On the Bounce – 6 Nations Turning Points

There has been a rainforest of press coverage detailing the minute by minutiae regarding the start of the 6 Nations so nobody will want my tuppence worth (less than 1p today) regarding what actually went on in Cardiff, Paris and Dublin.

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Instead I’ve decided to scribble a few thoughts regarding some of the leading individuals in what went on over the weekend (and how they might be feeling this morning as they read the press).

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Increasingly in the 6 nations the teams are finding it more difficult to put away the competition – defences are tough to breach and games are often settled by key turning points or incidents.

Having said that all of Wales were expecting to thump their visitors from Italy and after just 3 minutes they were probably expecting just that.

When Angelo Esposito looks at the replay again (and he will), no one will need to tell him that a couple of yards from your own line and close to touch you either hoof it out or sit it and slide into touch.

You don’t try and pick it up – even if you manage to get it cleanly it results in the same thing anyway – a lineout in the corner. He was, to be fair, unlucky with the bounce – or rather lack of it. Alex Cuthbert grabbed it and Wales were ahead. Removing that 7 point difference wouldn’t have given Italy an unlikely victory but it might have made the game more interesting as the Italians made the home side look very rusty. Esposito won’t make the same mistake again and Cuthbert won’t get an easier try.

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Talking of soft scores – Yoann Huget should really have shot off after the game and bought a lottery ticket – after just 17 minutes he had two tries and must have thought that this International lark is a piece of cake. Like Cuthbert he benefitted from a ball bounce that left him with the tough task of catching the ball and falling down – only for him it happened twice.

In contrast Jack Nowell’s introduction involved knocking on with his first touch – 5 seconds into the game – he was obscured by Joe Launchbury but when the video analysis is done this week he will feel that he should have done better. And he will – he deserves another chance and I expect Stuart Lancaster to give it to him at Murrayfield next Saturday.

At half-time Sir Clive (Woodward not Sinclair) thought England, at 16 – 8 down would win – he was almost right too – and as he commented after, they need to learn how to close a game down.

He’s right there too – the ‘Group of Death’ looms in under two years the chances of Wales and the Wallabies giving away soft tries is up there with the likelihood of Amanda Knox buying a ticket to the Stadio Olimpico.

Lancaster has a strong foundation – and we can only hope that Alex Corbisiero can get (and stay) healthy and that he gives Manu and Luther a chance to play together in midfield.

Johnny May won’t want to look at the replay (or in the mirror) – he was unluckier than Jack and his pace would have helped in defence. If he doesn’t recover it would be good to see Anthony Watson given a first cap.

In Dublin Scotland tried in vain to find a way through the Irish wall and the seemingly inevitable second half was dominated by the men in green. The legend that is Brian O’Driscoll gained a magnificent 129th cap – but blimey wasn’t he quiet in the game itself!

There are big games for the four home nations next weekend and it will be tough for Ireland and Scotland who have a day less to recover. Mind you, that won’t worry the Jocks – they are always up for a scrap with the ‘auld enemy’.

I just hope we don’t need the luck of the bounce on Saturday.

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