The bye week for teams in the Guinness Six Nations tournament. Two fixtures in and we are starting to quickly see trends emerge on team performance and future prospects. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on each side identifying the positive and negatives.
The Good: In an absolute typhoon, England pounced and secured the win over Scotland in Murrayfield. Eddie Jones and the team knows there is plenty there to improve upon but the win was key. They face Ireland in two weeks with renewed focus and optimism. The young players of the side are to the fore. Genge and Curry have impressed me no end so far in this tournament.
The Negative: The pregame comments so far from the head coach and specific players have been nauseating at best. Keep it in house. Deliver the performance on the pitch. This side are primed to deliver performances in this tournament, they do not need excessive comments within their camp to crank up the pressure and expectation. A live opponent. A live team for Championship honors.
The Good: Two wins from two. Nine points in the bag. Home support galvanized by a youthful team core who look to have a common direction, work rate and high skill set. Dupont has been a magician in this tournament. I raved about this kid last season on this blog but his form and skill set is coming to the fore now. His sniping runs, his ability to quickly read opposition defensive reads is world class. The back line dynamism is immense, a full back who is not afraid to hit the line and with a massive boot has provided defensive assurance.
The Negative: Two home wins to start off the tournament. The road trip fixture to Wales is a significant test. In recent past, France have been far too passive with pack penalty concessions the key themes. Can this France management and playing group deliver a quality performance against Wales? The performance against Italy was a mixed bag. Shaun Edwards will be reading the riot act ahead of this test match. The result here molds France’s ambitions for the rest of the tournament and whether this group of players will be given sufficient time to impress.
The Good: The Andy Farrell era has started with two wins. Tougher tests lie ahead but the Welsh performance was an upgrade to the display produced against Scotland on the opening weekend. The emergence of the Ireland back three is encouraging. The back-row work of Stander, O’Mahony and van der Flier is eye catching at present.
The Negative: Scrum platform issues early in fixtures, penalty concessions creating opposition field platform. Pen concessions continue to be an issue in the opening fixtures and needs to be reduced ahead of a daunting trip to Twickenham. Sexton’s relationship with officials could go either way. Sexton is forceful in his viewpoint to match referees, but I sense that certain officials may rear the other way – something to watch. Tough road trips now in the horizon, Ireland’s performances and game management need to go up another level or two.
The Good: They scored twenty-two points against France yesterday. This is something to build on, some nice cameos in the offloading game.
The Negative: Where do you start? Pack platform issues. Line out competition is non-existent, far too passive. The half back partnership is not working. Allan is frustratingly inconsistent – no attacking focal point and Canna at twelve is a horrendous experiment which will be exposed massively in the coming weeks. Discipline issues aplenty at the breakdown, lucky yesterday with Andrew Brace who could have put a number of Italian forwards to the bin for deliberate kill the ball. Hammerings from Ireland and England are a given.
The Good: Competitive in the first two fixtures. Ireland game was one that got away from them, they should have secured at least a draw in that encounter. The England game was a monsoon, had their opportunities but no red zone composure to work the scoreboard.
The Negative: Finn Russell saga. Adam Hastings has been fine and is getting valuable test match minutes but this rift between Russell and Townsend is damaging squad morale. A world class operator, Russell is a player who could have turned either fixture for Scotland. It looks like Russell is not ready to commit any further to Scotland until Townsend is gone. The unforced errors from the side has been coaching killers. Stuart Hogg got away with one against England lucky enough. The back three ability in the air is a question mark.
The Good: New coaching mindset, expansive game plan seen at different stages in this tournament thus far. Tomos Williams is a superb scrum-half operator, good things will happen for Wales with Williams in this rich vain of form. Dan Biggar has shown some quality cameos; direction when he left the field at the weekend was noticeable. Quality side who will look to bounce back at home to a dangerous French side.
The Negative: The lack of possession in the Ireland contest was a surprise given the back-row prowess in the ranks. 70 / 30 possession stats in the opening period is not good enough. There have been individual mistakes this weekend which led to Ireland tries; these can be addressed but squad depth will be tested with injuries to Davies and now Josh Adams.