Ray North’s Six Nation’s Round Up

by Ray_North on March 25, 2015

images-2I am giving myself a pat on the back, because I correctly predicted that the 6 Nations rugby tournament would be dominated by Ireland, Wales and England, with the Irish emerging triumphant – and, in contrast to my rather iffy football predictions, I got this pretty much spot on.

What I didn’t predict was that the last Saturday would provide as good a spectacle of Rugby Union, indeed, Sport as you are likely to find.

It was breathtaking – and it all started with the previous round of matches, when Ireland and Wales threw absolutely everything that thirty grown men can throw at each other (not literally obvs), and provided one of the most wonderful games of rugby you could wish for with Wales coming out on top. After this victory, England, Wales and Ireland were all level on points and it was clear that the championship would be decided on the last day, and would, most likely come down to points difference.

Wales, needed a hatful against, Italy, and in a bizarre match, they duly prevailed, scoring seven tries in the second half in a mesmerizing display of rugby.

That left Ireland in the next game needing to beat the Scots by 30 – no mean feat in Edinburgh, but, as the Scots capitulated, the Irish managed it. This left England needing to beat France by a thirty point margin, and even though they managed to beat the French by a record 55-35, it wasn’t enough.

I have to say, that I was left with a feeling of who cares who won, the most important thing was that the Rugby was of such brilliance and so entertaining, that it didn’t really matter who lifted the trophy at the end of the competition.

But of course, the next competition on the horizon is the World Cup and this 6 Nations will have provided a helpful indication of where each of the teams are.

So, let’s start with Scotland – and, sadly, they haven’t really progressed. Their half-backs are too pedestrian, they backs (Stuart Hogg apart) are too predictable, and their forwards lack the intensity of other packs. There is a good team there somewhere – but, Scotland have yet to find it.
Their player of the tournament is Stuart Hogg, who I just love, though I mention Big Jim Hamilton in dispatches because he always gives his all.

Italy did well against Scotland and England, started to struggle against the Irish and then took a couple of hammerings against France and Wales. They, like Scotland, have yet to produce a half back combination of true international quality, and until they do, their gnarled pack of forwards are going to be continually frustrated. Alas, Italy will struggle at the World Cup unless that is, they come up against a team who are intent on just scrimmaging and doing little else.
Their player of the tournament for me was Giovanbattista Venditti – never stopped trying and scored a great poachers try against Wales.

France were disappointing – and their awfulness was put into perspective every time the BBC cameras focused on an ageing Serge Blanco, who was possibly the greatest back there has ever been and played in a mercurial back line, being forced to watch the mistake ridden collection of overweight cloggers who the French pick these days. True they were game against England, and showed occasional class when they gave the Italians a spanking in Rome, but, until the French go back to doing what they do best – that is run the ball and enjoy the spontaneity that true skill can bring, then they are going to continue to struggle.
I can’t see them doing much at the World Cup.
Their player of the tournament was their horrible ugly hooker Guihelm Guirado – scary great oaf.

Wales started well against England, then after a good ten minutes, they were rubbish for the next seventy. Cue, much wailing and gnashing of team over here, but, to be fair, Gatland changed his tactics, gee’d up the lads and they duly won their next four games, including the game of the tournament against Ireland. They still struggle in the scrum and occasionally kick away too much ball, but on the whole Wales are in great shape for the World Cup and will give England and Australia a very very tough contest in the ‘group of death.’images-4
Player of the tournament, Sam Warburton the type of captain who you would have followed over the top at the Somme – truly inspirational.

England played well throughout and should be proud of their efforts – coming second behind the brilliant Irish is not to be sniffed at, and the fact that their President has said that coming second is unacceptable is more a sign of his cluelessness and general arrogance than English failure. They will do well in the World Cup, but, will they win it? Nuh. Not quite enough guile and in Chris Robshaw they have a journeyman at open side, when geniuine world cup contenders almost always have a stallion.images-3
The English Player of the tournament was Jonathan Joesph what a find he’s turned out to be.

Ireland, as I predicted, won the Championship, and did so playing a brand of rugby that was belligerent, well organized, and, at times, rampant. They have a wonderful back row of O’Brian, O’Mahony and Heaslip (which if you were to go over the top with Warburton, you’d definitely want in front of you) and a dazzling front five in which Paul O’Connell is still simply immense. I like their half-backs a lot and in Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne they appear to have replaced O’Driscoll and D’Arcy in a seamless way.
They are, to my mind, the most likely Northern Hemisphere team to win the World Cup, and if it isn’t to be Wales, I’ll be supporting the Irish all the way.
Player of the tournament – Paul O’Connell, can do no wrong in my book.

Ray North’s Team of the Tournament:

15: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
14: Yohann Huget (France)
13: Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
12: Jonathan Joseph (England)
11: Jack Nowell (England)
10: George Ford (England)
9: Connor Murray (Ireland)
1: Gethin Jenkins (Wales)
2: Guilhelm Guirrado (France)
3: Mike Ross (Ireland)
4: Paul O’Connell (Ireland)
5: Alun Wyn-Jones (Wales)
6: Peter O’Mahony (Ireland)
7: Sam Warburton (Wales)
8: Billy Vunipola (England)

Ray North’s Moment of the Six Nations (off the pitch)
My mate Big Billy Greenhoff, trying to play the Bag Pipes in the Fiddler’s Elbow of the Grass Market in Edinburgh – you can’t write comedy like it.

Ray North’s Moment of the Six Nations (on the pitch)
The awarding of a penalty to Wales on the Welsh goal-line after they withheld thirty one phases of Irish pressure – a truly wonderful period of rugby.

Bring on the World Cup!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Eddie Kaye March 26, 2015 at 9:34 am

What a tournament, what a finish.

Moment on the field for me was Jamie Heaslip’s try saver against Scotland when a try was the only logical outcome (I think Hogg was the wouldbe scorer). The commentary team used the phrase ‘championship saving tackle’, how apt.

Closely followed by Nigel Evans’ verbal slap down on Chris Robshaw – ‘Christopher!’, made me chuckle.

Moan of the tournament was Scotland reacting to 3 narrow defeats (including a jammy one by Italy) and a second half fightback from England by taking a giant leap backwards against Ireland.

Can’t disagree with too many of your team of the tournament. I think concussions aside, Halfpenny and North would get in, similarly Mike Brown would be pushing for a place. I would probably swap Heaslip for Vunipola. Devin Toner deserves at least an honourable mention in dispatches.

Great tournament.


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