What a tournament the Six Nations is; steeped in history and full of fierce national rivalries. I loved playing in it and I love watching it. Now, we are seeing the birth of a potentially great England side. I know it has been said a lot, but look at the lack of age and experience in the squad and think about how good they will be by 2019.
Scotland had a good win last weekend, which was heartening to see after their pretty disastrous first two games. As for Wales, they delivered for their coach and, after two below par games by their standards, put in a massive performance that made France look hapless.
It was a cracker of a match between England and Ireland at Twickenham. It was a match between two fantastic sides with Ireland putting England under enormous pressure. England played like a team who trusted each other and showed they have learnt how to stay calm when the scoreboard doesn’t favour them. Ireland definitely got the nudge in the scrum however.
One lad I think is destined for greatness is strapping lock, Joe Launchbury. While full back Mike Brown was magnificent, for me, Joe stood out. Did you see some of the hits he put in? The man was relentless and after a gut-busting 60 minutes at lock, he then played in the back row and managed a try-saving tap tackle.
I first met Joe as a raw 18-year-old at Wasps. He was quiet, unassuming and reminded me a bit of Simon Shaw. Locks often mature later, so when you think how young he is, we haven’t seen the best of him yet.
Another forward who stood out was the monstrous Bill Vunipola. What a weapon to have! Having a player of the calibre of Ben Morgan as a replacement shows this England side are building serious depth.
Looking ahead, there is no Grand Slam, but four potential Championship winners. I suspect Ireland’s points difference will help them nail the title, but England vs. Wales will be thunderous. Wales are such a good side with the advantage of being more settled and more experienced. I have a slight concern with Jonny May on the wing with Alex Cuthbert of George North targeting him but I think he can rise to it and it will be so exciting seeing him meet that challenge.
Wales are a different side to Ireland, with a raw physicality to their game. They will try to out-muscle England at the breakdown like they did last year. It goes without saying that we have to make sure this does not happen. Rugby Union is a very hard game to play if you can’t win your ball at the breakdown and get nothing on the front foot. It means everything else breaks down with the backs losing those valuable seconds to distribute the ball. I am confident our back row will have learnt from last year. Overall, our pack is much improved and a pretty formidable unit in its own right.
There will be lots of column inches about this game and when players are interviewed they will dutifully say it isn’t a grudge match. However, make no mistake that when Wales arrive at Twickenham next week, those 80 minutes on the pitch will be war.
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