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nfl

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.

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F1

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

Verdict: 50% spot-on, 50% WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING YOU ABSOLUTE MORON!

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

Verdict: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA no

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.

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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

Categories
Rugby

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!

Wales

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.

Italy

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!

Ireland

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!

Scotland

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.

France

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!

England

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.

Categories
Rugby

Six Nations Week 4 Recap: Dates With Destiny

All aboard! We’re at the penultimate stop of the 2022 Six Nations Championship, terminating next week at Super Saturday Parkway. After this past weekend, all eyes are now on two teams in who will end up taking the Six Nations crown with a grand slam still there to be won. In a week that my Fantasy Team took a bit of a pounding, there were yet another three games with plenty to talk about. France very narrowly kept their Grand Slam hopes alive, whilst Ireland will be hoping that England will be able to do them a bit of a favour in the last week. But before we can think about next week and all that it will entail, let’s get into the grading!

Wales

I’m not too sure how to grade this in all honesty. All I can say is that I feel sorry for the poor souls who paid £100 or more to watch it. France were there for the taking but Wales just couldn’t really muster up much in the form of attack when it mattered. The game was there for the taking for sure, but a mix of France’s solid defence and Wales’s lack of creativity in attack meant that it was a bit of a dud. The biggest chance for Wales was Jonathan Davies’s opportunity in the second half but as was the story of the game for Wales in attack, it didn’t come to anything. With all that being said there were some good individual performances. Taulupe Faletau proved once again that he’s different gravy and Will Rowlands had a good showing. I like how there’s two good Locks getting gametime in the form of Rowlands and Adam Beard. It’s no doubt that Alun Wyn Jones won’t play on for much longer and with him in the team for Italy I think that’ll be his swan song. I doubt the team will be selected on the base of nostalgia or sentiment but he’ll definitely play at some point. Probably in the form of the last 15 minutes or so just so that he can break the record. All in all, annoying result but it could’ve been much worse. Luckily there was only around 12 people in the stadium to see it.

Grade: D+. Some good individual performances but this was there for the taking, should’ve done better.

France

France managed to look like the France of old here but still kept that shiny new edge that they have. There’s no doubt in my mind that two or three years ago they would’ve lost this, but Shaun Edwards has made that defence rock solid. This looked like a team that would go on to win the Grand Slam in that they played poorly and didn’t have that little ounce of va va voom that they usually play with but still managed to get a big result. When Anthony Jelonch carried over for what would be France’s only try I thought the floodgates would open a bit, much like how we’ve seen France do all tournament. The rugby was fairly free flowing, if not without the odd mistake and stupid penalty given away, but they still looked like the better team. However it didn’t really happen with France having to defend quite a bit. But with Shaun Edwards at the helm against a Welsh attack that never really got going they’ll take that all day. They still had some eye catching moments too such as the previously mentioned try and Julien Marchand and Gregory Alldirit had some pretty nice carries. It wasn’t the French performance that we expected to see but all in all France won’t care. The Grand Slam dream is still very much alive and the championship is very much theirs to lose. Onto Paris we go!

Grade: B-. Not great but you managed to grind out a good result like champions do.

Italy

In two minds about this one. Whilst it’s now 36 losses in a row and looking like yet another wooden spoon, that was the best we’ve seen of Italy in a long time. They never really gave up, even when it looked difficult, and that says a lot about how this team have grown through the tournament. They do play some nice rugby on occasions, and they did so against Scotland. They looked dangerous at times throughout the first half but it didn’t quite click with either silly penalties or turnovers being their un-doings on more than one occasion. But when Italy come to play, they have started to deliver. There’s reason to be optimistic looking forward for this Italy team (I know that sounds insane for a team that have lost 36 Six Nations games on the bounce and are staring down the barrel of yet another wooden spoon but bare with me). There’s some genuinely decent talent in the squad that are capable of playing good rugby. Just look at their first try, it looked like a move France would make. Paolo Garbisi has shown great promise this tournament and I still think Montanna Ioane is a huge asset to the team. But a special mention has to go to the debutant, Ange Capuozzo. He looked incredible when he came on and got 2 tries to reduce the deficit to only eleven in the end. In the last 20 or so minutes Italy were the better team and probably should’ve scored more tries, they were just beaten by the better quality team on the day.

Grade: C-. Screw it, even though you lost you get star of the week. I’m genuinely so impressed with how much better you were today compared to the last few performances and actually making things happen instead of blowing every half chance you get.

Scotland

Stop. Playing. This. Stupid. Style. Of. Rugby. This was such an irritating performance, yet again. There were times where Scotland played some nice rugby, there’s no doubt about that. Their good moments were fantastic and when their foot was on the gas it was obvious who the stronger team of the two was. Chris Harris had a very strong showing and was rewarded with two tries for it, whilst Stuart Hogg not only managed to keep things tight in the back but also orchestrated some decent attacks. Darcey Graham looked dangerous on the wing yet again and managed to capitalize on mistakes in the always suspect Italian defence. But they didn’t keep it up. This has basically been the story of Scotland for the whole tournament. They play well in waves but they never keep up any kind of sustained pressure for a whole game, and it gets so frustrating to watch. This team should be competing for the championship but their style of rugby isn’t letting them. Italy were comfortably the better side towards the end of the second half and had they done more with their chances in the first half it would’ve been a lot tighter. In the end, managing to capitalise on a fairly naff Italian defence was enough to get the win. Although they’ll be pleased with the result and ability to bounce back after France, I’m not seeing anything that would worry Ireland too much going into Dublin next weekend. Prove me wrong lads!

Grade: B-. Not the most convincing but a bounce back win nonetheless, just please keep it up for 80 minutes in future instead of looking worryingly average at times against the worst team in the tournament.

England

You know what? Fair play England. I’d be the first to admit that I’m hard on this team, and can probably be a bit too harsh on occasions, but when they deserve praise they get it and this was once of those instances. It looked like that it would be the mother of all uphill battles after Charlie Ewels was given his marching orders after 82 seconds and Ireland scored two quick tries, but that didn’t happen. England showed incredible determination and spirit that not even all of Ireland’s best could un-do. Ellis Genge and Jamie George were absolutely world class not only in the scrum but also in defence. Jack Nowell contributed superbly in the scrum while Maro Itoje and Freddie Steward proved to be absolute menaces when chasing the high ball. Steward especially had Hugo Keenan on toast when chasing those high balls whilst Genge was a nightmare for Tadhg Furlong all afternoon. In the end, England were just tired after being a man down for so long and the tries came for Ireland in the closing stages of the game to kill it off. But don’t let the score take away from the fact that that was something special from England. My only criticism is get better security at Twickenham, I’m fed up of seeing Jarvo.

