Twickenham Zest Adds To Six Nations Joy

21 02 2011

So, who’s excited about this weekend’s matches in the Six Nations?

Silly question of course as anyone with a slight interest in Northern Hemisphere rugby is going to be… With Wales playing their bogey team Italy in the Stadio Flaminio; an under pressure Ireland team coming going to Murrayfield and of course the big one; the two major nations of northern hemisphere rugby clashing at Twickenham.

The Celtic nations may quibble at this description, but, unfortunately for them it is undoubtedly true with this contest so often in the past determining the winner of the competition. With the demise of the English game for almost the entirety of the past decade, apart from the odd clash in world cup situations, this has not been the case with Ireland and Wales having their moments of glory. Yet we are now back to what is as close to a true heavyweight clash that the northern hemisphere can provide and we simply cannot wait.

What was billed as a very open Six Nations before the competition got under way three weeks back has actually panned out in a fairly predictable way. France have had too much for Scotland and Ireland despite probably only playing at around 80% of where they are capable; England look good and appear to be improving although sterner tests await; Wales have flattered to deceive; Ireland look like a side whose core is past its best and Italy have battled but ultimately still been a case of ‘same old story’. The only surprise have really been Scotland who have gone backwards two steps having taken one forward in the Autumn.

Added zest has been given to the Twickenham cauldron this weekend by Marc Lievremont who appears to be causing some ripples with his ‘we do not like the English’ stance. What is most surprising to us though is how much press and outrage it is causing. Comments like these are two a penny in the run up to games – Warren Gatland has in recent years been particularly culpable – and especially given that the average Englishman should be used to the ‘anyone but England’ stance, it’s not really a big deal.

If anything, all it does is give Johnson and Tindall/Moody some pre game ammunition in their pep talk, which at Twickenham, is probably not something the French players will be grateful to Lievremont for. France often do not travel well and Twickenham can sometimes be a particular weak point. Whilst we are not expecting them to roll over by any means, we do think England will have too much for them. We cannot imagine England being quite as generous with the penalties as Ireland were the week before – which if truth be told was the reason the French won.

Johnson does have a few selection decisions to make before the match though with perhaps the biggest call being whether to select Moody over Haskell. We have read convincing arguments in support of both players and we do not think that it would make a huge difference although, saying that, our personal choice would be for Haskell.

For all those involved in the Compulsive Hooker’s fantasy league remember to make your choices wisely this weekend… We can’t see too many tries anywhere so ensuring your picks stay on the field may make all the difference!

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2 responses

21 02 2011

Wouldn’t Moody just replace Wood, at Open side? With Croft and Rees to come back too – there will be a few selection headaches in picking the back row!

23 02 2011

I think you are right. England should beat France this weekend.

Win or lose this weekend, England are shaping up as the Northern Hemisphere team to beat later this year. I’m not sure I totally agree with Sean Fitzpatrick’s recent comments that Johnson should have introduced this style of play and these players a year or two earlier. In a funny way, what England do have going for them is an element surprise in their attack. With Flood, Youngs, and the back three (particularly Ashton) there is a hint of “where are these guys going to attack us from and down which channel?”. With a rock solid set-piece, things are looking up for the men in white. To this end, it is the forward clash between these two formidable packs that will make for compelling viewing.

On another note, the Super 15 match between the Blues and Crusaders was a beauty. Played under a balmy Auckland night in the newly enhanced Eden Park, a quick count reveals the match involved 25 capped All Blacks squaring off. The final score was 24-22 to the Blues. Scary to think the Crusaders will employ the services of Islam’s latest convert, Sonny-Bill Williams and Richie McCaw later in the season. Of note was the ledership of Mealamu and the return to rugby at this level (following a two year lay off) of Ali Williams. If Williams can find his form – this writer believes he will – then expect to see his experience and vigour added to the All Blacks middle row. Watch this space.

Tana Umaga’s return to Super rugby for the Cheifs was a tad disappointing. 37 years younger? Unfortunately for this great player and leader, he is not.

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