Well, Declan Kidney has made no changes to the team that were meant to face France 2 weeks ago, for Ireland’s match against Italy tomorrow (1.30 on RTE 2). This team is pretty much our best team at the moment, and I feel it’s a mistake to leave it as is.
With the rescheduled match against France to take place on the 4th March, Ireland will have 4 matches in as many weeks, with no breaks. The first game is against Italy, than France, than Scotland and, finally, England.
We’ll need our best players for the matches against France and England, if we are to have any chance of winning those games, and Scotland won’t be a walk-over, either. Playing the same players without a break will reduce the chances of them been 100% for the big games, and thus reduce the chances of winning.
I would have liked to see Kidney be a little more experimental with the team to play Italy, bring in new players to try them out against an opposition that shouldn’t be as tough. This would also give the senior players a bit of a rest ahead of the tougher tests.
Having said that, Ireland will really need to put a big performance against Italy, to get our 6 Nations back on track. We can no longer win the Grand Slam, put the 6 Nations title is still up for grabs, and scoring maximum points against Italy will give us a boost.
Neither France, nor England, looked particularly impressive against Italy, so Ireland have a real chance of showing their mettle. We beat Italy in the World Cup by 36-6, and we should be looking to better that.
Also, as the 6 Nations could very well be decided on points difference (I don’t think any team will achieve the Grand Slam this year) the more points we score against Italy, the better. We have to win this game, and by a lot of points!
Italy were very unlucky against England, 2 weeks ago. They were much the better side, and scored 2 great tries towards the end of the first half of the match. Unfortunately, Italy couldn’t get clear ahead of England and let them back in the game.
England scraped through to win the game in a very close game. England have been pretty poor so far in the Six Nations, this year. They were lacklustre against Scotland, and even worse against Italy.
They were always going to be slow to get into a stride, given their many problems at the moment, but players seem to be without much motivation. They will have a very tough time against Wales, who are on a real roll at the moment.
Wales actually have a very poor record in Twickenham (where the match is due to be played, Saturday 4-ish). They’ve only won 1 match there, in the last 23 years. That was the year Wales won the Grand Slam, 2008.
The 23 year span is ironic, as before that, England hadn’t won a match in Cardiff for 30 years, since the! Strangely enough, despite the long spans, the record of results is very even between the sides: played 122, Wales won 54, England 56, drawn 12.
At the moment, Wales are a much better, more experienced side, with some real stars which England can’t match. Especially now that they’re pretty much back to full strength, with captain Sam Warburton back in the team.
England are playing with a new out-half in Owen Farrell, in his 3rd cap. Farrell played at centre against Scotland and Italy, and he was one of the better players. He’s actually the son of former Rugby League star Andy Farrell, who’s now England’s backs coach.
I’m not saying anything, but Owen Farrell is about 19, and his father’s around 35/36, which means Andy Farrell had a son before he started playing for Wigan, when he was 17.
Anyways, with Farrell in the team, ahead of Charlie Hodgson, who’s out with an injury, England should have a little more adventure in the back line. Hodgson was quite poor in his first two games, and it’s no wonder, really, that these were his first games for England in 4 years! (though he did scored England’s only tries in the tournament, so far. And both tries came from blocking down clearance kicks).
Wales were quite complacent against Scotland, in there match 2 weeks ago. They were very slow to get into the game, and Scotland were able to stifle any running they tried. The 1st half finished 3-all, and the game looked like it could go either way.
Wales came back with some nice tries in the 2nd half, but Scotland didn’t disgrace themselves, though they were let down by ill-discipline (2 players were sin-binned within 10 minutes of each other, so Scotland played some of the 2nd half with 13 players).
They weren’t helped either by the fact that they took to the field without a recognised goal-kicker, which is lunacy in today’s game. Luckily for them, Greig Laidlaw had a great game at out-half, and managed to get most of his kicks. Laidlaw is actually one of the few players that can play at scrum-half as well.
Wales should be more ready against England, with both teams going for a Triple Crown, though England still have to beat Ireland to achieve this. It should be a great game, I expect Wales to put in a masterful performance.
Scotland will have a very tough time against France, when they play on Sunday, at Stade Francais at around 3.30. Scotland have only beaten France once in the last 12 years (since the 6 Nations started) and most of the losses they’ve suffered have been very one-sided.
France weren’t completely dominant against Italy, though, and not having a match against Ireland means they should be rustier for the game. Scotland showed against Wales that they can stay with a better side if they match up to them.
Scotland should put in a good show, but I see France been dominant. Scotland need to watch the discipline as it’s costing them a lot of chances.
Should be a great weekend of rugby.