Grade: B. Incredible spirit and could’ve won that if not for the red card. Well done.

Ireland

Bit of a difficult one to assess this. On one hand, a bonus point victory away from home to take it to a last weekend shootout for the championship won’t go amiss. But on the other they didn’t half make hard work of it. When James Lowe and Hugo Keenan scored I thought it would be an absolute trouncing, but how wrong I was. Ireland were nowhere near as competitive in the scrum as I thought they would be and ended up conceding silly penalties in the ruck. England’s pressure was a nightmare for Ireland and with the Twickenham crowd behind them it looked at times like the game could be slipping from Ireland’s grip. But it was ultimately won in the last 20 minutes for Ireland. After Marcus Smith kicked his 5th penalty of the day, the boys in green stepped it up a notch and managed to capitalise on England’s tiredness whilst being able to make the most of the bench bringing on experienced players like Conor Murray and Robbie Henshaw. Two late tries from Jack Conan and Finley Bealham were enough for the bonus point and to put a spring into Ireland’s step going into Scotland next week where they’ll try and do their bit in winning the Six Nations crown. Flattering score-line? Yes. Do they care? No. Will Irish fans be supporting England over France if it means they have a shot at the championship? Begrudgingly. Hotel? Trivago.

Grade: B+. Did what you needed to do but looked a bit iffy at times, still put a decent mark down for next week.

Class Clown of the Week: BBC commentary. They were beyond shocking. The constant getting players names wrong made it almost impossible to listen to. They made ITV look competent for god sake!

Categories
F1

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

With Barcelona pre-season testing (or data collection or whatever it’s called) done and Bahrain on day 2 of testing at the time of writing, we’re starting to get a bit of a better idea of where everyone is for the upcoming F1 season. This also means that everyone and their next door neighbour have been making their predictions about what’s going to happen this year. With the new season only a week away from starting, I thought I’d be king of originality once again and jump on to that trend and come up with some predictions of my own. Some of these are bold, others not so much, hence why I’m calling them bold(ish) predictions. I’m fully ready for these to age poorly, but last year proved that in the crazy world of Formula 1 anything can happen!

Haas Score Points

Haas were really bad last year, like really really bad. Everything about the car was horrible and things were going just as poorly off the track as they were on it. This is really make or break for Haas now. They’ve undergone a bit of an image change in the last couple of weeks which is one they desperately needed. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine there was absolutely no way they could’ve kept Uralkali as their lead sponsor and as a result of dropping them, keeping Nikita Mazepin as one of their drivers just made no sense. With Maz out it opened the door for Kevin Magnussen to come back to partner Mick Schumacher in what should’ve been the driver line-up last year. Bringing K-Mag back was a massive yes in that it’s starting to make Haas likeable again, and the car looks a lot better than last year. It’s no secret that Haas were putting all of their eggs in the 2022 basket and the early signs are that it may be paying off. I’m not expecting absolute wonders from them, but with two decent drivers in the form of Magnussen and Schumacher in the seats this year I can see them getting quite a few top 10 finishes.

Yuki closes the gap

It’s fair to say that Yuki Tsunoda was out raced by AlphaTauri teammate Pierre Gasly last season, with Gasly finishing p9 in the driver standings on 110 points and Tsunoda p14 on 32. Although with that being said there were signs of improvement from Tsunoda as the season went on, especially in the final stretch of the year. Now that he’s got a better feel for F1 and has had that rookie season under his belt, I think we can see a good season for Yuki this year. I’m not saying he’ll out perform Gasly, but I think the gap will be closed considerably. With this being Yuki’s second season in F1 there will be big things expected of him, especially being a part of the relentless Red Bull system where if your name isn’t Max Verstappen you’re never safe. Personally, I think Red Bull will use this as an audition season for Yuki to take Sergio Perez’s seat for 2023. Now I know that this sounds crazy when Checo is doing a perfectly fine job in the Red Bull and Pierre Gasly has experience driving for Red Bull before, but that team don’t really do second chances. Look at Alex Albon, he could’ve perfectly slotted in to an AlphaTauri seat for last season but the team opted for Tsunoda instead. Plus these are bold predictions, the easy choice would be Gasly’s getting the Red Bull seat and Tsunoda’s getting canned for 2023 but these aren’t supposed to be safe predictions. So yeah, Yuki closes the gap and gets the call-up for Red Bull for 2023. Unless they try and pinch Lando Norris from McLaren which will leave me 50 shades of sad.

Alfa Romeo get a podium

Very bold considering the team didn’t do much last year and haven’t for a long time, but with the new regulations this could be an interesting season for all the teams on the grid. I was going to go one better and say everyone gets a podium but I don’t think Haas will, no matter how bold I try and make this. The artist formerly known as Sauber opted for a completely new driver line-up this year being the only team to do so. They’ll be getting a very nice cash injection from Guanyu Zhou and a tasty bit of experience from Valtteri Bottas. With the grid expected to be closer this year and F1 usually having a few mental races that end up with some shock podiums (look at Hungary and Azerbaijan last year), this could open the door for a podium for Alfa. If I had to put money on who’ll get it, I’d say Bottas purely because of his experience and that I think he’s a better driver than Zhou but who knows. I just want to see Valtteri at his new team and Lewis Hamilton sharing a podium together to make the internet explode. Tell me with a straight face that you don’t want that.

Maiden wins for Sainz and Stroll

So this will divide opinion. First off, Carlos Sainz. I can’t really see there being too many arguments over this one. Sainz drove out of his skin last year in a Ferrari that got better as the year went on. He ended up with more podiums that teammate, Charles Leclerc, and the early signs are that the Ferrari looks white hot this year. The consistency he showed was unbelievable and if he drives as well as he did last year (which I’m sure he will) there’s no question that in a better Ferrari than in 2021, Sainz is going to be pushing for wins and will get his first. Now for Lance Stroll. Truth of it is, I really like him. I’ve said for three years now that Lance is going to get his first win in the upcoming season and I’m just going to keep running with it until it happens. But again, the regs are supposed to shake up the grid and we always end up with some shock winners like Esteban Ocon in Hungary last year so with those in mind, Super Lance gets his first win in 2022. And if he doesn’t? I’ll just make the same prediction next year and keep doing it until it happens.

