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Six Nations-Ireland Still Lead The Charge, But With New Contenders

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All of a sudden, the competition is back on. After round three of the Six Nations, four teams now stand a realistic shot at the title. The Slam is gone, and only England remain contenders for the Triple Crown, but how long has it been since a loss for Ireland at the half way point wasn’t the death of their chances?

It barely felt like a loss, even post match Joe Schmidt and Paul O’Connell could have been exceptionally more downbeat than they were. Ireland’s more than comfortable points difference means that though the Slam is gone they’re still hot favourites for the trophy. They lost some of their composure on Saturday, a notable example being the eighty minute uncharacteristic off day from Sexton, but still it was a game won and lost by the smallest of margins, and England were on fire.

For all the positives there were a handful of negatives that can’t go untreated ahead of the final rounds though. Firstly, Ireland had clearly decided before the game that they wouldn’t get the same return from their maul as they have so far, and seemed to shy away from using it as a result. Yet from the first time they did it all seemed to be three from three for effectiveness. Rigid adherence to the game plan dictated they remain distanced from using it intentionally though. Pity, as it looked as though it could’ve been brutal once more. There also seems to be a slight misfire in the back line. Andrew Trimble and both Kearney brothers were absolutely stellar under high ball and making yardage, but aside from the try, there was no sign of them finishing anything throughout the eighty minutes. For all of the praise England’s defence must receive on this issue, there still seems to be some creaking amongst the backs that needs to be oiled, especially for the trip to France where there’s no shortage of world class finishers. Thankfully, there are all relatively little things and even in defeat this Irish team looks more than capable of achieving silverware
England 13 – 10 Ireland

The early entertainment of the weekend came from Wales and France on Friday night, though the Gallic contingent may disagree. France have been waiting to be found out this season and Wales did just that with a clinical performance that was a million miles away from their two opening games. Not perfect, but back to some thing more akin of the surgical precision they have shown over the last few seasons that makes them such a fantastic team to watch.

For France it was dropped ball, neutered attack and a general lack of composure that is sad to see, from a nation that usually provides such high profile champagne rugby. France have been in steady decline since the slam four years ago, but games such as their opener against England have always done just enough to paper over the cracks. They still stand a slim chance of the title, but with the lowest points difference and Ireland on the final weekend, there’s not a whole lot of favour heading their way.
Wales 27 – 6 France

Finally we had the wooden spoon classic as Scotland travelled to Rome in search of a first try, let alone first win of the competition. Italy too were set for that elusive win and for all the world looked like they would do it but old habits and complacency have unfortunately crept back into their game.

Both of these sides are in need of serious turnarounds but you could easily argue Scotland needed this more. Duncan Weir’s drop goal to clinch it at the death should do well to instill some small bit of momentum ahead of two daunting games against France and Wales, Italy on the other hand have everything stacked against them. You would think they will likely be staring down a winless Six Nations for the first time since 2009, a poor return for a team that looked like they were hitting an upward swing finally. Pity.
Italy 20 – 21 Scotland

Image courtesy of Irishrugby.ie

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  1. February 24th, 2014

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