Six Nations 2022: what we learned from week two matches as Wales, France and England win
The latest edition of Rugby’s Greatest Championship continued at the weekend and only one team remains unbeaten and in contention for the Grand Slam.
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The second round of the 2022 Six Nations Championship certainly lived up to the hype as the title ambitions of Scotland and Ireland were seriously dented while Wales and England got their first victories of the tournament.
There were plenty of questions left hanging in the air after Round One and many of those were answered at the weekend.
France are well on course for the Grand Slam but what now for Ireland and Scotland, can they still dream of lifting the title? England and Wales are off the mark but can they keep the momentum going? Will Italy manage to finally get that elusive win?
Here are six talking points from Round Two of the 2022 Six Nations Championship:
Ireland can only focus on themselves now
It’s probably fair to say that Ireland were unlucky in defeat as they went down 30-24 to France in Paris.
Andy Farrell’s side played well enough to beat almost any team on the planet, just not this incredibly talented French outfit.
That being said, the game was only a few big moments here and there away from being a totally different result but it would also be fair to say that the hosts were the deserved winners.
It leaves Ireland in the frustrating position of their fate being taken out of their own hands, the only way they can realistically win the title now relies on France slipping up.
Take nothing for granted in this Championship, the current leaders still have to go to Murrayfield in Round Three and face England at home in the last game of the tournament so it’s no where near a foregone conclusion.
All Ireland can do is focus on themselves, they are still favourites to lift the Triple Crown at this stage and should make fairly light work of Italy in their next match. Let’s see where the table is after Round Three before writing off their title challenge.
One step forward, two steps back for Italy
England’s 33-0 victory in Rome had to be immensely frustrating from an Italian point of view.
They had reasons for optimism after their Week One defeat to France despite the 37-10 scoreline, they were competitive for large spells and showed they had plenty to offer in attack.
Sadly, there were no reasons to be optimistic this week. The closest the came to matching England was keeping them at bay in a largely scrappy fashion for parts of the second half while managing to push them back into their own 22 after the game was already gone.
To not score any points at home to an England side who were experimenting with players outside their natural positions and had just suffered a bruising defeat the week before is pretty unforgivable.
This match should have been more competitive than it was but Italy just couldn’t build on the platform they had given themselves against France. They couldn’t cut out the silly mistakes, which again cost them this week, but offered very little in attack which was their one saving grace from the previous week.
After Week One, their was some confidence that they had a chance of getting their first Six Nations win in seven years at this tournament but that belief must have drastically shrunk after Sunday’s humiliation.
Scotland let themselves and their support down in Cardiff
Scotland had a lot of things working against them in Cardiff on Saturday. A Wales team who were far sounder in defence than they showed the previous week against Ireland, a packed Principlaity Stadium roaring on the home players and a referee who was seemingly far stricter on their infringements at the breakdown than on their opponents.
All the same, there were only three points in the game and the Scots will rightly feel like they have blown their best chance of both winning in Cardiff for the first time since 2002 and potentially lifting the Six Nations title as they could see for a while.
This Wales side, despite their improvements, were there for the taking but Scotland were largely toothless in attack and looked a shadow of the side who beat England the week previous.
Very few players from the defeat were deserving of pass marks and now they got back to Edinburgh licking their wounds and with their confidence battered.
Their title challenge isn't over but they will have a snowballs chance in hell of beating France in their next fixture if they play like they did in Cardiff. If they are going to lift the trophy they need to win that game and, probably, defeat Ireland in Dublin - it doesn’t seem likely at this stage.
Even if they are improved but still lose to France it’s really not good enough, the Scotland supporters have been largely united in the feeling that a Calcutta Cup win alone isn’t enough to consider a tournament a success.
Next match will prove more about England than routine Rome victory
When asking the question “what did we learn about England in Week Two?” the answer is essentially very little.
No team is ever just going to hand their opponents a test match victory but it would be generous to say England were ‘tested’ in their 33-0 win in Rome.
Marcus Smith had another brilliant game in attack but his credentials on the front were never really in question while the team as a whole once again gave away far too many needless and silly penalties that a stronger opposition would have punished.
There’s no need to be negative in victory, each man did the job asked of him and they are off the mark but it doesn’t feel like things are drastically improved on the side that lost to Scotland in Week One.
Their next match is an incredibly intriguing prospect, they have Wales at home. It’s their first game at Twickenham this tournament and that always gives them an advantage while Wales remain a largely inexperienced side despite the much needed boost their Week Two win will have given them.
Eddie Jones’ side have, in theory, an increase in difficulty each week for the remainder of the tournament as they face Wales then Ireland at home before heading to Paris.
There’s a chance that they might yet be alive and kicking come Super Saturday on March 19 but there’s a lot of rugby to be played between now and then.
Wales showed real grit and deserved their win
Saturday’s result was a brilliant one for this new look Wales side. Their opponents may not have shown up and the refereeing may have been dubious at times but they played what was in front of them and deserved their win.
With the exception of Darcy Graham’s try they gave the Scots no quarter in defence and were hugely improved from their opening day defeat in Dublin.
Test match experience is going to prove vital for this new crop of talent and a Six Nations victory over a side who many considered them underdogs against is huge for their experience.
Dan Biggar also stepped up and displayed the leadership qualities that had been lost with the absence of the injured Alun Wynn Jones and that is even more reason to believe that this tournament may not yet be a total right off.
Retaining the title seems unlikely but that has been said before about Wales, they go to Twickenham next on a wave of confidence against an opponent who still have many questions to answer.
England will be favourites for that tie but it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see this Wales side snatch another narrow win if they can play with the same grit as they did against Scotland.
Who will stop France now? The Grand Slam is there to be won
France overcame the biggest challenge to their pursuit of a first Championship win since 2010 on Saturday and they did it with style.
There were areas of concern of course but nobody is perfect and even Ireland’s hard hitting wall of Celtic beef couldn’t stop France’s mercurial talents from weaving their magic in Paris.
They go to Scotland and Wales in their next two matches and host England in their final fixture and not one of those ties will hold any fear for Fabien Galthié’s team.
The only thing standing in their way is themselves, if they can shore up the defence just a bit more then the Grand Slam will be there’s because it looks like the only way to conquer this French side will be to out score them.
Ireland gave that a good go but fell agonisingly short and Scotland’s strength also lies in their attack so the trip to Murrayfield in Round Three could prove interesting.
One thing is for sure, it wont be dull.
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