Well, what a great, breathless end to the Six Nations rugby! England 55-35 up against the French, needing another six points to take the title on points difference, from Ireland and Wales. A minute left on the clock. A rolling maul, pulled down by the French. No penalty try or penalty given. Not sure why – I kind of trust ref Nigel Owens, who had a superb match. Ireland win it. So close…
It has been a good tournament. England, Wales and Ireland very evenly matched. England beat Wales at the Millennium Stadium impressively. Ireland beat England in Dublin, equally impressively. Then Wales beat Ireland at home, both sides slugging it out for supremacy. Technically the best game of the tournament, though England’s today must rank as the most exciting.
And what a joy it is to see England playing such free-flowing rugby. Still flawed; too many errors at times. Should have hammered Scotland last week; then they’d have been well clear on points difference. The last pass just wasn’t working. But getting there. Really getting there. So much young talent coming through. Jonathan Joseph, the Bath centre, perhaps the most notable addition this season; but the form of young fly half, George Ford, also Bath, has made us forget the absence of Own Farrell completely. There is real competition for places in all parts of the team. Finally, it looks like England’s larger rugby-playing population is starting to show. I know, just from my own club team, Harlequins, that we have players like flanker Jack Clifford coming through and sure to play for England in a couple of years. And an awesome centre called Joe Marchant, who just starred in the U-20 World Cup for England. There will be similar potential in all the big teams.
Anyway, well done to Ireland. My rational self says that they probably are the best of the European sides just now. A bit more clinical than either England or Wales. But the differences are marginal. And injuries to key players may affect them more when it comes to the World Cup.
Yes, all thoughts turn to the World Cup in the autumn, in England. New Zealand are hot favourites of course. South Africa next. But then Australia, England, Wales, Ireland are on a par. And France will get their act together – they have so much talent, and know how to do well in World Cups. As do England and Australia; Ireland and Wales less so.
There will plenty of twists and turns before mid-September. Key players in all teams will get injured. Some will lose form, other young stars will demand inclusion. And once it starts, who knows? England may not even get out of their pool. The fact that they’ve been grouped with Wales and Australia shows there was no fiddling of the draw. It is verily the Group of Death!
So fingers crossed that home advantage sees us through.
The Six Nations gives me a lot of cause for optimism, especially that performance against France today.