Round 4 of the 2021 Six Nations resulted in some exciting and (arguable) surprising results.
England v France (23-20)
Was this game the new playing model OR two teams simply playing the game correctly?
This match demonstrated perfectly that when both teams want to play (meaning both teams use all the techniques and skills the game has to offer and play with courage), a quality contest is possible.
The first French try was a simple passing practice 4 v 3 down the left touchline. No need for a cut out pass. The chip-over that followed was sensible and engaged the support players.
The second French try was beautifully executed with precision and deception. Beautiful is the correct word because when execution is perfect it is pleasing on the eye.
The production of quick ball gets the strike weapons in any team salivating.
In May and Watson England have two such players. Quick ball will give these players the confidence to make their own decisions, leave their wings and find space to attack in phase play. This creates unpredictable play and excites the crowd.
It was good to see England re-align with urgency in attack, which is vital to take advantage of a dis-organised defence.
Successful off-loading of the ball in or before contact is a skill and must be practiced. It also requires anticipation on behalf of the support players. Note support players. Defenders will also be sucked in to help defend the moving force. Close quarter support, which keeps the ball going forward creates space to attack elsewhere.
Marchant the French hooker was very prominent in this area and his support play skills were excellent, and he can accelerate and move quickly. He would fit nicely into my previous article on Team Mobility.
Indeed, the entire French front row had ball skills and mobility, you sensed they were games players.
By contrast English forward, Billy Vunipola, still prefers to run into opponents rather than use footwork to weaken the tackle.
Farrell still finds it more appropriate to kick the ball when his lack of pace is exposed. On one occasion he was involved in a 5 v 3 with space between attackers and defenders yet chose to grubber kick to touch…why give the ball away?
A respected coaching friend of mine suggested England v France could be the next World Cup final. He may be right, but now is the time to erase those little imperfections. Both England and France have squad depth, the blending of players between now and 2023 will be the secret to success.
Italy v Wales (7-48)
Italy were 15-0 down in 15 minutes against Wales. During this time, they had one player in the sinbin. The rest sadly is history.
Maybe we have all underestimated Wales. Their leader Wyn-Jones is a major factor both on and off the field. They will need all is skill and leadership next week against France in Paris. The French will be smarting after conceding a late score to England, and possibly the refereeing decision that led to it?
Scotland vs Ireland (24-27)
Scotland remain an enigma. They cannot put a run of wins together. They fought back with typical Scottish spirit but fell short against an Irish side who are slowly getting it right and will challenge England and possibly win next week in Dublin. The battle between the second rows will be epic, especially Ryan versus Itoje, possibly for a Lions start?
Scotland face off against Italy probably without Russell, but this game is becoming a familiar bottom of the table clash, even though Scotland have yet to face France, somewhere, sometime?
Finally, is there a case for an Anglo-French team to play a Celtic team? Midway between Lions tours? Would the crowds support it? Would the French play with the English? Would the English play with the French? who would coach the teams?
I’ve no doubt Wales, Scotland and Ireland would love to belt the Anglo-French.
Would it have more “edge” than a Barbarians game?
Check out Mike’s other Articles about the 6 Nations here.