Six Nations Week Five Review: Last Stop Before France

And just like that, another Six Nations tournament has come and gone. While it may not have been the most memorable Super Saturday of all time, it certainly was a historic one. Italy played like they have all tournament in the early kick-off, Wales surprised some by bringing a fight to one of the world’s best, and Ireland sealed the title and a first Grand Slam won in Dublin. As well as this, it was the last time we’ll potentially see some of the modern-day greats don their international jerseys in the Six Nations for the last time with retirements after (or maybe even before) the World Cup seeming inevitable. The final whistles have been blown, the tv cameras have switched off, and the final pints of squishy cup Guinness have all been drank for another year. Before the small matter of a World Cup in September, where maybe one or two of the favourites play in the Six Nations, there’s still a grading to get done. And because it’s the last one, each team can get a grade for their respective performances and one for the tournament overall, don’t say I never treat you. So, for the last time in 2023, let’s get into the grading!

Scotland: Blair is King(horn)

Phew, that close. In an earlier than usual first game of Super Saturday, Scotland had a bit of a shaky start in Edinburgh which became the story of the afternoon. They gave away quite a few silly penalties and were lucky that Italy couldn’t capitalise more than they did in the early stages. Sometimes teams just need that bit of quality, and Duhan van der Merwe brought it in abundance with an absolutely incredible try. Add an Italian yellow card and Blair Kinghorn’s first of three tries, and Scotland looked to be somewhat in control going into the second half, but they didn’t half have to work for the win. Through some questionable defending and poor penalties, Scotland let Italy back into the game and with 5 minutes to go I thought we’d be seeing a repeat of last year’s Super Saturday encounter in Cardiff. But as has been the case with Italy this tournament, they just couldn’t get it done, with Blair Kinghorn wrapping up the bonus point with his hat-trick late on. It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but it’s difficult to criticise a team too much that got a bonus point win to finish third in the table. In what has been an eventful Six Nations, Scotland will have been happy to have improved on last year and finish the tournament on a high.

Match grade: B-. Made that far more difficult than it needed to be, but it would be harsh to give anything less than that for a bonus point win.

Tournament grade: A. Unrecognisable compared to last year. There’s a great unit here, keep it going and who knows where it can take you!

Italy: Agonisingly close… again

This game just summed up Italy’s entire tournament. Looked competitive after a poor start, start to make the opposition worry, let a few chances go, come very close to winning it with only a few minutes left, concede a late try and make the score look more flattering than it should’ve been. While Italy have been fun to watch this tournament with how far they’ve come over the last 20 years, at times it’s been equally frustrating. As an advocate for Italian rugby and for them to keep their place in the Six Nations, it can get a bit annoying seeing them not make the most of golden opportunities. They have some incredible players who have shone on Saturday and all tournament, players like Sebastian Negri, Paolo Garbisi, and Tommaso Allan to name a few, but for whatever reason it’s not quite clicked in the crucial moments when they needed to. Their late charge made for an incredibly exciting finish in Edinburgh, but there were plenty of opportunities throughout the game where they could’ve won it. It’s another bottom placed finish going into the World Cup, but they’ll still be looking forward. While it’s unlikely that they’ll get out of the initial stage with New Zealand and France in the same pool, it’s an opportunity to test themselves against two of the world’s best teams and get some wins on the board against Namibia and Uruguay. They’re a team in development, and the sky really is the limit. While I’m not saying they’re going to win the Grand Slam next year, I can definitely see them getting a Six Nations top 3 finish within the next 5 years.

Match grade: C. Not a bad performance, but you need to start making the most of these opportunities when they come.

Tournament grade: B-. Whilst the results may not have come, you definitely proved why you deserve a seat at the table by running Europe’s and some of the World’s best clubs incredibly close. Build from this and next year could be even better!

France: World Cup fever starting to brew

After a demolition job in Twickenham the previous weekend, all eyes were on Paris to see if the same could be done again. Even though they came away with the win, it wasn’t quite the mauling that some thought it would be. It was still a great French performance in this Six Nations, but it was out of their hands as to whether they’d be champions or not. After going a try down early on, Les Bleus began to work through the gears and pulled together a great first half performance with tries from Damian Penaud and Jonathan Danty. With the ever-reliable Thomas Ramos there to kick points it meant France went in 20-7 up at the break. It looked as if it would continue in the second half with an early Uini Antonio try, but Wales fought back with some tries of their own. However, France made sure that this wouldn’t happen with two hammer blows of their own with tries from Gael Fickou and Penaud. While it wasn’t the drubbing some thought it would be, France never really looked in great danger. They still played some brilliant rugby and were too much for a stubborn Welsh defence to handle. Second place won’t feel too amazing after last year’s Grand Slam, however 2023 is always going to be about the World Cup for France. I personally think they’ve not peaked too early, and instead are getting back to their best in time for September, but all eyes will be on them and that mouth-watering opening game between Les Bleus and New Zealand.

Match grade: A. Second good performance in a row even if not as good as last week, but that was always going to be hard to top.

Tournament grade: A+. Second best to the winners, but still played some incredible rugby. Plenty to be confident about ahead of September.

Wales: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

With how this tournament has gone for Wales and France respectively you’d be forgiven for thinking that this would be a bit of a drubbing, but it turned out to be anything but. Before the game I said France by 12, and I was completely wrong as in the end it was France by 13, absolute howler from myself there. The Welsh team came to Paris with nothing really to play for, yet they still took it to the French. In what will probably be the last dance for many of the Welsh pack including heroes like Alun Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, and Leigh Halfpenny to name just a few, they went straight for the French jugular early. Instead of opting for a more conservative approach, they tried to beat France at their own game with a high intensity attacking display, culminating in George North’s 44th try for his country. As it went on, France predictably grew into the game as Wales struggled a bit to keep up with the sheer quality of some of the French players, and there’s absolutely no shame in that. Any hopes of an upset were quashed fairly quickly with how ruthless France were throughout the first half and most of the second, but to give Wales their credit they didn’t give up or feel sorry for themselves. Was it the way that some of the older players would’ve wanted to end their Six Nations careers? No. But can things be taken from this performance as a bit of a learning curve? Absolutely yes. Although overall it’s been a disappointing tournament to say the least, maybe it can act as a way of getting these performances out of the system before the World Cup. I know that’s beyond optimistic at the moment, but I need something to grasp on to, because lord almighty that tournament needs to go better than this one.

Match grade: C-. Just a difference in quality at the end of the day, didn’t disgrace yourselves by any means.

Tournament grade: F. I wasn’t expecting wonders but even still that was disappointing. Much to work on.

Ireland: History makers

For the first time in their history, Ireland have won a Grand Slam in Dublin (which seems like a mental stat). The game basically summed up how well they’ve been all tournament. It was quite a nervy start for the Boys in Green with maybe the pressure of the occasion getting to them slightly. After two early England penalties, they managed to get back with a very well worked try for Dan Sheehan and another from Gary Ringrose to lead by 8 at the break. There’s also the small issue of the Freddie Steward red card to talk about but I’ll get into that later. With the English team wounded and down to 14, some gaps started to appear in an otherwise tight England defence leading to Sheehan to score another try before Rob Herring got the last of the game to confirm the bonus point. They’ve been a league above any other team during this tournament and are the world’s best ranked team for a reason. Even though France played as well as they did at times this year, even they didn’t look like they’d threaten Ireland for the title this year. Now all eyes will be on the World Cup where they will undoubtably be heading to France as favourites. Ireland have never made it further than the last 8 of the World Cup, and there’s a very real chance that the first time that they do so will be the time that Andy Farrell’s men end up taking the Webb Ellis trophy to Dublin to kick start a potential golden generation in Irish sport, but that’s a post for another day.

Match grade: A-. Star of the week for winning the Grand Slam. Let’s see if you can do it again in the Autumn.

Tournament grade: A*. Grand Slam winners, and the best team in this year’s tournament bar none. A cut above the rest.

England: Was it a red though?

I don’t like to be that guy who says that single instances of a game lose it, but the Freddie Steward red card certainly didn’t help. Up until that point England were well in it. They were strong in defence and made Ireland concede some penalties whilst Owen Farrell kept the points ticking over from penalties. Then came the red card… For me, I thought it was a yellow. Hugo Keenan was straightening himself up whilst still bent over, Steward had nowhere near enough time to avoid collision so was naturally bracing for impact, and it was bicep, not shoulder or elbow, to head. There alone are three mitigation points that should’ve been considered, but I digress. It unfortunately overshadowed what was an otherwise good England performance. Sure, they didn’t get the win, but they kept it tight for most of the game, before and after the red card, and were miles better than their performance against France. It was a resilient display for a team that were up against it for the last 40 minutes, and their grit was rewarded with a Jamie George try in the second half. A bit like the Welsh game, there was just an obvious difference in quality between the teams on the day. Ireland have been in a league of their own, so to perform like England did is by no means a disgrace. While it may have been an underwhelming Six Nations overall, there have still been signs that things will continue to improve under Steve Borthwick and co. As for the World Cup, I have absolutely no idea how it will go. That’s just England rugby at the moment, nothing surprises me anymore. They could go out in the pool stage, or they could win the entire thing, and I’d be equally unsurprised. Well maybe a little bit surprised if they won it.

Match grade: C+. Gutsy display against the world’s best when you were up against it. Well done.

Tournament grade: E. Pretty underwhelming as a whole, but there were a few glimpses of what the team can achieve. Be patient and stick with it and I’m sure the good times will come back.

Class Clown of the Week: The entire officiating team for the Ireland-England game. This one was hard as nobody did anything particularly stupid or funny, or maybe they did and I don’t remember because there was a lot of rugby played by the end, so I have no choice but to beat the Freddie Steward red card dead horse a bit more.


Six Nations Week Four Review: A Truly Bonkers Weekend of Rugby

On the penultimate weekend of the 2023 Six Nations (it still feels weird saying 2023), we were treated to 3 very different games of rugby. There were hard fought battles, fine margins, and an absolute drubbing. Last time around I said how one or two teams weren’t on the beach just yet but were heading down the pebble slope, now there are certainly a couple more joining them. The title dreams are very much alive for some and have died a fairly abrupt death for others. In what was a ridiculous weekend of rugby, in more ways than one, many questions were answered before a whole heap of new ones were asked. The Six Nation train has nearly reached its final destination, but before Super Saturday Parkway there’s still another week of fixtures (and as a result, grading) to do. So without further ado, let’s get into the reviews!

