It’s that time of year again! Albeit in very different circumstances, the Six Nations is back. There’ll be no bootcut jeans with brown leather shoes, no pints of Guinness poured, no pubs packed, no whatever those absolutely horrendous daffodil and pink sparkly cowboy hats are, seriously, they are absolutely awful, and no red chinos at HQ (even typing that makes me sick). It’s a very scary and weird world out there at the moment but this will bring some kind of escape. Sure, it’s not quite the same. But with the rate of vaccine distribution hopefully this time next year the stands and pubs will be packed again, better days are coming friends. Until then we still have tins and listening to Eddie Butler, Jonathan Davies, Sir Clive, Martin Johnson, and the whole gang to see us through. This will become a weekly thing, I know consistency isn’t really my strong point (just look at how many times I’ve posted in the last 12 months) but I’m fully committed to this one. I’ll look at teams week by week and give them a grade, as if we were back at school, or home-school in this case. That’ll be the last reference to covid, I promise. So all that’s left is to get into the grading!
Va va voom! Les Bleus that was some beautiful rugby! For me, the performance of the round by a team. They were silky, quick, and their ball in hand and possession rugby was a sight to behold. This team has really strong potential to go far. We saw many glimpses of it in last year’s Six Nations and not only were they quality going forward their defence looked strong too. Shaun Edwards has transformed this French team to become the quality side we all knew they could be. But being the slight cynic I am, there are some grey areas still. One is the fact that they played Italy, no disrespect but top tier European rugby’s punching bag (sorry lads). It was always expected that they would win and probably quite comfortably. The second is the fact that, well… it’s France. “Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, you never know which France will turn up.” Not to go back to it, but it’s true. It was proven against Scotland last year that their inconsistency is still a bit iffy. That performance in particular showed that they can have the most well planned and balanced team with quality in every area, it’s still France and they still have the ability to self implode. Maybe this year is different, maybe this is the start they needed to kick off their chase for a first Six Nations title (and maybe even Grand Slam) since 2010 and end the British-Irish domination of the last decade because that performance proved they have the ability to. But never count them out to do something stupid or hilarious to bottle it.
Grade: A+. Top of the class! Star of the week
Yikes, that was harsh on you guys. Despite the score line I honestly think Italy weren’t that awful. There were glimpses of quality, I thought Montanna Ioane had a solid game, but it just wasn’t to be. Their passing at times was a bit meh and they in turn cost them points. The French tries were either quality French rugby or Italy having brain farts in the first half and they were completely tired out by the second. This is a young core, losing Sergio Parisse was always going to be rough and it’s kind of showing. That being said, this team can go far. Once they gel I think they have the potential to go quite far, but this isn’t the year for it. Georgia will be watching that result and licking their lips as they do but I think they’ll improve. Will they win a game based on this weeks performances, at the moment possibly not. Not because they’re particularly awful, more so because the other teams are just better. However, this unit can definitely go far. It’ll be an interesting tournament for the Azzurri with a lot of learning, and possibly an interesting few years. They’ll be one to keep an eye on.
Grade: F. Sorry, it’s not nice to give you this as I saw you try but that score just isn’t good enough. See me after class
Well done Scotland, you really earned this. It’s been a very long time coming but you know what? Hats off. They played a very disciplined style of rugby enjoying a lot of ball possession. It might not be too easy on the eye but it works. It gets results, and what a result this was. They played incredibly well at the lineout and were strong in possession. This team can go places. Don’t be any under illusion, this is absolutely massive for morale. To win against England at Twickenham will give them a massive confidence boost. I’ll go out on a limb, Scotland are my dark horses this year. With how some of the other bigger teams played I can see them doing really well and having a strong Six Nations. I’m not saying they’ll go all the way and win it, but I think based on this weekend they’ll finish top 3. The quality’s definitely there, it’s just whether they can put the performances together. I’ve got my eye on you Scotland, and I really like what I see. Dare I say, triple crown winners this year? Maybe it’s too early to say, but I think they were the best performing British-Irish team this week.
Grade: A. Very impressed! Keep up the good work
Oh England… England, England, England. What will we do with you? I have a really weird relationship with this team. Being half English, whenever they’re not playing Wales I support them (something punishable by trial at the Hague where I’m from but meh, I don’t care). I had high hopes for this team, I really thought after the Autumn Nations Cup and last year’s Six Nations we’d see much the same, but again I was wrong. That performance was pathetic. Scotland did play well but good lord it was poor from the men in white. They kind of need to get it into their heads that kicking to my starting Lions full back really isn’t the one. The tactics were awful. When they played with ball in hand there were glimpses of quality, it’s something they really need to do more. But alas, we get 80 minutes of kicking it to a team who are happy with ball possession. It’s painfully obvious that the Sarries lads haven’t played enough at a top level recently, that needs sorting asap. In all, they have to be better. It’s Italy next who’s probably ideal, because this team desperately needs a confidence boost.
Grade: D-. Really must try harder, stay after class with Italy for quite a serious chat
I want to goad. I want to be irritating, I really do. But I just can’t bring myself to do it. That was lucky, a bit too lucky. It was… okay. Look a win’s a win but that wasn’t very convincing. It was quite tight, a bit scrappy and aided a lot by Peter O’Mahony’s sending off. There’s no way I thought that was deliberate by the way, I think the intention to make a tackle was there but you can’t not send somebody off for a challenge like that. There were definite positives however. Ken Owens really impressed me, I think he was really strong in the scrum and played well at the lineout. However my player of the match was definitely Louis Rees-Zammit. It was always going to be big boots to fill replacing Josh Adams, but he more than stepped up to the task at hand. I’d love to see him start more. The winger situation really excites me. Adams, LRZ and Liam Williams are quality players and I can’t wait to see what will happen in Rees-Zammit’s very bright future.
Grade: C+. Not bad but I know you can do better, would like to see improvement next week please
Last but not least, Ireland. I don’t want to go in too heavy on them, they weren’t good but neither team were. The red card killed it in my opinion. They looked fairly steady up until that point and they had to play a long time against 15 men. If they didn’t have O’Mahony sent off then maybe they would’ve won, but it was that kind of game it’s quite hard to tell. Fairly scrappy, possibly just a bad day at the office, and ended up tiring themselves out quite a bit. If there was anything that summed it up for me then it was the kick for the corner going dead after 80 minutes were up. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a very strong team. This could be the making of them for a strong tournament, but they need to improve. If I’m being completely honest, based off what I saw I don’t see them finishing top 3. They still have time to turn this around and come March it could have just been a bad dream, but they need to step up to the plate a bit more if that’s the case.
Grade: D+. Disappointing. Improvement needed, and please refrain from shoulder charging fellow classmates