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Six Nations 2022 (Round 5): France and Italy Impress

Below is the final Round 5 analysis of the Six Nations 2022, which produced some of the most exciting matches of the tournament resulting in France winning the Six Nations Championship title and a well deserved and historic win for Italy after a passionate and courageous performance against Wales.

France 25 v England 13

France fittingly won the Six Nations title and (along with Ireland) are pointing the game in a new direction (scrum excepted).

Ireland set the tone against the All-Blacks last season with flowing support and attack-based style which they have continued this Six Nations. France has gone a step further with its fluency when attacking close to the tackle contest.

France’s round the corner close quarter attack generates pace. Soft hands passing at pace will always enable an inside pass to be made to a support runner. Close quarter interplay is often followed by an explosion of quickness (reference: Dupont’s try). This style dismantled the All-Blacks last season and is inherent within the French squad.

Many questions will be asked about England’s selections and tactics. England did not contest the first two rucks…why? In the 3rd minute, a try-scoring opportunity was missed. All the support player had to do was run a slight out to in line and take a soft pass off the ball carrier, why didn’t he?

Young’s selection at 9 and Stewards re-siting on the wing, suggested what Smith might do, although on one occasion George found himself the recipient of such a kick: not the most elegant leap! He didn’t get near it.

Underhill is not a 7 and never has been. France had no opponent at the tackle contest and turned the ball over easily on several occasions.

Where does Eddie go now? I suspect some of the players were mystified by his selections along with some of his coaches.

Until Marchant ran a “rugby line” in the second half, England’s attack was sterile. Slade attempted to run that hard outside shoulder line, but he lacks quickness and acceleration – but he did head in the right direction.

England’s kick return strategy asking Genge to run 30-meter shuttles repeatedly into a French defender, beggars’ belief. Maybe someone should ask the attack coach for an explanation?

England travels to Australia for a 3-test series in July…but will Eddie be returning home?

Ireland 26 v Scotland 5

Ireland comfortably beat a Scotland squad who had to deal with discipline issues after last week’s game in Rome. Not the ideal preparation for a game in Dublin.

Scotland’s endeavour was no match for Irelands attacking style and rhythm. Irish players play with confidence. There is consistency in performance throughout the game and the players enjoy the style of play.

It would be easy to say Ireland is about two people – coach Andy Farrell and Number 10 Jonathan Sexton. Seemingly the Irish high-performance team is about to map out an 18 month, keep Sexton fit program! However, it’s not wise to put all your eggs in one basket. New Zealand used 4 fly-halves when winning the 2011 RWC.

Farrell has the Irish squad buzzing and deserves praise. He has analysed the Joe Schmidt era accurately, re-invented the playing style, and has a 100% buy-in from the players and supporters. Total togetherness!

Scotland has issues. When the captain is part of the misbehaving players from a late night in Rome, you have an issue. Finn Russell remains an enigma. He has moments of brilliance, but off the field may be his Achilles heel. He was left out of this game not because he’s the second-choice fly-half in Scotland. Darge is the one shining light to come out of Scotland’s campaign.

Ireland head to New Zealand on tour. Scotland to Argentina.

Wales 21 v Italy 22

Saving the best until last.

Nessun colpo di Fortuna!

Take a bow the Italian coaching group. What a deserved performance!

Slowly but surely Italy has been building on previous performances, adding those little bits of improvement that contribute to winning.

In the land of my fathers, the rugby gods will be looking down with dismay. In fairness, the signs were there against the Welsh. Wales had moved away from its playing DNA and convinced itself that a losing performance had merit…how arrogant.

Italy was in no way overawed.

Their final try, the try of the tournament was an “Italian try” born out of courage, the desire to create, flair, and clinical finishing.

Caesar would have raised his thumb then turned it downwards for the kill. The coliseum in raptures.

Ange Capuozzo duly obliged. At 22 years of age and 68 kilos, he will go down in Italian rugby folklore. The Welsh team was in front of him when he received the ball. Six of them within 10 meters. He didn’t have time to think, he was moving too fast.

The try will be replayed a million times.

Mike Penistone

Coaching thought: “Soft hands is often talked about but is seldom taught. Lots of evidence of international players making spiral passes that were dropped when a soft pass was needed.”

Tip. Start teaching from 10 years upwards.

Use the 15-meter channel. Use 4 or 5 players depending on age. Get them running at half pace down the channel making soft hands passes.

Then to measure their understanding ask them to run at 100 miles an hour making the same soft hands passes.

If they are very good allow one of them to make a soft hands cut-out pass. Rotate the players.

About Mike Penistone

Mike has coached at all levels of the game, from under-7's through to elite international players at the highest level, in both the northern and southern hemispheres. A few notable positions include serving as Head Coach for Great Britain Students (Rugby League), Head Coach at Nottingham RUFC and Head of Elite Player Development at Leicester Tigers Academy. Mike also served as the U21's Coach at the NSW Warratahs and Director of Coaching at Eastern Suburbs Sydney. He continues to coach across the globe running his consultancy. Check out his website: here. View all posts by Mike Penistone

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