What Has Happened At The 2020 Six Nations So Far?
Following such a shocking opening defeat for England, the 2020 Guinness Six Nations proves that out on the pitch anything can happen.
From hole-ridden defensive lines to fearless attacks, each side have shown how much they want to lift the trophy.
With the final looming closer and closer, let's take a look at what has happened so far.
Ireland v Wales: 24 - 14
Despite going head to head with the reigning champions, Ireland stormed ahead of Wales with a try in the first 20 minutes. Described as an "inaccurate start" by The Guardian, Wales' loose defence left pockets of opportunity for the attacking Irish side.
Another two tries by Ireland in the early second-half took the final score to 24 - 14. A crushing defeat for Wales, whose only retribution was a second try by Justin Tipuric. Ireland's victory can be credited to their skilful manipulation of Wales' defensive line, which left much to be desired.
Jonny Wilkinson on Ireland's win:
“That looked like a team more comfortable second time out ... it looked more focused, more professional, and more complete today. The last Conway try was a constant build-up ... that’s almost Ireland saying - 'We deserved to win this week.'”
Scotland v England: 6 - 13
Following England's initial defeat against France, the team were eager to rewrite the mistakes of their previous match. The side's defensive line showed immediate improvement, with Scotland struggling to make much ground. Thanks to Scotland's Scott Cummings being penalised and Owen Farrel's formidable accuracy, England went into the second half three points up.
44 minutes in and Scotland won their own penalty, making it 3 - 3. With both sides possessing formidable drive, it took England 70 minutes to land their first try. Two more penalties did little to the scoreboard, and the game concluded with a nail biting 6 - 13 to England.
England Coach, Eddie Jones, had this to say about the match:
“I think it gave us the confidence to play the way we knew we’d have to play."
France v Italy: 35 - 22
Despite the challenging weather conditions, France scored their first penalty in just three minutes and a subsequent try only four minutes after that. Another try for France, and Italy were left feeling the pressure. But not for long. At the 24 minute mark, Matteo Minozzi scored the Italian side's first try, much to their fan's relief.
Two more penalties, another try from France, and the half time scores were 23 - 10 to France. Nearly an hour in and France showed no signs of slowing down, securing an 18 point lead with another try from Romain Ntamack. Italy tried to make up ground, but simply couldn't match France's winning mindset.
Luca Bigi, Italy's Captain, praised his team:
“We improved our performance, we showed how strong we can be, we scored a try in the last minute which shows we never give up ... I’m very proud to be part of this team, the guys showed big things on the pitch today. It was a tough week [in training] because we conceded too many turnovers at the breakdown last week.”
Italy v Scotland: 0 - 17
A devastating game for Italy, especially after their previous defeat, but how did Scotland keep the side at bay? 23 minutes in, and Scotland's soaring first try left Italy fighting to catch up. Though both sides attacked with passion, Italy's gap-filled backline and inability to follow through simply couldn't stand up to Scotland's force.
Possibly due to a yellow card for Italy's Federico Zani, combined with their lack of team cohesion, Scotland managed to burst through their defensive line. Another try took the score to 17 - 0 to Scotland, leaving Italy picking up the pieces of their disappointing defeat.
ITV's Sir Ian McGeechgan had this to say:
“The discipline, the patience and the work without the ball. Last year, they were attacking at will, but losing. It was the patience, the discipline, the hard work collectively, for each other. Where they were better I felt is that they started to bring players around the ruck [in attack]. The discipline and patience in them was clear today.”
Wales v France: 23 - 27
Riding high off of their last victory, France quickly left Wales grasping at minor penalty points. Two tries by France just half an hour into the game gave the side a comfortable lead.
A try from Wales in the second half levelled the playing field, with a tense score of 16 - 17 to France. However, this didn't last for long, as Romain Ntamack converted his own try. 74 minutes in, Wales fought back with seven points from Dan Biggar, but it was too little too late.
France's General Manager, Raphael Ibanez, was obviously impressed:
“We are lucky to have some very talented young players, and we give them confidence and trust. I’m really proud of the young front row who scrummaged well. When it comes to Grandslam, I’ll let you do the talking and we’ll just focus on continuing to work.”
England v Ireland: 24 - 12
England stormed ahead against Ireland in the opening half, scoring 14 points in just 26 minutes. Ireland were evidently shaken, losing possession over and over again through sloppy play. A penalty by Owen Farrel left the losing side needing a miracle.
51 minutes in, and another try by England take the score to 17 - 5. This was followed by yet another try, this time by England's Luke Cowan-Dickie. Seemingly out of luck, Ireland clawed back seven points with a try from Andrew Porter. But, as the final whistle blew, it just wasn't enough.
One of England's star players, Johnny Sexton, said that:
“We gave a good team two tries from not covering chip kicks, and we knew they were coming. We tried to get the ball to the space, but we couldn’t get there, we have a few things to look at. It looked like we were pedestrian at times, and we need to get better.”
How has Coronavirus affected the 2020 Six Nations?
With the tournament rapidly reaching its pinnacle final few matches, a poor defensive line may be the least of these team's worries. The Coronavirus outbreak has been threatening several top sporting events this year, including the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, but it has finally claimed its first victim - Italy v England. Set to take place on the 14th March, it has not just been postponed but will be played crowd-free.
England received another blow this week, as Prop Mako Vunipola stood down from the team after travelling through Hong Kong. Though he has no physical symptoms, the nature of the virus means that Mako may still be infected, so precautionary measures have been taken.
Who is currently on top?
1. France - 13 Points
2. England - 9 Points
3. Ireland - 9 Points
4. Wales - 6 Points
5. Scotland - 6 Points
6. Italy - 0 Points
Aside from Italy, scores on the doors look like it is still all to play for!
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