The Tournament, which ended on Saturday, was rich in lessons. With just over five months to go before the World Cup, Europe’s elite nations are not all at the same point.
The good and the bad students. The Six Nations Tournament ended on Saturday March 18 with Ireland’s triumph over England. World number one, the XV of Clover honored its status as favorite, by signing the fourth Grand Slam in its history, ahead of the Blues, defending champions. The selections are now starting the countdown which should lead them to the World Cup in France (from September 8 to October 28). Here are the report cards for each team:
Ireland: congratulations from the jury
The XV of Clover is surrounded by certainties. Grand Slam in his pocket, he impressed. With an oiled collective, combining power and game intelligence, Ireland looks like an insoluble puzzle for its opponents. Scotland and France believed they could compete, Italy broke their teeth there, Wales were swept away at home and England also gave in to the men in green. Andy Farrell’s proteges recited their rugby, not only bagging five wins but also four attacking bonuses. Almost perfect.
A defeat against Ireland, after 14 successes in a row, and doubts began to arise around the XV of France, especially after a messy copy brought back from Rome (29-24). But on March 11 in London, the troop of Antoine Dupont regained its genius and its status as favorite of the World Cup, after a brilliant and historic victory over England (53-10). In retrospect, this defeat in Ireland may have served more than anything else. To scatter England at Twickenham for example. The ultimate victory over Wales, allows to maintain high hopes for the big meeting of the end of the year. Because a second place with a single defeat, on an edition with three trips, is not nothing.
Once again, the XV du Chardon is progressing. Once again, it also seems to show its limits. Despite their best ranking (third) in the tournament since 2018, the Scots do not seem able to break through their glass ceiling. The new figures of the selection are needed little by little, but still seem dependent on individual exploits. The victory against the Welsh bears the seal of Finn Russell, that against England owes much to the power of Duhan Van der Merwe, and that against Italy to the efficiency of Blair Kinghorn.
England: get to work!
Accustomed to the leading roles, the XV of the Rose played dunces. Beaten twice at home, the English are no longer scary. First defeated by the Scots, they exploded against the French, who had not won at home since 2007. The bottom line is long overdue. We had to go back to basic rugby to win against the Italians and the Welsh. New coach Steve Borthwick’s paw is not yet visible. The ultimate defeat in Dublin against the Irish slams, was not enough to restore their image. Owen Farrell symbolizes, like some executives, an English team that can no longer do it. To move forward, we will have to redouble our efforts.
Wales: very insufficient
Warren Gatland, coach of the four Tournaments won between 2008 and 2019, returned to restore the image of his country for this Tournament. But nothing has changed for the Leek XV. He bowed four times without giving the impression of being level. The context of crisis in the federation did not help and the players came close to a strike against England. Former reference in defense, semi-finalist of the last World Cup 2019, the Welsh team is only a shadow of itself. In five months, can Warren Gatland put his band back on track?
Italy finished last in the tournament, with the wooden spoon as a bonus. For the seventh time in the last eight editions. But not everything is to be thrown away Blue Team. Ireland and France were frightened by an organized team that was fun to watch. Italy can rely on a generation involved in an ambitious project. Unfortunately, Kieran Crowley’s players fell back into their ways against the Welsh, wasting many opportunities. They were also too limited against the Scots.