Six Nations 2007

The End of the Six Nations

Though the England game was fairly academic (and the less said about it the better, Wales deserved the win) - the other two games were fascinating. It could not have been a more climatic end finale. Ireland beat Italy quite comfortably, but it wasn't enough to beat them, they had to gain a bigger points difference than France overall. This meant that that had to beat Italy by at least four points more than France beat Scotland by. The Irish won by 51 to 24, a margin of 27. This meant that France needed 24 points more than Scotland to win, 23 points for the result to be decided by the next column in the table (I forget which) and 22 to come second.

In the final seconds, with the French not having enough points on the board, the ball was bundled over the line. A try would have seen France win the 6 nations (short of a miracle in the as yet unplayed England match). The ref said that he saw a grounding of the ball, but given the import asked the television match official if there was any reason why he could not award a try. The TMO, being Irish, must have been in a quite uncomfortable position, damned either way. If he found in favour of France, he will not please folks back home, and if he found in favour of Scotland (and hence Ireland) there might be accusations of bias. He was helped that the referee asked him why he should not award a try, rather than if he should.

The decision was in favour of France, and they took the tournament.

It was just unfortunate that by the time the England game had finished, the Stadium had emptied - which took away somewhat from the presentation somewhat, however, there is little that can be done about that, I think.

I wasn't going to talk about the England game, but I will say this. When an English player dropped the ball for it to bounce backward, the Welsh commentator was saying it was knocked on, pointing out that it bounced. All of his colleagues pointed out that it bounced backwards (it was a knock, but not 'on'). He complained that he was 'surrounded by English' (i.e. he was right, everyone else was wrong). When a Welsh player did a similar thing later, he was fast to point out that it had to be 'on'. Given that the alternative commentary was from Radio Wales, where was the commentary from people not on the Welsh side? I don't want commentary that's noticeably favouring one team on a UK wide channel, but if that has to be the case, then why does the Welsh commentator take priority in England?

On the whole, it wasn't a big problem. It did grate a bit though, as did the 'it doesn't matter that we played badly all competition, as long as we beat the English' type of attitude. Perhaps I'm getting a bit more touchy as the only part of the UK without a parliament or even an assembly!

No Grand Slam this year

Thanks to England's 26-18 victory over France, there will be no Grand Slam winner in 2007. Far more to the point is that the Six Nations is wide open. All three games matter next week. In the England-France game, Geraghty played a blinder, and I'm happy that it looks like he'll be on International duty when Wasps play Irish next week, the run which resulted in a try from Tindall was wonderful. Additionally Mike Catt acquitted himself well. Quin's David Strettle looked good too.

The Six Nations as of 11th March ‘07
  Team
P
W
D
L
F
A
PTS
1 France 4 3 0 1 109 67 6
2 Ireland 4 3 0 1 98 60 6
3 England 4 3 0 1 101 88 6
4 Italy 4 2 0 2 70 96 4
5 Scotland 4 1 0 3 76 107 2
6 Wales 4 0 0 4 59 95 0

Next week, we see Italy vs. Ireland, France vs. Scotland and then Wales vs. England

Ireland, France and England all have a shot at the championship.

The Ireland game a few weeks ago looked like a dead cert for Ireland. I still think they'll win it, but it's not as easy a bet as it once was - Italy have played well in the past couple of games. So, I think it'll be an Irish win, but I'll be hoping for Italy.

With France vs. Scotland, a French win should be the result, but I'll be hoping for Scotland.

With England vs. Wales, and English win should happen, and it's the result I want - however, there is nothing set in stone until the final whistle.

Considering where England were going into these championships, it's remarkable to still be in the running, even with this tenuous grip on the situation.

If memory serves, in the event of a draw in the points, it goes to the points difference from the game.

Let's assume that the winners of these matches are Ireland, France and England.

France are currently on a points difference of 41, Ireland are on 38 and England 13. This means that if those three countries all win, England must have a margin that is at least 28 points more than the French, or 25 more than the Irish.

It's a big ask, and we need a lot to go England's way for that to happen. The ideal is for both France and Ireland to lose, and for England to win - or for England to win by a huge margin.

Or both.

Come on Italy! Come on Scotland! Seize the Spoon, Wales!

Ireland vs. France at Croke Park

For a historic occasion, with the first 'foreign' game at Croke Park, the game was worthy. It was close to the wire all the way, and either side could have taken it. Ireland drove the maul and won a penalty with minutes to go when France collapsed the maul. This took them 4 points ahead, with an almost assured victory. That is until France scored a try in the closing seconds.

Whilst it's not the fairy tale result for Ireland, both teams played well - and both teams, on current form, look like they'll be able to comfortably tackle everything else before them.

On the 24th, England play Ireland at Croke park, and France play Wales. Both England and Wales look set to have a really hard time of it.

England vs. Italy

Watching the England vs. Italy game today, it really emphasised how overhyped England was last week. Apart from the first 10 minutes (which I missed) we had one try which should not have been given as it resulted from a forward pass. Everything else (after the first 10 minutes) came from mistakes made and penalties awarded.

The only points put on the board 'by right', rather than as the result of error, were Italian.

This doesn't bode well, but the scoreline does place us in a reasonable position to avoid the wooden spoon.

Still to come we have France, Ireland and Wales. Based on current performances, I don't hold much hope for us in the games against France and Ireland. I'd love to be wrong.

In the women's game, the score was 23-0 to England. The women's game is available on 247.tv

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.

Six Nations

With the Six Nations starting at the weekend, I thought it might be nice to link to this introduction to the game...

Being a northern european tournament we'll have to wait for the World Cup to see the likes of the Haka (seen here with a Tongan reply).

... unless, the scots start to do a Mel Gibson type thing....? .... or a Carry on up the Khyber type thing!