The boys of St George finally gained their Grand Slam vengeance as the Welsh Dragons fell.
Sport-Matters reviews the Six Nations events for the top two and considers what the summer will bring.
England- 1st– Points Difference +62 – 10 points
England’s long wait has ended, all thanks to an Aussie! Eddie Jones drilled his boys to play unlike any other Six Nations team this season: with a combination of forwards and backs! As obvious as it sounds, England were the only team to consistently perform in both aspects of the game. Last night against France, the England pack won 13 line-outs whilst the backs contributed to 115 tackles and 14 offloads. The identity of England rugby, with its focus on the forwards, has been regained, but a touch of southern hemisphere-esque creativity gave the Roses the ability to carve through their opponents at times.
Yet this new-found confidence never lasted 80 minutes. Frenchman Maxim Machenaud’s seven penalty conversions and Wales’ scything display in the last 10 minutes, thanks to a Dan Cole yellow card, show that England still have difficulty in maintaining their discipline. Having conceded 14 penalties against France, it was this lack of discipline that made them wary of approaching the high ball at times, allowing the French back into the game. England can celebrate a deserved Grand Slam due to a reinvigorated mind set (Mauro Itoge and Danny Care deserve a mention at least) yet their lack of discipline and their preference to be hesitant from this makes them the underdogs against Australia in the summer internationals.
Wales- 2nd– Points Difference +62- 7 Points
Wales’ fate was set in the first weekend- as soon as the draw at the Aviva Stadium was confirmed, we all knew it would be tough for Wales to win the title. However, the Welsh provided the expected excellence as they saw off Scotland, France and Italy. They scored 17 tries throughout the Championship, the most of any Six Nations team this season. Right now, you cannot talk about Wales without mentioning the name of the wonder-kid, George North. Against Italy, the Welsh number-14 carried the pill 12 times to make a total of 143 metres as well as providing 7 passes and 1 assist. More importantly, North won 2 turnovers and made 5 tackles, the most of any of his backs team-mates. George North has not only given Wales points but stopped other teams from scoring them.
And yet the question has to be asked- what happens without George North? The nearest any back has come to North’s figures is Jamie Roberts with 77 metres in 18 carries. If you take away the top points scorer (Dan Biggar with 21 against Italy) and George North, who do you rely on to create opportunities at the back? Then you look at the forwards and Italy almost matched them yesterday winning 97.4% of rucks against Wales’ 99.1%. Wales have excited rugby fans for years by working the ball in the backs but there is a sense that the Welsh could rely on this tactic too heavily. A new question arises- will they beat New Zealand at their own game in the summer?