Sunday 18 March 2007

My six nations predictions... a review

I think I'm just gonna stop predicting sporting events. As the recent Couture - Sylvia fight showed and as the six nations has just confirmed, I am incapable of making a good call as regards any sporting event... I said

1. Ireland
2. France
3. England (Would like to point out that at least this was right)
4. Wales
5. Italy
6. Scotland (This too)

Now to be fair, Scotland were only consigned to the bottom of the table on the last day and Ireland were robbed of top spot in the dying moments of the France-Scotland game by a dubious try. Still, I had expected an Irish grand slam which was a bit too much to ask apparently.

Another excuse I'm going to throw out there is that every team played the tournament in a decidedly different manner than I'd expected (bar the French). Ireland were at times brilliant (Italy and England) but then dire (Wales and Scotland), lacking a killer instinct that you'd expect from such a talented backline. Rog's kicking radar was worryingly haywire in some games too (Italy and France in particular). Encouraging signs for Ireland would be the fact that Eddie seems to have hit upon a winning back row combo and Dempsey is in incredible form going into the world cup. Worrying signs include O'Driscoll's injury (purely cos I have no idea how serious it is), the ever-present question of the forward's ability to step up to the monstrous French and Argentine scrums come world cup time and that lack of ruthlessness.
High point - in Croke Park vs England, Horgan's try
Low point - Moment of madness against France in Croke Park that cost us the game at the death

England went into the tournament with their antique smash it up the middle policy which was horribly exposed by Ireland in Croker following English wins against Scotland and Italy. That being said Ashton seemed to realise this and aided by some convenient injuries, I feel the English team finished the tournament a lot stronger than when they entered it. The return of Mike Catt is a huge boost to the team as is the eventual realisation that Farrell and Tindall are the worst centre pairing in world rugby. They still have a long way to go but with some encouraging talent at 10 in Flood and Geharty (sp?) backed by the ever present monster of a pack England could yet be a force at this years wold cup.
High point - Beating France in Twickers, and the rise of Geharty, a ray of light
Low point - Being thumped by a record score in Croke park by Ireland

Wales were an absolute shambles and they have no excuse for it. They can point to some strange refereeing decisions that went against them sure, but that's just the nature of the game. The fact is they were outplayed by everybody which was disappointing to see from a team that had somehow won the grand slam two years ago. Back to full strength and under a new coach I think everyone was expecting Wales to deliver and they just fell spectacularly on their faces. An embarrassment to be honest. The emergence of Hook at out-half is probably the only positive to be drawn from an otherwise dismal six nations.
High point - .....probably the first 20 minutes or so against France
Low point - take your pick of pretty much the entire championship

Scotland, poor poor Scotland. Undermanned and outgunned. They were pretty much bullied and beat around the park for 80 minutes by France, England and Ireland, walloped a poor Welsh side and suffered a severe bout of madness during the first 5 minutes of the Italian conquest of Murrayfield which cost them the game. Occasionally impressive but consistently dire, Scotland are in desperate need of a fully fit pack and a competent leader at out-half. No questioning their commitment and their solid defence but in a world cup group that contains New Zealand, Italy and Fiji, Scotland are gonna have to unearth some kind of try scoring ability from somewhere. As accurate a goalkicker as Paterson is, its not gonna mean much when it starts to rain tries against the All Blacks.
High point - I'd say the few minutes they led Ireland in Edinburgh...
Low point - the opening 5 minutes against Italy, 21 points conceded and game over

Italia, Italia, Italia. In a year when football in Italy has been embroiled in scandal and shunned somewhat by the Italian public, rugby has been given a rare chance in the spotlight. And ze Azurri have seized the opportunity and recorded their first ever back to back wins in the six nations over Scotland and Wales. They may have been thumped by France and England in their opening games but to bounce back and then win two matches was an incredible achievement for such a young rugby nation. There is talent in the Italian team in droves, the pack as a whole could quite easily be considered the best in Europe and the backs are beginning to show real skill now as well under the tutelage of coach Berbezier (sp?). Expect them to give Scotland a shock in the world cup
High point - Full-time against Wales, two wins, Italy establish themselves as a European power
Low point - The France game

France were France. Annoyingly unpredictable bastards that could be brilliant one moment and terrible the next. Fresh talent seems to just come completely out of the blue in France with new-half backs Skrela, Mignoni and Beauxais all playing well. The French pack were as solid as ever and their backs sometimes sublime, sometimes all at sea. Laporte needs to figure out how to get his team to play for longer than 40 minutes, the French team have a tendency to turn off at inopportune moments, a problem they need to rectify.
High point - That ridiculous last minute win in Croke Park
Low point - losing to England....

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