Saturday, 10 February 2007

Six Nations Rugby Championship - 2nd Weekend

Today England is playing Italy, and Scotland playing Wales. Tomorrow Ireland is playing France.

The Italians like playing with the sun on their backs, so the cold winter weather of the last four days would not be to their liking. After last weeks game against Scotland, the English supporters were singing the praise of their team. But really the Scots were so weak; no concrete evidence of a recovery can be taken from the game. It will not be until 24th February when they play Ireland that the strength of the English team can be measured. Unless England beat Italy by a margin of over 30 points, it will be seen as a poor performance.

Wales should beat Scotland, but they are still weakened by injuries. After last weeks defeat Scotland will be playing for their pride. Whoever loses today their season will be over, and it will also dent their confidence leading up to the World Cup, to be played later this year.

Tomorrows game is really juice, both Ireland and France have the potential to not only win the Championship but achieve the Grand Slam (winning all their games).They are also the two Northern Hemisphere teams who have the capabilities to challenge, if not New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Ireland have suffered a big blow losing their captain Brian O’Driscoll due to injury. The French like the Italians play their best rugby when they have the sun on their backs. Its finely balanced, hopefully its going to be an open running game.

It's going to be a tense afternoon watching Wales, but first the England vs Italy game.

Did you hear that thump; it was England falling to ground after spending last week in dreamland.

It was as if there was an invisible wall at the Italian 10 metre line through which England could not pass. They had to wait 35 minutes before they got into the Italian 22. Up to that point Wilkinson had kicked penalties at the 3rd, 14th and 24th minute. On the 37th minute Italian forward Marco Portola was sin binned for 10 minutes. In the 39th minute Jason Robinson went over in the corner for a try, which Wilkinson failed to convert, making the half time score England 14 - 0 Italy.

Fifteen minutes into the second half Wilkinson put over another penalty. Virtually all the play in the second half took place in the English half. The Italian pack had full control of the game, and England looked devoid of ideas. Italy got their reward in the 65 minutes with a try under the posts. In the 73rd minute Wilkinson put over his fifth penalty, to make the final score England 20 - 7 Italy.

Two statistics say it all, in the second half Italy had 75% of the possession and territory. Though they won, this was a reality call for England, last week’s performance was a false dawn, in reality they have made little progress since their Autumn Internationals dismal performances.

In the other game of the afternoon Scotland started strong with Wales conceding penalties at the 5th & 18th minute. Wales got a penalty back at the 24th minute to make the score Scotland 6 - 3 Wales. Scotland got a further penalty in the 36th minute, with Stephen Jones putting over a penalty just before half time to make the score Scotland 9 - 6 Wales.

In the second half Wales lost control of their own lineout and Scotland dominated possession. However even when Wales were reduced to fourteen men in the 57th minute with the sin binning of Rhys Thomas Scotland failed to score a try. In the second half Scotland scored 4 penalties to Wales’s one, making the final score Scotland 21 - 9 Wales.

The win will give Scotland confidence for their match against Italy in two weeks, while Wales are left to lick their wounds and pray for inspiration for their visit to Paris.

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