Well, the 2013 Six Nations has come to an end, and it wasn’t one for the ages, with match quality been poor. It was exciting in a sense that the tournament decider came down to the last weekend, but even that game turned into a horrible mismatch.
Wales, the 2012 Grand Slam winners, had a poor opening game against Ireland. Since winning the Grand Slam, they had suffered a horrendous series of results, losing 7 games in a row. They looked to be on a hiding to nothing.
Instead they bounced back, remaining undefeated throughout the rest of the tournament, and showing a return to the form that had won them the Grand Slam. Their only competition for the championship came to be from England.
England came into the final weekend the only team to remain undefeated. Though their style of play was not nearly as open as the Welsh’s running rugby, it was getting the job done. They were going for their first Grand Slam since 2003.
The decider seemed to be anybodies but it soon turned into a complete drubbing. England’s inexperience was laid bear, and the country suffered its worst ever result against Wales, their sole points coming from an Owen Farrell penalty.
Wales, on the other hand, were sublime. Their pack were completely dominant, while their backs showed the form which will see most of them line out in red in the summer, representing the Lions.
The Welsh even surpassed their illustrious fore-bearers of the ‘70’s, by winning back-to-back titles. Though England were wiped off the park, they shouldn’t let it take away from their achievement, in winning the other 4 games.
In the other games over the weekend, France went some ways towards salvaging their season by managing a win against Scotland, their first win of the tournament. They still finished at the bottom of the table, their poorest result since 1999.
In the last 2 Six Nations, since Phillipe Saint-Andre became coach, they’ve only managed to win 3 of 10 games, drawing 2, and losing 5. These are poor results for a team that won the Grand Slam as closely as 2010.
Scotland have done ok for a team that is in a period of change. They finished 3rd in the 6 Nations table, beating Italy on points difference. Their win over Ireland was the high point, while they came close against France, England and Wales.
Scotland put in their best performance in the tournament in years. In fact, it may have even been their best performance in the 6 Nations, since it started in 2000, and their best performance since winning the last 5 Nations, in 1999.
Italy had a great tournament, capped off by their first ever 6 Nations win against Ireland, and their first win over Ireland since 1997. They provided the most excitement in this year’s tournament, with their win over France, in the first game.
Italy do have weaknesses, though. Despite gaining the most possession of any team, over all the matches, they still found it difficult to score points. This was highlighted against Ireland, when, despite playing against 13 men at one stage, and a disjoined Irish back-line, they still only managed to finish the game, 22-15.
Ireland, after starting so well against Wales, turned out to have a disasterorous tournament, typified by poor performances and horrendous run of injuries. The Italian game proved to be the worst of the lot, in both aspects, almost reaching farcical proportions.
Ireland’s lineout was poor, and the back-line showed little imagination, and discipline was poor, with 3 yellow cards been given. But it is the dreadful run of injuries for which the game will be remembered, 2 of which occurred in the same position.
Keith Earls was the first to have to leave the field, only for his replacement, Luke Fitzgerald to have to leave barely 10 minutes later. This left flanker, Peter O’Mahony to fill the role, as Ireland had no more backs to fill in on the wing.
Incidentally, the majority of Ireland’s injuries this season have occurred in the backs. This is due in some part to the fact that Ireland’s backs are physically smaller, on average than the backs of other countries.
Centre Luke Marshall, after getting concussed in the last game against France, received another concussion and had to go off. Marshall should never have been playing. As happened against France, out-half replacement Ian Madigan came on to replace him, and did quite well given the circumstances.
Ireland’s frustration with their poor performance and injury problems manifested itself in 3 yellow cards, including a first for Brian O’Driscoll, for stamping. He has since received a 3 week ban.
2 of the yellow cards were given within the space of 10 minutes, leaving Ireland with only 13 men to hold off the Italian offence. Considering this, and the makeshift backline, Ireland did very well to finish the game so close.
Ireland, though have few positives to take away from this year’s tournament. Sean O’Brien enhanced his reputation with some powerful running. Paddy Jackson, after an awkward start grew into the role of out-half. But there were far too many negatives.
It looks like Declan Kidney may have coached his final game for Ireland. There’s talk of him been released before Ireland’s tour of the Americas in the summer, with a new coach taking over then.