Scotland 34 Italy 10
This was much better from Scotland as their pack ensured their backs had the possession they needed to score points. The Scots had the advantage over Italy in every area of play and with two consecutive home games coming up against Ireland and Wales they are finally in with a chance of making the kind of impact on the Six Nations they’ve failed to deliver.
Italy were a disappointing mess and, despite the win last week, few are tipping them to take another victory in this championship. Their biggest problem was their biggest asset last week – their fly half Orquera.
France 6 Wales 16
Those of us who expected France to come out fighting were disappointed. Yes, this was a French team that was improved from the Italy game, but they seemed to lack the determination to win. Defensively they were very strong and this made the game quite dull to watch – they can take heart from the way they kept Wales at bay for so long. Pundits are demanding changes to the French backs but they really miss a specialist fly half.
Wales are revelling in the victory and they have every right to do so – there was a growing fear that a wooden spoon was on the horizon and that the downcast attitude of Welsh rugby would destroy any chance they had of turning things around. For much of the game Wales were infuriating – they struggled at the scrum and had so many attacking opportunities yet they failed to break through the French defence, but Wales got the victory and after so many defeats that’s all that matters. The effectiveness of Ryan Jones and Justin Tipuric as flankers makes it difficult to see how Sam Warburton can get back in the team.
Ireland 6 England 12
In a dull game that was severely hampered by the weather, Ireland tried to play the open style of rugby they excel at, while England adapted to the conditions. The front row contest was evenly matched but it was the breakdown, discipline and handling errors that killed Ireland’s chances. Injuries to Zebo, Sexton and O’Driscoll and a likely ban for Cian Healy will do nothing for Ireland’s chances in the championship.
England proved themselves in a manner that will warm the hearts of those who reminisce about 2003 – they adapted to the conditions and did what they needed to do – win penalties in kickable areas of the field and maintain discipline when defending. The one disaster area for England was the lineout and Tom Youngs’s starting place is now in doubt after some terrible throws that was quickly turned around when Dylan Hartley came on the field. This will never go down as a spectacular English victory but it may be the game that turns the team into a unit. Once more, there were no star players and this is what makes this England team so effective. Few think France and Italy at Twickenham will cause them any problems but the finale against Wales could be spectacular.
Team of the week
After some poor displays there are no French or Italian players this week.
1. Paul James (Wales)
2. Dylan Hartley (England)
3. Dan Cole (England)
4. Courtney Lawes (England)
5. Ian Evans (Wales)
6. Rob Harley (Scotland)
7. Justin Tipuric (Wales)
8. Tom Wood (England)
9. Greig Laidlaw (Scotland)
10. Dan Biggar (Wales)
11. Tim Visser (Scotland)
12. Billy Twelvetrees (England)
13. Brad Barritt (England)
14. George North (Wales)
15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
Lions squad of the week
Very different conditions and a flurry of Irish injuries make a very different Lions squad of the week compared to last week. As before, this is entirely on performances in this week’s games. The principle of the squad is simple – two players per position plus an extra loosehead prop, hooker, tighthead prop, second rower, back rower, scrum half and two utility backs. 38 players, 21 forwards, 17 backs, alphabetical order. Players marked * featured in last week’s Lions squad too.
Rory Best* (Ireland), Dan Cole* (England), Ian Evans (Wales), Toby Faletau* (Wales), Ross Ford (Scotland), Richie Gray* (Scotland), Rob Harley (Scotland), Dylan Hartley* (England), Cian Healy* (Ireland) Paul James* (Wales), Ryan Jones (Wales), Joe Launchbury* (England), Courtney Lawes (England), Joe Marler* (England), Euan Murray (Scotland), Sean O’Brien* (Ireland), Geoff Parling* (England), Chris Robshaw* (England), Mike Ross* (Ireland), Justin Tipuric* (Wales), Tom Wood* (England).
Brad Barritt* (England), Dan Biggar (Wales), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Keith Earls (Ireland), Owen Farrell* (England), Leigh Halfpenny* (Wales), Stuart Hogg* (Scotland), Rob Kearney* (Ireland), Sean Lamont (Scotland), Greig Laidlaw (Scotland), Sean Maitland* (Scotland), George North (Wales), Mike Phillips* (Wales), Matt Scott (Scotland), Billy Twelvetrees* (England), Tim Visser (Scotland), Ben Youngs* (England).