So the first weekend of the Six Nations is over, and it came with some almost surprises along the way. England triumphed in Cardiff, whilst reigning champions Ireland struggled to victory in Rome, and France were unconvincing in their win against brave Scotland.
Wales V England
On paper, Wales had this match squared away and won before it had even started. Their star-studded line up featured the all-familiar names that send shivers down the spines of all Englishmen and women.
Led out by the impressive Warburton, and paired with Lydiate and Faletau in the back row, the forwards looked to threaten even England’s impressive pack. In the backs, Lions Man of the Series, Halfpenny, stood at fallback, with recently recovered North on the wing. With Davies and Cuthbert in the centres, Wales were a sure favourite to win.
But it wasn’t to be. Despite a mash of talent in the England team, with some third and fourth choices starting due to injury, they managed to pull together to give a convincing performance that told the rest of the world that England can perform despite injuries. There was some questionable kicking game that will need to be addressed, but for a team that has barely played together, it was a sight to behold.
Still lacking the creativity in the backs that English fans are so desperately crying for, England managed to get off two wonderful tries. Two more were disallowed as Haskell ran into the post (which has since been renamed the ‘Sixteenth man’ of the Welsh team) and some unfortunate crossing denying another try at the end of the game.
But a win is a win, and England look to face Italy next Saturday.
Italy V Ireland
The score does not do hardworking Italy justice. With an impressive 205 tackles made the Italians forced the Irish to run into a wall of blue over and over and over.
Ireland seemed to struggled to adapt to the post Brian O’Driscoll era, and despite hugely talented centres, failed to make any convincing breaks worthy of the reigning champions. The game barely picked up as the Italian defence kept knocking back any attempts by Ireland to advance. The attack was flat and uninspiring, something that was not expected from usually the most creative of the Northern Hemispheres teams.
Italy, always the underdog, and in dire need of a win just couldn’t hold onto possession long enough to create the magic they needed. Not a word can be said against their work ethic, and it would be foolish to not consider them a threat in this series. Italy are waiting for that all important win, and then I have no doubt, we will see what they are really made of.
Ireland will need to hit a score fast and early in their next match against France if they have any hope of retaining their title.
France V Scotland
Stade de France
Ill discipline was the reason for this Scottish loss. Showing a fire and passion that has been absent for some time, Scotland attempted to beat a questionable French side.
Stuart Hogg was the man of the hour for Scotland as he put in the performance of his life, managing to be everywhere at once, all whilst making sure that France never felt fully safe when the ball was in his hands. It was refreshing to see such a vibrant Scottish side, daring to be creative and inspiring in its play.
The French, however, seemed to stumble out of the starting blocks only really picking up towards the end of the game. As always, a convincing French performance is a 50/50 chance and they seemed to leave a lot to be desired after Saturday’s performance. This is not to say they should be counted out of the running’s yet. Precise kicking meant they came away with the win, and if the only way is up for France, then they could be a real contender for this year’s crown.
Scotland still have a lot to prove, but will relish the challenge against the Welsh giants next Sunday, hoping to come away with a much needed win.
Follow Lucy on Twitter @lucyvictoria44
Images courtesy of BBC Sport and Getty Images