After the phony war which involved more one liners from Eddie Jones than you get at a comedy festival plus countless newspaper columns of analysis – it was a relief to finally get down to the action!
Did anyone see that draw coming in Dublin? No me neither but it did feel fair given how both Wales and Ireland played. I was impressed with Ireland and the way they defended against such a strong Wales side. There were a lot of gloomy Irish fans I spoke to last week who could only see a loss so a draw is not such a bad result. Wales and Warren Gatland I know will be giving themselves the proverbial kicking as they could have won that and set themselves up for the Grand Slam but now only France and England are in the hunt for that title.
My heart went out to Italian captain Sergio Parisee in the match in Paris. He must be bent double carrying that Italian team for so long and it was only his burning desire to keep doing that that led to that dramatic attempt at a drop goal. Not sure what was going through his head though as a number 8 as even the world’s best fly halves struggle to nail those. We can all remember Jonny’s last minute kick in the world cup – even Jonny with all his practice was not sure he had done it. So, some heartbreak for the Italians who played incredibly well and may give England a real game when they are back in Rome next week.
France under their new coach did somethings right but an awful lot wrong. What has happened to their scrum? When I first started playing we all used to fear the French scrum and the enormous pack but a bit like England have lost that fearsome reputation.
And England up in Scotland facing bagpipes, boos and Braveheart managed to do pretty well. I was lucky enough to be up at Murrayfield wrapped up in my Raging Bull jacket of course and to be honest despite being an Englishman I find the stadium a joy to go to. Amazingly passionate fans desperate to give the old foe a beating creates the most tremendous atmosphere. For those England fans a bit disappointed, and there are a few you out there, I would say that before the game the press and pundits were warning that England could well lose up there to a very strong and confident Scotland side so to get the win should be applauded.
As a scrum lover I was delighted to see our front row gaining some dominance. It was a forwards kind of game but needed to be. Can’t build a house without the foundations as they all say, but true in this case. I think the forwards will let the ‘fancy dan’ backs have the ball a bit more as we go through this competition.
Scotland as you would expect gave it everything and showed lots of class. Their back row were a continual nuisance at the breakdown which prevented England from getting quick ball and allowing the backs to get a bit of a run. Not too sure the England back row had the same effect and the fact we got pinged for holding on a few times probably demonstrates we were not getting to the breakdown quickly enough.
Bright spot for England was the bulldozing Billy Vunipola. What is that kid on! Can’t believe how young he is as well. Think about him in about 5 year’s time when he is still only 27/28. Ouch!