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2/3/12 3:14 PM
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 the 6 nations starts tomorrow with France V italy in paris followed by England v Scotland in Murrayfield

Wales v Ireland in Dublin on Sunday.

The weekend has 2 fantastic matches to start off what is a very open tournament. There isn't a clear standout and the 1st 2 weeks should be very interesting in determining who is most likely to raise the trophy in 6-8 weeks time.

With the fallout from the world cup and the heiniken cup there is a lot of speculation on who has the best chance and it seems like its anyones championship (Italy, sadly, are accepted as not having a hope). Here is a brief round up of the teams chances.

The French have to be the Favorites to win this title. Even after a dismal start to the world cup losing to both NZ convincingly and Tonga (?!?!?) they rebounded to take NZ right to the edge of defeat and had equal chances to be world champions. Their world cup campaign was turbulent but they ended up as runners up even with open dissent amounst coach Livermont and the players. With Livermont gone the French will be hoping for stability and structure to retern and a more dominant display to be seen. However, the French sides have not competed well in the Heiniken Cup and regime changes are hit and miss. Still, Philippe Saint-Andre is a master rugby mind and French always have talent in the likes of player of the world cup Dusetoir; Yashvillie, Bonnair, Rougerie etc and it just whether they can gel in time. An easy opener against Italy might be the soft start they need to build momentum.

Wales were possibly the UK standouts in the WC as they were the only NH team other than france to make it to the SFs and they lost in part to a contraversial red card on skipper Warburton. The result dampened a promising WC performance and left the public wanting. There are 10 players reterning from the team that lost to france and put in stellar performances against Ireland. Big injuries in Jenkins, Rees, Lydiate, Charteris and Wyn-jones as well as the retirement of the dazzling Shane Williams leaves questions as to the depth of the squad but the core of players retern. With names like Roberts, Faletau, Preistlans and Warburton on the roster the side is by no means weak and they've hit Poland for the cryochamber treatment. They put one over ireland in the WC but ireland in Ireland are a different animal. If the Welsh can win its a huge springboard for the rest of the tournament particulally with 3 consecutive home games after the Irish away match.

Ireland started off teh WC by beating the wallabies and were looking to make a big wave until Wales scuppered their plans. That had to hurt and revenge is what Sunday will be all about for the Irish. Not only did they lose to wales in teh WC but last years 6 nations was spoiled for the Irish by teh Welsh in a contreversial try by scrum half Phillips. The irish are gonna be firing in Dublin and dispensing with the Red bogey men will have to put the Irish on a tear. However, they come to the game without talisman BoD and Kieth earls has also pulled out because of family troubles. Saying that, the 13 other men are all WC vets and they still have the monsterous trio Ferris, O' Brian and Heaslip as a backrow, and captian O'Connell. With talent like that upfront the rest of the team are standing on the shoulders of giants.

England are an unknown. Martyn Johnsons coaching days are done and the dissapointment of the world cup has been washed away by picking a new look squad full of youthful exuberence from standouts of the English premiership and heiniken cup. Caretaker coach Lancaster is a measured soul and have a relaxed confidence about his new outfit. the choices England have made all point to a totally new style of play - mobile, fast, strike running with less emphasis on a heavy pack. The premiership is a goldmine of talent and Lancaster has tried to pick the standouts with names like Robshaw, Dowson, Farrell and Barritt, Ashton, Strettle and Hodgson. Still the squad is vastly inexperienced and their first game will be in the teh cauldron at Murrayfield where the Scots will surely fancy a Calcutta cup scalp. However, if england play to the talents potential they could well put one over the Scots and with a early victory over the old enemies confidence might push this new talent to the top of the table.

Scotland have suffered of late by stealing defeat from the Jaws of victory (argentina and england in the WC). Andy Robinsons coaching has shown steady improvement in the Scots but they are yet to flip teh switch that will enable them to excel and recapture the position of a threatening NH outfit. It may be that the time is ripe. Edinburgh have been outstanding this year and Robinson has picked from that team hoping the confidence will carry over and push these guys to reach their potential. David Denton and uncapped Lee jones have been instramental for Edinburgh an Robinson is obviously hoping they will do the same. Other than Jones the rest of the team is well experienced and the likes of Parks, Murray, Evans, Lamont, Gray and cusiter need to step up to capture the era defining win against England. England v Scotland will be a captivating affair with much more rugby being played than you would normally expect from this fixture.

