Following two weekends of thrilling rugby, a week off from 2022 Guinness Six Nations action is the perfect time to look back and reflect on what the Championship has so far delivered.
Just two rounds in we’ve seen Scotland prevail over England in a dramatic Calcutta Cup battle, Mack Hansen start his Ireland career superbly and France remain the only side not to taste defeat.
Though there are still three rounds to go, we have already learned a lot about all of the teams in action.
Here are six things that have caught our eye after Rounds 1 and 2.
France justify favourites tag
Many people were backing France to win this year’s Guinness Six Nations title before the Championships began, and Les Bleus are in pole position after the opening two rounds.
France started their campaign with an impressive 37-10 victory over Italy at the Stade de France before edging past Ireland 30-24 in a Guinness Six Nations classic, also on home soil.
Two wins from two mean they top the table and are the only unbeaten side, having played some impressive rugby in the opening arounds.
Unsurprisingly the likes of Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack and Melvyn Jaminet have all impressed, though there have been strong defensive performances from the likes of Cyril Baille.
Perhaps their best performer so far however has been Gabin Villiere, who scored a hat-trick in Round 1 before being named Player of Round 2.
Villiere looks set to miss their next match against Scotland in what is undoubtedly a blow, but considering how well they’ve played so far France have proven why many backed them beforehand.
Young guns the real deal for England
With captain Owen Farrell out of the Championships and the likes of Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi unavailable in the early rounds, Eddie Jones has had to partially rely on his younger talent.
England’s campaign started disappointingly with a narrow Calcutta Cup loss to Scotland at BT Murrayfield, though they responded well with a 33-0 win over Italy in Rome.
And it has been England’s younger players who have impressed during the opening two weekends, in particular Marcus Smith.
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Smith’s talent has rarely been doubted, but having scored all his country’s points against Scotland and opening the scoring against Italy he has proved he can perform on the international stage.
The likes of Freddie Steward and Max Malins have also impressed in the early stages of the Championships and are becoming integral parts of the team.
Though Jones’ focus will be on the next three matches, things look bright for England across the next decade or so.
Ireland uncover gem in Hansen
Very few players have generated quite as much buzz this Guinness Six Nations as Mack Hansen.
The Australian-born wing made his debut in the opening 29-7 win over Wales at the Aviva Stadium, and his staggering display saw him named the Player of the Match and the Player of Round 1.
And a week later he backed that performance up with a stunning individual try in the opening stages of the loss to France, highlighting how comfortable he already is competing for his country.
Though he is by no means the only Ireland player who has performed well in the opening two matches, his immediate impact is notable and there is no doubting he is already becoming a key player.
Considering he does not turn 24 until the weekend after Rugby’s Greatest Championship has concluded, his potential and future impact for Ireland could be huge.
Key matches against Italy, England and Scotland will be Andy Farrell’s focus but he has uncovered a potentially special player in Hansen.
Scotland continue to show consistency
Scotland have appeared to be a team on the rise in recent years, going from strength to strength in the Championship.
And Gregor Townsend’s men showed once again why they are contenders for the title with a strong Round 1 display against England.
Scotland made the most of every opportunity they created in that match and continued their recent fine run of form against their great rivals to retain the Calcutta Cup and secure back-to-back wins over England for the first time since 1983-84.
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The Round 2 loss to Wales was a disappointment but there is no doubt that if a few costly errors can be cut out, this is a Scotland side capable of testing anyone in this Guinness Six Nations.
A tricky clash awaits next weekend as they host France, but Townsend and captain Stuart Hogg must feel that they can match and beat anyone if they are able to discover their best form.
No shortage of leaders in Wales’ dressing room
After winning last year’s Guinness Six Nations title, many thought that Wales may be affected by the absence of talismanic captain and cap record holder Alun Wyn Jones this year.
However, their display against Scotland in Round 2 is proof that Wayne Pivac can rely on several other players to use their experience to their advantage when things get tight.
Against Ireland in Round 1, Wales were outplayed and a strong response was needed when they hosted Scotland at Principality Stadium last Saturday.
And the likes of Dan Biggar and Jonathan Davies, who were both making their 100th international Test appearances, and Liam Williams all shone as they prevailed 20-17 in Cardiff.
Biggar proved particularly crucial as it was his drop goal with just under ten minutes to go that sealed victory, despite questions at the time as to whether Wales should’ve continued to push for a try.
That ultimately game-changing choice by Biggar shows that with the stand-in skipper, Davies and Williams in his side, Pivac has plenty of reliable performers to bank on for the rest of the Championship.
Italy’s physicality coming to the fore
It has been a tricky start for Italy, with defeats to France away and England at home kicking off their campaign.
However there have been some positives for Italy, perhaps the most notable being improvements in terms of their physical strength.
In the past the Azzurri have been accused of fading heading into the final quarter of matches, and not being able to sustain their early tempo in the closing stages.
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That has not been the case so far, with Italy still looking strong and physically able to compete when it comes the final 10-20 minutes of matches.
This was notable against France but perhaps even more so against England where they were still pushing hard in the final stages and could have scored a try or two late on.
Though there are still things Kieran Crowley will want his side to work on, he and his side will be encouraged by this as they look ahead.