Just wanted to point out that I don’t think these will be the only maiden wins. I think Lando Norris will get his first win and George Russell is in a Mercedes now so that’s obviously going to happen, I just wanted to go with Sainz and Stroll as the main points of the prediction. So bookmark it peeps, we’ll hear Marcha Real for a winner for the first time since Barcelona ’13 and O Canada for the P1 finisher for the first time since Luxembourg ’97.

Penalties for everyone

Okay bit of a boring one but at the same time it needs to be talked about. The goings on off the track are just as important as what happens on it, as was proven last year in the lead up to, and including, the final race of the season. The FIA and stewards were nothing short of an absolute joke last season when it came to penalties with them seemingly throwing darts at a board of penalties to decide who would get which punishment. They’ll be absolutely cacking their pants after the fallout of Abu Dhabi and will want to be in motorsport’s good books once again. They’ve made the right step in binning off Michael Masi, but expect this season to be done by the book to the absolute letter of the law. Being a strict teacher that nobody likes is the only way that they’ll be able to win any kind of credibility instead of just being grossly inconsistent with their penalties. This will annoy us as fans and will lead to more bickering on Twitter (not that it needs much for F1 fans to argue on there) but it’s going to happen.

Charles Leclerc wins in Monaco

This is bold, very bold. If you’re not an F1 fan then driver wins race in place might not seem that ground-breaking, but this is Charles Leclerc and Monaco we’re talking about. Whenever the Monegasque prince races in his home country either his arms turn into spaghetti and he crashes or his car decides to power down and it’s over before it’s even started. It’s a bit of a meme now that Leclerc and the Monaco Grand Prix’s relationship is as rocky as literally any couple who met on Love Island (with the exception of Tommy Fury and Molly-Mae Hague) but I think this is the year it changes. Ferrari are going to push for both the driver’s and constructors championships this year, the car looks incredibly fast and the drivers are more than capable. If Charles is going to push for the big one then he’s going to have to overcome his fear of street circuits and not put it into the wall on any track with a narrow road. Monaco will be the perfect opportunity for this because even though Saudi Arabia comes before it in the calendar I don’t count Jeddah as a real track, it’s beyond a joke how bad it is. With all this in consideration, this will finally be the year that Leclerc wins his home race to the delight of everyone.

The Champion?

Picture the scene. It’s Abu Dhabi, the last race of the season after another close year, we hear Crofty’s giddly little voice coming from the tv saying the following lines:

INTO THE FINAL TURN, FERRARI THREW ALL THEY COULD AT HIM BUT IN THE END IT JUST WASN’T ENOUGH. THE FIREWORKS HAVE BEGUN, IT’S TIME, IT’S HIS TIME, THE RECORD HAS BEEN BROKEN! IT’S NUMBER EIGHT FOR LEWIS HAMILTON, CHAMPION OF THE WORLD!!!!

Bit dramatic but you get the point. To lose it the way he did last season, Lewis Hamilton will be absolutely desperate to get that world championship to break Michael Schumacher’s record. Notice I said Ferrari too and not Red Bull? I think Ferrari will take the constructors title with how unbelievably consistent I think they’ll end up being, but Lewis will get the drivers championship. I’m not going as far to say that Red Bull will completely flop like some are predicting, but I don’t think they’ll be as good as last year. So much time went into making sure that the car was perfect for the last stretch of the season for Max Verstappen to win the world championship in 2021 but it’s come at the expense of development on this year’s. It won’t be an awful car, I just think that other teams that have spent more time on development will be better (case in point, Ferrari and Mercedes). Anyway, this is about Hamilton. He came so close last year to breaking the record and with the Mercedes looking pretty good for this year it could be his time. Plus now he has George Russell as his team mate who I can 100% see being used in a defence minister role to keep the other drivers off Hamilton’s tail, much like Sergio Perez was for Verstappen last year. With the fire that will be in his belly and the record in touching distance, this will be Sir Lewis Hamilton’s year.

Bonus predictions:

Victor Martins takes the F3 title: Hard to decide this one because it’s a fairly strong grid but I think Martins will just edge it.

Theo Pouchaire wins the F2 title: If you’ve never heard the name Theo Pouchaire then I’d get used to hearing it. You may as well give him the nickname Bisto because the lad is different gravy… I’ll show myself out. I think he takes the F2 title and I’d even go as far to say that if Lewis Hamilton wins the world title and retires this year, then I want to see Pouchaire in the Mercedes for 2023. He really is that good.

Andretti F1 team get announced for 2023: It’s the worst kept secret in F1 at the minute but they’re coming! At some point Andretti F1 Team will be announced with a lineup that will include Indycar golden boy, Colton Herta.

So those were the predictions! I hope you enjoyed and they don’t all look awful come the end of the year. I’m off to watch the newest season of Drive to Survive. See ya!

Categories
Rugby

Six Nations Week 3 Recap: Uncontested scrum, uncontested championship

After a week’s break, the six nations came back all guns blazing with another weekend filled with action. There were more brilliant tries, great passages of play, and some incredibly complicated rules on show. In a week that saw the world become a bit of a scarier place, rugby stood with the brave people of Ukraine while also proving to be a bit of a distraction from the incredibly grim realities of the state of the world. In this most recent round we saw Les Bleus march on in their attempt for a grand slam, a close encounter between England and Wales, and uncontested scrums galore in Dublin. The table is starting to take shape as we pass the half way point in what looks like it’ll be a three horse race for the title. There’s huge game weeks in weeks 4 and 5 for the big three at the top but let’s not look too far ahead and get into the grading!

Scotland

I seriously can’t believe I expected things from this team. They really didn’t look great against France and to be honest they’ve not really had a convincing game all tournament. Granted they did well to bring it back to 12-10 in the first half after it looked like France were going to run away with it but Stuart Hogg dropping it when he had a clear try scoring opportunity to take the lead kind of summed it up for Scotland. This team annoy the hell out of me because the quality is 100% there. They’re not playing to their strengths and are trying to create tries and opportunities out of nowhere. Granted it worked against England but they’re starting to get found out and it became their achilles heel against France. The rugby is far too route one and they just end up becoming predictable and easy to play against. If there’s any positives to take then it’s that Rory Darge looked absolutely brilliant and they’ve got a hell of a player on their hands. Plus Duhan van der Merwe looked better so there’s that too. Scotland now head to Rome in two weeks in what’s probably come at the perfect time. You’d hope that they’d be able to get a win against Italy and this is a team that’s desperate for one. Jeez, what a mess.

