those greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts sides in time for the World Cup campaign.
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