After three games Ireland could not have really had a better start to the Six Nations. They began the tournament with an ideal win. Ireland were worried that the resurgent Wales team might have caused them some problems. Warren Gatland has foiled Ireland in the past and so he could have done the same again.
But quite quickly it was clear that Ireland did not need to worry about a resurgent Welsh squad. Scoring three tries in the first 20 minutes is a great way to quiet the crowd and Ireland did not let Wales get anywhere near close to them. It was the perfect start to their championship, but the big test was Round 2.
Ireland certainly stepped up to the test in Dublin. Ireland once again got off to a fast start, aided by poor discipline from France. It allowed Ireland to score three tries in the first 26 minutes and their second half defence was phenomenal.
They held off France brilliantly and claimed another bonus point victory. Round 2 was the big test for Ireland. It was a game which put Ireland at the top of the World Rankings above France. It was a massive result for this Irish side, although it did come with some concerns. Johnny Sexton’s health was one of them.
Sexton had to go off after 47 minutes, although he should be fine for the rest of the Championship. It meant they travelled to Rome with Ross Byrne as the teams Fly-Half. Byrne did well against a resilient Ireland side. They got out of Rome with another bonus point win to sit top of the table.
Scotland will be pleased to sit second in the table after the first three rounds. They began the tournament with a big win over England in the Calcutta Cup. Scotland outplayed England at Twickenham to claim three consecutive wins against England for the first time since 1972.
Duhan Van der Merwe was the headline of the first round after a pair of tries against England including a spectacular winner. Scotland were able to carry their momentum to the second round where they defeated Wales in a record setting game. Scotland outplayed Wales by a mile, with Finn Russell looking like the best player in the world.
Sadly for Scotland fans they were brought back down to earth in a crazy game in Paris. Two red cards in the first 12 minutes created a lot of space in the game, but Frances fast start was enough to carry them through. It was a tough defeat for Scotland, but Scotland fans will still be pleased with their start to this campaign.
With a new coach, England fans were hopeful for an exciting start to the Six Nations. But they were outclassed by Scotland in Twickenham. England’s kicking game was not up to standard and the defence could not stop Duhan Van der Merwe.
England had some good spells in that game, but it was just not enough when you don’t make your tackles. It was a terrible start and changes were required. England took the big decision to finally get rid of the Smith-Farrell 10-12 axis, installing Farrell back at 10 with Ollie Lawrence the Manu Tuilagi replacement at 12.
It worked out perfectly for England, with Lawrence playing brilliantly in the next two rounds. Lawrence was player of the match against Italy as England’s attack improved massively. They faced a difficult test against Wales in Cardiff.
In a physical game with little attacking flair, England were able to grind out a 20-10 victory thanks to tries from Anthony Watson, Kyle Sinckler and Ollie Lawrence. England were at least much more impressive in defence against Wales. They held them to only 10 points, a much more impressive display than their first game.
The defending champions are in a difficult position after three rounds of this championship. They began with a game that turned out to be much more difficult than expected. France were hoping to steam roll Italy in Rome, but things certainly did not go to plan.
After three tries in the first half an hour, Italy produced some brilliant attacking rugby that France could not stop. In fact Italy took the lead in the 62nd minute thanks to Tommaso Allan adding his fourth penalty of the game. A 67th minute try from Matthiue Jalibert was enough for France to claim the win.
They faced an incredibly difficult test in Round 2 against Ireland. France could not stop a rapid start from Ireland and they received a bit of luck when Uini Atonio was only yellow carded. However the luck evened out in that game as James Lowe’s try should have been ruled out for being in touch.
Ireland winning by 13 points means the Lowe call was not important. While it was a disappointing result for France, playing against Ireland in Dublin might be the most difficult fixture in the world right now.
They were at least able to bounce back a week later against a Scotland team who had gotten off to a brilliant start to the Six Nations. They were able to handle Mohamed Haouas getting sent off once again against Scotland. A bonus point victory was exactly what the team needed.
If you look simply at the Six Nations table, you might think that Italy have gotten off to a poor start considering their impressive results over the last 12 months. But Italy have put in three good performances against three very good teams.
They began the competition with a brilliant performance against the reigning champions. France travelled down to Rome expecting a result without many issues. But Italy made things incredibly difficult for France, with Ange Capuozzo once again showing off his skills in attack.
Italy would eventually come up just short thanks to a late Matthieu Jalibert try that took the game. Italy still finished the game with a bonus point. A brilliant effort against one of the best sides in the world.
Italy’s worst performance of the season came against England, with the Italian sides defence struggling against an improved English attack. Although Italian teams of the past would have taken a 17 point defeat against England considering some of their past results.
They faced an incredibly difficult test against Ireland. But losing by just 14 points to the best teams in the world is certainly not a bad result.
Well this tournament has been about as bad as possible for Wales. There was a lot of optimism for this Irish side coming into the tournament. With Warren Gatland returning, Wales thought that they could return to Six Nations glory, or at least improve from last year.
That optimism was quickly quietened after a first game dismantling against Ireland. In Cardiff, in front of an excited home crowd, Wales conceded three tries in the first 21 minutes. That very quickly stopped any momentum that Wales might have had. Wales were not able to respond.