Italy are quite obviously the whipping boys this year. A poor WC and no performace in Club rugby they will struggle. The french will repay them for last years upset on Saturday and then they will need to hope another side will fall apart so they can scavenge a win against a broken team. If england or scotland fall flat in their openign matches Italy may get a lucky win but look to them getting whitewashed and wooden spooned.

so, who ya got?

for me
Head says France
Heart says Wales
England as teh darkhorse.
2/7/12 2:08 PM
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Edited: 02/07/12 2:24 PM
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 well a decent start to the 6 nations.

France v Italy was predictable.  Great defence shown by France.  Italy threw everything at them but just couldn't convert.  Then France gets the ball and looks lethal.  Big powerful backs with slick skills and Italy really couldn't cope.  France look as good as the hype.  New coach with old talent, they look to be the team to beat.

Scotland v England - Scotland just don't know how to win.  They had all the possession but poor skills and descisions really mean they weren't ever in the game.  England relied on defence and let Scotland beat themselves.  Farrell is a surefooted kicker and that, along with a stubborn defence, ensured Scotlands demise.  We still arn't sure of Englands attackign potential but they still have Ashton, Strettle and Foden as a devastating back 3.  A measured start from England but a good performance to build on.  Defence and work rate was good but showed little else.  Scotland showed nothing, i'm not sure what they need to do to improve, its looking like a long 6 nations for them. Some good individual performances but they need a team effort to go ahead.

Wales v Ireland - easily the game of the weekend.  5 changes in the lead during the match and a game (again) not without controversey.  Should Bradley Davies been given a red for his tip tackle?  Was Ferris' tip tackle yellow worthy of a card or even a penatly?  Who knows but the result is in and Wales came out on top after a rollercoaster ride of a game.  Ireland had the chance to put the game away at 21 points to 15 if they'd have kicked to the corner instead of the posts.  Instead they gave the ball to Wales who marched on them to score a try and then showed teh composure to recieve the ball and march 50 years forcing a penalty with a minute left in the game.  Irelands lineout was dominant, the scrums were an even contest the difference was really the dangerous running of the Welsh back.  There were questions before the game whether Wales would be dangerous without Shane Williams and the answer came through the likes of George North and Jon Davies as a resounding yes who scored 3 tries between them.  The Welsh backs are large and skilled and look to be a formidable outfit going forward. When North gets the ball, good things happen.  Wales showed patience, confidence and fitness in the last 15 minutes, scoring with 14 men on the field and putting in a clinical 4 minutes of phase play to secure the win.  A great platform going forward. 
Ireland now have the task of going to France to face the top seed.  The irish missed BoD both in descision making and in a lack of stability in midfield defence as North ran through McFadden.  They'll be boosted with teh retern of Keith Earls but they need to be more clinical to beat the French 
2/7/12 2:10 PM
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 here's Davies try that set up the last drive.  Great running by North.
2/7/12 2:12 PM
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 highlights of Wales Ireland
2/7/12 2:13 PM
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 england scotland
2/7/12 2:14 PM
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 france v Scotland
2/8/12 11:40 PM
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Edited: 02/09/12 3:36 AM
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 Bradley Davies of Wales gets a 7 week ban for his TIp tackle on Donncha o'ryan. He'll miss the rest of the tournament.

Stephen Ferris of Ireland will be allowed to play against France on saturday after facing a disciplinary comitiee

Dan Parks, storied kilted aussie retires from playing for Scotland after the English Match. 
2/21/12 4:16 PM
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Edited: 02/22/12 5:36 PM
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 italy england highlights
2/22/12 5:34 PM
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 wales scotland highlights
2/22/12 5:35 PM
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 After the 2 week hiatus we have another 6 nations weekend albeit with perhaps only 1 top fllight clash.

1st up Ireland v Italy in Dublin
This is probably an auto win for Ireland. Italy don't travel well and are persistently at the bottom of the table. Ireland are wounded warriors after losing last minute to the Welsh and heaving the french match postponed afor 3 weeks they will be looking to put a good performance in to raise moral and improve any points difference standings. Italy looked stubborn v England but ultimately lost and will probably do the same against an Ireland at home.