Italy: So close

Cruel game rugby. One week the world is saying how you’ve turned a corner after taking two of the world’s best teams close, the next your favourites for the wooden spoon again. In all honesty I don’t think it was a poor Italy performance, far from it, it just ended up being a game of very fine margins. The Azzurri really did miss Ange Capuozzo at full back on Saturday. While Tomasso Allan is a fantastic player, his strength is at fly half and that showed. He didn’t play badly by any means, but there were a few attacking opportunities that he had where Capuozzo would’ve done better (the line break leading to a Stephen Varney potential chance in the first half coming to mind). The free flowing, quick passing, Italian game that we’ve come so used to seeing this tournament wasn’t fully on show. Through a strong Welsh defence and some silly mistakes from Italy, be it handling errors or discipline, it meant that it couldn’t really flow for any sustained periods of time. There were glimpses of it, most notably with the tries from Sebastien Negri and Juan Ignacio Brex, but it was just too few and far between. Despite the score line it will probably feel like a bit of a missed opportunity for Italy. If Brex scored that try in the first half where Owen Williams made the try-saving tackle, and they get one from their late pressure then it’s a completely different game and result. But fine margins make games, and they couldn’t make the most of them.

Grade: C. Not awful but not what I expected, try and dust yourself off and leave it all out there next week.

Wales: Phew

The first win of the year and revived Gatland era is in the bag for Wales, and good lord was it needed. I had little to no confidence going to Rome against an Italy team that went close against two of the world’s best teams in France and Ireland, but it turns out I had nothing to worry about (well… not nothing but you get the gist). It wasn’t world beating but it didn’t have to be, it was a bonus point win and a much needed one at that. Wales had more of a clinical edge than was shown in the first three games in pretty much all areas of the pitch. Sure, there was a lucky bounce for Rio Dyer’s opener and some questionable tackling for Liam Williams’ try, but you have to make the most of these fine margin opportunities in international rugby. When Wales needed a bit of quality in attack, they managed to bring it, and when they needed to switch on defensively, they did so, especially in the last 15 minutes where the game could’ve been lost. There were some great individual performances too, Rhys Webb rolled back the years whilst Joe Hawkins and Dyer continued to impress me. It would’ve been nice to see Jac Morgan, Tommy Reffell, and Christ Tshiunza on the field together because as I’ve said many times, they are Wales’s next Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton, and Taulupe Faletau, but I can’t be too picky about selection after a bonus point win. It wasn’t exactly the kind of performance that makes me think that Wales will go on upset the odds in Paris next weekend, especially after France’s result in Twickenham, but it’s a much-needed win nonetheless.

Grade: B. Few hairy moments but got the job done. Da iawn.

England: Less said the better

I don’t even know how to start with this one. How do you honestly review a game like that? England looked a million miles off the pace from the first whistle to the last. They were second best at everything, and France made them pay massively. There were next to no threats going forward and they couldn’t keep up with a terrifying French attack. Whilst there were some red flags in the England performances that we’ve seen so far, never in my wildest dreams did I think they’d end up losing like this. In no place did they look to be in the slightest bit of control before or after the changes. Freddie Steward yet again had a good game, but you can’t rely on him to bail you out every week, especially against a French team firing on all cylinders. It would be easy to just go in on some of the more inexperienced players and say that they’re obviously not ready for a big stage like this, but that’s not helpful to anyone or a particularly valid criticism. Sometimes questionable teams needed a bit of a humbling to be able to show how they can bounce back, certain players called Jonny Wilkinson and Phil Vickery played in that 76-0 against Australia in 1998. What happened to them at the World Cup 5 years later? It’s not the result Ellis Genge would’ve wanted as his first game as England captain, but then again his first game as Leicester Tigers captain was a 54-7 loss away to Wasps and he ended up taking them to a Premiership Title. All I can say to England fans is to just stick with it and stay behind the team. I’m so confident that Steve Borthwick will be the man to bring England glory, it’ll just take patience, and this will be a bad dream in the timeline of the Borthwick revolution. So many lessons need to be learned from this, and quickly too. Any chance of spoiling an Irish grand slam next week seem dead in the water, but you never know in rugby.

Grade: U. Everyone bar Freddie was poor today. See me after class.

France: “Stop, stop, he’s already dead”

I don’t even know how to start with this one. How do you honestly review a game like that? France showed today why they should be considered favourites for the World Cup this September and why people shouldn’t sleep on them after a few tough games. Absolutely any criticism or doubt surrounding Les Bleus was silenced, as they brought a performance to Twickenham that will be talked about for the ages. From the first whistle, France attacked with speed, intensity, and purpose. They were ruthless at the breakdown and whenever England gave them half an inch, they took a mile and some. Antoine Dupont had his best performance of the Six Nations so far, everything he touched turned to gold. The English defence had no idea on how to deal with his dummy passes and clever kicks and chases. Add Thomas Ramos having the game of his life scoring 23 points for France, and Charles Ollivon, Thibaud Flament, and Damian Penaud scoring two tries each, it was only going to go one way. Even when England tried throwing in the towel by the end, France carried on with their Ivan Drago style performance, hell bent on causing as much pain as they could to their opponent. The championship dream is still alive, but they will have to rely on the poor souls they just battered to get a result against the world’s number 1 ranked team in Dublin… Maybe a total demolition job wasn’t the best idea in hindsight.

Grade: A*. C’est magnifique! Deserved star of the week.

Scotland: Missed opportunity

There’s definitely two ways of looking at this. One is the fact that for 50 minutes Scotland were well in it and took the game to Ireland, but the other is that they wouldn’t get a better opportunity to beat the world’s best team. The first half was pretty much perfect from Scotland, Huw Jones managed to get on the scoresheet with yet another try, whilst limiting the Irish to only 8 points. The intensity was something like we haven’t seen Ireland come up against in the fluidity and strength of the Scottish waves of attack and a tight-knit defence. They tried to beat Ireland at their own game by going blow for blow with them, and for 50 minutes it worked. After this, the players began to tire and the intensity that was seen in the previous 50 minutes dropped as Ireland managed to put the game to bed. Whilst Scotland can be proud that they gave the world’s number 1 team a run for their money, it will feel quite bittersweet. With the injuries meaning Ireland had to change up the team massively with some players out of position, it felt like now would be the time to do it for Scotland if they were going to at all. The defeat means that Scotland are officially out of the running for this year’s Six Nations title but can finish 3rd with a win over Italy. Whilst it’s not exactly what Gregor Townsend’s men would’ve hoped for, it’s been a much better tournament than last year’s.

Grade: C+. Competitive and showed spirit, but just let it slip at the end.

Ireland: Difference between good and great

This is why this Ireland team are a cut above the rest of the teams in the Six Nations this year. Sure it wasn’t a drubbing, or even a bonus point win, but they showed in Edinburgh the difference between good rugby teams and world class rugby teams. When they’re knocked down, they reassess and overcome. Over the course of a frantic 80 minutes, Ireland lost Caelan Doris, Dan Sheehan, Gary Ringrose, AND Ian Henderson all to injury, as well as replacement hooker Ronan Kelleher, yet still came very close to another bonus point victory. Instead of letting the injury losses get to them, Ireland ran with it and made the best they could out of a poor situation. I thought that Cian Healey played great and dominated in the scrum when he came on considering he’s not a hooker, and Josh van der Flier more than held his own throwing for the lineout. Despite it being a close game for 50 minutes and all of the injuries, Ireland still managed to turn it up a level leading to tries from James Lowe and Jack Conan to secure the win. It’s these performances and results where teams can prove how great they are, and Ireland did just that. To end the Six Nations is a date with England at the Aviva and considering how different both teams played this weekend (and all tournament to be fair) I suspect it’ll be party time in Dublin.

Grade: A. Fantastic spirit and character to win this. Well done.

Class clown of the week: Pierre Bruno. Very lucky to not get himself sent off when Italy were trying to stage a comeback.


7 Bold(ish) Predictions for the 2023 F1 Season

With the new F1 season already underway, I thought now would be a great time to bring back a post that I did last year in making some somewhat bold predictions for the upcoming year. Yes, I’ve left it a bit late, but at the time of writing there’s only been three free practice sessions and pre-season testing so I’m not really cheating. But in a way that means they (maybe) hold a bit more weight because I’ve waited to see some actual racing instead of just some pre-season testing. Plus, if this goes anything like last year’s one, then it’ll age pretty poorly very quickly. I did predict that Mercedes were sandbagging all the way through pre-season and it was all mind games from Toto Wolff before Lewis Hamilton would go on to win his 8th title after all, oh how naïve I was. So, with the dawning of a new season, it’s time for a fresh bunch of predictions of what I think will happen in the 2023 Formula 1 season!

Williams rise, Tauris fall

Williams had a pretty poor season last year, and AlphaTauri didn’t do much better. This year the cars are expected to be closer after a season of the new regulations, and while that means more teams will be competing at the front and the midfield, it will also make the teams at the back of the grid closer. Williams showed some promise at times last season with Alex Albon doing most of the heavy lifting picking up 4 points in what was a naff car, and the AlphaTauri wasn’t that much better. With each team getting a new driver with American hero Logan Sargeant heading to the British outfit and Nyck de Vries making the jump from the Mercedes family to the Red Bull feeder team there will be a lot of attention on both, and I think Williams will end up better. I personally think that Albon and Sargeant is a stronger pairing than Yuki Tsunoda and de Vries, and I can see both Williams drivers finishing in the points regularly. If Pierre Gasly struggled in the Alpha last year, then I can’t really see either driver pulling off any miracles. I hope I’m wrong, as I really like Tsunoda, but I just can’t see it. With the rumours of Red Bull selling the team always looming too, I think that AlphaTauri’s days are numbered in F1.

