‘They are the best team in the world for me’ – What the pundits said in Round 3

Yoram Moefana celebrates scoring a try with Cameron Woki 26/2/2022
Another full throttle weekend of Guinness Six Nations action provided no shortage of talking points as the pundits reflected on wins for France, England and Ireland.

Another full throttle weekend of Guinness Six Nations action provided no shortage of talking points as the pundits reflected on wins for France, England and Ireland.

Les Bleus remain the Championship frontrunners after defeating Scotland 36-17 in Edinburgh, with Fabien Galthie’s men the only team still capable of completing the Grand Slam.

And speaking on BBC, former Scotland captain John Barclay said the manner of their performance at BT Murrayfield had convinced him that France are now the best team in the world.

“I thought France were stunning. You can talk about the tries and the tries will get the headlines but their defence was superb, I genuinely think this team are coming together,” he said.

“They are the best team in the world for me. I think they are that good and I know they got a bit rattled in the first half but they came back and that’s the sign of a good team.

“Scotland caught up with them almost and they (France) just went away from them. Their skill, their execution, their power, their defence, genuinely they were stunning for me.

“The game was lost either side of half-time. It could have been a Stuart Hogg try that takes them two points behind at the break and instead they don’t get the try and France go and score.”

Former French captain Abdel Benazzi was also impressed by what he saw from Les Bleus, who are searching for a first Championship title since 2010 after back-to-back runners-up finishes.

“I’m really impressed by this team,” he said. “It was a big test as they want to confirm their improvement and that’s what we’ve seen, especially in the second half, very solid, very assured.”

Fellow BBC pundit and World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson felt Scotland were closer than the score suggested, highlighting the importance of Gaël Fickou’s try before half-time.

“I think France were a little bit rattled in the first half, they scored the two tries and then Scotland had the best of the rest of the half and Fickou’s try before half-time was massive,” he said.

“They scored just after half-time again and that really put them in the driving seat. I felt for Scotland, they actually played, at times, some of their best rugby of the Championship.

“I think the scary thing is they have a lot of improvement in them, there is improvement in them. They can play the games in a number of ways and are very, very good at it as well.”

Saturday’s late game ended in a 23-19 victory for England after a nervy finale and speaking on ITV after the game, Sir Clive Woodward said Eddie Jones would have been satisfied by what he saw.

“If I were Eddie, I would be pretty pleased. Wales were outstanding but you never felt England panicked, they defended magnificently well so I think they will be pleased,” he said.

“That was a real test in the second half. The first half wasn’t great but the second half was magnificent and Wales led it but the defence of England will have delighted Jones.

“The second half just went away from England. Sometimes that can happen but the key thing from a Welsh point of view is how can they play that way in the first half.

“From England’s point of view, it was so important Marcus Smith stayed on as they kept their shape, Henry Slade played really well inside centre and his kicking was fantastic.”

The weekend’s final game saw Ireland welcome Italy to Dublin and after Michael Lowry scored a brace on his debut, Brian O’Driscoll was quick to sing the praises of the 23-year-old.

“Talk about endearing yourself to your teammates! You score a couple and then you pass up a hat-trick on your debut. It’s quite something,” the former Ireland captain told ITV.

“Those back threes are all about combinations. James Lowe will be a good friend of his. We’ve heard so much talked about Marcus Smith – he’s of that ilk.

“He’s that sort of player that you know when he has it – with that crazy footwork, with the ability to beat players one-on-one – he creates a buzz, atmosphere, environment that you want to be watching.

“He gets people off their seats. The more of those players that you have in the team, the more x factor that you have, the more chances you have to create try scoring opportunities. He took two and created one.”

Over on Virgin Media sport, former Ireland international Rob Kearney turned his attention to Round 4 and Ireland’s meeting with third-placed England at Twickenham.

“I think they’ll go to Twickenham with a lot of confidence. It is now a game that they probably should win, they are a better team than England and going there with their eyes on that prize.

“England look as if they are lacking direction, they don’t know what type of game they want to play. Eddie [Jones] will say they are in a re-building mode but this is a game Ireland can target.”