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6 Nations Wrap-up – Winners and Losers

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doctornickolas
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Pete C (Kiwireddevil)
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6 Nations Wrap-up – Winners and Losers Empty 6 Nations Wrap-up – Winners and Losers

Post by Pete C (Kiwireddevil) Mon 19 Mar 2012, 2:49 pm

6 Nations Wrap-up – Winners and Losers
Now that the 6 Nations is finished for another year here is v2Journal's take (I'll post the fancy link tonight) on who were the big winners and the big losers, along with a little look at a few who the jury is still out on.

Winners
Wales showed that their best World Cup performance in 24 years was no fluke as they picked up a Grand Slam. It wasn’t all plain sailing, with several close games but Wales now have some enviable depth across most positions. The men in red sit at the top of Northern Hemisphere rugby, they now need to step up against the giants of the Southern Hemisphere. Welsh coach Warren Gatland justified his pre-RWC contract extension and staked a strong claim to a Lions coaching berth for 2013. By then he will have had plenty of practice at playing Australia, with Wales playing them in two test matches late last year, three more coming in June and another in November.

For Wales Alex Cuthbert outshone his more highly rated counterpart George North, all of a sudden Wales have plenty of bulk as well as skill and pace in the backline as Jonathan Davies also stepped out of the shadow of Roberts, Hook and Henson. Wales’ injury crisis at lock was good news for Ian Evans whose career had been sidelined by injury and ill-discipline.

England emerged from the disarray that marked their World Cup and placed some solid foundations for the future with the selection of some talented youngsters. Picking up four wins was a better result than most were tipping pre-tournament. Stuart Lancaster managed to put down a strong claim for being the permanent manager by fixing up a lot of the mess he inherited, while Chris Robshaw proved himself to be a superb captain, if not a classical openside wing forward. Now if the RFU can only get the administration of the English game sorted ...

The great Brian O’Driscoll’s absence from this year’s tournament showed how much Ireland will miss him.

Losers
France battled their own demons to almost win the 2011 Rugby World Cup, with the already-sacked “Mad” Marc Lievremont at odds with his players whose poor form saw them lose to Tonga in their pool and scrape past a 14-man Wales in the semi-final. A new coach in Phillipe Saint-Andre was expected to rebuild and re-invigorate Les Bleus. However after posting wins over Italy and Scotland in the opening rounds their campaign literally froze in Paris before their postponed match versus Ireland.

Scotland finished with the wooden spoon this year despite showing in patches that they have some good young talent coming through. Again this year the Scottish campaign was blighted by injuries, though poor selection and an inability to score tries (though at least they have finally scored at Murrayfield) were the major issues. Andy Robinson’s job must be hanging on a thread due to the lack of results, the lack of an attacking game plan and his failure to drop non-performing players in favour of those in form at club level until having his hand forced by injury. While poor Dan Parks must wish he’d stuck to his guns and retired after the World Cup. Johnnie Barclay moved to the blindside following the injury to Kelly Brown, and went AWOL, is this the end of the road for the “killer Bs”?

When Ireland rolled over a Pocock-less Australia in September the future looked bright for the men in green. And the club form of Leinster, Munster and Ulster suggested a strong Irish challenge was possible in 2012. That all changed after the Welsh took the spoils away from Lansdowne Road, and the draw in Paris was their only real highlight of the tournament. The match at Twickenham highlighted a lack of depth in the scrum, while the back row remains less than the sum of its admittedly strong parts. Declan Kidney has attracted strong criticism over his loyalty to out-of-form stalwarts like Gordon D'Arcy and Jamie Heaslip, as well as for a game plan so conservative archaeologists have applied for a permit to dig up Ireland’s training ground.

In a tournament notable for a lack of stand-out performances at fly-half, Kris Burton surpasses even Dan Parks and several French candidates (Lionel Beauxis missed far too many shots for a supposed “drop goal specialist”) as the worst of the lot. Charlie Hodgson on the other hand made a spectacular comeback, coming out of Wilkinson’s shadow only to pick up an injury to allow Farrell to take the plaudits

While his team were earning plaudits Chris Ashton was largely missing in action, possibly due to a lack of game time at club level. A game plan that didn't see many breaks made inside him meant his support runner game was irrelevant, while the ball seldom made it all the way out to his wing. He only has himself to blame for his failure to come in looking for work though, meaning the 2011 tournament top try-scorer came up empty-handed in 2012.

But for several moments of idiocy while drinking Danny Care could have been England’s starting scrum half. At least his problems are self-inflicted however - the very unlucky Justin Tipuric showed himself to be one of the top opensides in Europe, but he may turn out to be a Marty Holah to Sam Warburton’s Richie McCaw.

In-between
Italy had a new coach for 2012, with Jacques Brunel succeeding Nick Mallett. The Azzurri played well in patches, and were good enough to beat Scotland at home and avoid the Wooden Spoon. Their lack of depth in some positions remains apparent, especially at fly half. And there are signs that Sergio Parisse’s Herculean efforts to keep his men in matches are taking their toll, with him resorting to some fairly cynical play on occasion. Getting over 70,000 fans in Rome to watch the team play will hopefully have benefits down the line.

