Chris of the Valleys had a bit of a gentle poke at Ned earlier this week when I wrote about the weekend’s Super Rugby:
In the meantime, the Irish and Welsh provided one of the best games of the last 12 months. A cracker, but it probably doesn’t get on your radar.
Fair enough, because the fourth round of the Six Nations produced one excellent match, a couple of head scratchers, and plenty of pondering about form running into the World Cup.
Wales 23 – 16 Ireland
England 25 – 13 Scotland
France 29 – 0 Italy
The excellent match was in Cardiff where Wales showed true grit and composure in holding out an Irish team that had won ten on the trot. Moreover, they did it while Warburton and Davies spent time in the bin, and with just 25 percent possession and 24 percent territory in the second half.
That answers a question about the Welsh defensive commitment, but equally asks a question about Ireland’s attacking ability. Take away Sexton’s kicking leg, and what have they got?
Not a free-flowing match, with just nine line breaks and two tries in the match, but a proper test match for its hyper-intensity. The Welsh will take a lot of heart from winning by defending, and I suspect it shows how they will contest their Pool of Death clashes against England and Australia. Good old-fashioned bloody-minded intransigence in depth.
Meanwhile, England struggled to put away Scotland at Twickenham. They had plenty of possession and made the breaks, but the scrambling Scots defence held them out time and again. Three tries to one, but mark it unconvincing for the Poms. The Scots at least are playing with ambition again, which is far far better than merely trying to keep the losing margin to a minimum.
The last match, and France produced a couple of tries in the second half to not convince anyone. Italy are a ragged patchwork at the moment, and the French are failing to connect the dots of their talent into a cohesive picture. Which is not to say they can’t or won’t. They’ll just wait until a quarter-final against … oh, bugger.
All these results fed into the latest world rankings that came out on Monday:
The new list looks about right, with Wales and Australia swapping places, except I think for Scotland’s ranking at 10. At this stage I’d pick them to beat Samoa in their Pool B match, which would take them through to a quarter-final against the winner of Pool A.
And when you’re in the knockout stage, anything can happen.