What we’ve learned

Five lessons from the opening round of the Six Nations, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.

Stuart Lancaster must stick with the team that beat Wales
England were supposed to have been weakened by a spate of injuries to first-choice players ahead of the Six Nations, but their replacements actually strengthened the team. Luther Burrell and Jonathan Joseph gave the visitors an attacking edge in midfield on Friday night, while halfbacks Ben Youngs and George Ford were cool and composed throughout. Among the forwards, flanker James Haskell carried the ball strongly and slowed Wales' ball down at the breakdown, and Dave Attwood impressed at No 4 lock. If England do go on to win the World Cup with these players, Lancaster will be grateful for the series of events that allowed him to stumble upon his best team seven months' earlier.

Wales have work to do
If Warren Gatland's men took one step forward by beating the Boks last November, then they took one step back on Friday night. They were outscrummed by England, lost four of their 14 lineouts, kicked poorly out of hand and had no Plan B when their ball-carriers were tackled behind the advantage line. Unlike England, Gatland was able to select his best possible team for this match, including 11 Lions players, yet they were outplayed in front of a capacity home crowd and fortunate to lose by just five points.

Rugby can do without petty pre-match gamesmanship
England won the first 'battle' on Friday night when they refused to run out when told to by Welsh officials. The hosts' plan was to leave the England players waiting around on the field in the dark when the lights for the pre-match light show went out, before the Wales players finally joined them. However, England captain Chris Robshaw made his players wait in the tunnel, which resulted in Wales being disrupted instead and the match kicking off six minutes late.

Scotland are making progress under Kiwi coach Vern Cotter
They may not have won in Paris for the first time in 16 years, but the Scots will be pleased with their performance that saw them score the only try of the game. Scotland's backs have lacked penetration in recent years, but in centres Mark Bennett and Alex Dunbar, and fullback Stuart Hogg they have players who can spark something. Hogg did that in the first half when he broke through the French defence and only Scott Spedding's tackle prevented him from getting over the line. In the pack, the Gray brothers, Jonny and Richie, showed the value of having mobile second rowers by excelling in the loose. Scotland will not win the Six Nations in 2015, but based on this effort, they will make life difficult for their more fancied opponents and perhaps even pull off an upset or two.

Ireland know how to get the job done
Without two key players in Jonathan Sexton and Jamie Heaslip, the defending champions adopted a low-risk approach for their match against Italy in Rome. They played almost no rugby inside their own half, regularly used a forward at first receiver to take the ball into contact, made just three linebreaks in the match, and their two tries were scored when the Azzurri were down to 14 men. Ireland's game plan may have been boring to some, but it was highly effective and secured the two log points from what has proven to be a tricky away fixture.

Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Post by

Simon Borchardt