Did we learn anything from Wales v Scotland?
It is easy to think that, because the opening game of the weekend was so closely contested, we didn’t really learn anything from it. However, something that did become clear throughout this meeting was that both of these teams are at the same playing level at the moment. This is a huge positive for Scotland, given that they have been arguably the Championship’s most improved team over the last couple of years, but it is not what Welsh fans will want to read.
However, the simple fact is that, whilst they undoubtedly showed a lot of improvement after their opening day loss in Dublin, Wales still aren’t quite at the same level as when they won the title last year. There are several explanations for why this is, such as their immense injury list, so it is not all down to on-field things, but they are slipping down in overall performance levels and Scotland are quickly catching up.
France’s kicking ability
After their win against Ireland, there can be no doubt that France are now the full package. We already knew about their strength in open play and ability to build play through phases. However, what was missing in previous tournaments was a player who could move the ball around and find spades, asking questions of opposing defenders. The form of Romain Ntamack has addressed that, but the next question was where the cover was going to come from. Occasionally, Antoine Dupont has kicked instead of him, whilst fellow fly-half Mathieu Jalibert has also been an able deputy.
The emergence of Perpignan full-back Melvyn Jaminet looks to be the final piece in the puzzle, especially as he has gone ahead of Ntamack in the pecking order, showing how well he is rated. France have looked even more dangerous with him on the field, and opponents now have to be really careful about conceding penalties, as anything within range of the posts is punished. His introduction could be what finally ends France’s wait for another Six Nations title.
Do England still need their experienced players?
The game against Italy gave England coach Eddie Jones a chance to experiment with different combinations in his team, and this was especially important after their opening round loss to Scotland.
However, an interesting question can be raised from the result; do England still need all of their experienced players to support the newer names? With Owen Farrell out for the tournament and the likes of Ben Youngs, George Ford and Joe Marler starting on the bench on Sunday, the younger players who haven’t played as often, such as Harry Randall, Marcus Smith, Freddie Steward and Max Malins, were given a chance to make their mark, and took it.
However, we do still need to be realistic; they were playing the weakest side in the Championship, so we can’t really make any firm conclusions yet. They will need experience in the tighter games, which are yet to come, especially if things aren’t going their way.