10 things we learned from ... the latest Six Nations matches
March 11, 2013
A dazed and confused Brian O'Driscoll is helped from the field in Dublin - but he would be back to shore up Ireland's defence © PA Photos
The latest round of Six Nations action may not have been the most thrilling ever witnessed in the championship but there was still plenty to get you thinking.
Trial and error
We fear referee Steve Walsh may have got a little confused in the closing stages of Ireland's brutal battle with France in Dublin. When Ireland's Keith Earls was challenged off the ball by France's Vincent Debaty as he attempted to race onto a loose ball, Walsh went to the Television Match Official to ask 'try or no try' but also request input on potential foul play. TMOs are allowed to offer clarification regarding foul play in Super Rugby - where Walsh is a regular fixture - but the Six Nations is not currently part of that trial. Having reviewed the incident himself on the big screen - another element of the Super Rugby trial - Walsh was sufficiently happy there was no foul play and left his TMO to confirm that clearly no try had been scored. Who knows if TMO Nigel Whitehouse would have remembered which competition he was officiating in and if Earls had indeed been impeded? But as the laws tell us, 'the referee is always sole judge of fact and law'.
Let's keep a lid on it
The elements did their best to ruin the latest Six Nations matches with the wind, rain and cold contributing to largely forgettable matches in Edinburgh, Dublin and Cardiff. The Championship needs a rousing finish to restore it reputation and England's title and Grand Slam showdown with Wales in Cardiff boasts all the ingredients for a thrilling finale so you can rest assured the roof of the Millennium Stadium will be closed if Mother Nature continues spoil the party. Fans will have forked out a pretty penny for tickets and deserve a decent return and the players would also no doubt prefer a dry ball as opposed to the slippery eel they have had to contend with of late. So let's hope coaches Stuart Lancaster and Rob Howley see sense and agree that the roof should be closed - that's if they can keep a lid on what is sure to be an electric atmosphere.
BOD may have taken his final Dublin bow
Brian O'Driscoll is yet to confirm whether he will play on next season but he dropped a significant hint that he may be about to call time on his glittering career during Ireland's clash with France in Dublin on Saturday. Battered, bruised and clearly concussed, O'Driscoll was reluctant to leave the field with his side desperately battling to keep France at bay. The Dublin faithful rose as one fearing that this would be the last time they saw the greatest Irish player of his, and arguably any, generation in the emerald green. Among them was O'Driscoll's wife, Amy Huberman, whose tears suggested this would be his final act on this stage but she, like the rest of us, should know BOD is made of stern stuff and he would return to the fray. But how long can he keep going back to the well? A final Six Nations hurrah in Rome beckons next weekend before a final flourish with British & Irish Lions in the summer.
From hero to zero and back again?
It's been a turbulent season for Wales' Sam Warburton. Not so long ago he was being mentioned as a candidate to lead the British & Irish Lions to Australia later this year but a slump in form had many writing his chances of touring altogether. But as the saying goes, form is temporary and class is permanent, with the openside returning to top form on after being named in their side for the Scotland match. And with skipper Ryan Jones, who assumed the captaincy in Warburton's absence, nursing a shoulder injury then Warburton could find himself back at the helm for the title showdown with England in Cardiff this weekend.
Wallabies will be sleeping easy
A season-ending injury to David Pocock on Saturday will have knocked the wind out of Wallabies coach Robbie Deans but he will have been breathing a little easier thanks to the tripe served up by the Home Nations at the weekend. Leigh Halfpenny's trusty boot may have seen Wales home against a determined but limited Scotland but it will take more than his kicking prowess to see off Australia in the summer. Ireland packed a punch against the French but failed to claim a victory or generate the kind of tremor that would be felt Down Under while England repeatedly fluffed their lines on their latest outing. Deans will be struggling to work out who will be lining up against his side in a few short months - but he's not the only one.
The 'La Plata Lip' is better when he buttons it
Italy No.8 Sergio Parisse returned to the headlines for all the right reasons with an irresistible performance against England. His recent ban for abusing a referee cost his side dear against Wales and tarnished his reputation as a world-class performer. As a result he had some making up to do at Twickenham and he did just that with an all-action display that reminded us he has very few equals on the international stage.
Halfpenny set to claim Championship honour
The shortlist for the Six Nations Player of the Championship is set to be announced by organisers this week with the Man of the Match winners from the first four rounds of action set to vie for public vote in a questionable selection process. For some reason the final games do not normally come under consideration although the general standard of the rugby and fact the destiny of the title remains unknown may prompt a late re-think. Either way, it looks as if England's Chris Robshaw and Wales' Leigh Halfpenny are the leading contenders with the latter's outstanding consistency worthy of the honour.
Referees asking for trouble
When the weather is so bad the players struggle to keep hold of the ball then you have a little sympathy for those referees who are tasked with keeping a firm grip on the game. However, that understanding goes out the window when the officials' pedantry serves as a hand-brake on a game already void of creativity as with Craig Joubert's handling of Wales' victory over Scotland. Steve Walsh also attracted plenty of attention with a couple of contentious calls but George Clancy was perhaps the most bemusing when he ruled a knock on against Italy as they closed in on the England line - despite his well-placed assistant Nigel Owens telling him that he saw no such thing.
Jackson is here to stay
Ireland's Paddy Jackson may not be a household name yet - even the Aviva Stadium announcer referred to him as Paddy O'Brien after a successful kick - but he will soon be as well known as the man he has edged into retirement - Ronan O'Gara. Concerns about his big match temperament evaporated with one sublime piece of skill during a brutal contest with France. Under pressure inside in his own in-goal area, he stepped an on-rushing Morgan Parra before calmly clearing his line. He may find his opportunities limited with Jonathan Sexton the clear first-choice playmaker but rest assured he has an able deputy.
Corden puts pros in the shade
TV host and actor James Corden put some of the pros to shame with a faultless display at Twickenham on Sunday. Italy's Luciano Orquera may have struggled from the kicking tee but Corden, filming a segment for the Sky One quiz show A League of the Own along with panellists Jack Whitehall and Jon Richardson, thrived under the pressure of the occasion with three successful kicks much to his own delight.
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.
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