Grade: D-. Need improvement, and quickly. Stop being so damn predictable.

France

God is French and his name is Damien Penaud, and when I grow up I want to be Antoine Dupont. This is becoming far too easy to write about because for a third week on the bounce, France have won convincingly. They’ve managed to overcome their lousy record in Edinburgh and get another bonus point win. What shows how great this team is that even if one of their key players has a bit of an off day, as was the case with Melvyn Jaminet (and he still kicked 3 conversions), other players stepped up. Gael Fickou was on fire and Cyril Baille was a man on a mission of destruction yet again. Their speed and precision in attack is a sight to behold whereas Shaun Edwards has made them a scarily tight unit in defence. The next stop on the Grand Slam train is a date in Cardiff with Wales. With Wales being the notoriously slow starters that they are, especially in this tournament, this could be yet another opportunity for France to get some serious points in the bag and a step closer to that Six Nations title that’s evaded them for so long.

Grade: A*. Star of the week! (for the third time on the bounce)

England

Bit of a weird one this. England looked like they’d be able to run away with this pretty easily, but it wasn’t to be the case. They started well looking dangerous every time they attacked, and their defence held firm whenever Wales got near the try line. Marcus Smith kept ticking the points over from penalties to put England 12-0 up into the break. It was a boring first half, there’s no arguments there, but it felt like it should’ve been more. It’s what the All Blacks do in going for the points at every given opportunity to build that lead up as much as possible and as early as possible, but they actually score tries and England didn’t. The second half started much like the first with waves of England pressure but this time ending in a try, with Alex Dobrandt capitalising on one of the worst lineouts I’ve ever seen in my life. The team managed to weather a Welsh charge and got a result that was much closer than it needed to be and not even the ITV coverage could spoil it for the England fans. A lot of plaudits went to Smith for yet another great performance, but there were many solid showings from the England players. Ellis Genge had a good outing and Freddie Steward had probably his best performance of the Six Nations so far. As a Tigers fan, that would delight me but it’s just irritating it had to be against Wales. Maro Itoje was on fire and proved to be an absolute menace again, for me he deserved player of the match but hey ho. Pretty meh performance but an important win nonetheless. Up next is Ireland in a “semi-final” as Sir Clive kept putting it (god I despise the ITV coverage). But don’t let that take away from how big England’s remaining games are in the race for the title.

Also, well done to Ben Youngs on becoming England’s most capped player. As the president (and I think only member) of the Youngsy Appreciation Society this was a great win for us and gives us the mother of all propaganda to use in future Twitter arguments.

Grade: B-. Not awful and got the result but was a bit dull at times, you let it be much closer that it should’ve been.

Wales

This was a typical Twickenham performance from Wales. Get absolutely ruined by a slow start, capitalise on England getting complacent, end up losing by a tight score line when it should’ve been an absolute mullering. Sunrise, sunset. Yeah it wasn’t great. The first half was shockingly bad, England were walking all over the defence whilst the attack couldn’t really get anything going be it from a solid English defence or just lack of discipline giving away silly penalties. Much like Ireland in Dublin, it was a miracle Wales weren’t down by more at half-time. Come the second half things started poorly but much like Wales do, they grew into it. Two tries in quick succession from Josh Adams and Nick Tompkins meant there was a game on our hands, and a late one from Kieran Hardy saw the Ghost of Wembley 1999 Past flash in the eyes of England players and fans alike, but the defence held strong and England ground out the win. There were definitely positives for Wales, they improved massively after the Adams try and did play some decent rugby when chasing the game. Taine Basham yet again had a solid game and Alex Cuthbert massively rolled back the years with his performance, had Wales won he probably would’ve won player of the match. But this starting slow nonsense needs to end, especially with France up next. The French have been incredibly fast starters as was shown against Scotland so Wales will have to be on their A game from the word go if they even want to stand a chance against Les Bleus. In case you’re wondering what Irritating Welsh Rugby Fan™ thought of this then you won’t hear it, he’s taking a leave of absence for the foreseeable future to get over the result.

Grade: C. Showed promise but was just a case of too little too late.

Ireland

Hard to take too much away from this in all honesty. Yes Ireland were good, but it came against uncontested scrums and a thirteen man Italy for 60 minutes. Once this happened it was just going to be an opportunity for Ireland to score as many as possible to try and get a nice points tally in the lead up to the last two games and a push for the title. Before the red card and uncontested scrums incident, Ireland weren’t all too dominant. Sure they looked decent but Italy were putting up a good enough fight. But once a team as good as Ireland get a two man advantage against an Italy side who the last time won a Six Nations game fire was a recent discovery, the writing was on the wall. The rugby they played got better after a frustrating start, and the who would get a hat trick competition between James Lowe and Michael Lowry was fun (spoiler alert, it was neither), but again, the circumstances in which it came was just quite weird. But hey, that’s rugby. I take nothing away from Ireland as this could be an important win for them. If France slip up then points difference could be key so it was vital that they got as many as possible. A weird game, but a nice result going into the England match in two weeks time.

Grade: B+. Sure you were good but it the circumstances were strange. It became borderline bullying by the end, please refrain from slapping Italy and telling them to stop hitting themselves in future.

Italy

The pure agony Italian rugby fans go through is basically unmatched in sport. It’s similar to that experienced by fans of say Bolton Wanderers or the Jacksonville Jaguars, but turned up to eleven. They didn’t start off too badly, Ireland did get a try through Joey Carbery but it wasn’t a complete demolition job from the word go. But then it went peak Italian rugby with hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi having to go off injured and his replacement, Hame Faiva, was sent off. This prompted uncontested scrums and Italy having to go yet another man down, with number eight Toa Halafihi being sacrificed. Unsurprisingly, it all went steeply downhill from here. It would’ve been the mother of all David v Goliath stuff for Italy to mount any kind of challenge back and to top it all off, they finished the game with 12 men after a late sin-binning for Braam Steyn. This was the purest form of “if it can go wrong it will go wrong” for Italy. The second they went down to 13 it was game over and it’s hard to really slate them too much when they lost in the manor in which they did. In all honesty I thought the red card was a bit harsh, I’ve seen a lot less given for a lot worse, but that’s rugby for you. This takes it to 35 losses on the bounce for Italy in the Six Nations and with Scotland and Wales in their final 2 games, it could be a seventh wooden spoon on the bounce for The Azzurri.

Grade: N/A. It’s seriously hard to decipher anything from that. Like seriously, how can I grade that?

Class Clown of the Week: The band that played the Italian national anthem. They were massively out of time and this somehow made it the worst performance of the day at the Aviva.

