Grand weekend for a slam… by Phil Vickery

After the fireworks of last weekend we were treated this week to more – shall we say – ‘traditional’ Six Nations rugby. The rain in Dublin, which was truly awful, and pitch conditions in France would not have helped but Scotland aside we did not see an awful lot of running rugby. Not that I am complaining as to me the scrum is a thing of beauty!

Hopefully the lack of tries would not have put too many casual viewers off watching the Ireland v England game because it was in reality one of those titanic, physical and tense affairs. I think we learnt an enormous amount about our young England side out in Dublin. We know they have composure, mental toughness and good enough technical skills and game management to not crumble in a pressure cooker situation.  Although both sides made plenty of mistakes, Ireland seemed to make most of them in England’s half, giving England the opportunity to take early points.

Nothing particularly went Ireland’s way, particularly with injuries and loosing their fly half Jonny Sexton was a real touch of bad luck however I felt England were immensely physical and relentless in causing pressure which created a lot of the Irish errors. Chris Robshaw to me was outstanding – a total Rolls Royce of a player – smoothly going about his business with such class. In the scrum young Joe Marler had his opposite number Mike Ross on the rack. However, credit to Mike who did what all top-class pros do and changed his technique in the second half which resulted in two straight penalty scrum awards to Ireland.

All in all it is another tick in the box in the development of this inexperienced England side which now makes the next game at Twickenham against the French an enticing prospect. Ah the French. What on earth do you make of them? Sublime in the Autumn and this weekend looking like 15 blokes who had not met each other before the game.

I thought Wales however thoroughly deserved the win as although they started cagily they developed in confidence and showed real self-belief towards the end scoring a cracking try to edge the win. For any young player out there it is worth watching George North’s finish in slow motion to see how a top-class winger finishes off a try in the corner.

Scotland showed us what they were capable of with ball in had for the first time for a while and it was good to see! You have got to feel for the Italians being unable to capitalise on their stunning win last week, but they did not get to grips with some interesting refereeing and Scotland were unbelievably physical at the breakdown.

Unusually, we are now only two weekends in and only one team can gain the coveted Grand Slam, but in this 2013 Six Nations we have already seen three upsets so I am wondering whether there could still be a few more twists and turns to come.

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