Six Nations 2008

So, Everyone gets something... Wales get the Grand Slam, the championship and Bragging Rights (as do Wasps, as Wales did it with Warren and Shaun)

England get second place, and the Millennium Trophy for beating Ireland today (I was there). We also got to see Danny Cipriani's first game, and he was good - as Wasps knew he would... be.

France get the Giuseppe Garibaldi trophy for beating Italy (can all Italy games have a trophy at stake, please? That seems like an easy option to get a trophy in the short term... unless you're Scottish)

Ireland get the Centenary Quaich trophy for beating Scotland.

Scotland get the Calcutta Cup for beating England (in a game that caused me to fall asleep - but well done to Scotland)

Italy get a wooden spoon.

Nobody gets whitewash.

Everyone has something... and Italy can use their trophy for making nice meals. Bonus.

Yesterday's Rugby Games

Yesterday, we watched a little of the Rugby on television. There were two six nations games. First up was Ireland vs. Scotland. This was a much closer run thing than it had any right to be. Scotland should have been hammered, but they kept fighting and it went to the line with an Irish win of 19-18. There is some controversy surrounding this game as one of the Irish players had his airway restricted, and the Irish coach is claiming it was deliberate (a very serious charge indeed, and to my mind, potentially a police matter).

Next was Wales vs. Italy. This was always going to be a much closer affair, with Wales desperate to avoid the wooden spoon, and Italy keen to show that their victory against Scotland was not a flash in the pan. This was a really good game, and I was on the edge of my seat.... however, sorry Wales, I was supporting Italy. The game went back and forth between the two sides, but the controversy came at the end. Update: I've made a timeline of the events, available here.

With 3 points in it and seconds to go, Wales were awarded a penalty. A kick would have seen them draw, but a try would see them win. They appeared to ask the referee if there was enough time to attempt the win, and the ref appeared to say yes. They decided to forego the draw and kick to touch. The ref then blew for full time before the lineout. I could not believe this, nor could the Welsh, as they appeared to have asked explicitly. On the other hand, comments on the 606 board on the BBC website seem to say the sequence was a little different to how I perceived it:

'Hook asked how long we had left and White said there was about 10 seconds.

Hook asked if we could kick to touch and White said 'yes, carry on'.

So according to this the Ref was NOT asked if there was time for the line out.

Either way, it was a tough call - and as someone said in this discussion, perhaps the rules should allow for a single lineout after a penalty, even if the clock has ticked past the 80 minutes.

As someone else said:

I don't see the referee being lambasted for not noticing it was a Welsh hand that created the 'knock-on' preventing a very good opportunity for an Italian try in the first half. These things have a habit of evening themselves out

I quite agree, overall, though the Welsh were hard-done-by at the end, the result of 23-20 to Italy was just.

In the Guinness Premiership, Wasps were playing Harlequins, and when I checked earlier in the game Wasps were trailing (unsurprising, it was an away game after all) - but at the end we had clawed it back, to what, I think, is our first away win in the premiership this season! The score was 23-16.

Elsewhere in the Guinness Premiership, Bath beat Northampton 22-17. I'm quite pleased with that as it keeps the relegation battle alive - and I've a slightly soft spot for Worcester as I've seen them play twice this season - losing both times, but losing with such style that they I've wondered why they're not higher in the table.

Bristol lost to London Irish, 7-12. This is good from a partisan perspective, as it means that Bristol are just two points ahead of Wasps (with a game in hand though), but Wasps are still 8 points clear of Irish.

On Friday, Sale lost to Worcester, 12 to 18, which I'm happy with for the reasons given for Bath-Northampton result.

Gloucester are to play Leicester today. I'm unsure what the ideal result would be - a Gloucester win would see them leapfrog Wasps with a game in hand, but keep Leicester in the sights. A Leicester win would keep Wasps above Gloucester, but only just - and they've still a game to play.

I'm not sure who I want to win!