Categories
Rugby

Six Nations Week 2 Recap: “Magnifique”, “ffantastig bois bach”,  “bonus point is a bonus point”

Well that was a pretty decent weekend of rugby. We had a very close encounter in Cardiff, a modern day classic in Paris, and somehow the weirdest convincing-yet-still-kinda-meh bonus point win in Rome. We head into a break with no rugby next weekend, and teams will start to be getting early ideas of what exactly they’ll be aiming for in this year’s tournament. Some have been convincing, others not so much, and again my predictions going into the tournament have aged like a fine milk (apart from France grand slam, that’s still very much on). As I try and do absolutely anything to keep myself awake in the battle of a post-Super Bowl ruined sleeping pattern (which I can’t let happen), and find something to take my mind off the fact that this could’ve been the last weekend of rugby before Europe ends up at war again, let’s get into the grading!

Wales

Not bad Wales, not bad at all. I’ll be honest, I didn’t hold any hope in the slightest after the first 10 minutes. Wales looked lazy and lethargic while Scotland were making scary amounts of ground on every wave of attack. Every phase made ground and with a team as big and physical as Scotland that isn’t a position you want to be in. The alarm bells were starting to ring in what I thought was going to end up being a similar result to the Ireland game in Week One. But as they do, Wales slowly grew into the game and Tomas Francis’s try came at exactly the right time. The second half was better from Wales, they defended well and didn’t let Scotland play the rugby they wanted to. Dan Biggar’s consistency was key and I seriously hope he’ll be okay for Twickenham. The drop goal when you’re a man up with only 10 minutes left seemed like a bit of a brain fart moment but it worked in the end. Taine Basham impressed me again after he was a tiny ray of sunshine in last week’s performance against Ireland, and Jac Morgan had a few moments of quality too in what was a very solid debut for him. Although a special mention has to go to the front row. They held their own against pre and post-substitution Scotland front rows which are both absolutely quality, Francis as previously mentioned got the try, Ryan Elias was a deserved player of the match looking solid in the scrum and ruck, and Dillon Lewis added that little bit more strength in the ruck when he came on and secured a brilliant crucial turnover in the closing stages of the game (da iawn Dill!).

Our friend the Irritating Welsh Rugby Fan™ was, as you could imagine, up to his usual alcohol-fuelled tricks after the game. The last I heard, he was spotted trying to sell the people of Caroline Street his hand drawn portraits of Barry John and Sir Gareth Edwards and some home made “Wales Six Nations 20212 Champions” t-shirts to fund his ticket for Twickenham. All in all, solid result for the boys in red before a huge game in the big smoke in two weeks time.

Grade: B. Better! Keep it up.

Scotland

As certain as I am that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west, Scotland will follow up a convincing opening win with an absolutely horrible performance. It started off pretty well. The Scotland attack was clearly getting to Wales and they were making convincing ground in every phase. I thought the Darcy Graham try was going to open the floodgates a bit but then they took their foot off the gas. They let Wales get back into it which was the polar opposite of what they needed to do. Graham and Duhan van der Merwe were threatening on the wings, Stuart Hogg was controlling the ball well, and Chris Harris, Hamish Watson, and Sione Tuipulotu looked menacing every time they went forward, but it all ended up going a bit meh. Losing Matt Fagerson so early to injury was unfortunate and losing Finn Russell for 10 minutes in the dying embers of the game was never going to make things easier but they just looked bang average for most of the game. It’s almost as if they were trying to soak up the pressure like they did against England but couldn’t get anything going in their favour in terms of counter attacks. It looked like a Scotland performance you’d expect 10 years ago, which is beyond annoying because they’re way better than that. The break has come at the perfect time for Scotland, this is by no means game over and they could definitely still fight for the title, but it will require a hell of a lot of elbow grease and a rugby masterclass against France at Murrayfield.

Grade: D. I know you’re better than this, don’t fall into disappointing old ways.

France

What. A. Game. This was like the rugby equivalent of Ali-Frazier, Hagler-Hearns, or Gatti-Ward (all great boxing matches for those who don’t follow the sport). Two megastars going at each other tooth and nail and leaving everything out there. The first half showed why France are such a dangerous team. The build up to Antoine Dupont’s opener was just liquid rugby and they made the most of their penalties. They managed to force Ireland into silly mistakes and capitalised by turning penalties into points. The sheer power they had going forward was phenomenal and they didn’t stop from the first whistle to the last. Even when Ireland came back into it after a crazy start to the second half they managed to keep their cool and answered back with a try of their own from Cyril Baille. Melvyn Jaminet proved to be key in the victory kicking six penalties and a conversion and was unlucky not to get a try himself. Everything about this French team is brilliant. They’re defensively sound, have possibly the world’s best scrum half-fly half pairing with Dupont and Romain Ntamack, they look scarily dangerous every time they attack, they now know how to keep their cool when things are going against them, and you’ll struggle to find a better back three than of Jaminet, Damian Penaud, and Gabin Villiere. They’re the only team left who can still do the Grand Slam and I’m calling it now, they should 100% be in the conversation for winning next year’s World Cup. Whilst I learned on my recent TEFL course that when teaching you should share rewards equally to make sure that morale stays high within the class, when it comes to graded that theory couldn’t be more wrong. Especially when France are as good as they are.

Grade: A*. Star of the week! Flawless yet again!

Ireland

As fantastic as France were, the boys in green took the game to them. Anything that France came at them with, Ireland fought back. After the fantastic Dupont try and a penalty from Jaminet, it looked like it could be a long afternoon. But then straight from the kick-off Mack Hansen capitalised on a French defence caught napping and ran in for his first try for Ireland, 10 minutes gone, 10-7, game on. Ireland’s lack of discipline would be their biggest undoing throughout the rest of the first half as France were able to turn Ireland’s mistakes into points giving them a 19-7 lead at half time. Once the second half started Jaminet managed to kick yet another three points to give France a 15 point lead with Ireland seemingly looking down and out. But the Six Nations script writers decided “nah” and Ireland fired back scoring twice in 5 minutes with tries from Josh van der Flier and Jamison Gibson-Park. If you commissioned this tv show to Netflix they’d turn it down for being too unrealistic. Yet again, game on. But also yet again, discipline. The French were just that bit too good and forced Ireland into silly mistakes. Despite the Irish bringing the gap down to only three at one point, it would be France who took the win. Whilst this will sting, Ireland can take a hell of a lot of pride from this result. They went toe to toe with one of the world’s best teams and it nearly worked. That performance would’ve 100% beaten the rest of the teams in the Six Nations, it’s just that France are that good. They’re still definitely in contention for the title, as if those England and Scotland games needed to be any bigger, and I don’t think that this is the last we’ve seen of Ireland.