2nd will be France v Scotland at murrayfield.
Scotland have kept up the role of being their own worst enemy putting in a decent performance agaisnt Wales only to have it unravel in 10 minutes of madness after halftime that saw them down to 13 men and conceeding 17 points. Without that period the match would have been totally different. Whether they can do anything against the tournament favorites is another thing. France seem settled, powerful in defence and magic in attack. They ooze confidence and even though they missed the irish match due to bad weather its unlikely they've lost a step. France to win comfortably unless Scotland can finally find the form they've been seeking.

Last up Wales V England in Twickenham
It could be argued that Wales are the form team pf the home nations and have picked what is as close to their A team as they can get. Warburton is back, North is in, Alan-Wyn jones is back. The only spots where there isn't a #1 choice is at hooker where Bennet and Rees are both injured. A small case might be made for Lee Jones who is probably better replaced with Charteris or Bradley davies (both who are unavailable due to injury and suspension respectively). However, with the capacity of the Welsh team to seemlessly substitue with no lack of form this cannot be considered anything less than top. England have battled to 2 difficult victories and have only scored 2 tries (to Wales 6) both from charge downs by Hodgkinson. The upside for England is that they are at home in HQ and no-one expects tehm to perform which is a pressure relief. Wales has all the expectations of the triple crown on them and a country the demands. They have seemed impervious to pressure so far but will it continue?
Definately the match to watch this weekend.
3/5/12 3:17 PM
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 So the last 2 weeks have seen some great games together with some predictable scorelines.

After Irelands loss to Wales they put italy to the sword dispatching them 42-10 in Dublin.   The psotponement of the France Ireland match meant that Ireland went into this game winless thus far and were determinied to get their 6 nations campaign going forward. 5 tries they scored with the superb Tommy Bowe grabbing a brace taking him to 3rd on the list of all time international irish tryscorers.  The Italians fought stubbornly in the 1st half but ultimately withered and died to the Irish onslaught.

Scotland v France in Murrayfield was a dogged afair with the Scots really putting it to the French but, like so often recently, they mistakes of the Scots personified their performance and they came off 2nd best to an average French performance.  After  pushing into a 10 point lead with some great rugby ending with a try for the up and coming star winger Hogg, the Scots found themselves going into half time 10-10 a try from the French center sensation Fofana (2nd try in 2 tests).  The Scots however came back after the break and Lee JOnes got his 1st international try putting the Scots up 17-10.  Then, everything fell apart for the scots.  The French hit back immedeately as Malzieu and Medard linked up for Medard to sprint clear of the lazy Scots defence putting the game even.  The French then turned the screw and the Scots unravelled at the seams. A drop goal and a penalty later saw the French vicotrious 23-17.  Medard and Rory Lamont both went off with campaign ending leg injuries.

Wales v England was a match that lived up to all it promised.  It was a bone crunching defensive affair with a suprising amount of open field play that only yielded one try from either team (Wales) that served to be the difference between the two sides.  The 1st half was a tennis match of penalties which ended at 9-6 with England in the lead.  The contest was even and the presence of Tuilagi and the relentless Barrit in the English center equalized the power of the Welsh backs that had been so powerful against Scotland and Ireland.  England were threatening with Ball inhand and only desperate Welsh defence kept them out on numerous occasions.  The Welsh opened the match with a flurry but ended up on the losing end of possession and territory.  The 2nd half was much of the same this time with Wales pushing slightly ahead in possession and territory.  By the 70th minute the scores were tied 12 all. England got the ball in the 73rd minute after a series of turnovers from sides  only for Replacement lock Courtney Lawes to be stripped by welsh replacement center Scott Williams who then used a piece of opportunistic magic to score from 50 yards.  This was to be the difference.  England tried to strike back at the death to equalize and end in a Draw but Strettles last gasp forray over teh line was controversially  ruled inconclusive as frantice Welsh defense obscured the cameras from any view of downward pressure.


