10 takeaways from round two of the Six Nations

Back down to earth with a bump for Scotland as they come up short against a highly motivated Wales, while some hope for the future emerges from Italy

Elation and relief for Adam Beard and Wales, despair and recrimination for Scotland. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Elation and relief for Adam Beard and Wales, despair and recrimination for Scotland. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

1. Pausing for catches loses matches

It was Frank Hadden who always insisted that too many Scottish backs were unable to hand pass with any accuracy and he was proven right on Saturday. In amongst a long list of Scottish horrors, take a look at the number of passes that were directed at, or behind, the intended recipient rather than in front of him inviting the receiver to run onto the ball. And every time it happened the receiver would have to check his run to ensure he could collect the ball safely. In a game of fine margins that momentary hiccup is more than enough to undermine that phase of attack. Yes, it was wet but if Scotland can’t play wet weather rugby who can?

2. You are only as good as your last match

Finn Russell is a class act but he was well below his corroscating best against Wales. He kicked one restart straight into touch. He tried a long range drop-goal that missed by a mile and his late yellow card when the match was tried went some way towards gifting this one to Wales. He had his moments, mostly in the second quarter, but even those were few and far between. Despite all this, one Sunday paper still awarded him 8/10 points in the player ratings, the same as Darcy Graham. Really?

3. Nine is a key attacker

With the defence of modern teams so well orchestrated these days, the scrum-half has become a key attacking weapon which is hardly surprising as he gets the ball in hand when the opposition “D” is least organised. Harry Randall proved as much for England in Rome. The little buzzbomb picked his moments and almost always made significant inroads. In contrast, it is difficult to remember Ali Price ever threatening with the ball in hand. In two starts for Scotland he has made 15 metres from four carries. After one game for England, Randall has made 24 metres with three carries while Wales’ Tomos Williams (two starts) has made 59 metres from 12 carries. I know he has a world class fly-half outside him but even Russell looks like he’d like someone else to take a little heat. Price needs to threaten with the ball in hand, as he used to do, or risk losing the jersey to someone who will.


Wales v Scotland: Scotland player ratings

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4. Poor discipline is a coach killer

Scotland conceded 13 penalties against England and rode their luck. They conceded 13 penalties against Wales and paid the price. Discipline is key and most of Scotland’s penalties were not clever ones (ie conceding three to save five/seven). Nine of those thirteen penalties occurred at the breakdown. Scotland were pinged for offside, not rolling, not releasing, playing the scrum0half under the referee’s nose. In short, most of Scotland’s penalties were as dumb as a bag of spanners. Ireland conceded six against Wales, Wales just eight against Scotland. Single figures is not only achievable but a necessity with France next up.

5. La France.

After the opening weekend I made some comments suggesting that France, while good, were not yet World Cup favourites. The joy about being a pundit is doing a reverse ferret midstream without a shed of embarrassment. Not only were France properly good in Paris against a superbly resilient Ireland side but I thought they played Saturday’s game in a very calculated manner to make a point. Despite having the better back-line, by a margin, France deliberately kept the ball tight and repeatedly pummelled Ireland through their powerful forward pack. Almost as if they were trying to gain a psychological edge over one of their main competitors for next year’s Rugby World Cup.

6. Genge is the new Russell

Last week Ireland’s rock of ages Tagdh Furlong argued that since he had been playing the game from the age of four, pundits should not come over with a fit of the vapours when he throws a one metre pass out the back door. Another prop went one better on the second weekend when England’s Ellis Genge sent a 23 metre pass zipping out to fellow front-row forward Jamie George on the right flank for the hooker to touch down in the corner. The bullet was fired off his left hand! I was trying to find out if Genge was left-handed but came across a report that said he had slapped someone (in a previous game) with his right. So all the more impressive given it was (presumably) off his ‘wrong’ hand.

