2018 Six Nations: Where each country stands after two rounds
We are two-fifths of the way through the tournament. Where does each nation stand?
One of the great things about the Six Nations as a tournament is that it is split into easy to digest, bite-sized chinks. We have two games, then a week off. Then we have one game, then another week off. Finally, we have the last two games to decide the tournament winner.
With this style of fixtures there are a couple of natural break points to dissect what we have learned so far and to assess how each team is doing. As we are at the first of those breaks, lets see how the six teams are trending at this point based on where they were seemingly heading at the start of the tournament, and let’s go in table order:
Ireland – Staying Put
Ireland could easily have been trending down if Johnny Sexton hadn’t saved them against France in Paris with one of the most memorable drop-goals in Irish rugby history. Sexton delivered in the clutch, proving why this Ireland team is rightly considered one of the favourites for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Interestingly, the Irish injury issues this Six Nations may help them in the long run as Joe Schmidt will have to shuffle around his side and give some of the promising youngsters that have been in the system for a while their international chance. This might make it more difficult for Ireland to win the competition – though the clash with England being on the final day will help with that – but it will increase the Irish squad depth for the long term.
England – Trending Down
England have still only lost once in the more than two years since Eddie Jones took charge, but it just feels like the pressure to perform is getting to the head coach and his men. Jones has long been one to use the media to gain an advantage, but his antics in the lead up to the Wales game just seemed to fuel flames that didn’t need to be lit.
England would be a better team if Jones was smarter about picking his battles and didn’t rile up a team that were already going to be up for taking on the English. The Italy game was as ho-hum as a Six Nations clash will ever be and England taking on Scotland at Murrayfield is the pick of the Round 3 fixtures.
Wales – Trending Up
The Welsh have been the best story of the Six Nations so far. Given no hope by most prognosticators given their lengthy injury list, Wales flew out of the gates in Round 1 and upended Scotland in convincing fashion. The 34-7 win was every bit as emphatic as it sounded as the Welsh once again proved that writing them off is never a good idea.
The Welsh then took that determination and applied it to the England game, losing by slim margins on a miserable day at Twickenham. It will be very interesting to see what sort of performance Wales can muster next time out in Dublin against another of the tournament favourites.
Scotland – Trending Down
The win over France by six points a Murrayfield was nice, but it is hard to look past their Round 1 mauling at the hands of the Welsh and say that through two games this has been anything other than a disappointing tournament for everyone’s favorite dark horses.
Scotland can be brilliant on their day, but their high-tempo attacking rugby can also make them look hopeless in defeat if things aren’t going well. That was exactly what happened in Cardiff – a place Scotland haven’t won in since 2002 – as they never looked like recovering from conceding two tries in the first 12 minutes of the game.
With Ireland and England to come this can still be a vintage Six Nations for the Scots, but it hasn’t started all that well.
France – Staying Put
The French would have liked to enter the first off-week of the 2018 Six Nations with a win under their belts. After the disaster of the Guy Noves regime, anything Jacques Brunel can conjure up in terms of wins over the next three games – other than the expected victory over Italy – will have to be seen as progress.
The French are actually unlucky to not have a win at this point. It took that heroic Johnny Sexton drop-goal for Ireland to escape Paris with a win in Round 1, while a six point defeat to Scotland would have looked great before the tournament started. Even so, they are now winless in nine games and you feel a huge victory over Italy in Round 3 is almost a requirement at this point.
Italy – Trending Down
It is going to take a miracle for Italy to avoid the wooden spoon in this years Six Nations. The Italians may have been unlucky with the fixture order – they started off by playing England and Ireland – but there is just no sense that Italy will be competitive at any point in the near future.
Italy lost their opening two games by an average of 36 points. That means that even pick up one win they would have had to score more than five converted tries with no reply. They have dropped to seventh in the European ranking system and while they were being handled comfortably by Ireland, Georgia – the sixth ranked team – were obliterating Belgium 49-0.
Unless the Italians show signs of life later in this tournament the calls for them to be axed will continue to grow.
Who is impressing you so far this tournament? Let us know in the comments!