The Six Nations takes a break this weekend following the opening two rounds of the competition, and the fallow week suits some teams far more than others.
Every year it is hotly debated, questioning whether they are required and when they occur even more so.
The format of the 2023 Six Nations saw the opening two rounds played over successive weekends, with the first fallow week following. There will then be one round of action before another fallow week and then two consecutive weekends wrapping up the tournament.
Planet Rugby takes stock of the Six Nations and discusses whether it has come at a good time for each nation.
6th placed Wales – Good
The timing could not have been better for Warren Gatland’s Wales team!
Humbling defeats to Ireland and Scotland in the opening two rounds have all but ended the slim chance that they would win the Six Nations on Gatland’s return.
However, the fallow week has come at an ideal time, as the New Zealander can work his magic and get the squad playing for one another again. He is renowned for doing just that.
The 59-year-old does have his work cut out for him after the performance against Scotland, where several players were visibly frustrated, notably Dan Biggar and Rio Dyer. That had a knock-on effect on their attacking structures.
Dan Biggar pic.twitter.com/7OEEglerYL
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The week off gives Gatland the opportunity to get all his players pulling in the same direction and the time to dissect what went wrong in the opening fortnight properly.
Rivals England are up next, adding further motivation for the squad.
5th placed Italy – Even
It’s a bit of a trade-off for the Italians as the fallow week allows them time to take stock of their mixed performances in the opening two weeks.
The gap between rounds two and three means that star fly-half Paolo Garbisi should return to action in time for the clash with Ireland and may even be able to get some minutes under his belt for Montpellier this weekend.
However, after a strong display against France was followed up by a less impressive outing against England, the Azzurri might have fancied getting another 80 minutes before the break.
Italy have been given the target of winning two games this Six Nations, and their final matches against Wales and Scotland are their best chances.
For the Azzurri, this fallow week is probably six of one and half a dozen of the other.
4th placed France – Good
After a stop-start clash with Italy in round one and a gruelling Test against Ireland after that, the break could do France a world of good.
Fabien Galthie’s charges are still well within the race of the title and face off against Scotland in Paris in round three, with a trip to Twickenham following. Their tournament wraps up when Wales visit the Stade de France.
The encounter with Ireland certainly took its toll, and a tired French side would have hosted a red-hot Scottish side in Paris this weekend had it not been for the fallow week.
The Scots have been a bogey team for Les Bleus in recent times, with Gregor Townsend’s side winning three of the last five Tests.
Time off allows Galthie to assess where his squad is and enable fringe players to impress in the round of Top 14 action.
3rd placed England – Good
One of the teams that will significantly benefit from the fallow week as the Red Rose look to settle under Steve Borthwick’s tutelage.
Borthwick conceded that his side have work to do to catch up with the likes of Ireland and France. He and his coaching staff are rebuilding the squad and implementing new structures, and he admitted that “systems take time.” The fallow week is precisely that, time.
The squad will benefit from being with the new head coach, his assistants and each other on the training pitch.
Borthwick bemoaned his team’s habit of fading in the matches, so this extra week allows them to refocus and address those concerns, whether it is a need to up their fitness or simply rest ahead of the showdown with Wales.
England’s game needs some fine-tuning, and spending the week making those tactical adjustments will undoubtedly aid the team.
📋 Our #GuinnessSixNations Team of the Week.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) February 14, 2023
2nd placed Scotland – Bad
Scotland have enjoyed their best-ever start to a Six Nations campaign. Not since 1996, when there were five teams in the competition, have they won their opening two matches.
That, paired with their largest home victory over Wales (35-7) in 99 years, means the fallow week has not come at an ideal time.
He is unlikely to admit it, but Townsend would have loved to have taken on the French just a week after Les Bleus’ attritional Test against the Irish – particularly considering the form of his side.
Several squad members will also leave the camp to return to their clubs this weekend, a disruption they could have done without.
Chris Harris, Ben White, Jonny Gray, Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell may even be in action this weekend, all of which featured in the win over Wales.
Scotland fans will hope that this week does not unsettle the squad and they can refocus when they regather ahead of the trip to Paris.
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🏴 What a lovely image as captain Jamie Ritchie points to the heavens. pic.twitter.com/iJe8glb3rV
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) February 11, 2023
1st placed Ireland – Good
The last team that will benefit from the timing of the fallow week.
As mentioned before, the Test against France was hugely attritional, and it took its toll on the players.
Tadhg Beirne, Rob Herring and Jonathan Sexton would have likely missed the clash with Italy after sustaining knocks against France.
The same is true for Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Robbie Henshaw and Jamison Gibson-Park.
Andy Farrell has a chance to complete his first Grand Slam as Ireland’s coach or even win his first title. It is unclear whether he would have rolled out his first choice available team or not against Italy, but he will certainly like having the week for his players to recover and give him more options.