Team of the Six Nations 2017

It’s fair to say that it’s been a tournament of twists and turns and even though the final standings are pretty close to how I predicted they’d end up, the way we got there was more than a little unexpected. England sealed the Championship a week early, but only after lucky escapes against France and Wales. Scotland demonstrated the progress they’ve made under Vern Cotter by beating Ireland and Wales, only to implode during their much-hyped showdown with the Auld Enemy. Ireland suffered surprise defeats against Scotland and Wales, before finally rediscovering their Autumn form and denying England a second-straight Grand Slam on the final day. France gained their first top three finish in over five years, even if it took a farcical finale amid accusations of cheating to get there. Wales put in some of their best performances under caretaker coach Rob Howley and still contrived to sink to their lowest finish in a decade. And Italy were…well, Italy, although they did manage to utterly perplex England for an hour.  Continue reading “Team of the Six Nations 2017”

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Six Nations 2017 – predictions

Less than a week out from the start of the Northern Hemisphere’s premier rugby championship we have a no-less respected annual tradition – my predictions for the tournament’s final rankings. Why should you listen to me? Well, my success rate for these predictions over the last few years is a whopping 0%, which means that this year I’m surely due.  So without further ado, here’s how I see things going.  Continue reading “Six Nations 2017 – predictions”

The Six Nations is introducing bonus points for the first time. Here’s why it’s a terrible idea

Bonus points in rugby – the system whereby, alongside the four points awarded for a win and the two points awarded for a draw, an extra point is awarded to those who score four tries in a single game and those who lose by seven or less – were first introduced for the New Zealand domestic competition in 1995. Since then the system has been adopted by every major rugby competition around the world, both domestic and international. Every tournament, that is, except the Six Nations. Yesterday that changed: the Six Nation committee announced that it would be trialling bonus points for the 2017 tournament. Continue reading “The Six Nations is introducing bonus points for the first time. Here’s why it’s a terrible idea”

Team of the 6 Nations 2016

In the end the 2016 Six Nations might not have provided the same final day drama as last year’s instalment, but after a couple of stodgy opening weeks it at last flourished into a demonstration of open, high-scoring, attacking rugby. Here’s my stand-out team of the tournament.

1. Jack McGrath (Ireland)

Stepping in to fill the shoes of the injured Cian Healy, McGrath put in some hugely impressive performances, tackling hard and carrying effectively.

Honourable mention: Joe Marler (England) Continue reading “Team of the 6 Nations 2016”

Six Nations 2016 – predictions

The first Six Nations after a World Cup always carries with it the slight air of anti-climax – after weeks of watching thrillingly skillful Southern Hemisphere teams run riot a return to gritty Northern contests played out in the winter mud can be a little deflating. It’s a problem perhaps exacerbated this time round by the Northern teams’ less than glittering showings in the World Cup. But all that will be forgotten when the teams first run out and we yet again get down to the one of the oldest and finest rugby tournaments in the world.

What perhaps makes this year’s instalment particularly intriguing is the lack of a clear favourite. With that said, here’s my sure-to-be wrong attempt to predict this year’s final positions.

Continue reading “Six Nations 2016 – predictions”

Rugby World Cup 2015 – Team of the Tournament

Six weeks of glorious international rugby is over, and we are now to be deprived for more than three months. Sad times indeed. But it’s been a fantastic tournament, and we’ve seen some absolutely stunning performances. Here’s my best XV of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

1. Marcos Ayerza (Argentina)

There’s more to Argentina now than pure muscle, but Marcos Ayerza carried on their tradition of front-row ferocity with some truly brilliant performances. The All Black, Irish and Aussie scrums all crumbled in the face of him.

Honourable mentions: Scott Sio (Australia), WP Nel (Scotland) Continue reading “Rugby World Cup 2015 – Team of the Tournament”

Rugby World Cup 2015 – Team of the Pool Stages

So the pool stages are over and the knock-out stages are about to begin. It’s been fantastically competitive so far, and even amongst the twelve teams who have gone home, there were some real stand-out players over the course of the last month. This is my best XV of the pool stages – the players who consistently impressed over the first four games.

1. Scott Sio (Australia)

Not only has Scott Sio been exceptional in the scrum, he’s been a workhorse all around the field, averaging nine tackles a game. Just gets the place ahead of Fiji’s superb Campese Ma’afu. Continue reading “Rugby World Cup 2015 – Team of the Pool Stages”

Rugby World Cup 2015 – Team of Week 4

The final week of the pool stages sometimes felt a bit of a damp squib, as Tier 2 nations were annihilated by Tier 1 sides which are finally finding their momentum. None the less, there were a couple of huge games on offer this weekend, not too mention more than a few huge performances.

1. Tendai Mtawarira (South Africa)

It’s not been the best tournament for The Beast, but he was on top form against the Americans on Tuesday – his dominance in the scrum was total. Continue reading “Rugby World Cup 2015 – Team of Week 4”

Rugby World Cup 2015 – Team of Week 3

The first real make-or-break round of the tournament, week 3 saw several teams clinch spots in the quarter-finals, and several more crash out spectacularly. But while two teams dominate nine of the fifteen spots on this week’s team, yet again some unexpected heroes have found a place for themselves.

1. Campese Ma’afu (Fiji)

Fiji’s scrum has come along by orders of magnitude over the last year, and loosehead Campese Ma’afu has been a revelation – he dominated Wales’ Tomas Francis on Thursday. Credit also to Australia’s Scott Sio, who Dan Cole won’t want to encounter again any time soon. Continue reading “Rugby World Cup 2015 – Team of Week 3”

Rugby World Cup 2015 – Team of Week 2

After being shaken from their complacency by some early results, week 2 saw the traditional heavyweight sides reassert their dominance against the minnows, and as a result it’s Tier 1 nations who dominate this week’s top XV, with Australia leading the charge.

1. Cian Healy (Ireland)

A few handling errors aside, Cian Healy looks to be getting back to his best. He was a threatening runner, ferocious at the breakdown, strong in the scrum, and even managed one beautiful long spiralling kick downfield. Likely to cause Joe Schmidt some selection headaches for Sunday, not that the coach will mind. Continue reading “Rugby World Cup 2015 – Team of Week 2”