Not that we are entirely surprised but across all three matches it has been another hard hitting weekend of 6 Nations action.
There is certainly plenty to discuss in our weekly Weekend Watch blog, as we kept our expert eye on activities both on and off the rugby field. As ever, we value your opinions so make sure you join the debate in what is hotting up to be a fiercely contested tournament.
So what exactly caught our attention and got us talking from Round 2 of the 6 Nations? Read on as we bring our top six spots from the weekend.
The Red Mist Descends
It was a rare outing for the referee’s red card in France on Sunday as players from both France and Italy let tempers get the better of them. Jaco Peyper was left with no choice but to brandish red as Italy’s Michele Rizzo and France’s Rabah Slimani traded head butts before Rizzo also finished with a couple of upper-cuts. With the outcome of the match already a foregone conclusion, both players can now expect bans for their brawling and are likely to miss the next round of 6 Nations action.
The last time anyone saw red in the 6 Nations was back in 2006 for Scotland’s Scott Murray, with only three being issued in total since 2000 when the tournament began. Italy now lead the way with three of the total five so there must be something in the Azzurri blood which gets them especially fired up.
Mike Philips on Twitter
You can always rely on a petty twitter spat to grab the headlines and this time it was the turn of Wales Mike Philips. Clearly frustrated by the Welsh performance in Ireland, handbags started to be thrown on the pitch towards the end of the game and then spilled over to Twitter following the final whistle.
It’s one thing going toe-to-toe with a rugby equal and settling your differences on the pitch but it’s a decidedly one-sided affair when a boy-band member is involved. Neither party deserves any more web space but suffice to say, both parties are never shy of courting the media for attention.
Just a Blip for Wales?
Let’s not get carried away with how poor Wales performed in Dublin, as every now and then teams just don’t turn up and at this level you are going to get punished. Maybe the signs were there after an underwhelming opening tie against Italy but it’s not time for the alarm bells quite yet. Turn the clock back 12 months and it’s a sense of deja vu for Warren Gatland’s men as Ireland once again proved their nemesis but the loss ultimately provided a catalyst for a triumphant campaign.
The key now is just how Wales react to the manner of this loss and with unbeaten France next up at the Millennium Stadium on a Friday night, this could well bring out the best from the men in red. The dream of a historic third consecutive 6 Nations title is far from over and the pre-tournament favourites now have to prove their true ability when it matters.
Grand Slam & Wooden Spoon Deciders?
We haven’t even reached the business end of the 6 Nations tournament yet and already there are two dates to ring in the diary for many fans. After impressing in both opening fixtures, all signs point to a winner takes all encounter between France and Ireland come the final day of action on March 15th. Whilst both sets of fans will not be wanting to get too carried away, with plenty of big games still to come in the form of Wales and England respectively, if they can survive their next round of fixtures then we are all set for the showdown at Stade de France. Could we yet see the fairy-tale ending for Brian O’Driscoll?
At the other end of the table and 22nd February marks a significant date for avoiding the dreaded wooden spoon as Scotland and Italy meet. Going on the opening performances and Scottish fans will certainly not relish a trip to Rome although any relief from their awful pitch should surely be welcome. Back in 2012 the fixture also had the same importance, with Italy victorious 13-6, so expect another cagey affair as both sides look to claim their first win of the tournament in round 3.
Choose Your Rugby Boots Wisely
Given the deluge of rain experienced across the country last week, players would not have looked out of place taking to the field in flippers and those on the Murrayfield pitch felt the full extent of the conditions. We all knew that the pitch was going to play a decisive role and you only need to ask Own Farrell about his take on the state of the pitch, having missed several penalties.
With France the only other side set to visit Scotland, they would be well advised to pack their long studs and especially if kicking at goal. It will be a different story next year, with news of a new hybrid playing surface being introduced, but until then it’s soft ground boots and extra tight lacing all the way for the Murrayfield mud bath.
Shut-Outs Are Rare
You have to turn the clock back to 2004 for the last time in the 6 Nations there was a zero recorded on the scoreline come the final whistle and it was both Scotland and Italy on the receiving end of France. Whilst an unwelcome statistic, many fans on both sides of the border will argue that Scotland got exactly what they deserved from the match against England and there are very few positives to take from the Calcutta Cup result. Prior to Saturday, 1978 was the year when Scotland last failed to score in a Calcutta Cup match, going down 15-0 against the auld enemy.
Whilst the passionate support of the Scottish fans can never be faulted, even their patience is being pushed to the limits. With just a dismal 6 points scored from their first two matches, the pressure is now on coach Johnson to get Scotland at least competing because if these performances continue all signs lead to the worst record in 6 Nations history.