Six Nations becomes Two by Derek Wyatt
The opening weekend of the Six Nations did not go as planned. Italy should have beaten France, Ireland could and should have taken Wales whilst Scotland failed to turn up at Murrayfield.
As it was Ireland drew with Wales and at a stroke both countries cannot now win the Triple Crown or Grand Slam. For England after a disastrous World Cup they could not afford to slip up against Scotland. The critics had unanimously thought that Scotland were - after their unlucky defeat against Australia in the last minute of extra time with an unwarranted penalty in the quarter finals of the World Cup - back at the top table.
Had England lost to Scotland they would have lost the Calcutta Cup and ended any hopes of a Triple Crown and Grand Slam. So no pressure then!! Of course they hardly started afresh but managed to suffocate Scotland and win in the end more comfortably than the score suggested.
In Round 2 of the Six Nations poor Ireland in a desperate game lost 10-9 to France. For 39 minutes of the first half England were duffed up by the Italians and could have gone in at half time behind but for a wayward penalty. I was at the Olympic Stadium at Rome and felt Italy could beat anyone. They reminded so much of the resurgent Argentinians in the World Cup.
However, a little bit of luck, some judicious substitutions by new coach Eddie Jones and suddenly in a 15 minute burst England were away and won handsomely 40-9. This seemed a little unfair on Italy but I doubt if the England supporters minded.
Back in Cardiff, Scotland were giving Wales a run for their money. But here's the rub, every one knows they are the least fit team in the Six Nations and have a tendency to blow up after sixty minutes. And so it proved and Wales with another wretchedly poor refereeing decision just edged it. As I suggested in a letter in The Times, captains should be allowed to call for a review by the Television Match Official (TMO) - as cricket and tennis does - once in each half.
So after Round Two, a very poor French side find themselves with two wins out of two (both at home) whilst an improving English XV also have won two from two (both away). The Welsh look the best side and they may yet win the tournament on points difference. To do this they need to beat England at Twickenham.
Round 3 beckons. this weekend. England ought to beat Ireland, France will struggle against Wales and Italy should put Scotland to the sword. This will mean England could win the Championship, the Grand Slam and the Triple Crown. Pinch me: this cannot be so! Looks to me as if the last game in Paris (again) could be the clincher.