Six Nations title still up for grabs
March 11, 2010
Credit where it is due: France coach Marc Lievremont now has a squad full of both experience and youth © Getty Images
Well that shows what I know about rugby. Wrong with both of my predictions last week and little evidence to suggest that France won't win the Grand Slam. Still, I will take some comfort in how I said the games would go, even if I got the results completely wrong. Wales vs France was an exciting affair, England vs Ireland was tight, and had I been brave enough to stick my neck out I might have been 1 from 3 with the Italy vs Scotland game.
With the final fortnight of the tournament bearing down on us, the biggest question now is will France win the Grand Slam? I will stand by my call that they won't, but more out of stubbornness than anything else. Italy have shown throughout the tournament how difficult they can make it for teams, and whilst it would be just typical for a French team to suddenly become bipolar, this team has shown no signs of the inconsistencies that plagued the national teams of the past. Credit must go to Marc Lievremont, who withstood the early barrage of criticism aimed at him for inconsistent selections and early losses and now his long-term view is starting to pay dividends. France are now not just a strong team, but a competitive squad, full of both experience and youth which will only serve to drive the standards of the team higher and higher.
England will get a chance to derail the French next week, but first they have to go through Scotland. England have not enjoyed the trip to Edinburgh too many times in recent years, and Scotland losing to Italy last week was probably the worst result for England. Scotland have shown in brief flashes what they are capable of, and after the stinging defeat to the Italians, will see England at home as a massive opportunity. England for their part will be desperate for a win after the disappointment against Ireland, and as a result this is going to be the game for which I will take my usual position on the fence.
Ireland will still be looking for a Triple Crown and hoping someone stops France in order for them to be in with a chance for the Championship, and Wales will want to try and spread their performance over 80 minutes rather than just the final 20. I think this could be the pick of the games to watch this weekend, but it'll be interesting to see what effect the Lions tour has on this fixture. As the two countries that provided the majority of the players to the touring party and the Test teams, there will be a lot of familiarity with each other. This can serve to either help the teams nullify the individual threats of players, or, and this is what I'll be hoping, it can help to exploit any trends the players show. Either way, I think it'll be a close game and will go for Ireland to edge it.
As my next entry will be after the tournament ends, here is how I think the last two rounds will go. France will beat Italy, Ireland to beat Wales, and England against Scotland. Then in the final weekend, Wales will just edge out Italy, Ireland will beat Scotland, and England will beat France in Paris. Of course, as the last few weeks, have shown, I know nothing, and if you're of a betting persuasion I wouldn't blame you for putting the house on the opposite happening.
At Wasps it's been a tough couple of weeks, the win against Saracens was followed by defeat at Leeds. Whilst I wouldn't want to take anything away from Leeds, who have been competitive this season and have taken confidence from each victory, as a side with championship aspirations our performance simply wasn't up to scratch.
The week's analysis was uncomfortable as we watched the game in it entirety rather than highlights, but it seemed to have worked as the performance against Gloucester was much improved. I will hope however that the coaches don't decide to do this every week as I did spent the latter half of the 80 minutes needing the loo.
Personally, I still have my main of hair. I had hoped to play against Gloucester, but having only trained with the team full on for the first time that week, I wasn't going to be up to it. It is incredibly frustrating to be so close and not make it, but given that I've managed to go through 10 months without playing, I'm not going to jeopardise myself or my team for the sake of a couple of weeks.
"I had a perfect record against England as did a few other Welshmen. England always seemed to bring the best out of us." John Taylor on the age-old rivalry
Are the margins between the teams in the Six Nations getting smaller year-on-year? Huw Richards gives some answers
Martin Gillingham looks at the state of play in the Top 14 and gives his take on the club versus country battle harming the prospects of the French side
Manu Tuilagi, Cockerill's psychological warfare and Saracens' brute strength - it is the Monday Maul