Ireland and France finally got to play their postponed match on Sunday 3rd of March after a 3 week delay and both teams were looking to get a win, France for the chance to compete for the grandslam and Ireland to keep their hopes for the championship alive.  The 1st half belonged to Ireland.  Their contesting of the contact area stole ball from set pieces and open play time and time again and the sublime Tommy Bowe again picked up a brace of tries, one from a gifted interception the other a piece of individualistic genius moving him up closer to BoDs record # of international tries scored.  France barely got out of their blocks in teh 1st half and at the break it looked to be an Irish rout with a scoreline of 17-6. 
Never count out the French. 
Iin the 2nd half the French turned up the heat and switched into their override gear that coincided. Snatching a penatly and a try withh 10 minutes.  French phenom Fofana got his 3rd try in 3 games at around the 50th minute showing dazzling pace for a 40 yard sprint to the line.  After this the French were relentless but like waves breaking against a stoney shore Ireland stoodfast only yielding one more penalty to make the final score 17-17 at the death.
Ireland and France were both dissapointed with the result but perhaps Ireland will be licking more wounds as the talismanic O'connell and scrum half Connoer Murray, who was so influencial in the 1st half performance will miss the rest of the tournament with Knee injuries.
3/5/12 3:18 PM
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 Ireland Italy highlights 
3/5/12 3:19 PM
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 Scotland v France 
3/5/12 3:22 PM
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 Wales v England
3/5/12 3:23 PM
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 France v reland
3/9/12 12:46 PM
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 Couple of pretty good games on this weekend and one almost foregone conclusion.

1st up is the most predictable where Italy travel to the Millenium Stadium to face Wales, the only team with a 100% record in the tournament.  Its a hostile enough enviroment for most teams to face under normal circumstances but htis Welsh team has a huge amount of momentum behind it with thd WC and current 6 nations form making Italy huge, huge underdogs.  Italy have beaten Wales before, twice in Rome, and also held them to a draw in Cardiff but this time is probably asking too much. Wales are without captain Warburton but Tupric, who replaces him, is widely considered to be almost on par with him.  Other than British lion Mathew Rees reterning the Welsh starting 15 is the same as those victorious against England.
A Welsh rout for sure.

Next up is Scotland V Ireland in Dublin.  These two celtic nations have not performed up to their expectiations.  Ireland have only one win on their record against Italy after losing narrowly to Wales and squndering a 10 point lead against France to draw with them.  Scotland are on a 5 game losing skid and seem to be their own worst enemy.  In with a shout against England, France and Wales they shot themselves in the foot each time with poor discipline and odd tactical choices.  The Scots are largely the same as the side that lost to France, whereas Ireland have lost the iconic O'connell and Connor Murray at scrum half, both hugely influencial against France.  As a point to note, this is the 1st time since 2001 that Ireland field a team without O'Connell or BoD.
Ireland are favorites still with home field advantage and better all round performances.  Both teams have amazing strike runners so the game should be an entertaining one.  Look to the likes of Hogg, Bowe and Kearny to light up the pitch when reterning loose kicks but ultimately an Irish victory.

Lastly is the match of the weekend, France V England in Paris.  This contest is of huge interest because of where both teams are and how they have performed of late.  France were tournament Favorites at the start but have stuttered with patchy performances throughout.  The Scots put a good fight, they drew with Ireland and put away Italy.  France were expected to win all 3 with more comfort showing that their new coaching staff is settling more slowly than the nation would have liked.  This is a must win game for the French if they intend on retaining the championship, as even if they beat Wales, a loss against England will mean Wales will always finish ahead of them (overlooking a Wales loss v Italy).  France have gambled somewhat in replacing the grandslam half back combo Parra and Trinh-Duc for Dupy and Beauxis at 9 and 10 respectively .
England seem to be on the verge of a resergance.  After large critisisms of the defensive nature of the 2  tests against Scotland and Italy, the performance England put in against Wales was much more fluid and creative even with the lack of tries scored (due to stubborn Welsh defense) and Lancasters gamble with the youthful Farrell at 10 seemed to have payed off.  It was only bad fortune that prevented the end of the Welsh game being a Tie.  The English have formed an armor plated center back combination with Farrel-Barritt-Tuilagui axis holding the monstorous welsh backs at bay and possibly even besting them in the contest.  It will be a real battle between the physical english centers and the fluid French backs of Rougerie and Fofana. The English forwards, and team in general are tireless and will only improve with more game time. 
Dusitior v Robshaw should be a great battle.
In this match France are favoured but this  really is anyones game.  If i were a betting man i'd pick England though, they seem to be doing things right at the moment whereas the French are fluttering in typical French Fashion.  A win for England keeps them in the Hunt hoping for a French victory in Cardiff and may even keep Lancaster in a job. 
3/12/12 4:25 PM
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 Well the weekend games have come and gone and the results were mostly predictable with a barnstormer of a match between England and France being the highlight.

