Phil Vickery Reports: Showstopping Opening for the Greatest Rugby Tournament in the World

I might be biased – oh alright – I am biased but I honestly believe there is nothing like the Six Nations.  For all the kids out there who watch this competition and maybe don’t know the history, believe me the rivalry goes back a long, long way!  It is unique with its structure which means some years are harder than others to win as you have more away games and virtually every game has a real derby atmosphere.  At stake is the opportunity to win a Grand Slam which means your team has won everyone of their games and believe me Grand Slams are difficult and don’t come around that often for any of the teams.

This weekend was a classic opener with that incredible Irish win over Wales at their own home stadium in Cardiff which just goes to show the beauty of the competition.  If you did not see the amazing bit of skill from the Irish player Simon Zebo where he managed to catch hold of a poor pass by flicking the ball up into his arms with his back foot then check out  You Tube – it is well worth a watch!

And of course everyone loves an underdog so the Italians beating one of the favourites to the Grand Slam title was a highlight.  The French were like 15 blokes standing around waiting for someone else to do something instead of taking on responsibility themselves.  Italy by contrast  put more variety and pace into their game than I have ever seen from them alongside their normal bucket loads of passion.

For England this was a coming of age and what I especially enjoyed was watching how some of the very young inexperienced guys responded under pressure.  It is tough in life to perform when you are under pressure  but those England players never dropped their heads and even when they let in a try I saw no change of attitude and no panic.  A great lesson for any young aspiring player to remember.

It was great for me to be at Twickenham and see the match first hand and also to hear the crowd totally behind their team.  I got goosebumps hearing the famous ‘Swing Low’ being belted out at full voice and how wonderful that England gave the crowd plenty to shout about.

With only two teams – Ireland and England – now able to win the Grand Slam,  next Sunday’s game in Dublin between these two takes on the feel of a final and should be a momentous occasion.  Playing in Dublin is no easy task but England have developed into a team with real self belief.  The precocious Own Farrell was ice cool on Saturday and also pleasingly took a real step forward in managing the game.  I also rated the contribution of the forwards (well I would say that wouldn’t I!) with the captain Chris Robshaw having an outstanding game.  A win next week is certainly achievable as long as England do not get too far ahead of themselves but somehow I get the sense with this particular team they won’t be doing that and will be totally  focused for that big clash in Dublin.

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