Six talking points from Round One

Round One of the Guinness Six Nations is in the books. And what a weekend it was.

Round One of the Guinness Six Nations is in the books. And what a weekend it was.

Wales made history with a record comeback in Paris on Friday night to down Les Bleus, before Blair Kinghorn led Italy a merry dance with a hat-trick on Saturday afternoon.

And then it was all eyes on Dublin on Saturday night as England downed Ireland in magnificent fashion to secure a bonus-point win at the Aviva Stadium.

So much to talk about, but it’s only fair we begin with the table toppers after one round of action, Gregor Townsend’s Scotland


It might have ended on a flat note as Italy ran in three tries in the final quarter, but make no mistake about it – BT Murrayfield is a fortress these days.

Unbeaten at home in the Championship in over three years now, Scotland were mighty impressive in seeing off Italy on Saturday afternoon.

They wrapped up a bonus point inside an hour, thanks in no small part to the brilliance of Blair Kinghorn.

A full-back by trade and an fine one at that for in-form Edinburgh, Kinghorn is unlucky that Stuart Hogg is Scottish and has his name inked into the No.15 jersey in permanence – not hard to see why when he is tearing up the turf like he was again on Saturday.

But the youngster looks to the manner born in international rugby and with Sean Maitland nearing a return, the embarrassment of riches in the back three is a welcome headache for Townsend.

Hamish Watson and John Barclay’s back-row absence is keenly felt but Jamie Ritchie showed he is a more than able deputy and Finn Russell had what Townsend described as ‘one of his best games in a Scotland shirt’.

Optimism is building north of Hadrian’s Wall after their 12th home sell-out in a row – but are they ready to challenge for a first Championship since 1999? We’ll know a lot more after Ireland come to town this weekend, that’s for sure.


Under Eddie Jones England have won a Grand Slam, back-to-back Championships and whitewashed the Wallabies in their own backyard.

But despite all that, this victory in Dublin was undoubtedly the best of his reign so far.

Brutal in the collision, dominant in the air and clinical in attack, England clicked in way we have not seen for a long time.

After all, this was a fairly new-look team. The back row and the centre pairing had never started Test together and yet they looked like they were tried and tested combinations.

Huge credit also must go to defence coach John Mitchell whose hard edge was clear for all to see as England beasted the Grand Slam champions on the gainline.

They started like a train, but unlike say against New Zealand in the autumn, they carried it through for a full 80 minutes.

It’s too early to talk of a Grand Slam, but on this evidence they will be hard to beat both at home and on the road this year. And Jones is convinced they are still getting better.


No win in Paris ever comes easy.

Look back through the history books and you will see that France nearly always deliver on their home patch.

But Friday night in Paris was a bizarre game for Warren Gatland and Wales.

They got their tactics all wrong in the first half and handling errors plagued their game in the wet conditions.

In the second half they turned the tide but in truth, they didn’t even have to do too much to claim their comeback win.

France were their own worst enemies, handing two tries on a plate for George North and failing to hold on to a 16-point half-time lead.

Gatland’s side have now won ten Tests on the spin and head to Rome a good bet to make it two from two.

Dan Biggar’s second-half introduction caught the eye, while the back row continues to be an area of real strength.

Never look too far ahead in Rugby’s Greatest Championship, but Wales v England in Cardiff in round three is already shaping up as an absolute classic.


The French performance on Friday night in Paris is exactly why the cliché ‘a game of two halves’ exists.

There were a whole load of positives to take from the opening stanza at the Stade de France.

A massive, but surprisingly mobile, pack blasted Wales out of the game with Louis Picamoles and Arthur Iturria leading from the front.

Romain Ntamack showed some nice touches on his debut and the half-back pairing of Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez, teammates at Clermont, looked to have finally cracked France’s long-standing problem positions.

However, Parra’s goalkicking was wasteful and it came back to bite them in the second half as France shot themselves in the foot.

Yoann Huget, deadly in the first half, was luckless in the second as he coughed up North’s first try while Sebastien Vahaamahina’s long pass will still be giving him nightmares.

Twickenham up next, where France have not won since 2005, is a bitter pill.

But Brunel has seen how good his side can be, and how bad. It is time for more of the former.


There is some consolation for Ireland in that they nearly always start the Guinness Six Nations slowly.

Even last year in their historic Grand Slam, they needed a Jonathan Sexton drop goal to save them in Paris in round one.

The year before that they were caught cold by Scotland. But the good news is, they always improve thereafter.

So while Joe Schmidt was using words like ‘bullied’, ‘man-handled’ and ‘reality check’ to describe Saturday night’s Dublin defeat – the backlash is sure to be just as great.

BT Murrayfield is up next and Ireland have some questions to answer, with CJ Stander, Devin Toner and Keith Earls all injury doubts it is real test of their mettle.

Beaten in the air and in the collision, two areas Ireland made their own in their annus mirabilis of 2018, Ireland will be asking some questions of themselves.

Just one game into 2019, and already they have something to prove all over again.


The final quarter of Saturday’s clash at BT Murrayfield was a reminder of just how dangerous Italy can be.

Three tries went in as the forwards turned the screw up front and the backs finally cut loose.

Unfortunately for Conor O’Shea, the damage was already done by then.

But they will return home to Rome and await the visit of Wales with heads held high.

Their scrum held up well, Michele Campagnaro grew into the game in his less familiar position of wing and the great Sergio Parisse was his usual totemic self.

Injuries have battered this Azzurri squad, breakout star of 2018 Matteo Minozzi is out for the Championship as is powerhouse flanker Jake Polledri.

On the wing Mattia Bellini is also absent and, to make matters worse, they lost experienced scrum-half Tito Tebaldi in the warm-up.

But the defence will need to tighten in the wider channels, Hogg and Kinghorn were given far too much space and time to roam.