Sportsthoughts (96) – Ireland win the Six Nations – just

So my predictions weren’t off the wall this year. I had the top two, England and Ireland, the wrong way round. I got Wales 3rd and France 4th right and Italy/ Scotland the wrong way ( I thought Italy would beat Scotland – and it was only a last minute drop goal that reversed the result).

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With my Irish heritage I always tell myself that Ireland are my second team. But their supporters hate England so much – they are not unique in that matter! – that I find it quite hard to stick to that. Nonetheless, I’ve got to say that Ireland were impressive in this Six Nations and deserved the win against France, by 22 to 20, even though the French got a try at the end which some adjudicators might have given. (I thought the decision to disallow it for a forward pass was correct). I’m less sure about the final scrum, where some refs might have given the French a penalty, as Ireland pulled down the scrum. It would have been a simple kick and France would have been 23-22 winners. Would have, could have, should have... the sporting perennials.

The French game was, of course, Brian O’Driscoll’s last test. The last of 133, with 46 tries scored. A magnificent achievement, truly one of the great rugby players. A centre with huge strength matched with delicate skills. But at the same time a player you’d always see at the heart of the breakdown, playing like a wing forward. I daresay he could have been a brilliant hooker too. A rugby genius.

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So, Ireland were champions on points scored vs points conceded. They and England were equal on 8 points, both having won 4 and lost 1. If the table was decided, as in the football World Cup,  on the head to head, England would have been champions, having beaten Ireland 13-10. (See my Sportsthoughts 95 for a report on that). But the rules are the rules. England beat Italy 52-11 in Rome on the last day. They had chances for more, and a bit of lazy play allowed the Italians to score an intercept try. But you cannot knock a 52-11 win in Rome. Italy have become very tough to beat in recent years. England’s 7 try performance can only be regarded as exceptional.

England missed out on the championship, then, but it has been a very satisfying tournament. The team has gelled, the youngsters have come through, it is looking very good for the future. Everywhere you look there is encouragement. The forwards have been outstanding. The second row, Courtney Laws and Joe Launchbury, have taken the plaudits for their power, precision and athleticism. Absolutely immense. Flankers Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood have also ruled the breakdown and made the links to the backs; Billy Vunipola and Ben Morgan have been brutally incisive No 8s, and the front row of Marler, Hartley and Wilson have done a fine job. And the subs have done the business when they have come on – except for Tom Youngs’ throwing at the lineout (although even that has got better in the later games).

Courtney Lawes - England v Italy

The backs have been a revelation. Danny Care has been buzzing as first choice scrum half; Owen Farrell has been supreme at fly half (although he does still get a bit arsey at times); Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell have been superbly complementary, running great lines and both fantastic in defence; the young wingers Jonny May and Jack Nowell have shown a lot of promise; and then there has been Mike Brown. Full back, Quins boy, he has been the player of the tournament. Bringing his Quins form of the last four years to the international level now. Always breaking the first tackle as he marauds forward, always catching the high ball under pressure, always putting in the crucial tackles. And now scoring tries – four in the tournament.  As a Quins fan I have so enjoyed seeing him make the full back position his own, against some tough competition from Alex Goode and Ben Foden. Both excellent players themselves. England are very well served in this area.

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And well served in every position now. The strength of the Premier League is beginning to show in the national team.

What does it mean for the World Cup in 2015? Who knows? England are in the Group of Death with Australia and Wales.  It will take some seriously good performances to get out of that. But I think England might be favourites to do so now.

But well done Ireland. Worthy Six Nations champions.

(Photos from Google Images).

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love outside work: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. And anything else that I happen to think is worth writing about!
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4 Responses to Sportsthoughts (96) – Ireland win the Six Nations – just

  1. Well, you did predict pretty closely.
    I can’t help but notice in your pics that the shape of the ball is the same shape as a N.American football. I see tackling and falling, but the gear is very light in comparison with no intense padding or helmets.
    Your players must sustain some nasty injuries.
    I should find a European football game, even if I only watch part, so I can see the difference for myself.

    • John S says:

      The ball’s a bit bigger and you can only pass it backwards. No quarterback hurling it to the wide receivers. The collisions are pretty intense, but there is no blocking as in American football. So yes there are some nasty injuries, but not as many as you might expect. I suspect the more armour you wear the more dangerous it it gets, paradoxically. There is a Canadian rugby team. They were pretty decent a few years ago, but don’t seem to have progressed as much as was expected. I guess there is too much competition from other sports.

      • Ohh!
        Very interesting about the ball only being passed backwards.
        Yes, the Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers are big Stars here!
        Okay, Rugby is also called Football in Europe? I know you tried to clear this up for me once before, but it didn’t gel.
        I think Soccer got in the way. I know it has a round ball whereas in Rugby/Football, the ball is oval.
        I was thinking Soccer/Rugby.
        Couldn’t resist and Googled Canadian Rugby.
        Turns out we are playing Japan in Vancouver on June 7…. and Scotland in Toronto on June 14.
        Think I’ll follow and see if anything happens.

        You’re right about other sports taking up the money and time.
        Baseball is a huge deal in America, and we have the Blue Jays in Toronto. They won the American Pennant twice in a row then held it a third year due to a players strike. Only team to ever hold it 3 years in a row…. even though!
        Hockey is Canada’s passion sport.
        Me, I like Curling! Ahh, the smooth glide of the rock!

        “LOL”
        I can’t believe how sports talky I am with you!

      • John S says:

        That is impressively sporty!

        In the UK we are quite clear. Football is football. What you call soccer. We NEVER call it soccer except when we are talking to Americans!

        And rugby is rugby, even though its official name is rugby football. (Invented at a school in the town of Rugby apparently).

        Just to confuse matters we have Rugby Union (with 15 players) and Rugby League (with 13). I only write about Union. Don’t ask why!

        (Well you can, but it will involve an explanation of the English North/South divide and probably also the English social class divide. This is worthy of a long essay. And will be very boring!)

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