They scored just 10 points in the game, while Ireland scored four tries, 34 points in total. It was not the start that Wales wanted and things did not get much better. In fact things got even worse for Wales in Round 2. In a trip up to Scotland, Wales were on the wrong end of a record breaking defeat.
Scotland were incredible in attack, scoring five tries, with Wales unable to stop the dominant Scotland attack. Finn Russell took apart the Welsh defence, with the Scottish backline able to profit off of that.
England’s attack certainly was not as good as Scotland’s. But Wales were boring in attack themselves, going back to the one out runner system that had worked in the past. Wales did not give their backs enough of the ball and continuously kicked to Freddie Steward which did not go to plan.
Wales could not stop England scoring three tries and the score could have been even worse had Owen Farrell nailed more of his kicks. So at the moment, Wales sit bottom of the Six Nations table with zero points. They have scored just three tries in the first three games. So Warren Gatland has a big job to do in the second half of the competition.
Predictions for the rest of the Six Nations
Ireland to win their final two games
At the moment, Ireland look like by far the best teams in the world. They are just so incredibly well drilled and organised that it seems impossible for them to be stopped. Ireland have already defeated their most difficult opposition and not only that, their team will be getting better very soon.
Robbie Henshaw, Tadgh Furlong and Jamison Gibson-Park have all missed the first three rounds of the Six Nations. Scotland and England will be very scared about these three players being back healthy. I mean how much better can Ireland get considering they have been dominant so far in this championship.
Their final two games are Scotland in Edinburgh before finishing with England at home. These are two games Ireland are expected to win and I am predicting them to do so. Ireland have been the best teams in the world for quite a while. Scotland do have some momentum, but Ireland are the better team.
They are incredible in attack as well as so difficult to break down in defence. Johnny Sexton should be back fully healthy and so there is no reason why Ireland won’t win their first Grand Slam since 2018. It seems likely that this is going to happen and so I am predicting Ireland to complete the Grand Slam.
Caelan Doris wins player of the tournament
On the back of Ireland winning the Grand Slam, I also believe that Caelan Doris will be crowned as the tournaments best player. Doris has been phenomenal this tournament already, including scoring the first try of the Six Nations in 2023. He has been a ball carrying machine, securing his place in the team for the world cup.
Doris has worked well at number six as well, so there is no reason why he won’t play in the final two games. Impressing in this Ireland backline is difficult, particularly with some incredible talent alongside Doris. But his ball carrying ability has been crucial to Ireland’s success up to this point.
France finish second
Despite currently sitting in fourth place in the Six Nations, I am still backing France to finish second by the end of the championship. France are still the second best teams in the world and put up a good fight against Ireland.
They do have a couple of difficult tests coming up. While England sit above France in the table at the moment, England are not playing rugby to anywhere near as good as France. France are still playing brilliant rugby and I am predicting that they will defeat England at Twickenham before beating Wales at home in the final round.
France still have a relatively healthy squad. Uini Atonio will be a big miss for this French team and they certainly don’t have the same physicality up front. But this French team should still be able to hold off the attacks of England and Wales that have been pretty blunt up to this point.
France haven’t been getting the ball wide as much as in previous years. I think they will find space on the outside for guys like Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou and Thomas Ramos to score even more points. I think they will finish second, above England and Scotland.
Italy finish bottom of the Six Nations
In the past this might have been seen as a given. Italy have very often been given the wooden spoon at the end of the Six Nations campaign. But at the moment they look likely to finish above at least Wales in the championship. They are currently in fifth place thanks to a bonus point gained against France.
But I still think that Italy will finish bottom of the table. While they are getting Paolo Garbisi back to full health, they have announced a huge loss. Ange Capuozzo will pay no further part in this Six Nations. A shoulder injury will cut his Six Nations campaign short and Italy’s attack is not the same without him.
I think that a resilient Wales squad will be able to get the best of Italy. It will certainly be a close game, but one that I think Wales end up winning. This will put Wales above them in the table and it also means that Italy are incredibly likely to finish bottom of the Six Nations.
They do also have the game against Scotland in the final weekend. But this is a much better Scotland side than we have ever seen in the past. I think that Italy will have a much easier time against Wales, but I still believe that they finish bottom of the table. Italy have certainly improved, but not quite enough to lift them off the bottom of the table.
England’s attack will improve with Marcus Smith
England’s blunt attack has been one of the talking points of the championship to this point. With Owen Farrell at 10, England have not looked exciting in attack and it has certainly hurt them so far. They have gotten away with it in the last couple of games, but it looks like Marcus Smith could have a bigger impact moving forward.
Smith was phenomenal in attack with Harlequins in between rounds and so it seems like he will come back into the England equation. Smith hasn’t gotten the chance at 10 for England with a proper centre combination outside of him.
There is no doubt that Farrell will be the starter for this team. He is the England captain and because of that, it is almost impossible for Steve Borthwick to drop him. But Smith should get more of a role off the bench in the next two rounds. England’s conservative style will not lead them past Ireland or France.
Hopefully Steve Borthwick understands that England can take some risks against Ireland or France. Marcus Smith is certainly the man who can make the England attack click. Smith should get more of a role over the next few games.
If he does get that bigger role I see the England attack improving. I’m not saying that they will beat either France or Ireland because those are two very difficult tests. But they should be closer to both of those teams than before.