AN enthralling weekend set the stage for a potential title-decider between Wales and England at the Principality Stadium next Saturday.
Wales struggled to victory over Italy, Ireland edged out Scotland at Murrayfield and England demolished France in a scintillating display.
Record-equalling Wales must get better
Italy pushed Wales to the end. When Tommaso Allan’s second-half penalty cut Wales’ lead to just two points, Warren Gatland’s decision to make 10 changes looked risky. However, tries from Josh Adams and Owen Watkin sealed an 11th win in a row for Wales.
Dan Biggar’s error-strewn performance aids Gareth Anscombe’s chances of wearing the No. 10 shirt against England, while Gareth Davies’ second cameo appearance in a fortnight gives Gatland a selection headache at scrum-half.
Following the match, Gatland said “it could be embarrassing” if Wales do not improve before the visit of England.
Emphatic England will be favourites at the Principality
Jonny May’s hat-trick inside 30 minutes lit the touch paper for an English attacking blitzkrieg. They went on to beat France 44-8, scoring six tries.
The victory may have come easily for England, who benefited from Les Blues’ struggles under the high ball, but two fluent performances in succession have made England firm favourites to win the Six Nations.
Wales will be far less vulnerable to the high ball, so England may have to employ different tactics when the two sides meet. Expect less kicking and more use of the power of Manu Tuilagi and Mako Vunipola next weekend.
Ireland’s resilience remains
Despite losing at home to England, Ireland played with characteristic determination and efficiency on their way to a 22-13 victory over Scotland.
Conor Murray’s incision and Jacob Stockdale’s pace saw Ireland’s attacking verve return, but Johnny Sexton still looked short of confidence and Scotland’s physical approach neutered his impact.
Nonetheless, it earned the Irish a vital win to keep their hopes of retaining the Six Nations title alive.
Scotland toiled hard and had their chances, notably when they were camped metres from Ireland’s try-line near the end of the first half, but as is so often the case for the Scots this was a case of ifs, buts and maybes.
Next weekend’s fixtures
- France vs Scotland KO 2.15pm Saturday, February 23
- Wales vs England KO 4.45pm Saturday, February 23
- Italy vs Ireland KO 3pm Sunday, February 24