What we’ve learned from the Six Nations so far
This weekend sees a break in the Six Nations action in what has already been an action packed tournament.
In the first two weeks, England have started as they mean to go on with two impressive victories – a 32-20 win over Six Nations favourites, Ireland, and a thumping 44-8 victory over France, which marked the team’s biggest win against the French in over a century.
So, while the game will be sorely missed from our screens this weekend, we pause for thought and look at what action the 2019 Six Nations has already thrown up and answer some big questions…
Can England win the Grand Slam?
The early wins over Ireland and France has certainly left England in high spirits and bodes well for the 2019 World Cup. If they were to go on and win the Grand Slam, they would certainly be amongst the favourites heading to Japan.
They can’t rest on their laurels though as next up is a tricky trip to Wales. The only other team left in the competition who can also win the Grand Slam, if England get through this one unscathed it is hard to see anyone stopping them.
However, a win in Cardiff won’t be easy to come by particularly as England have now lost one of their best players for the rest of the competition. Loosehead prop, Mako Vunipola was man of the match in the opening game against Ireland but has since damaged ligaments in his ankle. His absence could be a big factor on whether England end up as Grand Slam winners or not.
Is this the best Wales team ever?
Wales have been equally as impressive as England with only two bonus points separating the two in the standings. Wales’ 26-15 win over Italy was their 11th consecutive Test victory leading to claims by England coach Eddie Jones that the current crop of Wales’ players is the best to ever play the game.
Whether this statement is Jones trying to play mind games with the Welsh or he legitimately believes it is unclear, but it has certainly gone on to spark a big debate among rugby fans.
While Warren Gatland’s team has undoubtedly impressed over the last year, the consensus among most fans of the sport is that to be regarded the best welsh team of all-time they will have to prove themselves against New Zealand (the current World Champions) and win a major honour such as the Six Nations or the World Cup.
Has Ireland’s title defence already come to an end?
Last year Ireland blew everyone away by winning the Grand Slam in style, including a 24-15 win over England. Ahead of this year’s Six Nations, Ireland were among the favourites going into the opening game against England with many people stating that the winner of this game would go on to win the entire competition.
It was England who came out on top and this early setback is sure to have knocked the confidence of the Irish. A narrow win over Scotland followed, but they still find themselves six points behind England. Clearly there is still a lot of rugby to be played but Ireland manager Joe Schmidt has already hinted that his side’s attentions are firmly on the World Cup, meaning they may not be quite so attentive in the Six Nations.
What can we expect when the Six Nations returns?
Simply put, more of the same. The next round of fixtures sees France take on Scotland, where the Scots are marginal favourites, but you can be sure that France will want to put right the humbling they received from England, and on home turf they could be a force to be reckoned with.
Ireland travel to Italy in what is probably the easiest match to predict. Italy is traditionally the weakest team in the Six Nations, and they have continued this precedent losing both their matches so far. If Ireland don’t get maximum points here, they’ll be disappointed.
Then comes the stand-out game of the weekend. Wales vs England at the Principality Stadium. Whoever comes out on top here will be in the driving seat to lift the Six Nations trophy with just two matches remaining.