Following the first round of the Six Nations, which delivered wins for Ireland, Scotland and France, here’s a look at three things we learned from the action.
Adams indiscipline sums up Welsh woes
Wales were without several first-choice players due to injury, but they still had more caps in their side than the Ireland team that defeated them so thoroughly in Dublin.
What would have been a tricky fixture for even a full-strength Wales was made all the more difficult by the way they repeatedly conceded penalties, with Josh Adams’ shoulder charge on Ireland flyhalf Johnny Sexton the most blatant example.
Adams, normally a wing, had a frustrating match after Wales coach Wayne Pivac gave him a first Test start at centre, with his lack of specialist positional knowledge exploited by the Ireland midfield duo of Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose. While coaches like ‘utility’ players, this was another illustration of how Test rugby is no place to be learning the nuances of a specialist position.
Russell plays the percentages
Finn Russell has often been described as a ‘maverick’ flyhalf whose capacity for inspired brilliance one moment is matched only by an equal facility for outlandish error the next.
Yet, in a Calcutta Cup match where England dominated territory and possession, Russell displayed excellent judgement as he guided Scotland to victory. It was his precise cross-kick that led to a penalty try which tied the scores at 17-17 after England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie was ruled to have illegally batted the ball into touch.
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend kept faith with his chief playmaker for the full 80 minutes of a match that suggested the 29-year-old Russell is now into his rugby maturity.
By contrast, England coach Eddie Jones removed the 22-year-old Marcus Smith in the 63rd minute just after Russell’s opposite number scored a well-taken try in a Six Nations debut where he was responsible for all of the visitors’ points.
Menoncello’s glimmer of hope for Italy
On the face of it, Italy’s record-extending 33rd successive defeat in the Six Nations was an all too familiar story of an Azzurri defence simply unable to cope with the pace and power of superior opponents.
And yet, Italy led early on in Paris when 19-year-old wing Tommaso Menoncello became the tournament’s youngest try-scorer since 18-year-old Wales fullback Keith Jarrett touched down against England in the old Five Nations back in 1967.
Menoncello was one of four Test debutants selected by coach Kieran Crowley, whose youthful side suggested better days could lie ahead for Italy.
“They’re young players who played well, they should be very proud of their first match for Italy,” said Crowley, a former New Zealand fullback. “They will grow into it. Menoncello being the youngest to score in the Six Nations is something for him.”
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images