Below is the Round 4 analysis of the Six Nations 2022, which provided a nail biting performance from the English team, who put on a passionate performance with just 14 men, but ultimately succumbed to Ireland.
England 15 v Ireland 32
Reduced to 14 men after just two minutes, England put on a show of passion and determination seldom seen before.
The crowd responded and a compelling contest followed. Cynics may question whether England would have shown such qualities if 15 remained on the field but the courage shown by England on this occasion cannot be questioned.
Ireland began the game playing in a similar style to the one we first saw at the defeat of the All Blacks. Basically, it is exciting to watch and must be to play. A rout looked possible when Ewells departed, but England responds when it’s back is against the wall and the team’s resolve and determination kicked in. Players grew in stature.
Itoje was immense, the front row determined and devious. Randall was the spark of confidence.
After 25 minutes the score was 8-6 to Ireland, then Gibson-Parke (who would surely be the All-Black half-back if he had stayed in New Zealand), showed why he is the starting half back, and put Keenan over the line for a try.
At half-time the score was 9-15 – a reflection of England’s refusal to succumb.
At 15-18 the impossible looked possible for England, but then repeated attacks from Ireland created a hole and Conan scored. Ireland were suddenly 10 ahead and searching for the bonus point.
Both coaches will ask questions. Farrell in respect to Irish discipline and their reaction to pressure. And if he has the courage, ask some questions of the front row. Eddie will wonder why we haven’t seen this side of England since the World cup semi-final and will we see it next week in Paris. Lack of tries remains a mystery, but if Randall continues to take quick taps, phase play tries will follow.
Wales 9 v France 13
Over in Cardiff, France (who kick the ball more than any team in the 6 Nations) out-kicked Wales in what was (at times) an aimless kicking contest.
The only orgasmic piece of play was a French try scored because the players refused to throw the cut-out pass; they passed it through the hands and Jelonch ran in unopposed.
Wales (or should I say Biggar) ignored their DNA and kicked relentlessly.
Why on earth with a back 3 of Williams, Adams and Cuthbert would you continually return kicks with kicks?
I was in Auckland for a Lions test when Williams chose to run from his own 22. O’Brien scored at the other end of the field. One of the great Lions tries. That is Williams X factor. The assistant Welsh commentator’s post game comment that Wales had a brilliant kicking game forced me into a cold shower!
We are seeing more and more 10’s playing quarter back and hoisting the ball downfield. Is it because of line speed in defence?
Edwards arched defence where the outside backs come up early and quickly, needs examination. Accelerators are needed 2 and 3 out from the ruck. Players who are quick and can attack the space at the heart of the defensive line, with a change of pace, preferably with close inside support. Much is made of big physical 12s, but quick players who can accelerate can be just as effective.
I did like the Welsh second rows work ethic and at 2 meters each, will be a threat at the World cup. There is plenty of character in the side, so they will always be in the contest. They do need to reflect on – for all their possession and “brilliant” kicking they lost the game and didn’t score a try!
Italy 22 v Scotland 33
Italy can thank their U20s for providing a stimulating victory over Scotland the previous evening as a source of motivation.
And indeed, Italy looked far more positive and match fitter than on previous occasions. Their commitment was very apparent in both attack and defence.
In attack the angle of their 2nd man plays needs varying, sometimes you must play them closer to the advantage line, otherwise the drift defence will get across and drive you wider.
The threat when defending is not always where the ball carrier is. Look for the player loitering somewhere in space! Defence is always a 15-man issue.
There are several work-on areas for the Italian coaches before they play Wales next week, but this was a much-improved performance. However, please no more unforced errors!
In Ange Capuozzo Italy have a 68-kilo excitement machine and the marketing people in the Italian Federation must use him to stimulate interest in young Italian players. I saw plenty of young talent during my visits to Italian clubs.
Despite a memorable performance, England is now out of contention to win the Six Nations. Nevertheless, the next set of matches will be exciting. Will England play with the same passion as they did with only 14 men? Will a focussed France show up ready to take the title? Will Ireland take home the prize? And, most importantly, will the Irish fans actually support England (a rarity in the Six Nations).
Let’s see what the next round produces!
Coaching thought: “Don’t be afraid to “teach” young players how to accelerate through gaps.”
A good tip is to use two coaches on tackle shields, who close the gap as the player approaches, just leaving enough space for him to burst/explode/accelerate through untouched!
When young players understand why, it sticks for life.