Before his injury in the RWC Rhys Priestland looked like the answer for Wales at fly-half. However in the 6 Nations his form was patchy, and he will need a strong couple of months for the Scarlets followed by a good tour to Australia to truly seal his spot.

Ben Youngs didn’t have the greatest RWC, and (partly due to injury) lost his England starting spot. However in the 2nd half against Ireland he proved once again that he can be electric behind a dominant pack.

In 2011 Sean O’Brien was European Player of the Year and he starred at the World Cup. However in 2012 he proved that he is not an international openside. Jamie Heaslip’s poor form is an opportunity to shift O’Brien to 8 and try to balance Ireland’s back row, but will Kidney be brave enough to try it on the New Zealand tour?

Dave Denton and [/i]Ross Rennie[/i] both made impressive starts to the tournament, but by the end defences were wise to Denton’s threat with ball-in-hand while Rennie was conceding a lot of penalties at the breakdown. Scotland’s challenge is to get other players supporting the pair better so that they are less exposed.


Who were your big winners and losers?


Last edited by Kiwireddevil on Mon 19 Mar 2012, 3:32 pm; edited 3 times in total
Pete C (Kiwireddevil)
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Post by Biltong Mon 19 Mar 2012, 3:09 pm

a game plan so conservative archaeologists have applied for a permit to dig up Ireland’s training ground.

I quite like that. Very Happy

Nice article Kiwi, I agree with most of what you said.
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Post by doctornickolas Mon 19 Mar 2012, 3:31 pm

Great article.

Ireland for me remain the biggest mystery.

In the WC they beat Australia up, then got beaten up by Wales. However, this did not dent the Irish psyche for long and their provinces set about dominating Europe and the Pro 12. They entered the 6 Nations full of confidence only to then have their pants pulled down by Wales again. However, it was England that administered the spanking, and they finished with only wins over Scotland and Italy to show for it.

Ireland have been 'lucky' for many years in the sense that they always seemed to have a full complement of players to choose from come 6 nations time, however this time a few injuries have exposed a soft underbelly and lack of depth that I would find a bit worrying if I were Irish.




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Post by AsLongAsBut100ofUs Mon 19 Mar 2012, 3:34 pm

while Rennie was conceding a lot of penalties at the breakdown
- really? According to espnscrum.com, he committed one against Ireland and one against Italy?

by the end defences were wise to Denton’s threat with ball-in-hand
- really? Same stats source, vs Eng 50m in 14 carries (avg 3.6), vs Wal 67m/21 (avg 3.2), vs Fra 36m/13 (2.8), vs Ire 41/10 (4.1), vs Italy 25/9 (2.8)

Headscratch

I'll get my coat anorak ...

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Post by Pete C (Kiwireddevil) Mon 19 Mar 2012, 3:41 pm

AsLongAsBut100ofUs wrote:
while Rennie was conceding a lot of penalties at the breakdown
- really? According to espnscrum.com, he committed one against Ireland and one against Italy?

by the end defences were wise to Denton’s threat with ball-in-hand
- really? Same stats source, vs Eng 50m in 14 carries (avg 3.6), vs Wal 67m/21 (avg 3.2), vs Fra 36m/13 (2.8), vs Ire 41/10 (4.1), vs Italy 25/9 (2.8)

Headscratch

I'll get my coat anorak ...

In my defence, Glas nominated those two Whistle And if you took out the Irish game there's a case on Denton Wink

Plus I'm sure I remember a couple penalties from Rennie on Saturday Whistle
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Post by AsLongAsBut100ofUs Mon 19 Mar 2012, 3:56 pm

Kiwireddevil wrote:
AsLongAsBut100ofUs wrote:
while Rennie was conceding a lot of penalties at the breakdown
- really? According to espnscrum.com, he committed one against Ireland and one against Italy?

by the end defences were wise to Denton’s threat with ball-in-hand
- really? Same stats source, vs Eng 50m in 14 carries (avg 3.6), vs Wal 67m/21 (avg 3.2), vs Fra 36m/13 (2.8), vs Ire 41/10 (4.1), vs Italy 25/9 (2.8)

Headscratch

I'll get my coat anorak ...

In my defence, Glas nominated those two Whistle And if you took out the Irish game there's a case on Denton Wink

Plus I'm sure I remember a couple penalties from Rennie on Saturday Whistle
Quite right, Pete, let's exclude all games against teams that are coached by anyone whose surname starts with 'K', that should make things much simpler!! Glas = typical Welshman, why let the facts get in the way of a good/convenient story?!?! Wink You've forgotten that the subtext of Glas's comments is that the Welsh backrow is nailed on for the Lions Whistle Can't believe you fell for that! warning

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Post by maestegmafia Mon 19 Mar 2012, 3:59 pm

Good read

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Post by Morgannwg Mon 19 Mar 2012, 4:02 pm

Excellent report. Can not disagree with any of it and struggling to add to it.
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Post by BlueNote Mon 19 Mar 2012, 4:15 pm

"they finished with only wins over Scotland and Italy to show for it" - a draw in Paris is pretty good going, mind.

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