16 February 2009

Six Nations Championship - Who Will Win?

After the second weekend of Six Nations rugby, I find myself less certain than I was of the final outcome. 

The first weekend left me certain that England would not win, their lack-lustre performance against an Italian side crippled by a poor coaching decision to play a flanker at scrum half completely failed to impress.  The score line was flattering, to say the least.  Wales beat Scotland but that was expected and, all credit to them, the Scots actually played some good rugby and presented themselves a much-improved side.  This game was OK but Wales hardly shone like the brightest star in the firmament.  The Ireland v France game was superb, with both sides putting in good performances.  I was greatly impressed by Ireland and fancied them for a probable grand slam.

This weekend's play has muddied the waters somewhat.  England played better in the Millennium Stadium but so did Wales.  The improvement in the English side is welcome but is not yet enough to take the championship.  The result left them unable to achieve a grand slam, and the Welsh did shine this time.  Scotland did well in the Stade Francais, giving the French a good run for their money in the first half, and making them look less good than they appeared against Ireland.  The French rugby machine eventually got going and overhauled the battling Scots.  Finally, the Irish struggled to put the Italians in their place, even playing catch-up for a lot of the game, and left me pondering my prediction of the previous week.

I think we can rule out Italy's winning the championship, although I hope we see further improvement from them as the competition goes on; they always seem to be almost there but never quite making it.  Can they beat Scotland this year?  Scotland could well beat England on current form and ought to beat Italy but, having lost twice now, are unlikely to finish top of the table.  France seem to be their normal variable selves, having done well against Ireland but less well against Scotland.  They could well beat the current English side, and should win against Italy.  Will Wales be their Nemesis, or can they take the championship?  Ireland may not be as good as I thought after their first game but I think they too can beat England, and their game against the Welsh will be perhaps their hardest challenge.  That leaves us with Wales who are, of course, the reigning champions.  On reflection, they have to be favourites at the moment but they have yet to face a real test, and have still to face France and Ireland, both of whom are probably feeling that they have something to prove.

Of course, all the teams now have two weeks in which to reflect on their performances and to attempt to remedy their short-comings.  Can England pull something out of the bag?  Can France and Ireland shore up their confidence and come out strong?  Will a bold and flowing Wales cruise past their rivals to victory? 

With three rounds still to go, four teams could, at least mathematically, win the championship, but only Wales or Ireland could secure a grand slam.  Will we see a grand slam this year?  In my opinion we will and, at the moment, I think the belief displayed by the Welsh side could well carry them to their ultimate goal for the second year running. 

Will it be a wooden cucchiaio or wooden spurtle?

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