Intelligent risk-taking and precision under pressure are emerging as key themes of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations.
France and Wales sit top of the standings as they both maintained their winning starts to the Championship with narrow victories over Ireland and Scotland.
Defending champions England also bounced back from their defeat to Scotland as they ran in six tries against Italy at Twickenham, including Jonny May’s spectacular finish.
England 41-18 Italy
After looking blunt in attack in Round 1, England rediscovered their cutting edge against Italy as Eddie Jones’ men secured a bonus-point win to get their title defence back on track.
Head coach Eddie Jones highlighted the fact that his side still have room for improvement after the game. The numbers back that up as they finished with 14 bad passes and 18 handling errors.
But England were clearly the dominant side over the 80 minutes. Their Breakdown Impact gave them control of the match. From a total of 109 rucks, England had 72 in the Italian half. In attack, England’s Power Game was key. They made 321 metres after contact compared to 189 for the Italians.
Discipline continued to be an issue, with England conceding seven ruck penalties and 12 in total at HQ. That will cost the Red Rose territory and momentum against the likes of Wales and France, so Jones will be keen to address that ahead of their Round 3 trip to Cardiff.
For Italy, a return of two tries from four line breaks is a positive for this young and developing side. An 18-point haul against this England team is a good return and gives them something to build on.
Scotland 24-25 Wales
This was a match that really showed the difference being clinical in the 22 can make.
Matchstats, powered by AWS, measure both time spent in the opposition 22 and how many points are scored per Visits to the 22.
Scotland spent 7mins 33secs in the Wales ‘red zone’ compared to 1min 30secs for Wales.
But Wales scored four tries to finish with an average of four points per Visits to the 22 compared to just two for Scotland.
Wales also had more line breaks leading to tries. Their five line breaks resulted in three five-pointers while Scotland’s nine line breaks resulted in just one.
Ireland 13-15 France
Both teams had 2.5 points per Visits to the 22 but France had six visits compared to four for Ireland.
France’s tries came from good offloading, particularly the first.
Done at speed and with the correct angles and pass selection, a good offload is very hard to defend. Their first try in Dublin came from three offloads down the right to open up space. France have succeeded with 21 offloads in total in the competition. It looks like their players are allowed to take risks and that ambitious strategy is paying off.
On the defensive side of the ball, France lead with 14 Dominant Tackles. The Dominant Tackles Matchstat, powered by AWS, can turn the momentum in games and with just four Dominant Tackles each, Ireland and Scotland will hope they can start to have more impact in this area over the next three rounds.
But if they can continue to impress in key Matchstats in attack and defence, France will prove difficult to shift from their table-topping position.
Will Carling’s Team of the Week
AWS Rugby Ambassador Will Carling is a former England Team captain. Every week, he will share his insights and explore the impact of Matchstats – powered by AWS on each round of the Guinness Six Nations, along with selecting his Team of the Week.