Week 3 of the 6 Nations may be the greatest one in my memory. There was absolutely everything. Nail biting moments, head scratching moments and moments of joy. It was the sporting equivalent of my wedding night.
We started with Scotland taking on Wales in Edinburgh. The former started slowly (did an Ireland) and Wales started solidly but not too spectacularly. But with every missed opportunity and / or bad choice in kicking for the lineout instead of taking the points, they wilted. The confidence that team had years ago appears to be delicate. A Scotland team without Laidlaw and without a few other players won easily. A very unexpected start to the weekend. Going into the French match, Ireland would have zero fear of that Welsh team.
France where welcomed to the Aviva stadium. Well it was a ¾ full Aviva stadium because everyone remained at the bar instead of singing the anthems and settling into their seats.
As an aside, nothing annoys me more than people trying to squeeze into their seat when the anthems have started. If you aren’t bothered to get into your seat for the start of the game, then you wait until there is a lull in the game. It must be great having all that money to spend on tickets to a game you aren’t bothered with, but the rest of us aren’t in a position to waste the cash.
Anyway, back to the match. France started strong. They had been improving throughout this tournament and they started with a bang. Ireland started a bit slowly, not badly like against Scotland, just slower. The first 15 minutes involved tougher collisions than you would see on a 4 car pile-up on the m50. Some massive hits. And then it started to change, Ireland plugged in and almost as one, turned the screw. It may have been the knock on costing the French a try but Ireland almost said ‘well, that was the best you had; now it’s our turn’. What came for the rest of the match was control, aggression, a playmaking pair who are on a different level to almost any other 9 and 10 in the sport and a rugby version of a triangle choke in MMA. Ireland strangled a France who have very little ideas but the shoots of a team that will cause damage in the next few years. Every stat was in Ireland’s favour, the main issue being, that there were more points to be taken in that match. A 10 point win against France would have been taken by all before the match. But once the second half started, I thought Ireland could get close to a bonus point.
It keeps Ireland in the competition, Wales and England wait when it gets to the big weekends.
Then came the delightful head scratcher that was England taking on Italy. Everyone thought it would be a landslide, an embarrassment for Italy. And then the game started. Italy decided to tackle and back away, tackle and back away. Everyone viewing reached for their smart phones and logged on to the IRB site to find the rulebook. Don’t lie! I know you all did the same as me! Then we saw it, they were avoiding the ruck to stop an offside line being formed. It was within the laws and was genius from Conor O’Shea. The meatheads from England where unravelling in the first half. They had no idea what to do to counter act this. Complaining to the ref along with a quick explanation of the rules from Poite meant very little. The first half showed an Italian side with pride and an English bully side on the receiving end of a mental master class.
The only thing that got England through the game was the regular Italian fatigue. They got the bonus point but the chink in the champions armour has been established. Like Tyson being knocked out by Buster Douglas in Tokyo, England are now human. Not to be feared. They take on a Scotland side on a high and looking to take another scalp.
The one thing that Ireland and Scotland have in common is that nothing motivates more than scrapping with the old enemy.
Ireland get on the ferry (or first class on the plane) to Cardiff on a Friday. This is after a week off which is massively beneficial after a bruising French match. The confidence is back in the green machine. Whereas Wales are in the opposite. They have nothing to lose and that Welsh pride may appear, but if Ireland can put the pressure on, start well and maybe bring in O’Mahony for O’Brien Ireland will put Wales away.
But more on that closer to the time. As usual, @nkeegan on twitter and @kdubdd on the instagram. I am not sure what instagram is, but I am on it anyway.