Not much in it at McLaren

To say that McLaren had a disappointing season last year would be a massive understatement. Yes, Lando Norris ended up on the podium in Italy, but apart from that the team didn’t really do much. The team then decided that the way forward would be a new driver pairing and went behind Daniel Ricciardo’s back to snap up fellow Australian Oscar Piastri. To say that this caused a bit of drama in the world of F1 and motorsport as a whole would be the understatement of the century. As a result, we now end up with Lando and Oscar driving the papaya cars and honestly, I think they’ll finish very close to each other in the standings. Early signs aren’t fantastic, and it looks as if it’ll be another year in the midfield for McLaren and while I think Lando will end up higher in the driver standings than Piastri, it’ll be close. Piastri is pure talent and he’s taken to every formula series like a duck to water. His championship winning seasons in F3 and F2 were pure dominance and I think he’ll take this to McLaren. I’m not saying he’s going to win the championship or maybe not even finish in the top 10, but I can see him driving the wheels off that car and really taking it to Lando.

8 different race winners

Oh boy… this is where the predictions take a bit of a wild turn. This will either make me look like an absolute genius or a muppet of a man. With the new regulations we were told that all the cars on the grid would end up closer together. While that sort of happened, there was still a very obvious gap. Now we’ve had a whole season with the new regulations and teams have had more time to develop their cars and adapt, with a certain team in green looking very impressive early on. I think this will lead to more race winners as more teams have their cars up to scratch thus making the season a bit more interesting than on which lap is Max Verstappen going to take the lead and be 17 seconds ahead of second place that last year felt like at times. I know it’s ironic me saying that as an old school Hamilton fanboy but variety is the spice of life after all. So, all the waffling aside, I think the winners of at least one race this year will be: Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez, Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, Fernando Alonso, and a maiden winner. And that will be…

A maiden win for who now?!

Lance Stroll. If you read my predictions last year, you’ll know that I’ve said that Stroll will get his first win in the upcoming season for the last few years so that when he does I’ll look like a Welsh Nostradamus, so that partly why I’m backing him to win. But this feels like if he’s going to do it anytime then it genuinely could be in 2023. The Aston Martin looks rapid this year and Stroll has proven before that he can perform in a good car. Just look at the pink Mercedes when Aston Martin were Racing Point, he genuinely performed well. While podiums have been few and far between for Stroll, he has done it and has put his car on pole before. Maybe I’m just a bit bias because I like him, but I think this is the year we see Lance get his first win in F1 and O Canada will ring out at the end of a race for the first time since 1997. Plus, maybe it’ll draw more interest to the South Wales Lance Stroll fan club that I’m claiming to be the founder and only member of (I’ve designed stickers that everyone who joins can have). Go get ‘em Lance!

Alpine wind their neck in

Alpine and shooting themselves in the foot at every opportunity went together like Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton last season. Everybody makes fun of Ferrari for their gaffs last year, and rightly so, but if they were a competent team then Alpine would’ve taken that title by a country mile. From engine failures to drivers not listening and racing each other aggressively to fumbling Fernando Alonso completely to the whole Oscar Piastri twittergate saga, it was beyond embarrassing. They’ve now got an all-French line-up with Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly in the seats for this season and I think this year will be much more stable than last. Because in all honesty, there’s no other option. They find themselves in a very exciting position where they have two proven drivers, their own engine with Renault, a great team principle in Otmar Szafnauer, and an opportunity to build themselves as France’s and develop a loyal following in the way that Ferrari have with Italy and the British teams have with British fans. They’re at a crossroads between becoming a competent team and genuine competitor or a meme for the wrong reasons, and nobody wants to become a meme for the wrong reasons.

4-way race for the title

This is probably my boldest one yet, but I think going into Abu Dhabi there will still be four drivers that could end up as World Champion. I’m not saying for a second that they’ll end up within a point or two of each other, and I think that the leader will be a good 15 points ahead of fourth, but I genuinely think it’ll be a four-way battle for the championship. Those drivers will be: Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton, and Fernando Alonso. The reasonings behind it are fairly simple. Max Verstappen is the Erling Haaland of F1, a robot who is designed only to win that’s loved by his fans and loathed by his haters. Charles Leclerc showed last year that he can compete with Max when Ferrari decide to have competent strategy and under Fred Vasseur the team will out a real challenge to Red Bull this year. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will be absolutely desperate to put last year behind them and by the looks of it have a much better car that should see them win races. Fernando Alonso hasn’t lost any pace at all despite being 41 and the Aston Martin car is fantastic this year, plus he’s the best driver on the team despite me waxing lyrical about Stroll a few points ago. I just really hope we have a competitive battle for the title this year and not a landslide title victory that we’ve seen 

And the winner is…

The scene is set, one of four can win the title in Abu Dhabi. A proper old school style shootout for crowning glory. We get to the last few corners of the race, where David Croft says the following lines that will be etched into history:

“Four men came to Abu Dhabi, but only one could go home with the World Drivers Championship. In the closest and craziest season in recent memory there was one who simply showed up the most when it mattered thanks to himself and some mega team efforts. It’s finally going to be his time at the top, his time to be champion. The fans are going berserk in the stands, there are huge celebrations on the pit wall, and if you listen closely, you can hear ALL OF ITALY, ALL OF MONACO, AND ALL OF THE TIFOSI IN ABSOLUTE PANDEMONIUM! FERRARI ARE BACK AT THE TOP OF F1! HE SAILS ROUND IT’S CHARLES LECLERC, CHAMPION OF THE WORLD!!!”

Maybe this is more hopeful than anything, but I think this will be Charles’ year. Red Bull will end up winning the constructors, but I think Leclerc takes the title. The team went through a bit of a reshuffle in the summer that was well overdue. The main areas that needed to be changed within the team were the team principal and head of strategy, both of which were changed in the off-season. It’ll be very fine margins, and there won’t be much in it at all between himself and Max Verstappen, but I think this is the year where Charles just sneaks it. Now I’ve said that watch Verstappen win every race this year and leave me with egg on my face.

Bonus predictions: Franco Colapinto wins F3. He’s a fantastic driver and if he can get a reliable car this year then I can’t see anyone else winning the title.

Theo Pourchaire wins F2. Yeah alright I predicted this last year but if the car was more reliable then he would’ve been much closer. He’s still different gravy

Andretti F1 Team get announced for 2025 at the Las Vegas GP. Again, I know I predicted this last year, but I think there’s some genuine wheels to this now. Andretti are desperate to get a team in Formula 1 which the fans would love. The biggest stumbling block at the moment is the other teams against them entering, but hopefully some kind of agreement can be reached and Andretti can come in, and imagine announcing it at Vegas. Tell me you don’t want that


Six Nations Week Three Review: The good, the kinda boring, the mental

In the words of Bon Jovi, we’re halfway there, or over halfway if you want to get technical about it. After it feels as if we’ve only just started, another game week is down in the 2023 Six Nations championship. We had three very different games with arguably some flattering score lines. Whilst the tournament is far from over and some teams might not be on the beach just yet, there may be one or two starting to think about making their way down the pebble slope (for better or worse). As the teams go into another break before the final two fixtures, it’s time to get on with the grading!

Italy: Down, but far from out

No matter who Italy play nowadays you know for a fact that it won’t be boring, and it will damn sure be competitive. After a shaky opening 5 minutes with a disallowed James Lowe try and an allowed James Ryan try, you’d be forgiven for thinking it might end up as a bit of a drubbing, however that didn’t happen. The days of Italy getting battered by everyone are over, and this game is proof of it. It seems weird saying that after they lost a game where they conceded five tries, but in all honesty, it was a bit of an unfortunate result. With what’s becoming very much a reoccurring theme for the Azzurri, they didn’t give up when they were knocked down and very much took the game to the world’s number 1 ranked team. Lorenzo Cannone had a fantastic game breaking through a very strong Irish defence on more than one occasion while Pierre Bruno looked incredibly dangerous on the wing. Like they’ve grown to do this tournament, this Italy team will make the most of their opportunities when presented them and in all honesty were probably unlucky not to get anything out of this. The intensity was yet again incredibly high with some lightning fast paced rugby, but it just wasn’t enough. 

Grade: B-. Shaky at times. But in all honesty, I can’t nit-pick too much.

Ireland: Keep plodding on

It was hardly the demolition job that we’ve seen against Italy in years gone by however the Boys in Green still did what they needed to do. They started bright with early tries from James Ryan and Hugo Keenan followed by tries later in the half by Bundee Aki and James Lowe, but they still let Italy into it and made it a lot closer than it had to be. If Ireland are a team that are going to go for a Grand Slam and a World Cup later this year, then these are games that they should be using to make big statements. It feels weird to dig into them too much when they scored 5 tries and won by 14 points, but it wasn’t the most comfortable performance. With that being said you can’t expect a team going for the Grand Slam to be firing on all cylinders every week, just look at France’s performance against Wales in Cardiff last year. While it was close, it does show how solid and stubborn the Irish defence was. I gave a lot of praise to Italy, but they still only managed 3 points in the second half as Ireland frustrated the usual free-flowing Italian style of play, all for Hansen to deliver the final hammer blow 9 minutes from full-time. The break comes at a good time for Andy Farrell’s men as they can work on what went not so great in time for a trip to Edinburgh in a fortnight’s time, as the Grand Slam dream carries on.

Grade: B+. Not the dominance you showed in the first two games but still did what you needed to.

Wales: “Solidarity foreeeevvvvverrrr for the union makes us strong”

Honestly, I can’t be mad at that. Was it good? Far from it. Wales really didn’t see enough of the ball and didn’t threaten enough in attack for my liking, but there are some huge asterisks here. If you put yourself in the players position, not knowing if they have a future in rugby full stop because of something as ridiculous as the WRU wanting to put a cap on regions wages to the extent where it wouldn’t be financially viable to play in Wales anymore, then you understand why they might’ve had other things on their mind. In terms of what happened on the field, it wasn’t too pretty. It looked a bit static and one dimensional. Wales kicked the ball away far too much for my liking which hindered any kind of attacking threat. It was a big statement from Warren Gatland to change the team as much as he did. I get the point to try and show that nobody’s too big to be dropped, and Joe Hawkins and Mason Grady are the future at 12 and 13 so I’m really pleased that they both started, but to change the squad that much was a bold strategy that didn’t pay off. Tommy Reffell and Jac Morgan have been two of Wales’s best players, so I really don’t get the reasoning behind them being dropped. To try and get some positives, it was much better than the opening two games. I thought the front row looked strong again, both pre and post substitutions, while Christ Tshiunza is getting better with every game. Next is a trip to Rome in a massive game against Italy where the Welsh team will be desperate for their first win of the tournament.