 

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7.  It’s back

It only takes one and now we have it the floodgates will open and never mind that Dan Biggar’s drop goal against Scotland made no sense whatsoever as it came while Wales had a penalty advantage so he should have gone for the Hail Mary move to score a try. It was the first DG in the Six Nations since 2019 when Romain Ntamack slotted one against Italy. Welcome back old friend.

8. Away woes back to haunt Scots

After wins at Llanelli in 2020, and the same in London and Paris just last season, it seemed for a moment as if Scotland’s woeful record on the road in the Six Nations may be over. Cardiff suggests otherwise. The key connecting those three wins away from home was the fact that none of the stadiums involved allowed any fans inside, so instead of being a hostile arena, Twickenham, Parc Y Scarlets and Stade de France were, well, eerily quiet. More like a neutral ground, or playing rugby on Mars.

9. Italy beat England in the Six Nations for the first time (at U20 level).

Italy u20s have been competitive for a while now and the young Scots will need to be more clinical and physical if they are to emerge from this tournament with a win . Italy were worthy winners on Friday evening, 6-0 the final score, so blink and you’ll miss the highlights package, dashing England’s hopes of back to back Grand Slams at youth level. Moreover Italy managed the victory without their two best players as teenagers, winger Tommaso Menoncello and fly-half Leonardo Marin, have already graduated to Italy’s senior side. Back with the 20’s, the Italian fly-half Nicolo Teneggi was the star, kicking both penalties, but look out for his half-back partner, one Alessandro Garbisi. He is the younger brother of Italy fly-half Paolo, still only 21 himself. According to our Italian insider, the two brothers might well link up for the senior squad at some point in the not too distant future. Their day will come, eventually, the wheel will turn.

10. Joey Carbery step up.

Such has been Johnny Sexton’s influence on this golden age of Irish rugby that it has been hard to imagine the men in green without their whippet fly-half barking orders at one and all, including the referee if needs be. Joey Carbery’s assured performance in the maelstrom of the Stade de France on Saturday has put that one to bed. New Zealand-born to Irish parents, Carberry returned home at the age of 11. He has had a bad time with injuries since first getting capped way back in 2016 but, with the 36-year-old Sexton held together primarily by duck tape, Carbery is the coming man. The only question is whether the pretender inherits the crown before or after RWC’23?


Wales v Scotland: Scotland player ratings

About Iain Morrison 62 Articles
Iain was capped 15 times for Scotland at openside flanker between his debut against Ireland during the 1993 Six Nations and his final match against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He was twice a Cambridge ‘Blue’ and played his entire club career with London Scottish (being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2016). Iain is a lifelong member of Linlithgow Rugby Club. After hanging up his boots, he became rugby correspondent for The Sunday Herald, before moving to The Scotland on Sunday for 16 years, and he has also guest written for various other publications.

11 Comments

  1. A couple of years ago we were tearing our hair out at Price making runs and getting turned over.

    Priority has to be cutting out the penalties and errors. We’ve hardly strung together half a dozen phases in the two games. When we do, we still look dangerous.

  2. Hopefully points 1 to 4 are being drilled home, regarding point 8 whilst understanding that the ‘neutral’ atmosphere was present at those fixtures should it really effect ‘Professionals’? Discuss.
    Point 9 – FF [and Jan in recent remarks on the U20 game] made good comments, comments that should be looked at in Roseburn Street, especially as there have been more than the odd question about the game time and quality of the exposure of players. The obvious progress in the Italian sides over past seasons is a fact, even if they have not shown the improvements in terms of points on the board or 6N table, they are still improving.
    As for point 5, I liked the mea culpa, for want of a better description of the print equivalent to the Commentators curse, wasn’t it ‘Whispering’ Ted Lowe following on from a faux pas in his Snooker commentary who said ‘who’d be a prophet in this game’.

  3. Points 5 & 10.

    I live in Ireland and the hard time given the team by the fans after the weekend is totally unjustified. I thought Ireland performed well against a form team who have not hit full form. Ireland are the only other contenders for the six nations in my eyes.