Grade: B+. That was honestly fantastic, it just wasn’t enough in the end. Don’t let that get to you though!

Italy

In a score that is a bit too familiar to Britain’s results in the Eurovision Song Contest since the mid-2000’s, Italy ended up with a grand total of nil-points. It seems like I’m saying the same thing every week with Italy but it just wasn’t good enough. They had a few purple patches but did absolutely nothing with it, their inability to capitalise with absolutely any penalties was beyond frustrating, and they made far too many errors themselves. If there are any positives to take then it’s that Monty Ioane looked better than last week, Paolo Garbisi looked decent again, and at times they did genuinely look okay with the ball in hand. But as England proved last week, there’s no point in having all the possession in the world if you’re not going to do anything with it. In the end it meant that Italy’s poor run against England continues and it’s now 34 losses on the bounce for Italy in the Six Nations (god I feel so sorry for them). Looking forward it doesn’t get much better as it’s Ireland in Dublin next for the Azzurri, those poor souls. Still, at least they have the Euro 2020 and Eurovision titles, and Pierre Gasly (although French) lives in Milan, those have to count as wins, right?

Grade: F. Got nil-ed lads, ‘nuff sed.

England

Having nil-ed a team and got a bonus point victory to put them second in the standings you think that I’d be full of praise, but I’d be lying if I thought that was a perfect performance. To start, the positives. Marcus Smith was the magician yet again, scoring the opening try, kicking the points, and generally making things happen. I can’t stress this enough, the team needs to be built around his strengths. Generally going forward as well England were much better, the blend of youth and experience was spot on. For every Smith, Freddie Steward, and Joe Marchant, the balance of experience from Henry Slade, Jack Nowell, and Elliot Daly (when he came on) was just the perfect formula. Jamie George was outstanding, he managed to keep the scrum stable and was key to keeping the lineout solid. I was super happy to see Ollie Chessum make his debut, and the Ben Youngs fan club (which I think by this point I’m one of very few members of) got a new whack of propaganda to use with Youngsy equalling Jason Leonard’s 114 England cap record. But to be cynical, and I am me after all so I have to be a bit, there were a couple of red flags. First of all were the changes. As much as I liked seeing Youngs equal the record, the team did lose some stability and intensity once Harry Randall came off. Also, and not to sound like a broken record, discipline. There were just too many handling errors for my liking, especially in the final third. The score would’ve been much higher were it not for silly mistakes and it was quite frustrating to watch at times. Plus if Italy were any better with using their penalties wisely then they definitely would’ve scored points, but I digress. Even when you’re me it’s hard to be too negative about a bonus point win. Next up is Wales at Twickenham in a game that I genuinely can’t call, a huge game for both team’s title ambitions.

Grade: B+. Much better, but still a bit messy in places. Tighten up some mistakes and it would’ve been first class, but don’t let that dampen morale. Well done.

Class Clown of the Week: Again, me. For thinking I’d be able to write any kind of analysis after having around 4 hours sleep after the Super Bowl last night. Also, can a player do something hilarious after the break please? Be it hilariously bad or just something funny, I don’t want to have to win the Class Clown of the Week Triple Crown.

Categories
F1

Rich Energy: Their rotten time in F1 and why I think they’ll be back sooner rather than later

“Don’t call it a comeback, they’ve been here for years, irritating their peers, fillin’ Steiner with fear”. We’re currently in the middle of car reveal season for F1’s 2022 campaign with Haas, Red Bull, and Aston Martin all announcing theirs and the rest of the teams have pencilled in dates for their own announcements. While we all get excited to see what each team’s car looks like I cast my mind back to the 2019 reveals and one of the most bonkers events in recent F1 history. Yes I’m talking about America’s Team Haas’s VF-19 with a title sponsor of a certain energy drink company. The livery was pretty nice looking to give them credit but it was plastered with the sponsor of Rich Energy. If you’re reading that and thinking “who on earth are Rich Energy?” then you’d be forgiven. Unless you’re an F1 fan, Haas Racing board member, or a die-hard Uralkali enthusiast then you probably wouldn’t know who Rich Energy are if you had a can of it lobbed at your head. Rich Energy are a UK based energy drink company founded in 2015 by English businessman William Storey and an unknown mad scientist (Storey’s words, look it up). How Storey made his money is a bit of a mixed tale with many different stories out on the internet (and I can’t afford to be sued by this guy by saying something that isn’t true) but the definite truths are he was a professional gambler, the founder of a sports management company which sponsored former British boxer Frank Buglioni, and owned a tobacco farm in Zimbabwe. He also claims that he was part of a consortium that tried to buy Sunderland football club in July 2020 and just today Rich Energy were announced as the title sponsor for Jamaica’s bobsled team for the Beijing Winter Olympics (this is beyond parody). With all that in mind you’d be forgiven for thinking that this seemed like a fairly okay deal with Storey having an obvious business background, but oh god how wrong you are.

The Haas title sponsorship wasn’t the first time Rich Energy tried to dip their toes into Formula 1. They launched a bid to take over the Force India F1 team back in 2018 after they went into administration. Had the deal gone through the team would be rebranded as Rich Energy F1 team. That of course didn’t happen with a Lawrence Stroll led consortium taking over the team changing the name at first to Racing Point and now Aston Martin. After the setback, Storey set his eyes on a title sponsorship turning his attention to Williams who were in dire need of funds. Storey and Rich Energy were apparently set to meet with senior members of the team including Claire Williams at a restaurant in Austin during the 2018 American Grand Prix weekend but unfortunately for Williams in a situation that hits a tad too close to home, they got completely ghosted. Instead out of nowhere, Haas announced that they’d be going with Rich Energy as their title sponsor for the 2019 campaign. After the dust settled, people decided to look into these dudes to see what they were actually all about and it didn’t look too pretty. It was found that the company only had $771 in their bank account at the end of the 2017 financial cycle, could you imagine how poorly things would’ve gone if they took over Force India? Thank you Sergio Perez for stopping that.