Grade: D. Fairly poor on the pitch, but absolute legends off it. To stand their ground against the salary cap and the 60-cap rule with threatening strike action and still going out on the field on Saturday shows how mentally strong this squad is. Even though you lost you can still be proud.

England: Slowly but surely getting there

As the Borthwick Revolution continues, England get their first win in Cardiff since 2017. It wasn’t particularly the best performance of all time, but they did what needed to be done. It really shouldn’t have been that close, especially after the first half. In what was a bit of a boring game overall, there were some definite diamonds in a bit of a proverbial rough. Ollie Lawrence and Anthony Watson put in some great performances. Freddie Steward continued to show why he’s one of the best fullbacks under the high ball, while Lewis Ludlam played yet another stormer. He and Jack Willis were an absolute menace at the breakdown and I thought rucked brilliantly. With this being said, England should’ve won by a much higher margin. It would be easy to point the blame directly at Owen Farrell for his questionable at best kicking, and that was obviously a contributing factor, but England still fell into the trap of kicking it away far too much. There were a few times where the kick and chase wasn’t really working at times which became quite predictable and frustrating to watch, but Steward is a terrifyingly good under the high ball. As I’ve kept saying all along, this is part of a wider plan with long-term goals. It’s scarily reminiscent of early Tigers under Borthwick, which should be promising for England fans. I just hope that the RFU stick with him for the long term, because I can honestly see Borthwick and co. take this England team very far.

Grade: B. Not the most exciting but managed to get a result, it shouldn’t have been that close though.

France: Bouncebackability confirmed (probably)

After a bit of a drubbing in Dublin, and probably a stern lecturing from Shaun Edwards, France would’ve been desperate to get back to winning ways. After jumping into a 19-0 lead with tries from Romain Ntamack, Ethan Doumortier, and Thomas Ramos and Scotland down to 14 men, it looked as if it might’ve been a bit of a drubbing. However that didn’t happen, with Mohamed Haouas deciding to do his best Zinedine Zidane 2006 World Cup Final impression and came flying in with a headbutt on Ben White for… reasons, thus making it 14 against 14. Scotland managed to get back into it with a few tries of their own, but France were able to strike back through Gael Fickou to confirm the bonus point win. If the Wales-England game was a bit disappointing, then this one more than made up for it. The attack was free flowing, and the French defence was much better than it was in Dublin a fortnight ago. It was a game of fine margins, and France managed to make the small things matter. From the odd turnover to forcing the occasional penalty, it was all part of the bigger picture. The defence also turned up when they needed to, after stopping two almost certain tries from Duhan van der Merwe and Zander Faegerson. A bonus point win was going to be crucial if Les Bleus wanted to still be in contention for the title, and that’s exactly what they got.

Grade: A. Star of the Week! Did very well to bounce back, well done.

Scotland: So very close

This one’s going to sting if you’re a Scotland fan. It was a huge opportunity to send shockwaves around the rugby world with what would be a huge statement win, but alas it didn’t come. In all honesty, 32-21 is a bit of a flattering score on France’s behalf, because it gives the impression a bit that it was a tad one sided when it was anything but. Scotland were wounded in the opening 8 minutes with two French tries and a red card for Grant Gilchrist, but they managed an amazing near comeback. The French red card evened things, but it’s unfair to say that was the sole reason. The Scottish attack remained strong resulting in two tries for Huw Jones and one for Finn Russell, and Russell remained consistent with the boot, but it just wasn’t enough. Maybe on another day if they got a tad luckier with the Zander Faegerson and Duhan van der Merwe chances then they could’ve snuck the win, but it wasn’t to be. The championship is out of their hands for the moment with Ireland being the only team that haven’t lost; however, it can swing massively back in their favour with a win against the Boys in Green in Edinburgh in two weeks’ time. Considering Wales are out of any kind of contention for the title, I’ll support Scotland to win it because why not. It would be fun.

Grade: B+. Great performance overall, not too much at all that I can nit-pick at, just unlucky to lose.

Class clown of the week: Nika Amashukeli. He wasn’t awful by any stretch but I’m still in disbelief that he needed his assistants to confirm to him that there was a high degree of danger after Haouas did a diving headbutt into Ben White.


Six Nations Week Two Review: Markers laid. Statements made.

Crikey, what a weekend that was. In a game week packed with action we saw some incredible tries, tough to break defences, and a slightly cross fly half. For the first time in forever, the two best teams in world rugby met in the Six Nations with the aim of putting themselves in the driving seat of this year’s championship. There was also the matter of two other fixtures which maybe weren’t as hyped as the early Saturday fixture, but they weren’t without their exciting moments. Even though the competition is still in its early days, the table is starting to take a little bit of shape. Ireland were many people’s pre-tournament favourites and are starting to prove why, the Borthwick revolution is very much underway at England, and Scotland managed to get over their bogey coach in the form of Warren Gatland with a huge win at Murrayfield. As I try and do absolutely anything to take my mind off the fact that the Philadelphia Eagles lost the Super Bowl and Cardiff City are looking more like relegation shoe-ins by the second, let’s get on with the grading!

Ireland: The unstoppable force

Statement. Made. Ireland went into this fixture ranked number one in the world but without a win against France for three years. Andy Farrell’s men set out to justify their place at the top of the world rankings against the current Grand Slam holders. The pressure that Ireland put on from the first whistle was immense and forced France on to the back foot. Much like the Welsh game, Ireland got most of the work done points wise in an incredible first half. Hugo Keenan opened the scoring for the Boys in Green followed by an unbelievable finish from James Lowe and Andrew Porter. Should the Lowe try have stood? On a later angle it did look like his foot was in touch so maybe Ireland were lucky, but at the same time France were lucky to not get Uini Atonio sent off so equals pequals on that front. Much like the Welsh game, the second half performance was a lot cagier and felt quite tense at times which wasn’t aided with the losses of Johnny Sexton and Tadhg Beirne to injury. However, they kept calm and frustrated France throughout the second half with brilliant defence and having a strong breakdown. With there only being a converted try in it with 10 minutes to go, Gary Ringrose went over the try line to confirm the bonus point win. Overall, it felt like the perfect Irish display. Free flowing in attack, tight in defence, and managed to keep their cool when they were under pressure from one of the world’s best teams. Perhaps the kind of performance from a team that could maybe, oh I don’t know, go far in a World Cup? We’ll see as it’s early days yet, but the signs are promising.

Grade: A*. Perfect yet again! Start of the week.

France: The moveable object

For the first time in forever, this French team looked human. The 14-game winning streak is over, as their grip on the Six Nations title started to loosen. To give them their dues, the French responded pretty much perfectly to everything Ireland threw at them in the first half leading to one of the all-time great halves of Six Nations rugby. Keenan’s opener was met by an unbelievable early try of the year contender from Damian Penaud, where flanker Anthony Jelonch stormed through the middle of the park before laying off to Penaud who split the defence in two in a move akin to Moses with the red sea. Penalties and the conversion from Thomas Ramos made sure that they were never out of sight in the first 40 and kept the game within touching distance. The defence improved since last week, most notably for Antoine Dupont’s unbelievable certain try stopping tackle on Mack Hansen, but in the end it just wasn’t enough. They couldn’t beat Ireland at the breakdown and struggled against a strong Irish defence. It wasn’t an awful performance; Ireland just had the perfect game plan to deal with them. Thus, the majestic streak is over. A run which saw Les Bleus win a Grand Slam, dismantle New Zealand in Paris, and get the better of the World Champions South Africa in the autumn. The nuclear button is far from being pressed, and perhaps it’s better now to get a loss before the World Cup, but it’s a reminder that no team in international rugby is perfect.

Grade: B-. Not bad, but not amazing. Don’t let this undo your hard work.

Scotland: Rejoice!

Finally, after so long they finally did it. For the first time ever, Scotland won against a Warren Gatland managed Wales team. I was reserving judgment because we’ve seen this from Scotland for the last two years. Get a win against England and look promising before bottling it against Wales and setting them on a poor trajectory for the rest of the tournament, but that didn’t happen. It looked early on that it might be a close affair, with Ken Owens responding to fellow hooker George Turner’s try to make it 13-7 at the break, but once the Scots put the pedal to the floor, they never showed any sign of slowing down. Finn Russell was instrumental in pulling the strings as Scotland started to pile on the pressure. They forced Wales into giving away silly penalties with Kyle Steyn, Blaire Kinghorn and Duhan van der Merwe starting to take the handbrake off in a big way leading to a massive 35-7 bonus point win. Who would’ve thought when you abandon the plan of make chances out of nothing and actually play to your players strengths that you’ll end up getting a great result? Crazy. On paper, Scotland probably are contenders but that might be a bridge too far at the moment. I can’t see them winning it this year, however a top 3 finish is definitely on the cards which would be a massive improvement on last year.

Grade: A. Fantastic effort and great work, well done. Keep it up!

Wales: Yikes…

So that was… yeah. Simply put, that wasn’t great. Wales saw plenty of the ball in the first half and had some decent opportunities but couldn’t really get anything going, much like the second half against Ireland but both sides were far scrappier. Rio Dyer had a great opportunity just before half-time to score but couldn’t quite make the catch. The second half speaks for itself really. Wales just couldn’t keep up with the Scottish pressure. They gave away silly penalties when they didn’t need to and were punished for it massively, and when you pair that with how clinical Scotland were with their chances and the performances that Finn Russell and Kyle Steyn had it was only going to go one way. This being said, there are some positives. I thought the front row looked strong yet again with Wyn Jones, Dillon Lewis, Ken Owens, and Leon Browne scrummaging very well while Rhys Carre had some great carries when he came on (Scott Baldwin only played about 10 seconds so he didn’t have much of a chance to do much). I was also impressed with Christ Tshiunza, Tommy Reffell, and Jac Morgan who should 100% be Wales’s starting flankers and number 8 going forward. I’ll put my neck on the line and say that those three will be the Dan Lydiate, Sam Warbuton, and Taulupe Faletau of this team. The break has come at the perfect time for Wales, as they’ll need a time to fully reassess from two poor games. Also, up next is England and as people always say, form goes out the window when you play your biggest rivals*.

