France 20 - Ireland 17
Game rating: ***
It sounds like another interesting weekend in the Northern Hemisphere. Unfortunately I didn't get to see any of the games but the Irish/French game sounded like a cracker. It appears the French played with a great deal of spirit to grab the win from an Irish side that had been looking assured of victory. This can only be a boost for France after their disappointing autumn internationals and just the tonic for getting their RWC campaign back on track. For the Irish - a huge disappointment but not the end of the world. They played with an understrength team considering Paul O'Connell is trying to find his pre-Christmas form and BOD is out and injured. When these two aspects slip back, Ireland will be a very difficult proposition for any team to deal with.
England 20 - Italy 7
Game Rating *
As usual - the British press had lauded magical England one week previous to this after the thrashing of Scotland. And is so often the case, after the English media big their team up, their boys will do the inevitable and really fluff it the next week, year (or three years in the case of the English rugby and cricket team's recent history). At least for England, they managed to grind out a victory.
From an English perspective, the game sounded like a fizzer with the men in white reverting to type and playing sloppily. Jonny got his goals, but it sounds as if his decision making with ball in hand wasn't so hot, thus helping to revert the team back to their old conservative, stick it up the jumper, style of play. Ashton, the great coaching hope, is supposed to be a man with tactical genius when it comes to bringing vitality and brain into attack. With Jonny back, robotically slotting those goals, it will be a temptation to go back to old ways. Which doesn't help the backs to improve their skills and awareness - something they drastically need to do if they want any hope of defending their title in September.
However, as is often the case, I've overlooked a very passionate Italy who really took the game to England. After their disappointing score against France the previous weekend, they came back with fire and commitment and it is a testament to their spirit that they created a real game for England at Twickenham. It is fantastic that Italy can now give these teams a proper contest. Only five years ago it was a given they would surely lose by a cricket score through each game during the 6N, adding to their wooden spoon collection at the end of the tournament. Their forwards are a match for anyone now and if they can keep believing in themselves, who knows what upsets they will create in the future.
Scotland 21 - Wales 9
Game rating *
Another upset and a great result for a team that lost so dramatically last weekend. But what has happened to Wales? The wheels have really fallen off with this team under Jenkins. I guess they're stuck with him now going into September which begs to ask that old question again - why did those hotheads push Mike Ruddock out? Tis a mystery.
Anyhow, it sounds like another dull game, with no tries being scored. Not much to write home about really and bad for Northern Hemisphere rugby.