So back to the fray of the 6N this weekend, and I reckon that we could be in for a barnstorming affair! With the fixture of England Vs Italy set to one side, there are some very tasty games afoot.
After the last outings, the Scots are going to be seeking retribution for their narrow loss against France and I get the feeling that despite the strong performance the Welsh put in against England, the Wales boys should probably be looking over their shoulders when they pitch up at Murrayfield.
The loss of Greig Laidlaw is going to have done the Scots no favours, but this is a Scottish team that now has a fairly decent depth of talent, to be able to plaster over the cracks of war and get back to task without too much upheaval in the system. Back row, John Barclay should slide nicely into the captaincy role and lead his men with much of the brutal physicality he displays himself on the pitch. I think Jeremy Guscott described it pretty well when he picked his 6N “hyenas”, of which Barclay was one, as the guys who spend “half their lives buried up to their waists in the bloody carcass of the ruck”. The whole Scotland team are displaying these levels of intensity currently and despite taking a physical mauling from the French a fortnight ago, they stood up to the test and refused to be bludgeoned off the pitch. With this in mind, the home advantage and the fact that they are currently level points with this weekend’s opposition, they are going to come out hammer and tongs to make it happen.
It will be no picnic for the scots as we saw the Welsh throwing down the gauntlet against England, with a showing that for many parts of the game that was equal to or better than that of England. What they did lack and may be sole loose thread the scots are going to pick at, was the ability to keep their heads under the highest pressure and it broke them. England will currently refuse to lie down and accept defeat until the job is done, and it is that ‘can do’, ‘WILL DO’, mentality that is picking off opposition one by one. Guscott didn’t pick a hyena from the Wales squad that I would have done after his performance against England, and that was Ross Moriarty, I mean, what an outstanding performance. For Faletau to be taking up a position warming the bench despite being fit, you know that Moriarty’s performance was ‘next level’ for Wales a fortnight ago. If Barclay is going to be hip deep in the ruck, then Moriarty will be there right next to him up roughing up the opposition and undoubtedly looking to stamp his authority on his right to be a regular name.
The game I am slightly (and I do mean by the tightest of margins) more excited about this weekend is the Ireland France fixture. What an explosive game this should be. Despite the first week loss, Ireland are still in dominant form at the moment and after the absolute drubbing they inflicted on Italy, they will have taken that “training session” as an opportunity to rebuild, experiment and come back stronger for their next stern test. CJ Stander will be a ‘watch man’ for the French and if he displays anything near the form he had against (admittedly a fairly woeful) Italy, then he will be a massive threat. France are extremely powerful in the pack and I don’t expect this to be a game of free-flowing for the better part but a game played through gritted teeth, stretched sinew and battered bodies by the time the full-time whistle has blown. It should be a corker.
England Italy; what can be said, probably not much, unless the wheels fall off the sweet chariot or Twickenham ends up under six feet of water, there is probably only one result to be taken from this game. The question on the lips of most people will probably be not if England will win, but will they win by a margin greater than the Irish inflicted? That will be the measure of this match in terms of relevance to the competition. The only real surprise at this game is the omission of Jonathan Joseph from the starting XV, but we could expect more shakeups as Eddie gives some more game time to fringe players in light of the opposition. Mako Vunipola is fit again, so we can probably expect a bit of game time for him.
Whatever string of the current England training squad rock up to start this game, you can pretty much guarantee it will be enough to over the Azzurri by quite some margin.
Have a great weekend. Enjoy.