*Absolutely not true in the slightest but hey it’s a fun cliche

Grade: D-. Poor yet again. Take some time over the break to work on weaknesses before the big one in two weeks.

England: The Borthwick revolution is underway (take 2)

On what felt like the most Sunday England v Italy game of all time, Steve Borthwick got his first win as England coach. It reminded me of an early Leicester Tigers type of performance under Borthwick, inoffensive, hardly set the world alight, and sometimes a bit scrappy, but they did what they needed to do. The defence improved massively since last week’s opener with Jack Willis being a huge addition to the side. There were periods where Italy really struggled to make any dent in the England team and lost a lot of territory. Ellis Genge had some brilliant carries yet again while Ollie Chessum is growing more and more into this England team with each game. The same can also be said for Ollie Lawrence, who surely must be a shoe in at 12 now. Going for 80 meters from 10 carries meant he was deservedly the player of the match in what was his best England performance yet. Although if I’m going to nit-pick, and it’s my blog and I usually do so I will, England still kicked far too often. On more than one occasion they’d find themselves in decent field position only for Owen Farrell or Freddie Steward to kick it away to either try and put pressure on the Italian attack or create some cute chances, with neither of them happening often. But I digress. It was a bonus point win and the kind of result that England needed and will hope that they can get some confidence to take to Cardiff for the big one in two weeks’ time.

Grade: B+. Even if it’s not the most memorable or exciting display you did what needed to be done, well played.

Italy: Not the Italy of old anymore

Strange one. After coming so close against France last week Italy probably won’t really feel too satisfied, but it still wasn’t a bad performance at all. The intensity was still high and despite the England tries, they didn’t give up like the Italy of old might’ve. Ill-discipline ended up becoming a bit of an Achilles heel with Lorenzo Cannone and Simone Ferrari both being shown yellow cards, with England scoring two tries whilst Cannone was in the sinbin and England getting a penalty try as a result of the Ferrari incident. But overall, it was still a performance that we’d come to expect from Italy nowadays. The rugby was fast-paced and free flowing, whilst Ange Capuozzo remained a menace with some silky moves and was dangerous going forward. Up next for the Azzurri are the world’s number 1 team, Ireland. After the first two games you’d expect Ireland to win this one convincingly just because of how good they are, but in the words of our friends from across the pond, any given Sunday (even though the game will be on a Saturday, just try not to think too much about it).

Grade: C+. Good, but couldn’t quite piece it together. Can still be very proud of how far you’ve come though. Well done.

Class clown of the week: Dan Biggar. To talk that smack in the build-up and only back it up with swearing at the opposition and shouting at Rio Dyer because he misplaced a pass is legendary status class clown of the week material.


Six Nations Week One Review: New eras, same old reviews

12 months is an awfully long time in rugby and the transition from 2022 into 2023 has proven to be no different. Since the start of last year’s tournament we’ve welcomed new (and old) coaches, seen northern hemisphere teams get big wins against southern hemisphere giants, welcome new players called up, and a certain team in azzurro make one or two people look silly for calling for them to be replaced in the Six Nations (not me though, I even have the receipts of singing their praises for the last three years). And it’s not just new eras within rugby that we’re welcoming, as this is the first post that I’m writing on a new laptop (snazzy, I know). With a World Cup not too far away, it’s one of the last chances for six of Europe’s biggest teams to put a marker down before heading to France in September with the Webb Ellis trophy on their mind. The fans flooded stands with pints in their hands and ready to cheer on their team with the travelling Irish hopeful belting out ‘The Fields of Athenry’ to get behind the Boys in Green, England supporters giving renditions of ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ to carry their lads home, the Scottish faithful bellowing an impassioned cry of ‘Flower of Scotland’ at Twickenham, and the Welsh fans singing along to Tom Jones classic Delilah Max Boyce’s ‘Hymns and Arias’. With the dust having settled from the opening weekend there’s only one thing left to do and that’s give some reviews and predictions that will undoubtably age horrendously, let the grading commence!

Wales: Parts looked promising, other parts not so much…

Any Welsh fan watching on Saturday will agree that those 80 minutes were unarguably, a game. After the opening 20 minutes it looked as if it would be a result that mirrored a cricket score, but as the game went on it got somewhat better. The first half, put bluntly, was really bad. Wales made far too many defensive errors (which you cannot afford to do against this Ireland team), discipline was poor, and were too slow with their passing which came back to haunt them a few times, namely the intercepted James Lowe try. Things did improve in the second half as they responded early with a Liam Williams try, but the Irish defence stayed strong. The opportunities were there as Ireland’s discipline did start to go a bit shaky and Wales enjoyed a lot of possession and territory, but a mixture of not doing enough with the ball and a strong Irish defence meant that nothing could come of it and the campaign gets off to a poor start. There were some individual performances that deserve praise. I thought Joe Hawkins played really well and is starting to make that 12 shirt his own, Jac Morgan looked strong again, and Tommy Reffell, Dillon Lewis, and Alex Cuthbert impressed me when they came on. Many questions will be asked about who should start at Murrayfield next week, and I for one don’t envy Warren Gatland on making that choice.

Despite whatever was going to happen on the pitch on Saturday, it doesn’t overshadow what’s happened off it and the stories that have come to light in recent weeks. Everyone knows what I’m on about, and in all honesty it would be cowardly if I didn’t mention it. It sickens me to my core that any employee of a major organisation thought for so long that they could say the things they did and act in the manor that they did and attempt to pass it off as “banter”, let alone the people running the damn thing. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the all women who have come forward to share their stories of their harrowing experiences of bullying and harassment as well as the toxic and sexist culture that has existed within the WRU for so long and I sincerely hope that it’s the start of an enormous overhaul. Words don’t begin to describe how despicable this whole situation is.

Grade: E. Far from good, but signs of some potential.

Ireland: Big marker put down

What else can be said other than a perfect start. The Boys in Green haven’t won in the Welsh capital since 2013 but they weren’t put off by that in the slightest. They absolutely steamrolled Wales in the first half with tries from Caelan Doris and James Ryan coming in quick succession, James Lowe capitalising on some poor passing to score a try from an interception, and Johnny Sexton kicking 12 points from penalties and conversions. The passing was quick and and concise and they were willing to commit men against a Welsh team that were left chasing shadows for the first half. The attacking intensity wore off slightly in the second half, but what they lacked in attack they more than made up for with a great defence. Barring the Liam Williams try, they weathered Welsh storms by absorbing the pressure and turning the ball over fantastically, all leading to Josh Van der Flier’s late try to confirm the bonus point. All in all, it was a perfect game from Andy Farrell’s men as they displayed how dangerous they can be in attack and how tight a defensive ship they run when under pressure. It was the type of display that we as rugby fans would expect from New Zealand, and if it carries on for the rest of the tournament then the type of form that they’d want to carry into the World Cup. Is this the time they finally get further than a somewhat disappointing quarter final defeat? You wouldn’t bet against it. Up next for the Boys in Green is a visit from France in what isn’t unfair to call an early championship decider and I’m already beyond excited for it… so naturally it’ll probably be a snooze fest 12-12 draw.

Grade: A*. Absolutely perfect performance, star of the week!

England: What even is tackling?

I don’t know why I bother getting my hopes up. Expectations were high for the first game of the Borthwick era but it ended in (another) Calcutta Cup defeat. When England played a bit of rugby and strung some passes together it worked fairly well, but they didn’t do it anywhere near enough. They were wasteful with their chances and weren’t clinical enough, which was the exact opposite for Scotland. It wasn’t an issue of not having enough of the ball, it was just a matter of being wasteful when they had it. A number of unforced errors turned out to be England’s achilles’ heel at times, most notably the turnover from a poor ruck which lead to THAT first half Duhan van der Merwe try. Speaking of said try, while it was an incredible run the tackling, or lack thereof, was nowhere near good enough. Without taking anything away from van der Merwe, that should’ve been easily preventable if the defence did their job. Cynicism aside, there were some positives to take from the game. There were some great individual performances from Max Malins, Lewis Ludlam and Ollie Chessum, and the scrum greatly improved when Dan Cole came on (what year is it again?). There are lessons to be learned before another home clash next weekend, this time to Italy. You’d favour England in that one but with how both teams performed in their opening fixtures, eeehh I’m not so sure.

Grade: D+. Disappointing result, definitely should’ve done better.

Scotland: Duhan van der JESUS LOOK AT HIM GO!

The Scots came with a clear and obvious plan and executed it perfectly. They were never going to dominate in possession as that’s rarely their style when playing England but like last year’s encounter, when they got the ball they used it well and made the most of it. The team selection was perfect to execute this. While some eyebrows were raised at Sione Tuipulotu getting the nod over Chris Harris, he didn’t put a foot wrong all afternoon. He looked dangerous every time he had the ball and timed his kick to perfection for Huw Jones’ try. All of the backs had a great game, perhaps none more so than Duhan van der Merwe. While there was some questionable tackling in the lead up to his try, it was still something special. The forwards had a great showing as well, especially the front row. George Turner and Pierre Schoeman made some great carries while WP Nell had some great scrummaging battles with Ellis Genge. With all this being said, I am reserving a bit of judgement for now. Don’t forget that this happened last year before a loss in Cardiff in their second game, and look how the rest of that campaign went. Looking ahead to Wales next week the main area for improvement would be possession of the ball. While not seeing much of it worked against England, Wales will have a huge point to prove after the Ireland game and if this Scotland team have the ball more often they could put up some serious scores this tournament and give France and Ireland some real challenges

Grade: B+. Very impressive, but don’t get complacent.

