Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

10th March 2014 10:35

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thank you message for Brian O Driscoll

Ireland: On the brink of giving BOD the perfect sendoff

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with Six Nations takeaways and a revival of an age-old debate...

The Six Nations crib notes from this weekend's work:

England: Very, very good. Good tempo, evidence of clear adherence to specific instructions and complete squad buy-in to tactics, a settled and confident look to it all. The pendulum for victory in the World Cup pool involving England and Wales just swung back across the Severn Bridge.

What might end up being most pleasing for Stuart Lancaster, even if he will only admit it very quietly, is that this victory in this style was achieved with many anticipated first-choice players cooling their heels in the physio's room. England not only have style and unity now, they also have depth. With 18 months still to build on all this before RWC 2015, the English are in a fine position.

Wales: Stale and tired. You cannot ignore that many of Wales' finest have been playing rugby for the better part of two years almost non-stop, nor can you ignore that the pressures emanating from the ongoing disunity between union and regions, departure of many a big name abroad and uncertainty over next year's domestic structures have a debilitating long-term effect.

But that said, Wales do not seem to have moved on tactically for some time. Where Danny Care was zippy and terrifying from the base of rucks, Rhys Webb was hesitant and Mike Phillips only marginally better (partly to do with the cleanliness of the ball they were getting). Jamie Roberts still seems to have only one dimension - throw all those stones of weight forward very fast and very straight - while the props are perpetually wearing the facial expressions of men who are being found out.

The team's reluctance to tweak a game cost them on Sunday, with England sensing that Wales' trimmed-down rucks could be challenged, also knowing that if you match Wales physically you are unlikely to be challenged any other way.

This is an issue of coaching to be addressed. For a great Welsh team, it is starting to look like the final step they never took: empowering senior players the ability to change tacks if the one is not working, or to tweak the straining aspects of a game plan so that the aspects that are working flourish.

France: How on earth they are in a position to possibly win this Six Nations is beyond us all. Disorganized, lacking in identity or purpose, tactically miles apart from each other and looking disinterested, this might be a lost generation rather than a lost team. When L'Equipe publishes its Monday headline 'Who's directing the French team?', you know something's up.

Ireland: The complete opposite of France. Settled, fighting for the common cause (glory in BOD's final year), now looking like they have the ability to change a game and open it at will, deadly when they get the upper hand. This is Europe's best team. Only a trademark 'where the hell did that come from' performance from France next week stands between Ireland and the title.

Scotland: Na´ve in the extreme but the result must not mask the scraps of progress. The penalty count was high because once the Scottish players got the lead, they felt compelled to resort to desperation to protect it rather than just to ensure that discipline and control would protect it for them. That cost them the game.

But the Scots scored two tries - to add to two scored against Italy - and really should have won the game, something else they have not been able to legitimately claim for a long time now. Progress. Now let some maturity build upon it.

Italy: The scoreline masks Italy's contribution to the game. It was only late on that Ireland really found the spaces to ramp up the points count, and so much could have been different had Italy been able to finish off a few breaks. Probably not the result, but definitely the scoreline. Down and out Italy are, far from a breakthrough they are not.


Random Facebook moments are pretty good on Sundays when everyone's had a good weekend watching rugby and the beers have clearly been flowing.

Challenged on Sunday to name a greatest-ever XV - but only given 60 seconds to do so - made for some panicked decisions among the group (one person in the party, no doubt a little giddy at England's victory, named Jonathan Webb at full-back!)

Here's the team that the Facebook group (none of which were Planet Rugby staff members - Ed.) decided had the right balance to it, but the number 14 jersey came in for some scorn as the weak link! How's about yours? 60 seconds, blank piece of paper, no cheating now!

15 Serge Blanco, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Rupeni Caucau, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Joost van der Westhuizen, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Richard Hill, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Martin Johnson, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Sean Fitzpatrick, 1 Os du Randt.

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

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