Wales V italy displayed a dogged performance by the Italians who showed great organization in defence  preventing the Welsh team from displaying the kind of rugby expected from the public.  Saying that, the game was still pretty one sided as the Italians never really looked like scoring.  Wales applied a lot of pressure and the majority of the scores in the 24-3 victory came from the boot of Leigh Halfpenny who added another 11 points to his expanding international tally.  Half time score was 9-3 to the hosts. Shortly after half time Jamie Roberts showed a clean set of heels through a dip in the Italian lines to score the 1st Welsh try.
The welsh coaches knew going in that they would have to wait for the Italians to tire before the floodgates opened but i'm not sure if they felt that it would be in the 77th minute when Wales would score their 2nd via a strong finish by the 6 ft 6 in winger Cuthbert.  Some of the delay in the gloss finish may be due to Halfpenny being sin-binned for a reckless challenge on the italian skipper while going up for a high ball. Still, the win keeps Wales on course for a grandslam when they face the French at home next saturday.

The scottish v Ireland match displayed more improvements of Ireland and more woeful displays from a Scottish team that fails to live up to the talent on the field.
Scotland started off well enough getting into a 6-0 lead before Ireland decided to turn the screw by opting to Kick into the corner off a penalty rather than go for goal.  One catch and drive later and Rory Best opened the try count.  Shortly after this a tap and go penalty by Heaslip resulted in scrum half Eoin Reddan touching down for the score to make it 17-9 to the Irish.  Scotland hit back with a superbly opportunistic try from the immense and athletic 6'10" lock Richie Gray who was one of the few standouts in the scottish team.  This, however, was to be the last score for the Scots as they hindered themselves while Ireland showed stoic defense with some great offensive plays.  Just before half time the Scots defense went to sleep and Trimble slid over in the corner.  The second half was similally frustrating for the scots as the Irish held them fast causing the Scots to implode, opitimized by Max Evans yellow card for impeding Keith Earls when Earls was almost sure to touch down.  Ireland sealed the day in the last minutes as McFadden scored under the posts winning 32-14.  The Scots seems to be not only poor but unlucky also losing Lee Evans in a sickening clash of heads early in the 2nd half.
Scotlands Coach, Andy Robinson,  looks to have seen the last of his days as coach whereas Ireland are left to rue the "what if" of their opening loss to Wales as they seem to be improving with each game.  England V Ireland next weekend looks to be a scintillating encounter and whereas Scotland v Italy might not be a champange rugby spectacle it should be a close contest..

England V France was an exceptional game as the French and English sides had somewhat of a role reversal in the first half.  All the early flair and endevour was with the Enlgish whilst the French were left kicking points and chasing the game late on.  The French seem to take a while to get into their stride these days.  Ireland put 17 points past them before they woke up and the game against England was much the same.
After a cagey start with messy handling from both sides, sharp english defence from winger Ashton managed to cause confusion in the french ranks that ended up with Manu Tuilagi showing blistering pace for a man his size to race in and touchdown from 45 yards. The french answered with a Penalty before Englands monsterous Ben Morgan bouldered through the French defence off loading to Fodden for the try underneath the sticks to go ahead 14-3.  The french then came to life and the game really took to off with a lot of inventive play from both sides.  The French had several chances but failed to finish with the last passes often being knocked on.  England got a player sin-binned in teh 2nd half (Sharples) for an intentional knock-on which was pretty harsh but through the 10 minutes stood resolute not giving away a single point.  However, the pressure from the French over the periods before and after the sinbin allowed the French to kick themselves into a 17-15 battle (England ahead).
Early in the 4th quater England flanker, Tom Croft, who was perhaps the best player on the Field that day attempted to put the French down when he split the defensive line and ran in from 30 yards for a great individual try.  Farrell added the extras to make the game 24-15.  The French weren't done however as the superb Fofana scored in the corner for France with minutes left and Parra managed to convert making the game 24-22 to England with 5 minutes to pay.  The French looked set to win via a drop goal but it fell inches short giving England the win and an outside chance to win the Title.