Italy: Capuozzo is king

We were this close to greatness, *this* close. There was a lot of hype surrounding Italy before this, and it was justified. They had a great 2022 with impressive wins against Wales in Cardiff during the last Six Nations and a first ever win against Australia in Florence in the Autumn. After two early French tries, the Italy of old would’ve collapsed, however this isn’t the Italy of old. They kept their heads up and kept fighting on. At 19-6 down it looked as if the floodgates may open, however a moment of magic from Ange Capuozzo for his try and Tommaso Allan’s penalty meant that the Azzurri were only 5 down at half-time. A gutsy performance in the second half had the French nervously wiping sweat from their brow. With a penalty try and penalties kicked by Allan, Italy had the ball deep in the French half trailing by 5 with the clock red, however in the end it wasn’t to be. The intensity from Italy was something else and they weren’t afraid to go toe to toe with one of the best teams currently in world rugby. They were strong in the lineout and maul as well as looking dangerous going forward. In the end, France were just the better team. They didn’t disgrace themselves in the slightest, and that kind of performance could get them some decent results this tournament. Usually a trip to Twickenham would be a foregone conclusion before a whistle has been blown, but these are strange times we’re living in. Don’t be too surprised if we see a shock result.

Grade: B-. Honestly, I’m impressed. Keep that up and you’ll get a few wins this year.

France: Did what was needed

Bit of a weird one, but maybe that’s because we’ve come to expect the best from France every time they take to the field. It wasn’t the absolute steamrolling that some may have expected, but they were far from poor. Their discipline wasn’t the greatest, a point which Shaun Edwards alluded to after the game, and that perhaps made it closer than it needed to be. With that being said though, they turned up the tempo when they needed to and made the most of their opportunities. Thibaud Flament was fortunate with how his charge meant that the ball went perfectly into his hands but sometimes you need a bit of luck, while Sekou Macalou and Matthieu Jalibert were important additions from the bench. It says quite a bit that the general consensus was that the performance overall wasn’t the best yet France still won with a bonus point. They’ll want to be much more disciplined next week, in all they gave away eighteen penalties and Ireland showed on Saturday how they can harm teams that give them even a sniff of an opportunity, but I imagine a Shaun Edwards grilling on the issue of discipline will trigger a bit of a response from Les Bleus next week in Dublin.

Grade: B. Not the most convincing and a little too close at times, but got the job done in the end.

Class Clown of the Week: England’s tackling for the van der Merwe try. I’m still not over how bad that tackling was, and won’t be for a while.


Tua Tagovailoa’s horrible injury: Proof that the NFL need a complete overhaul of their concussion protocol

The response from fans across the NFL last night when Tua Tagovailoa was carted off the field having suffered a concussion in the Miami Dolphins’ 27-15 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals was a collective “Jesus Christ I hope he’s okay”. Following a sack from Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou, Tua hit his head against the floor where he lost consciousness and was rendered into a fencing response, this is where the forearms are extended into the air and seize for a few seconds following a concussion or head trauma. If you’re a UFC fan you might remember this happening to Ben Askren when Jorge Masvidal caught him with a flying knee in their bout at UFC 239, or a football fan to John Terry when Abou Diaby caught his head with his boot when they both went for the ball in the 2007 Carling Cup Final.

To the naked eye, Tua didn’t hit the deck particularly hard, however the issue comes when he shouldn’t have been on the field in the first place. On Sunday the 25th of September, the Dolphins played against the Buffalo Bills where Tua sustained what looked like a concussion. He took a nasty hit from Bills line-backer Matt Milano hitting his head hard against the turf and lost his balance when trying to run after it. He shook his head a few times, lost balance and fell when trying to run, and looked very uneasy on his feet. Tua only missed the last three snaps of the half before being cleared to play in the third quarter. Following the game the Dolphins said he wasn’t concussed (despite it looking like he was) and only fell because of back and ankle injuries. Tua then ended up getting cleared (for some reason) to play the Thursday night game against the Bengals where he ended up suffering the concussion. Because the Dolphins and NFL doctors didn’t think Tua was concussed during or after the Bills game he didn’t enter the league’s concussion protocol, no seriously. He was assessed during the Bills game, deemed fit to play the last 2 quarters, and cleared to play against the Bengals. This just showcases how much the NFL need to step up their concussion protocol. Tua wasn’t entered into it because the doctors didn’t think he was showing symptoms of concussion after hitting his head against the Bills. I’m no expert but just look at the video of him trying to run after it, it’s grim viewing and there’s obviously something wrong.

If Tua did end up sustaining a concussion in the Bills game (and it wasn’t properly diagnosed) then it explains why he ended up with one against the Bengals with a hit that wasn’t as hard. Once you have a concussion and are in the recovery period your head is more vulnerable and thus you’re more susceptible to end up suffering another one from a blow to the head, even with significantly less contact. It takes around 10-14 days to fully recover from a concussion, Tua would’ve been on day 4 since the Bills injury. After Tua was taken off against Cincinnati, the NFL’s Players Association said that an investigation was in progress as to whether the Dolphins knew Tua was concussed against the Bills and they just told him to carry on playing (something that Miami deny). Again, no seriously. It should’ve been investigated straight away and yes these things take time but when something as serious as a potential concussion is involved this should be top priority, especially when the team were playing again in 4 days.

The NFL have been rightly torn to shreds by fans, pundits, players, and ex-players alike on social media following Tua’s injury. Their concussion protocol is an absolute farce and needs serious re-evaluation. Tua was showing concussion symptoms against the Bills after he hit his head, yet he was allowed to play another entire half and start against the Bengals. Even though the Dolphins and the NFL said that the concussion protocols were followed they’re clearly not enough. If it’s true that Tua wasn’t concussed against the Bills and he was uneasy on his feet because of a back and ankle injury, why was he still allowed to play 4 days later? Spinal injuries are just as serious as head injuries, because what’s that thing that the spine and neck supports called again? Oh yeah, the head. If the spine is injured or weakened then it doesn’t take a genius to work out that it won’t take as much to get a head injury too. Plus playing through injury can lead to further issues in the long-term and will affect the player’s performance, just look at Baker Mayfield last year.

So what is the solution? It’s simple, adopt the in-game Head Injury Assessment protocol that is used in rugby. When a player has possibly suffered a concussion, whether they have symptoms or are asymptomatic, they’re taken off the field. If they’re showing clear signs of concussion then they’re taken out of the game permanently for further assessment and scans. If not, then they’re taken out for 12 minutes while doctors can assess the player and use video replays of the incident to come to a conclusion as to whether the player has sustained a serious head injury. Even if doctors think that the player can be allowed back on to the field of play, they’re still entered into second and third stages of assessment for further tests and potential diagnosis after the game. Stage 2 consists of an assessment by a SCAT5 up to three hours after the game finishing for an early diagnosis, and step 3 is another scan after two night’s rest (36-48 hours after the injury) to assess progress of the injury and identify a late diagnosis. Even if the NFL have to copy it exactly how it is then so be it, it’ll prevent instances like what happened to Tua from occurring in the future.

I criticise World Rugby and certain International Rugby Unions quite a lot (some more than others, here’s looking at you WRU) for some of their decisions they make, but this is one of the best things to happen to the sport. It’s saved countless lives because it’s not uncommon for concussed players to be unaware that they have one (which is another thing I’m sick to my teeth of seeing online. Most people with concussions don’t know that they have one and rely on other people to spot it, like when somebody’s very drunk it’s usually someone else who has to say to stop drinking for a bit, so Tua wouldn’t have been in the right frame of mind to say in the Bills game if he thought he was concussed). If those players who didn’t know they were concussed were allowed to carry on they could’ve sustained even further head trauma and further injury. Sound familiar? With World Rugby’s HIA system in play then Tua wouldn’t have played the last two quarters of the Bills game and definitely wouldn’t have started against the Bengals. While the NFL’s concussion protocol is in a better state than it was 20 years ago, where the approach was essentially “eh you’ll be fine, get back out there”, it still needs to be changed further. In a game where 300+ lb defenders batter into considerably smaller opponents it should be a no-brainer to have the procedure and steps in place to ensure you’ve got the best concussion protocol in the world, yet in its current form the protocol is nothing but a joke that stopped being funny years ago.

If Tua turns around tomorrow and decides he’s never playing football again then he’ll get nothing but support. Players know the risks of playing the game, however there’s more to life than football. He should have been nowhere near the action against the Bengals and the horrific injury he was on the receiving end of proves it. I seriously hope that the Dolphins give Tua the time off he needs to fully recover and is eased back into the team, and that the NFL use this as a wakeup call to put a better concussion protocol in place because it’s long overdue.


Re-visiting 7 Bold(ish) Predictions for the 2022 Formula 1 Season

Back in March during Bahrain pre-season testing I made a piece giving some bold(ish) predictions for the upcoming Formula One season. Some of these have come true, whilst others have aged about as well as a glass of cravendale left out on the counter on a warm summer’s day. We hoped that the racing would be better with the cars under the new regulations and for the most part I’d say that’s happened. There have been great battles, tense finishes, and more horrendous Ferrari strategies that you can shake a stick at. With it officially being over half way through the season now after a somewhat more interesting race than I was expecting at Paul Ricard on the weekend, and the summer break approaching shortly, it seemed like a good a time as any to look back at the predictions I made back in March where I was younger, more optimistic about this year having an exciting championship battle, and just as irritating as I am now. I’m going to grade them on a verdict scale ranging from “it happened” to “Jesus Christ man what the hell were you thinking” (and believe me, there’s a few of them). So without further ado, let’s get into it!

Prediction 1: Haas Score Points

Verdict: It happened!

