Do Wales still need Alun Wyn Jones?
It is no secret that Wales have been missing some really important players this year, including influential captain Alun Wyn Jones. However, do they still need him in the team? In terms of the captaincy, fly-half Dan Biggar has done well since stepping into the role, making some good decisions and helping to control the flow of play. In terms of his position in the second row, Adam Beard and Will Rowlands have become an established partnership in 2022, and this is something that head coach Wayne Pivac may want to persevere with.
However, the fact still remains that Wales are second-bottom of the table after four games and have not been at their best. Against France on Friday night, they made plenty of mistakes and didn’t take their chances, so maybe Jones is still needed to help steer the ship. He has been called up for their final game against Italy this coming weekend, but they can’t rely on him forever. Johnny Sexton has announced his retirement after next year’s World Cup, when he will be 38. Alun Wyn Jones will turn the same age during the World Cup – will he follow the Ireland captain in hanging up his boots?
Did Saturday’s game show that Italy have finally turned a corner?
This has been a big discussion point in recent years, but Italy’s performance against Scotland on Saturday afternoon felt like a really positive one. They had some good carries, defended well in parts, their set pieces were generally well-executed and the two wingers in particular looked sharp, with Pierre Bruno working hard to set up scrum-half Callum Braley for their first try, whilst Monty Ioane was a handful all game.
Let’s not get carried away, because it was still a loss, and there are areas that still need improving. However, they are a young team that at last look to be gelling, and their faces at full-time reflected this sentiment. We will have to see if this leads to another strong showing in Cardiff this coming Saturday, but their overall performance and the fact that they kept pushing in the second half will give Italian rugby fans plenty of hope going forwards.
Did luck hinder England’s best performance in the 2022 Championship?
Luck is perhaps an odd way to put it, as Charlie Ewels’ red card was not down to this. However, the losses of Sale Sharks flanker Tom Curry and Bristol Bears tighthead Kyle Sinckler to injury did come down to luck and further affected England’s ability to compete – and yet they didn’t. Winger Jack Nowell had a huge impact in the scrums after Ewels’ dismissal, and England’s overall defensive display was the strongest we have seen for a long time. Where they lacked quality, especially in the first half, was their ability to finish opportunities off, and this is no doubt what head coach Eddie Jones would have been focusing on during his half-time chat.
Ireland had to wait until the 65th minute to score anything in the second half, which demonstrates how dominant England were in front of their own try line. However, would they have had this much desire if it had been 15 players each on the field? We will never know the answer to that. What we do know is that England deserved at least a losing bonus point for their efforts but went away with nothing after Ireland’s numerical advantage got them over the line with a couple of late scores. Maybe luck was to blame for England’s defeat after all.