    In terms of Carberry, he has suffered a lot through injury. I find him a more skilful player than Sexton. I wouldn’t be a big Sexton fan. I think the myth far outweighs the reality. That’s my bias. Carberry had to go to Munster to get a game and even then he has been horrendously unlucky.

  4. Point 9: Italy’s u20s are rising, their professional pathways (at least to pro-team level) look like they’ve finally been sorted out. How much of a threat to us is that?

    How worried should we be at how far we’ve fallen behind at this level?

    I know there is an argument that from each year group you only need 4-5 players to break through each year from our age grade teams to maintain a decent pipeline, but realistically we will struggle to unearth the best talent in our country with such a narrow base. We need more athletic forwards to take a step forward IMO.

    Are we about to return to the bottom of the 6N pile and are the SRU investing enough in our youth systems to prevent this?

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  5. Thought Fraser Brown summed it all up well Scotland’s forwards collectively with ball In hand need to consistently carry better and break gain line even just a yard at a time. Easier said than done against modern defensives – pound for pound Irish in particular Leinster are best in world at this – only issue for them is when they come up against French / South African, juggernauts it gets more difficult. Defensively we stop tries but could be a little more offensive physically and stop silly penalties . If we can do this the backs will ,get more time allowing them to make better decisions, kick better, and get clean breaks . Although a big ball carrier in centre would not go a miss . The Welsh coach said it all – we needed to slow the Scottish ball down and win gain line in defence – disrupt them and take our opportunities to score – that they did .

  6. Good analysis which goes some way to offering me some badly needed closure. I’m still struggling to get my head around what happened. Finn threw an awesome pass to Darcy before he fought off LRZ to score in the corner but I agree wasn’t at his best in the second half. He wasn’t the only one. I thought the bench would be devastating and they weren’t. A strangely unpleasant watch that second 40.

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  7. One wee extra point. There is no need for anyone to be on the pitch other than the referee and the players – other than those treating an injured player. The number of ‘messengers’ on the pitch during every possible stoppage is ridiculous and getting very boring. To tidy up the number of ‘injuries’ requiring the stoppage of the game, any player requiring treatment/stopping play should have to go off and come back after the next phase – it would be an interesting test.

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    • I would agree entirely. It used to be nobody on the pitch unless sanctioned by referee. The ceaseless entry by water carriers is time wasting. We used to make do with an orange at half time

    • There are two probably reasons for the ‘pitch invasions’ that we observe in today’s game. The first is a Jobsworth’s approach to Health and Safety especially in the Professional game that is as much to do with avoiding anyone saying the Home Unions or World Rugby don’t do enough for safety of players and a ‘class action’ heading their way. They didn’t seem to have the same concerns when the game was an amateur one.
      The second is tactics either change of game plan [I wish] or as in the SA v Lions, killing time taking a breather.

  8. I think the point about Ali Price not making breaks is a very valid one. I cant remember one on Saturday. However, I’m not sure its all his fault. He used to do it a lot for Glasgow in his younger days so its either been coached out of him or its a clear tactic in the Scottish game plan for him not to do it. I had the feeling on Saturday that there wasn’t much enthusiasm from our players for the game plan. I’m struggling to work out what the game plan was but at best it was a pretty negative one to suit the conditions rather than a confident positive one. That also leads me to conclude that the squad isn’t a happy camp and there’s more going on behind the scenes than has leaked out.

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    • Look at Edinburgh, they play with a style that suits them, they’re enjoying it and on occasion this season it’s been quite exhilarating. I’m not too sure how GT planned to win the game on Saturday….. there appeared to be widespread frustration and rarely did any of the backs get front foot ball. Vellacott has been superb this season, he takes chances but with Russell and Hogg champing at the bit risky may be good.
      Hoggy seemed to kick when previously he would had a go, coach decision or personal choice.

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