Six Talking Points from Round Two

Ireland bounced back in impressive fashion before Wales made it 11 wins on the spin in Round Two of the Guinness Six Nations.

Ireland bounced back in impressive fashion before Wales made it 11 wins on the spin in Round Two of the Guinness Six Nations.

Perhaps the performance of the weekend though, came at Twickenham where England were ruthless in the way they saw off France in Le Crunch.

As we head towards the first rest week, it is time to take stock of the major talking points of this second weekend, and it is only right that we start with England, currently sitting pretty at the top of the table.


England’s sublime, historic Round One victory in Dublin made everyone sit up and take notice, yet somehow they managed to improve on that and produce an even better display to down France at Twickenham.

And the rousing 44-8 triumph was undeniably predicated on an aerial bombardment that consistently exploited the seeming acres of room in behind the French defence.

Owen Farrell was pulling the strings at fly-half, serving as another reminder that Eddie Jones’ team look like a completely different proposition with him at No.10, but almost the entire backline were producing pinpoint grubber kicks or up-and-unders that left Les Bleus’ back three permanently retreating.

Elliot Daly stabbed the ball through for the opening try, the third was created by Henry Slade bombing a Garryowen into the stratosphere and Chris Ashton – of all people – kicking ahead to complete the score before try number four came from Ben Youngs booting through the defence.

It was relentless, and France were unable to adjust and counteract the tactic but it wouldn’t have worked without England’s willing chasers, with seemingly diesel engines to keep going from whistle to whistle.

Jonny May deservedly got a hat-trick for his tireless efforts, while Ashton, Farrell and Daly were also constantly in the French defenders’ faces any time a kick came through.

It was masterstroke from Jones and Warren Gatland will need to start planning sooner rather than later how he’s going to stop England similarly exploiting the spaces against Wales in Round Three.


Eddie Jones called this Wales team the best-ever, and while there were unquestionably mind games at play, that is true in one regard.

An 11th successive win matches the Welsh’s all-time run, and next up in Cardiff is a date with leaders England.

A reshuffled side proved too strong for Italy in Rome, although there was some frustration at the lack of cohesion shown at times by the Welsh.

The first half, in particular, saw Wales dominate large periods, but they were forced to settle for penalties too often on their way to a 12-7 half-time lead.

It took 54 minutes for them to finally cross the whitewash, and against an England team that has now scored inside three minutes in five successive Tests, that is a concern.

Warren Gatland, in his final Guinness Six Nations, will unquestionably have a plan for the fast-starting English, and will likely select a side closer to the one that was victorious in Paris.

One thing which is certainly clear is that regardless of who he selects, Gatland has envious options in his back row.

On Saturday it was Aaron Wainwright and Thomas Young who made their mark alongside Josh Navidi, crowned man of the match in his new role at No.8.

With Ross Moriarty and Justin Tipuric waiting in the wings, Gatland has some big decisions to make ahead of the clash with England.


The performances of the Irish provinces in Europe and domestically has been an indication that Irish rugby is possibly as deep as it has ever been.

This weekend Joe Schmidt found himself without Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw in the centres, and missing Devin Toner, Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne in the second row.

That would hurt most teams, but Ireland managed to weather those absences to see off Scotland at BT Murrayfield – the Scots’ first defeat there in the Championship since 2016.

Key to that success were Quinn Roux and Chris Farrell, who slotted straight into the team and looked right at home.

Roux called the Irish lineout, which was flawless, while he also racked up the ruck arrivals in an all-action display.

Farrell was hard-running and direct in midfield, providing a different but no less effective foil to Bundee Aki than Ringrose.

Ireland will now have two weeks to get a few more bodies back up to full fitness, but in Roux and Farrell, they have a pair of very able replacements.

While we are on the subject of players stepping up, a word also for Joey Carbery who came off the bench early for Johnny Sexton and overcame a slow start to help Ireland to victory.

His intercept may have led to Sam Johnson’s try, but he more than made up for it with a brilliant burst and then wide pass to put Keith Earls in after the break.


Greig Laidlaw and Gregor Townsend were both in agreement that Scotland’s defeat to Ireland came in large part due to their inability to execute in the second half.

While the Scots were held out at the end of the first half when they were pressing for a lead, they remained confident that they could still come out on top.

That they failed to do so was in large part down to their inability to execute the set-piece in the second 40 minutes, allowing Ireland to control the game.

It is hard to compare with the win over Italy, although it is also worth noting that in that game the Azzurri finished very strongly scoring three late tries.

A dip in second-half performance is not a habit Scotland cannot afford to get into ahead of a trip to Paris where they will be seeking a first away win over Les Bleus since 1999.

France have not enjoyed much second-half success of their own, most notably against Wales on the opening Friday.

There were plenty of reasons for optimism, despite the loss of Stuart Hogg to injury early on, and Finn Russell will relish pulling the strings in his adopted home city.

If Scotland can produce the accuracy and execution of which they are capable over a full 80 minutes, they will fancy their chances of getting a win and back into Championship contention.


There is no hiding from the fact that France endured a chastening afternoon at Twickenham, as they were overrun by England’s clever kicking game.

From Jonny May’s try after barely a minute, England were in complete control, leaving Jacques Brunel at a loss for words.

Les Bleus have two weeks to recover ahead of Scotland’s trip to the Stade de France, with Arthur Iturria saying after the game that France have to respond.

It is hard to take many positives from the game, but there was some dynamism added by the second-half replacements. With just 25 caps between them, the eight men on the bench lacked experience, but a number, including particularly Antoine Dupont, made a real impact.

Brunel now has to decide if the changes he is going to make for Round Three are mainly tactical, or also personnel-based. Les Bleus finished the game with Dupont and Romain Ntamack as their half-back pairing while Thomas Ramos was at full-back. The Toulouse trio will all push for starting roles against the Scots.


It was a case of what might have been for Italy, who pushed Wales hard for 50 minutes before seeing the game slip away from them in Rome.

One man who made a huge impact was Braam Steyn, the Benetton flanker, who was a tireless presence for the hosts.

Sergio Parisse has long carried the torch for the Italians, while Sebastian Negri and Jake Polledri made a real impact in last year’s Championship.

The former continues to impress, while the latter is currently out injured, but on Saturday it was Steyn who outshone them all.

He powered over for the first try of the game, added an important lineout steal while also racking up 22 tackles.

With the dynamic Federico Ruzza, who can play in the second row or the back row, Conor O’Shea has plenty of options in his back five. On this form though, Steyn has to be close to the first name on the teamsheet.