The Premiership as of 10th March '07
1 Leicester 17 11 1 5 437 322 10 56
2 Bristol 17 11 1 5 297 274 6 52
3 Wasps 18 10 1 7 403 320 9 51
4 Gloucester 16 11 1 4 377 284 4 50
5 Saracens 17 9 2 6 415 319 7 47
6 London Irish 17 10 0 7 310 295 3 43
7 Harlequins 18 8 0 10 376 354 8 40
8 Bath 18 7 1 10 339 405 7 37
9 Sale 18 7 0 11 346 384 7 35
10 Newcastle 17 7 0 10 349 442 6 34
11 Northampton 17 5 0 12 242 377 6 26
12 Worcester 18 4 1 13 268 383 7 25

Update: 12:45 - the last six minutes of the game are on youtube.

Churchill Cup

The Churchill Cup is coming to England this year, with all the teams at Twickenham on the final day. It should be a real spectacle. The dates are as follows:

England Saxons v. USA at Edgeley Park (Sale) on Friday 18th May (19.45 kick off) Ticket Office: 08712 220 120

Ireland A v. Canada at Sandy Park (Exeter) on Saturday 19th May (20.00 kick off) Ticket Office: 01392 890890

Scotland A v. USA at Henley RFC on Wednesday 23rd May (18.00 kick off) Ticket Office: 01491 574499

New Zealand Maori v. Canada at Franklin's Gardens (Northampton) on Friday 25th May (20.00 kick off) Ticket Office: 01604 581 000

New Zealand Maori v. Ireland A at Sandy Park (Exeter) on Tuesday 29th May (20.00 kick off) Ticket Office: 01392 890890

England Saxons v. Scotland A at Twickenham Stadium on Monday 28th May (15.00 kick off) Ticketmaster: 0870 902 0000

Barclays Churchill Cup Finals Day at Twickenham Stadium (all six teams, kick offs TBA) on Saturday 2nd June Ticketmaster: 0870 902 0000

England vs. Scotland - Women's Six Nations

With all the fuss over Johnny Wilkinson, and the Calcutta Cup match not being a disaster for England, it's easy to overlook the fact that a much more convincing win could be seen this weekend. In the women's six nations, England beat Scotland 60-0.

The matches are not shown on TV, but are available via streaming video, and for download. Whilst I like the download option, it'd be great if the matches were on TV, interleaving with the male games (giving 3 games per day at the weekend). Ah well, I won't hold my breath.

Calcutta Cup

The Six Nations is underway, and England begins with a win of the Calcutta Cup. Whilst a win is a win, there are several aspects of the game that don't sit right. Johnny Wilkinson's try definitely should not have been awarded, on the replay he was clearly in touch - the fourth official got it wrong. In addition, Johnny Wilkinson spent most of the first half bleeding from an open wound and he had blood on his shirt. He should have been sent to the blood bin to get repaired and to change his shirt - that's what it's there for.

The really annoying thing is that he has a place at all, after playing hardly any rugby in the last few months. Why did the place not go to someone like Alex King of Wasps? King has been kicking consistently well - what does it say to the rest of the hopefuls for a place in the national squad that despite how well they perform, someone with a name can keep their place after less than an hour on the pitch? He should have proved himself in his club games first.

It's true that Wilkinson scored a lot of the points, but most of those were down to the set-piece penalty kicks which could have been made by other kickers too. He got one drop goal (lovely) and a try (which he shouldn't have been given.... though it was a sterling effort).

On the upside, he did get stuck in there, and there did seem to be a morale boost from his presence. Don't get me wrong, he did make a great comeback, and in hindsight it was the right decision (before the game, the pub I was in organised a sweepstake on how long Wilkinson would last before injury sent him off!). However, it could so easily have been a disaster. Given the change in the coaching arrangements at England, why did the incoming coach not say 'the priority has to be to rebuild the team from the ground up, to gain experience for the future - even if that's at the expense of the six nations championship', and then start to play some of the younger generation?

When Wilkinson came on, the pub went crazy for a while - in much the same way that people reacted for Rooney in the 2006 world cup. Yes, these players have a lot to bring, and yes, when fit they are worth including... but to play them after injury, when they've not yet proved match fitness?

It all seems rather churlish, given that England did win, but...

Regardless, I've gained confidence that was lacking before, I did think the wooden spoon might be England's fate. Italy looks likely to take that. Where will England come now? It's hard to say... I don't see us winning, but other than that I think it's very open indeed.

We should beat Italy, but the next match is Ireland - that'll be hard fought.

Then it's France. Then Wales.