After questions about the company’s legitimacy were answered(ish), all eyes turned to the 2019 season and surprise surprise, it was terrible. For whatever reason Rich Energy were trying to make out that they were better than Red Bull on and off the track after they were faster than them after day 1 of pre-season testing in Barcelona. The Rich Energy twitter account was basically ran like Storey’s own with them taking digs at Red Bull and towards the latter end of the sponsorship, themselves. The only real difference between the main account and Storey’s is that there weren’t any tweets from the Rich Energy account claiming that covid-19 doesn’t exist. Things started off okay on the track with Kevin Magnussen managing to get a 6th place finish in the first race of the season but after that there wasn’t much to shout home about, and things were going even worse off it. Rich Energy were taken to court over copyright infringement by British cycling manufacturer Whyte Bikes. Whyte Bikes claimed that Rich Energy copied their logo which was a golden stag head. The two logos were different in the ways that I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston and I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton are different, i.e. not very. In the end, Whyte Bikes won and Rich Energy were forced to change their logo. After this came the build up to Silverstone and hohoooo doctor, strap yourselves in.

On the 10th of July 2019 a tweet was posted from the Rich Energy account stating that the sponsorship deal with Haas was over after a poor race at the Austrian Grand Prix which saw Kevin Magnussen finish 19th, one place behind the Williams of George Russell, and Romain Grosjean finish 16th. Both cars were nowhere near finishing in the points. The tweet said that the team were supposed to be competing with Red Bull and finishing behind a Williams car was unacceptable (if you want to know how Red Bull did that weekend, Pierre Gasly finished 7th and Max Verstappen won the grand prix, some competing that lads). The tweet also said that the supposed politics and “PC nature” of Formula 1 were inhibiting the business. This is the same supposed “PC nature” that banned Lewis Hamilton from wearing a t-shirt in support of Breonna Taylor, the African American police officer who was shot and killed by white officers as she was sleeping in her home, and reprimanded Sebastian Vettel for wearing a rainbow LGBTQIA+ Pride shirt before the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix. After the tweet went out the statement was retracted with shareholders saying the tweet was sent by a rogue individual whilst they were in the process of trying to remove an executive from the company. William Storey has since said that he was subject to the board “mounting a coup” to remove him at this time, so you can put two and two together here. The twitter madness wouldn’t stop there though as after the opening practicing rounds of the Silverstone Grand Prix the menace tweeter would be back posting a photoshopped picture of Storey driving a milk car with the Haas Rich Energy livery with the caption “great start boys @haasf1team”. The whole thing was bizarre and left team principal Guenther Steiner equally confused as he was furious, with the team announcing on the 9th of September 2019 that they would be cutting ties with Rich Energy full stop.

So after all of that, why do I think they’re coming back? If you look at their social media they’ve been teasing announcements for months and reckon that they’ll end up being title sponsorship again. You’d think that this wouldn’t be on the company’s mind after last time, but Storey’s back in charge. After he quit the company following the whole Haas mess in July 2019, he later bought back his shares and was back as an executive director the following month. Ever since then he’s said how much he wants to be back in F1 and keeps banging on about how they’re making a comeback to the sport in 2022 and yadda yadda yadda. There have been many rumours about a title sponsorship with McLaren and as a McLaren fanboy that scares the living daylights out of me, but I think they could end up back at Haas. Hear me out now. I think this will be Haas’s last season in F1, I can’t see things improving that much this season and Gene Haas is getting increasingly angry week after week with the team’s shocking performances. The current title sponsor is Uralkali, a Russian based chemicals company who’s majority shareholder is a man called Dmitry Mazepin, the father of Nikita Mazepin who races for the team. I’ve noticed that the Uralkali sponsor is getting bigger and bigger on that Haas logo and Mazepin Sr has noted his interest in the past of owning an F1 team. Should Gene sell up then I think Dmitry would buy, thus opening the door for Uralkali-Rich Energy F1 Racing Team. Storey has said on multiple occasions that he thinks Nikita is a future world champion (I can assure you he isn’t) and I think he’d definitely try and sell himself to the Mazepins. There’s always whispers as well that Storey and Mazepin would be open to going into business with each other, so there’s that bundle of joy too.

Most predictions I make end up aging like a fine warm glass of cravendale and I hope this is another instance of that. But with Formula 1 being as money driven as it is, Rich Energy’s reappearance is something I can seriously see happening sooner rather than later.

Categories
Rugby

Six Nations Week 1 Recap: Weekly Graded 2, Electric Boogaloo

Guess who’s back baby! Yes after 12 months and 3 jabs the Six Nations is back and this time, with fans! The stadiums were full once again after last year’s tournament and the home fans got to see three fairly dominant home victories. There were highs, lows, and questionable officiating in an opening weekend absolutely packed with action. But as well as the return of the Six Nations, it’s the return of graded! It did pretty well last year and in the spirit of most American TV shows when it does well in it’s first season why not run a sequel. It would be a historic weekend as well, with Scotland-England being the last game that Brian Moore would commentate on as a BBC pundit. He is one of the iconic voices of rugby for me. Growing up I would always associate rugby commentary with Brian, Eddie Butler, and Jiffy, so not hearing him on commentary anymore after he’s been on for as long as I can remember will be super strange. Anyhow, the first weekend is now in the rear view and it’s time to get into the grading!

Ireland

Win against a top Southern hemisphere team in the Autumn Series? Check. Absolutely embarrass an opposition team in their opening Six Nations game after said win? Check. It must be 18 months away from a World Cup. This is all setting up perfectly for Ireland to go crashing out of the Quarter Finals to either France or New Zealand at the 2023 World Cup. Jokes aside, very good performance from the boys in green. From the first whistle it was completely one sided as the Irish ran rings around Wales for 80 minutes. Bundee Aki, Gary Ringrose, and Andrew Conway would end up with the tries for Ireland in what was a flawless 29-7 win. In all honesty it should’ve been more, the conditions didn’t really help Johnny Sexton’s kicking and I thought Mack Hansen was going to end up scoring a few times. The attack looked so dangerous and in the opening 20 minutes it looked as if they would end up scoring every time they got into the Welsh half. Whenever they needed to be called to defend they did that brilliantly, with Jack Conan, Tadhg Beirne, and Andrew Porter making themselves nuisances for Wales in the ruck and managing to turn the ball over cleanly. The pack remained disciplined without conceding a penalty in the first half and didn’t until the 50th minute. If I can be a bit nit-picky then I would say that they did waste a few opportunities, the missed kicks were what they were but they definitely should’ve scored more in that opening 20, the fact that it was only 10-0 at half time was a shock to many, myself included. Dominant stuff from Ireland as they get their campaign off to a great start.

