It’s time for our wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all of the wrong reasons.
They’re on fire!!
England: Digging deep yet again but England’s composure deserves plenty of praise after coming through tight battles with France and Wales to top the table after the first two rounds. Elliot Daly’s matchwinning try was brilliantly worked and when other teams might have been knocked out of the contest England held firm. A return to Twickenham now awaits against Italy and while it should be stressed that England were far from perfect, really missing some key players like the Vunipoli, they have shown great resolve.
CJ Stander: The first-ever hat-trick by a forward in Six Nations history – not forgetting Michel Crauste’s for France in 1962 back in the old Five Nations. Like CJ Stander needed any more accolades after his recent run of absurd form with both Munster and Ireland. Few will be surprised to know he topped Ireland’s carry and tackle count in Rome – 22 runs, sensational – and he is fast becoming one of the first names scribbled onto Warren Gatland’s Lions teamsheet.
Zach Mercer: The best player on the park by a mile in Colwyn Bay on Friday as England U20s got the better of Wales U20s. The Bath back-row looks some prospect, and it’s little surprise to have heard Eddie Jones bring his name back in recent weeks.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) February 10, 2017
Chiefs: The first ever winners of the Brisbane Tens in a fine tribute to Sione Lauaki, the former number eight who very sadly passed away over the weekend. Injuries to Brad Weber and Mitchell Graham are certainly a concern but some of the tries produced by the two-time Super Rugby winners were excellent.
England Women: No contest at Arms Park as the defending world champions thrashed Wales 63-0 to put themselves in the driving seat in this year’s Womens’ Six Nations, adding to their win over the 2016 winners France on the opening weekend. Some of England’s handling really was excellent, with Katy McLean noticeably in good form.
Germany: Big shock in the Rugby Europe Championship as Germany edged out Romania in a high-scoring classic winning 41-38. Marcel Coetzee – not that one – was the hero for Germany after the winger’s score edged them ahead with six minutes to go. Following on from Germany’s win over Uruguay last November, the ….. are rolling.
Feeling the winter wind
Italy: Grim. These horrendous thrashings are meant to be a thing of the past and it feels like any progress made by Italy in Conor O’Shea’s short time in charge has already been stripped off following Saturday’s 63-10 thumping. The fact that Twickenham is next on the agenda feels like the worst possible fixture right now for a side trying to pick themselves up off the floor having conceded close to a century of points.
Finn Russell’s conversion: Oh boy. This, followed by a couple of bad restarts, was not good at all.
Jonathan Davies’ kick: Those eager to point a finger at where Wales lost Saturday’s game have various targets to work with, not least the decisions to turn down goalkicking chances in the first half and Alex Cuthbert’s positioning for Daly’s score in the corner. But the Davies kick is the one we keep coming back to, when the Lions centre deep in his own in-goal area failed to find touch, handing George Ford and Owen Farrell time and space to conjure something up. That the kick didn’t find touch, or even that Davies was the person to kick it, will nag away at Welsh supporters for some time.
Greig Laidlaw’s injury: The sight of the influential Scotland skipper in a moon boot does not bode well, as Scotland became the fifth side to lost a match in this year’s tournament leaving England alone unbeaten. Ali Price is in good form but Laidlaw is more to Scotland than just a number nine.
Replacing Ross Moriarty: Here is Rob Howley’s take on why Moriarty came off – “It was just a substitution. He played 70 minutes last week.” When Moriarty is the heartbeat of your side’s physical effort and playing at a level we had not witnessed before, the fact that he was withdrawn with 28 minutes to go seems completely and utterly bizarre. It should not have happened that early, if at all.