With the Rugby World Cup looming, this year’s Six Nations Tournament leaves each team with something to prove. It’s all about momentum, mentality, moving forward and creating that perfect platform from which to conquer.
Leading up to the highest peak in international rugby this October, the unpredictable beast of a tournament that is the Six Nations, which began last weekend will most certainly separate the men from the boys. Steeped in a history of friendly rivalry, it only took the first round to show us that there’s no such thing as an easy win.
Kicking off with Wales vs. England, we got a fantastically dogged affair, a gripping arm wrestle in which England pressured their way from behind to defeat the Welsh favorites by a score of 16 – 21.
Thanks to standout performances from George Ford and Billy Vunipola, England grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and wrestled Wales into submission. Despite a gorgeous offload from Falateau slotting Webb in for a try, and, on top of the punishing boot of Halfpenny, Wales just could not hold their lead. The consistent grit of England’s play opened up too many holes.
Trys from Watson and Joseph out wide quickly turned the tides, and a stay in the sin bin for Cuthbert sealed England’s victory.
With Heaslip, O’Brien and talisman Johnny Sexton all out for Ireland due to injury, the Italians were keen to capitalize and try to take what would be a very impressive scalp at home in the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday. But they had no such luck as the Irish came in prepared for the stubborn and tenacious style of the Azzurri.
Despite an extremely rusty first half by the boys in green, they made up for the slow start with a significantly improved performance in the second half. Keatley punished every Italian mistake, keeping the scoreboard ticking over with consistent kicking.
It was only a matter of time before trys were created. An explosive individual score run from halfway by Tommy O’Donnell, as well as a sniping dive for the line from scrum half Conor Murray, totaled a comfortable winning score of 26–3 for the Irish.
The most entertaining clash by far was the battle between France and Scotland in the jaws of the Stade de France. It was a frantic and spirited melee that left Scotland frustrated and France relieved at 15–8 for “Les Bleus.” An eager and fast paced Scottish side created several chances right out of the gate.
However, for all their daring runs and a perfectly executed try by Dougie Fife in the corner, the Scots came up short. It was too close to call right up until the last ten minutes when the visitors no longer had the energy to outwit the gumption of the French forwards; the French resorted to rolling maul after rolling maul, ultimately stealing the game from Scotland and letting Camille Lopez slot a total of five penalties between the posts for the win.
Ireland is now sitting on top of the standings with France in second and England at third.
Looking ahead to this weekend’s action, England will be searching for a decisive victory against Italy at Twickenham to continue their aggressive form. Expect a rugged game that will rely purely on brawn rather than brains.
As favorites for the World Cup victory this year, Ireland is now firmly under the microscope. Against France, it will most certainly be an exciting bout with both teams having won their first round games. On the back of a crushing loss to England, Wales is now vulnerable, and Scotland will relish the opportunity to grab a big victory. But, just keep in mind this weekend that there’s no such thing as an easy win in the Six Nations.
Conway is a member of the class of 2017.