The 6 Nations returns with a Bang

Ireland dominate, Scotland finish strong and France beat Italy. Mike Penistone provides food for thought after the first round of the 2022 Six Nations Championships begun this weekend

The 6 Nations returns with a Bang

Ireland 27 Wales 7

Scotland 20 England 17

France 37 Italy 10

Swarming…. may become a new coaching term?

At times Ireland looked as though they had more players on the field than Wales. They certainly had more players at every tackle contest. In attack and defence, they swarmed from one piece of action to the next, like a set of waves. Riding the wave was scrum half Gibson- Park always close to the ball carrier. He is the perfect scrum half for a team that wants to play a fast skilful power game, he gets the ball away so quickly.

Ireland are a multi-skilled team, they attack in clusters, transferring the ball with soft hands before releasing to the circling player at the back. These clusters concertina the defenders in and create some space usually wide out.

A much-depleted Wales were seldom in the game.

Ireland have carried on from the defeat of New Zealand. They have depth, are enjoying their playing style and fit enough to play it. The blend is unaffected by the arrival of replacements.

Wales have an instinct for attack, but Alun Wyn-Jones is a spiritual leader they can’t do without. If you don’t go forward up-front and tie in the Irish back five forwards you succumb to the swarm, this time in defence.

England had both territory and possession, but sadly lacked penetration against Scotland. Itoje and Steward had poor first halves, no presence, and in Itoje ‘s case some absence from the fight.

English backs still prefer to grubber kick forward, rather than make the soft pass in confined spaces. At least two scoring opportunities were lost when kicks to touch were taken in open play. Sure, the commentators waxed lyrical about the ground gained and the English supporters cheered but the ball was given away. Passes are preferred even in narrow attacking channels.

Scotland are a rejuvenated squad. They expected to win this game. Winning against England and France last season has cemented their resolve. Despite the pressure England exerted they came from behind to win.

Russell is the maestro at the opera. At times he looks too casual, but his mind is sharp, and he takes note of opportunities and keeps the defence guessing. He has X-factor qualities, and his unpredictability is a real weapon. If you play in Scotland’s backline always expect the unexpected.

Published: Monday 07 February 2022