So with one week left remaining there are only 2 mathamatical outcomes.
Wales win and they take the championship and the Grandslam.  The french will be up for it and I doubt they will play Dupy 9.  When Dupy was replaced for Parra the french looked a different and better team.  I think England were a bit lucky that the French decided to change up the halfbacks. I expect Parra and Beauxis as the french halfback pair against Wales.  Wales v France should be a heck of a contest and basically a coin flip.  The edge possibly going to Wales because of momentum and home court advantage.
Even with a loss, the Welsh look set to win the championship as the points difference sees Wales with a 38 point lead on England.  For England to take the honours they would need to win by 20 and Wales would need to lose by 19 or some scoring combination that results in the same points exchange.
Seeing as Ireland v England is also essentially an even contest the chances of anything other than a Welsh championship seem remote.  However, the goal for Wales, i imagine, has to be the Grandslam. With all the hype about this team anything less would leave them flat.

Next weekend has 3 steller matches that are going to be all hotly contested.
Will Scotland get a win?  The wooden spoon becons.
Ireland v England in twicknham for Bragging rights should be a fantastic encoutner.  Both sides good playing rugby and England hoping to keep coach Lancaster around with a win.
Wales v France for the Grandslam, the two tourney favorites, Warburton v Dusetoir, should be an excellent game.

Looks to be a fantastic conclusion to a great championship.    
3/12/12 4:26 PM
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 Wales v Italy 
3/12/12 4:27 PM
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 Ireland v Scotland
3/12/12 4:27 PM
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 England V France 
3/15/12 3:26 PM
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 A climactic weekend to the 6 nations approaches and all teams have announced their match day 15.

Italy scotland up first for the wooden spoon.
Scotland have made one change to their first 15 with Nick Deluca coming back from injury.  Italy have made a much more diverse set of changes, 6 all in all.  Prop, scrumhalf, flanker, center and wing are all new for italy.  the most notable change is Castrogiovanni who adds a bit more oomff to the italian scrum.  The contest should be close at least but probably not the best brand of rugby on display.  Scotland havn't won in rome since 2006 so i'd say edge to Italy.

Grandslam chasers, Wales, have made one change to the team as they welcome back captain Warburton to the open side position.  THe French get a boost as Yachvilli reterns from injury to take the scrumhalf position, they also have made 2 changes in teh front row which includes Attoub who is back after a 70 week suspension for eye gouging. there are 3 changes in the center/wing positions with the irreplacable Fofana (a try in each match of the 6 nations) moving to the wing, Fritz into the center and Palisson comes to the other wing.
The match will be a tense affair.  The french have stuttered through the tournament displaying slow starts and playing catch up but even still they came close to beating both Ireland and England, 2 teams that had to put in great performances to compete with the French.  There is no doubt of the talent of the French its just whether they show up on the day which is why you can never count them out.  Contrast how they performed in teh opening round of the world cup against new zealand with how they performed in the final. 2 different teams.  Wales have had good consistency in the championship, taking the opportunities that came their way and with a generous helping of luck to keep them sailing.  No doubt they will be hoping for more of the same.  Wales play at home and are favoured but will need to improve on their performance against italy if they are prevent a French party spoiling event.