Haas have made huge strides since their absolutely abysmal season last year. It would’ve been difficult for them to do much worse, but they’ve definitely improved. They currently sit P7 in the constructors standings on 34 points. Of those points, Kevin Magnussen has scored 22 whilst Mick Schumacher has scored his first 12 after finishing P8 in Great Britain and P6 in Austria. Maybe this seems like a bit of a weak prediction to make considering how the new regulations were going to make the smaller teams more competitive (even if they haven’t really) but think back to how bad Haas were the last few years. They did their best Great Britain at Eurovision impression in 2021 and ended up getting nil-pointed, scored only 3 points in 2020, and scored 28 in 2019. But now they look like a changed Haas who can definitely be midfield contenders, much like how Great Britain are now somehow hosting Eurovision next year (if any of the Eurovision committee are reading which I know you won’t be but if you are, then please choose Cardiff as the host city). We’re at the point now where it’s more of a shock if both Haas’s don’t make it out of Q1 when last year it was just a given. The team have gone through a bit of an image change off the track as well. Nikita Mazepin and former lead sponsor Uralkali were rightfully binned off after the Russian invasion of Ukraine back in February, but Mazepin shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Gone are the days of the Mazepins in the team and the god awful Rich Energy fiasco, and hopefully this is a new page in the always bonkers story that is Haas F1 Team.

Prediction 2: Yuki closes the gap

Verdict: So far so good

I never outright said that I thought Yuki Tsunoda would out perform and have a better season that Pierre Gasly, just that he’d close the gap. However that gap is definitely getting narrower. Currently Yuki sits in P16 in the Driver Standings with 11 points with Gasly only just ahead of him in P13 with 16 points. In terms of the head to head, Gasly leads Tsunoda in highest qualifying position 8-4, 7-5 in terms of race results, but they’re shared at 1-1 in terms of sprint race results. Considering how behind Tsunoda was at this point last year, he’s closed the gap massively. However conversations are still needed about the state of this year’s AlphaTauri. In short, it’s not a great car. As the stats show it rarely finishes in the points and they’re currently P8 in the constructor standings ahead of only Aston Martin and Williams. It’s disappointing considering how good they were last year, and especially how well Gasly performed. Whilst overall it’s been a bit of a dud for AlphaTauri, the gap between Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly has definitely gotten smaller.

Prediction 3: Alfa Romeo get a podium

Verdict: Work in progress

So this one hasn’t happened yet, but I thought there would be more different teams on the podium this year. The only ones that have are the big 3 (Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull) and McLaren (somehow). It’s entirely possible that this could still happen, Valtteri Bottas has really impressed me in the Alfa this year and Zhou Guanyu has had a pretty decent start to his F1 career. It’s just a shame with Zhou that the Ferrari engines this year are rapid at the expense of having the reliability of Hermes and they break a lot. If either of them end up on podium then I think it’ll be Bottas, but much like Haas they’ve come far since last year. The artist formerly known as Sauber stunk up the grid a bit last year only scoring 13 points, but so far this season they’ve scored 51 and sit in P6. It’ll take a mental grand prix for it to happen where some of the big players get taken out (much like Hungary and Azerbaijan last year), but it’s not too beyond the realms of possibility.

Prediction 4: Maiden wins for Sainz and Stroll


Remember what I said about some of the awful predictions? Yeah… So let’s start with the first half of this one, Carlos Sainz. If not for reliability issues and Ferrari wanting to do their absolute best to shoot themselves in the foot with absolutely horrible strategy every weekend then he’d be in much better contention for the driver’s championship. He has however had a very impressive season and managed to get his first win in F1 at Silverstone this year. I think he’ll probably end up winning another race or two this season as well. Now for the second part, yeah I’ve had a stinker. The reasons I said that Lance would get his first win this year are because 1) I predict it every year and when it eventually happens I’ll look like a genius and 2) I’m a Stroll fanboy (there’s really not many of us around). I thought that maybe there was a chance that one weekend the Aston Martin would find some decent pace with there being a few retirements for the usual main contenders and he could sneak a win just like Gasly did at Monza in 2020 or Esteban Ocon in Hungary last year. In reality, that’s not happening. Even if there is a mental race the Aston is getting nowhere near to the front. It’s been more like a green 2021 Haas than a green Mercedes (although this year a green Mercedes isn’t the worst description). Still, 10 races left and 10 opportunities for Super Stroll to make me look like a genius who’s played an absolute blinder. Come on Lance! Do it for your old pal Tom!

Prediction 5: Penalties for everyone

Verdict: I guess?

The reason I included this was because of how Abu Dhabi finished last year and people claiming that the rules were bended a bit for the sake of entertainment instead of being by the book. With the absolute storm it created online and in the media I thought that everything would be run by the book to the absolute T with appropriate penalties for any rule breaking so that F1 looked good again. The reality is that whilst it’s sort of happened, there hasn’t been a massive need for it. The driving overall has been pretty clean and any incidents were dealt with quickly. The only things that come to mind with leniency or strictness are how Yuki Tsunoda probably should’ve been black flagged at Azerbaijan after he finished the race with only half of his rear wing opening when using DRS but he was fine to carry on and how strict the stewards have been about track limits in Austria and France. Quite a lot of drivers saw their times deleted in either practice or qualifying and it was the reason why Mick Schumacher went out in Q1 in France. My personal take is that if they were infringed that much then surely they need to be wider? But what do I know.

Prediction 6: Charles Leclerc wins in Monaco

Verdict: Ferrari strategy team

Charles Leclerc is on pole for his home race. Charles Leclerc is leading home race. Rain is drying at home race. Time to pit for intermediate tyres. Ferrari call in Charles but do a u-turn bigger than a Tory Party Government. Ferrari don’t tell Charles Leclerc in quick enough time. Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc are double stacked. Really slow pit means Charles Leclerc comes out P4 behind Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz, and Max Verstappen. Nobody overtakes at Monaco. Bad Ferrari.

That basically sums it up. While he ended up seeing the chequered flag for the first time at his home race the relationship between Leclerc and the Monaco Grand Prix remains to be just as fragile and rocky as any relationship that’s ever come out of Love Island (with the exception of about 3). Ferrari end up annoying their driver who has the best shot of winning them a driver’s championship for the first time since Kimi Raikkonen did in 2007 and bad strategy costs them the weekend. But surely that’s the last time Ferrari will mess up their pit strategy that badly, right guys? Right?

Prediction 7: Lewis Hamilton, 8 time champion of the world


Okay fine I admit it. Max Verstappen is winning the title again this year, Mercedes weren’t sandbagging in pre-season, porpoising actually is bad for cars, Mercedes aren’t too big to fail, Red Bull were never going to have a flop year. There I’ve said it (albeit with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat as I think back to how close Lewis was to breaking the championship record) now leave me alone. In all seriousness though, I thought plucky old Toto Wolff was playing the mother of all red herrings when in reality the W13 was just not that great a car. Granted it has improved as the season has gone on, and on its day it’s definitely the third best car on the grid, but it just hasn’t come together enough. I don’t think this will be the state of Mercedes for much longer and I do think they’ll end up bouncing back next year thus ending up in title contention, but it just wasn’t to be. I thought for a bit that Charles would win his first title but as I’ve mentioned many times, the Ferrari pit strategy exists and the engine is prone to just breaking (annoyingly a lot of the time when Charles is leading). I don’t see how anyone but Verstappen wins it at this point, it would take a monumental Tottenham Hotspur level of bottle to let this one slip. I was hoping for an exciting title battle like last year, just with less interesting interpretations of the safety car rules (last one I promise). I thought it would be a Merc/Sir Lewis constructors and driver double, but I’ll eat my hat if it ends up anything other than a Red Bull/Max double.

Bonus predictions

Victor Martins wins F3. Verdict: probably yes. It looks like it’ll be an exciting 3 way fight between Martins, Isack Hadjar, and Arthur Leclerc with 5 races left, but I think Martins just gets it.

Theo Pourchaire wins F2. Verdict: still possible but less confident. The boy is absolutely quality but Felipe Drugovich has found some frightening consistency since Saudi Arabia. I hope it can be a 3 way fight as well with Drugovich, Pourchaire, and Logan Sargeant, but I think Drugovich will do just enough to take the title.

Andretti F1 team get announced for 2023. Verdict: stop believing everything you read on the internet. I mean, it might still happen one day. They might still bring Colton Herta from Indycar with them, but it’s not happening in time for 2023.

Football Review

Cardiff City 2021/22 in review: A Visit from St. Mickolas

‘Twas the end of the season, when all through the city;

There were thoughts of “what if”, and feelings of pity.

Nets were hung up to goalposts with care,

In the hope that Cardiff would soon be scoring there.

The top two lay quiet, cuddled up in their beds;

While dreams of the Premier League danced in their heads.

For us, the opposite, we had little to unwrap;

Except managing to avoid a relegation scrap.

At the start of the year we had figured a trick;

We had some nice form under our good St. Mick.

But then we got found out, our games were no fun,

Loss after loss, flirting with League One.

After 10 in a row the board bellowed, “enough!”

They canned old St. Mick, it was time to get tough!

I wanted Frank Lampard, or Chris Wilder would do,

But Steve Morison got the nod from Dalman and Choo.

We started to improve but Mozza wanted loans;

And to bring some of our loanees back to their homes.

More rapid than bluebirds, the players they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Ryan! Now, Cody! Now, Tommy and Max!

On, Uche! On, Jordan! Let’s get some attacks!

These fans have suffered, they’re down on their luck!

Play like the wind boys! Let’s keep this team up!”

An impossible task it looked like for some,

But out of nowhere the results they did come.

Forest, Barnsley, Posh, they were all wins;

No more taking bad results on our chins.

A team transformed we refused to yield;

With a better ref we even could’ve won at Anfield!

The embarrassment was over, or so we thought;

That was until *they* came to our fort.

Totally battered by that lot from West,

To put it nicely, we were far from our best.

Losing that way spelt massive trouble;

And to make things worse? It meant they did the double

After this our results became poor,

The goals dried up, I missed Kieffer Moore!

Hull, Luton, Sheffield, and Boro;

All were bad losses, each worse than the other.

The fans grew restless, the football was bad,

When the season was over we’d be more than glad.

We needed an opportunity to snap out of it soon,

That came against the Brummies on a May afternoon.

Our last home game would end honours even,

Before a trip to the Midlands to end our sorry season.

“To be fair, it’s only Derby” I said in my head;

That calmed me down, I had nothing to dread.

