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Rugby : 2011 Six Nations Tournament Barometer
After the first two game weeks in this 2011 RBS 6 Nations Tournament, it is already time to make a temporary assessment. And as the highly anticipated Crunch is coming next, the least one can say is that England and France are playing in completely opposite dynamics.
England : Impressive....8/10
Lets face facts: Martin Johnson's vision is really beginning to pay off. After dominating Wales and trashing Italy, England must be rated head and shoulders above any other team in this season's Tournament. The only squad which seems to have a distinctive style of play also has a functioning organisation and structure – as usual – but surprisingly enough their game is now not only based on territory coverage and pick-and-go, but mostly on possession. England use their quickest players Matt Banahan and Marc Cueto perfectly to hit holes, interchanging them with equally successful results. And the way the admittedly quite young half-backs – 25-year old N.10 Toby Flood and 21-year old N.9 Ben Youngs – cope with pressure is absolutely astounding. Flood even chucked his legendary team-mate Jonny Wilkinson out of the team. He has undeniable talent and his faultless performances proved he is broad-shouldered enough to keep his position in the squad.
France : Could do (much) better....4/10
France may be still unbeaten in this season's Tournament, but their first two hard-won successes cannot be seen as enthusiastic. Marc Lièvremont is perfectly aware of this, as he all but turned his nose up at these victories by rating his team a 4/10. Although the squad is crammed with talented players, the coach is still unhappy with discipline, technical errors and impatience. Lièvremont has not managed to make France play as a team, and it goes some way to explaining some catastrophic moments as the pathetic start against Ireland. And should the Irish have been more disciplined and clinical, they would have easily dominated little inspired Les Bleus. The tinker-addict French coach, who sometimes confuses audacity and excessive risks, will also have to solve France's critical defensive problems, as the team has conceded three tries in each if its first two matches. Otherwise the trip to Twickenham in a fortnight could turn into a nightmare.
Ireland : Disappointing....3/10
In their brand new Aviva Stadium, Ireland's loss by three points against France was heartbreaking....but not undeserved. Indeed, their unbelievably high number of errors – penalties, knock-ons, turnovers - completely shattered all their ambitions. However much they were brave and courageous, it is fair to say that Ireland players are desperately short of discipline and creativity. Ronan O'Gara seems to be the only player able to give his team a touch of madness...but he's giving it to the bench so far. After a poor victory against Italy, and last Sunday's defeat to France, 2011 Tournament may be a long and tortuous road for the men in green. 2009 Great Slam seems a very long way away...
Wales : Irregular but talented....5/10
After last season's poor performances, the Welsh team was hoping to be back on the victory trail. But their initial loss in Cardiff against the Red Rose quickly dashed any hopes of redemption. Warren Gatland's lads still rely on the old-fashioned virtues of set-piece prowess and defence, which is certainly a good thing, but not sufficient when compared to England and France more all-round styles of play. The only good piece of news for Wales' fans is that Shane Williams is still this fantastic winger able to score match-winning tries, as he did last weekend against Scotland.
Italy : Limited but stout-hearted....4/10
After heroically losing against Ireland, Italy returned to normalcy this weekend with a huge loss at Twickenham. They conceded 8 tries, proving that their defence is their main weakness. Although ever-improving, the Italian players are still struggling at the bottom of the rankings...hoping for better days.
Scotland : Six feet under, but still digging....2/10
Again, Scotland turn out to be the most deceiving team of the tournament. Andy Robinson's gang may be apprehensively looking forward to the last match against Italy. Will Sean Lamont's poetic rant "We need to pull our fingers out” wake his team-mates up ? It is more than necessary, as Scotland seem all set to win.....the wooden-spoon.
Fixtures and results
|Fri 4th Feb 11||19:45||Wales||19 - 26||England||Millennium Stadium|
|Sat 5th Feb 11||14:30||Italy||11 - 13||Ireland||Stadio Flaminio|
|Sat 5th Feb 11||17:00||France||34 - 21||Scotland||Stade de France|
|Sat 12th Feb 11||14:30||England||59 - 13||Italy||Twickenham|
|Sat 12th Feb 11||17:00||Scotland||6 - 24||Wales||Murrayfield|
|Sun 13th Feb 11||15:00||Ireland||22 - 25||France||Aviva Stadium|
|Sat 26th Feb 11||14:30||Italy||v||Wales||Stadio Flaminio|
|Sat 26th Feb 11||17:00||England||v||France||Twickenham|
|Sun 27th Feb 11||15:00||Scotland||v||Ireland||Murrayfield|
|Sat 12th Mar 11||14:30||Italy||v||France||Stadio Flaminio|
|Sat 12th Mar 11||17:00||Wales||v||Ireland||Millennium Stadium|
|Sun 13th Mar 11||15:00||England||v||Scotland||Twickenham|
|Sat 19th Mar 11||14:30||Scotland||v||Italy||Murrayfield|
|Sat 19th Mar 11||17:00||Ireland||v||England||Aviva Stadium|
|Sat 19th Mar 11||19:45||France||v||Wales||Stade de France|
RBS 6 Nations 2011 Standings
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