England V Ireland ends the tournament with a soild contest for the 2nd place spot.  England bring back Strettle to the wing as the only change and Ireland also only make one solitary change bringing back O'brian on the flank instead of O'Mahony.  Ireland cleary favor the ball carrying ability of O'brian rather than the spoiling of O'mahony who is the more classical #7.  This contest is a toss up.  England have been raising their level with each game and I expect them to be at their best in this game.  However, Irelands defensive line speed was lightning against the french, particulally in the first half, so it seems they have been getting better through the tournament.  I think i favour England in this due to home field advantage and finally settling on a solid match day 15.  Farrell is getting more used to controlling the game and the team seems to be playing for each other.  Lancaster is clearly doing good things for the team moral.  They will obviously want to finish a strong second in the tourney which winning is all they need to do to acheive.  England will want the French to thump Wales for an outside chance at taking the honours.  Ireland will take second if Ireland win and Wales win or if they can win and stay ahead of the French in points difference.
Whatever, Ireland v England will be a branstormer and with the fluid fashion of both sides current form could be a hightlight of the tourney.
3/15/12 3:26 PM
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fingers 'n' teeth
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Edited: 03/20/12 12:07 PM
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 dbl
3/21/12 2:03 PM
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 So the 6 nations are in teh books and it was a very entertaining tournament.

The last weekend began with Scotland and Italy with each team hoping to avoid the whitewash.  Italy showed great defensive line speed throughout the match and Scotland showed their typical scrappy and error ridden style to lose by 13-6.  Italian Winger Venditti was teh sole try scorer in a game that was a good win for Italy but a match that was very poor entertainment.  Even the worst of international matches should show more skill and endevor than this game.
Scotland and Coach Andy Robinson need to take stock of their style and future.  Scotland have talent (Lock Richie Gray is almost a shoe in for the lions) but they can't seem to make it work.  Somthing needs to change and it will probably be the coach is their performances don't improve.

The Grandslam showdown in Cardiff, Wales was hampered by a suddendown pour in the hours leading up to the match.  Even though the Welsh stadium has a roof the visiting side decided whether its open or shut.  almost every team facing Wales chooses it to be open and France was no different.  The French were hoping the slick surface and ball would drag the game into a forward battle nullifying the strength of the Welsh back the roof was left open during the downpour.  The french plan worked to a certain extent as a gritty defensive battle took place in the Stadium.  The battle was mainly upfront with both # 6s (Dusitoir for France, Dan Lydiate for wales) had standout performances with their tireless work in the tackle area.  After early pressure from teh welsh that ended up with Priestland missing a penalty the French took the lead first with a penalty of their own.  Halfpenny soon equalized.   Then after a quater of the match gone Lydiate and Alun Wyn Jones teamed up to turn over french ball.  The ball was spread wide and Alex Cuthbert showed great footwork stepping past the french defence for the games only try.  Half time score was 10-3.  Wales captain warburton did not reappear in the 2nd half but was well replaced by Ryan Jones as the denfensive battle continued for the remainer of the game.  just 3  penatlies were scored in the 2nd half, 2 from wales and 1 for france ending the game with a 3rd Grandslam for Wales in 7 years.  Final score 13-6.

Last match of the championship was Ireland v England and this match really showcased the marked improvement of the English throughout the tournament and the lack of strength in depth in the scrum for Ireland.
Played at twickenham everyone expected a close encoutner and the first half lived up to the promise.  The conditions were also wet here as in cardiff making it a scrappy game.  England showed their early forward dominance and made it count with a penalty off a scrum being converted by the ever consistent Farrell.  Several missed chances for tries by both sides after some great work by Englands Ben Morgan and Irelands Keith Earls and Tommy Bowe meant that the half time score was 9-6 to England after a scrappy first half.
The second half began much as the 1st half did with Englands Ben Foden carving up the Irihs defense only for Croft to spill the ball with the line begging.  More English pressure at teh scrum yielded another penatly for Farrell to make it 12-6.   Through some sloppy handling Ireland hit back and scored from a penalty. 
England then turned the crew in teh scrum.  A clever Grubber from farrell set up a 5 meter scrum that the English used to bossed the Irish pack into conceeding a penalty try.  The english team smelt blood and turned up the heat in the scrums forcing more penalties.  The irish, exausted from teh smashing up front, allowed ben youngs to dart through for a late score.
final 30 - 9.

Wales win the Grandslam
England improve throughout the tournament to pick up an unexpected 2nd place.
France flutter in 3rd.
The Irish take a dissapointing 4th
Italy avoid the whitwash and take 5th
Scotland banish themselves into last place



Player of the tournament goes to Dan Lydiate on teh back of two man of the match awards and his tireless grunt work in defense
   
3/21/12 2:07 PM
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 scotland italy
3/21/12 2:11 PM
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 Wales France game and celebrations

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