The Rams? Relegated, to League One they’ll go,

And today they couldn’t use the excuse of questionable snow.

Hugill’s goal meant we finished on a high,

A fitting way to end it if this is goodbye.

A poor season? Yes, no one can deny that;

But Mozza pulled some tricks out of his hat.

We could’ve gone down, but he snuck us out of jail –

Now let’s have a great summer, and sign Gareth Bale!

TLDR: We started good, then went bad (like really bad), then went good again, then Swansea did the double over us and we were really bad again, then we finished the last 2 games of the year ok, now sign Gareth Bale plz and thanks x


Six Nations Week 5 Recap: All’alba Vinceró

“Although we’ve come, to the end of the road, still I can’t let go. It’s unnatural. You belong to me. I belong to you.” I mean, I assume that Boyz II Men were talking about the Six Nations when they made End of the Road. Yes just like that, the Six Nations are over for another year. All in all, that was a pretty good tournament. We’ve seen France put out a very solid statement 18 months away from a home World Cup, Ireland do their usual look great before eventually going out in the quarter finals of said World Cup, and Italy showing what they bring to the Six Nations (WOAH HOOOO we’ll get into that). Just as we thought many questions have been answered, a whole new bunch have been asked. The Graded journey has yet again come to an end for another year and as I thank you for joining for another fun tournament, let’s get into the last grading of the 2022 Six Nations!


When I say I would’ve loved to experience the 80s and 90s I meant experiencing stuff like the rise and prime years of Britpop, Thomas Hearns, Mike Tyson, and Marvin Hagler tearing up the boxing scene, and a first date going to see Titanic in the cinema. NOT the Welsh national team being naff. I’ve said all tournament that there were red flags in this team. The inability to take chances when given them (France) and starting slowly (Ireland and Scotland/England to an extent) became this team’s undoing on more than one occasion. But never in my wildest dreams though did I think Wales would lose to Italy. They just never seemed to get out of second gear. Whilst there were some individual moments of brilliance such as the tries from Owen Watkin, Dewi Lake, and Josh Adams, and the late defensive tackle from Adams which stopped an almost certain try, it never felt convincing. Italy were more than happy to soak up the fairly poor and one-dimensional Welsh pressure and managed to make them commit silly mistakes so that they could keep the points ticking over from penalties to stay in the game all before Capuozzo’s moment of magic.

It’s easy to point the finger at the coaches and players, but this isn’t on them. This exposed the cracks that have been in the WRU for decades. There’s never been a sniff of a contingency plan in place since the 70s. Why do you think there was such a slump in the 80s and 90s? The golden generation was coached perfectly under Warren Gatland but one day they’ll leave, and most of them have. What comes next? Much like the past, the WRU haven’t given a thought to it because things were going well for the national team. And when things are going so well in the present not planning for the future is easy to do but can also be disastrous. The regional game has no real depth to it, as was shown this weekend with the Blues and Scarlets losing in South Africa with their squads lacking their main players. You know who wouldn’t have got embarrassed like that? Premiership teams. Teams like Leicester, Saracens, and Harlequins who are missing major players but don’t get turned over when they have to play during the international window. The RFU’s system is incredible in having a smooth transition from the national leagues to the higher clubs and great funding and promotion for the English clubs all the while doing the same for the English national team. While we were concentrating on the glory of the national team over the last 15 or so years the regional game has gone into decline, and there’s no quick fix there.

Oh and the Irritating Welsh Rugby Fan? Last I heard he’s chained himself to the gates of the Senedd and isn’t leaving until Wayne Pivac is sacked. What a mess.

Grade: F-. This was painfully obviously going to happen. You’ve papered over the cracks for too long but now they’re there.


REJOYCE! THE STREAK IS OVER! 36 GAMES WITHOUT A WIN AND WE’RE BACK BABY! SEVEN YEARS OF HURT, NEVER STOPPED ME DREAMING! IT’S COMING HOME IT’S COMING! RUGBY’S CO… sorry wrong sport. The score-line may have been close but the Azzurri did anything but scrape a win. They were much the better team throughout and had their game plan nailed down to a T. The defence held strong and remained solid whilst they were lightning going forward. Montanna Ioane had probably his best game in an Italy shirt and although he wasn’t on the scoresheet he was an absolute menace all day. That run he made from the dead ball line in the second half was absolute *chef’s kiss*. The dynamic duo of Edoardo Padovani and Paolo Garbisi kept the points ticking over and it managed to build up for Ange Capuozzo going on the run of his life to put Padovani in to score and Garbisi to kick the winning conversion. Being Welsh this does sting quite a lot but this was always going to come sooner rather than later. It ends the debate surrounding where do Italy go next, because they clearly have a bit of quality about them. Call Georgia or Romania up by all means if you want to, but it should never be at the expense of Italy. This could be a turning point in Italian rugby’s recent history. They’ve upset a major player in their back garden, plus when you add their solid base of players and coaches into the mix who know where the future will take them.

Grade: A*. I’ve said for ages that you’ve had this in you! Star of the week!


Triple Crown secured in what may feel like somewhat of a bittersweet celebration. There’s no doubt that Ireland would’ve wanted that Six Nations trophy but they’re on the right track. The first half started very well with Dan Sheehan and Cian Healey scoring for the boys in green. Even when Scotland scored just before half time their heads didn’t drop and came out in the second half firing. Josh van der Flier and Conor Murray managed to wrap up the game and the bonus point victory to secure the win and the first piece of silverware for Andy Farrell as Ireland coach. It was a disciplined display and they managed to do exactly what was needed of them. I’m particularly impressed with the strength of the Irish bench. To have players like Murray, Robbie Henshaw, Peter O’Mahoney, and Joey Carbery to come on shows how strong this squad is. Of course in the end it would be just not enough as the result didn’t go their way in the late kick off. This tournament has shown great promise for Ireland. There’s clearly a great team here with some quality players and the coaching staff makes them a world class side. If they can keep this going then there’s no reason as to why they can’t be in the conversation for the World Cup. Now I know that this is vintage Ireland showing up and looking great just before the World Cup for them to crash out in the quarter finals, they’ve done this before so I am throwing caution to the wind slightly, but it’s looking good on paper.

Grade: A. Faultless display. Keep it up for the big one in 18 months!


Inoffensive, dull, couldn’t really get much going. The story of Scotland’s performance and campaign as a whole. They never looked particularly interested and even the Pierre Schoeman try didn’t feel like it would be a catalyst for a comeback. Whilst they were somewhat in it in the first half, the second was beyond poor and ultimately sealed their fate. Big name players like Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell couldn’t get anything going in the final 40 and Ireland comfortably took control of the game. There was a feeling that there may have been a point to prove after some of the negative press for key players in the week but it wasn’t really there. The defence looked solid enough at times but ultimately they gave away too many silly penalties and were far too ill-disciplined, all summed up by Ben White’s (not that one) late trip to the sin-bin for his deliberate knock on. This means that it’s a third consecutive 4th place finish for Scotland in a tournament where they should’ve done better. The team and players are good enough to push for championships or triple crowns at least but it’s just not come together, again. There’s plenty to work on for Scotland, but the task isn’t particularly massive. The quality is there, just play to your best players strengths and abandon the try and make chances out of nothing style.

Grade: E. Just a bit of a dud in the end.


After 12 long years, Les Bleus finally have their Six Nations championship and managed a grand slam in doing so. They’re deserved winners not only on the day but in the whole championship. Gael Fickou and Francois Crois managed to score in the first half to ease any early nerves while that man again, Mr Incredible, the man with the iron cheekbones, Antoine Dupont took France over in the final 10 minutes to confirm the win. This is something that’s been brewing for years. France have been one of the best teams and have played some of the best rugby for the last four tournaments and this would be the year it finally paid off. With a squad that’s not really been in the Grand Slam winning position before it could’ve been easy to fold under the pressure like the France of old may have, but this isn’t the France of old. They kept it tight at the back and were just better overall in attack, chances created, and with ball in hand. It showed how good France are, and they’ll be an excited nation looking into the future. I would say that it may be difficult to keep this consistency going after such a stellar campaign were it any other team, but France have performed like this for years. With a home World Cup looming after a tournament like that and having played New Zealand off the park last Autumn, South Africa’s grip on the Webb Ellis trophy might be loosening ever so slightly as the Springboks nervously wipe the sweat from their brow whilst looking at the oncoming French train of destruction behind them.

Grade: A. Icing on the cake for a marvellous tournament. C’est magnifique!


Another year of Six Nations mediocrity over, thank god. I really had hopes for this team, but Saturday’s game proved how far off the mark they are. The annoying thing is that the players are there. They’re more than good enough but it just hasn’t clicked this tournament. There were instances where they looked like they could maybe produce something, such as the Freddie Steward try and Joe Marchant had some decent breaks, but there wasn’t really that edge to them. In what will be irritating to Eddie Jones and co. it’s a third place finish in a tournament where England really should’ve done better. Even though it wasn’t the worst performance in the world because they didn’t get battered, what does that say about the expectation surrounding English rugby? Clive Woodward talked about Saturday’s game being a potential 2023 World Cup Semi Final, but in all honesty I don’t see this England team anywhere near the last 4 of that tournament. Not being battered by France isn’t enough for it to be a good performance, the expectation should be to be on level terms with teams like this.

The big question now is where do England go from here? Or more specifically, who do England go for from here? If they want a change before the World Cup then now’s the time to do it. There’s 15 games (give or take) until the World Cup which isn’t the longest turnaround but enough time to get the ball rolling for a cup run. The bookies always have people like Rassie Erasmus and Warren Gatland as favourites, but maybe it’s better to plan for the long run? Jones goes on about a “new-look England” and if there’s going to be one with the influx of younger talent, why not go for a younger coach? Somebody like Steve Borthwick would be ideal. As a Leicester Tigers fan I really don’t want him to go but it would make perfect sense to get him. Ball’s in your court RFU, and it’s a monumental decision to make.

Grade: C-. Not great but didn’t get battered, small victories I suppose.

Class Clown of the Week: The Welsh Rugby Union as an organization. Just read back the second paragraph on Wales to see why.