Grade: A+. Star of the week! Keep it up.

Wales

What can be said other than yikes? Granted the team is injury ridden with Taulupe Faletau, Leigh Halfpenny, Alun Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi, and George North to name but a few all side-lined and Louis Rees-Zammit’s ankle looked like it was taped fairly heavily in the warm up, but even still it wasn’t the best performance. The opening 20 minutes were incredibly poor, there didn’t seem to be much sense of urgency and the defence struggled with wave after wave of Irish pressure. The discipline was even worse and it’s a miracle it wasn’t more than just one yellow card. I wasn’t alive to witness the Welsh teams of the mid to late nineties but this gave me a taste of what it must’ve been like. The fact it was only 10 down at half time is a near miracle, but the second half started just as well as the first. To take any positives from it is pretty tough but there are a few glimmers of hope. I thought the scrum and front row (pre and post substitutions) held itself well against an Irish front 3 that is so quality and Taine Basham looked fairly decent. Up next is Scotland and Wales need to be so much better. Even if it’s at the Principality/Millennium/whatever sponsor has it today Stadium, Scotland will be on cloud nine after retaining the Calcutta Cup and won’t let as many chances go to waste. Room for improvement is there (such as not starting Josh Adams at centre, he’s a quality player but he’s not a centre) and my god do Wales need it.

There won’t be an appearance from our friend Irritating Welsh Rugby Fanas he’s being held in a cell after inciting a riot in the Temple Bar in Dublin. But extenuating circumstances of Irish police not wanting to listen to drunk ramblings of why Gareth Edwards should be the First Minister and how Wales are still going to win the grand slam despite losing, it means he’ll be back out in time for Scotland.

Grade: F. Extremely disappointing, see me after class.

Scotland

Strange one. I don’t know if it was a defensive masterclass from the Scots or if England were just that bad with the ball, I’m putting it down to a little from column a and a little from column b. The performance was okay, but maybe that’s a testament of how far Scotland have come over the last decade. 10 years ago this would’ve been celebrated as some kind of masterclass but maybe I’ve just grown to expect more from Scotland now. They managed to weather waves of England pressure and made the most of opportunities when they came. Ben White used his time in the Premier League winter break to switch sport and nationalities to score on his Scotland debut in a move that was completely against the run of play and Finn Russel kept the points coming from his kicks in what was a patient Scotland display. A penalty try in Scotland’s favour ended up sealing the game for them in what was a strange performance. They looked okay but hardly world beaters. Duhan van der Merwe looked pretty handy at times (WHERE WAS THIS FORM IN THE SUMMER IN SOUTH AFRICA? EH?), and Stuart Hogg was as solid as ever. Confidence will be high as they head to Cardiff to play a Welsh team off the back of a poor result, and you can’t help but think that a win there would really throw the cat amongst the pigeons in terms of the title.

Grade: B-. Not bad, not brilliant, but enough in the end. Well done.

England

Seriously? Not as bad as Wales but come on! England should’ve won this fairly comfortably. This isn’t sour lemons from me but you shouldn’t have that much possession for 80 minutes and lose in a one score game. There was no sense of urgency and players just looked slow. Marcus Smith tried to get things going on multiple occasions but to no real avail. It had the makings of an early Eddie Jones type of game in that after the slow start I fully expected England to hit a purple patch and end up running away with it with a flattering score line but it didn’t happen. They just needed to keep the pressure on after the Smith try but they let Scotland back into it. Two moments of madness from Luke Cowan-Dickie and Joe Marler ended up gifting Scotland a penalty try and penalty to give Scotland the win. I’m not putting the loss down to Marler and Cowan-Dickie because that would be unfair, there just needed to be better decisions made with ball in hand and it would’ve been nice if they actually did something with the possession they had. If any positives can be taken from this then it’s Marcus Smith. The man is an absolute genius and is England’s talisman going forward. For god sake Eddie just build the team around this man and play to his strengths. The maturity he shows on the ball is unbelievable and he just makes magic happen. Plus next week is Italy so you’d hope that will be a win.

Grade: D-. Please actually do something with the class supplies if you’re just going to hog them all lesson.

France

Much like Scotland, interesting. But much better. I expected this to be an absolute battering and in some respects it was, just not to the extent I thought it would be. Anthony Jelonch was gifted a try at the 26 minute mark in what was a huge lack of communication from the Italy team, Damian Penaud managed to get onto the scoresheet and Gabin Villiere kept his impressive run in the Les Bleus XV with a hat trick. On paper yes it’s a great performance, you’ll never say no to a bonus point win to start off the tournament, but it was quite scrappy too. It didn’t look like the team that absolutely embarrassed New Zealand last Autumn but then at the same time it didn’t need to be. Italy never really looked too threatening after the first try and despite frustrating France with their tight nit defence I thought their attack struggled a bit with the French ruck at times. They will 100% get better, Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack will no doubt be back to their best soon having both been out for a while with covid plus it’s only the first game. All eyes will be on next weekend where they travel to Ireland in what could be an early indicator in which way the title will go. It’s taking every ounce of my self control to say that you’ll never know which France will turn up because it’s quite boring now and rugby hipsters love France to do well, but if they turn up to be at their best then I think it could be an incredible game next Saturday in Dublin.

Grade: B+. Good, but you can do better.

Italy

So it wasn’t great, make no mistake about that, but Italy looked okay in spells. I just wish that they managed to play a bit more than they did. I think if they gave it a proper go and kept their performance levels up then no doubt this game could’ve been closer. They started well with Tommaso Menoncello becoming the youngest try scorer in the competition when it’s been in the six nations era but much like Italy usually do it didn’t last. France basically scored when they could be bothered despite a fairly solid defensive display from the Azzurri. They did manage to frustrate the French XV but there was an obvious difference in quality. In what’s a fairly more grim statistic, it’s now 32 losses on the bounce for Italy in the six nations with their last win coming in 2015 at Murrayfield where they beat Scotland 22-19, a result that seems absolutely barmy 7 years down the line (yes that’s right, 2015 was SEVEN years ago, yuck). I can only hope that this can be a bit of a kick up the backside in the same way it could be a confidence booster for them. It’s not too unlikely that kind of gritty performance could’ve got a result against another team who weren’t quite as good, and as a Welsh fan that worries me. But until that day, Italy remain the punching bags of tier 1 European rugby.

Grade: F. Disappointing because you could’ve done better there, but to perform like that again is nowhere near good enough.

Class clown of the week: Me. For putting Monty Ioane and Joe Marler in my dream team.