Sport time: First Weekend of the Six Nations


Chris Ashton celebrates his first try

The first weekend of the Six Nations is over and it certainly hasn’t disappointed. Two fast paced games, and one absolute nail bitter made for good viewing, and boy did the fans make some noise in the stadiums.

England vs Wales was a fantastic opener. The result was an English win, the first in eight years at the Millennium Stadium. It was a closely fought battle, England edging it at 26-19, however, England always looked like the better team. They dominated a Welsh scrum which was left limp without two of their Lions stars, Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones. England also came out on top in the backs with some very convincing performances from Toby Flood and Chris Ashton. Flood was instrumental in Ashton’s first try and, was very successful at bringing the big men around him into the game. He was deservedly named man of the match, and cemented his place at fly-half over Jonny Wilkinson. Wales showed some signs of what they could do; it never really felt like they were out of the game. Unfortunately, they failed to finish off the chances they created, which has been a massive problem for Wales for some time.

Italy put in a brave performance against a weakened Irish side, but once again failed at the final hurdle to get the victory, losing as they did 13-11. With a strong forward effort they managed to stay in the game right up to the end. They scored a try about four minutes from the end of the game giving them the lead, however, missing the conversion hurt them dearly. It meant that Ireland only needed a drop-goal or penalty to win. It was the experienced Ronan O’Gara who slotted over the last three points they needed and allowed Ireland to snatch victory away from the Italians.

Richie Gray powering through the French defence.

Defending Grand-Slam champions, France showed their class by brushing off a very strong looking Scottish side. After a quick opening try Scotland were left trailing for the rest of the match, which ended at 34-21. The French team looked very dangerous in attack, but showed some holes in defence that Scotland was able to capitalise on. Honourable mention, however, goes to Richie Gray, the young Scottish second row who was very impressive in both attack and defence.

Until next time,

Paul

Coming up: Paul will be posting some  pre-match thoughts later in the week

Sport time: Welsh team for Six Nations


Here’s the very first guest article from Paul. It’s suitable for keen rugby fans, but don’t worry, a simplistic guide to the Six Nations rugby tournament will be coming this week- right in time for kick off.

The Six Nations is only four days away and the world cup is looming. All the home nations (plus France and Italy) are gearing up to get their campaigns off to a winning start and it’s their last chance to test players before jetting off to New Zealand in the Summer.

Wales are currently in a slump, and after the draw with Fiji, some serious questions are being asked about players and coaches. It’s crucial for Wales to start off with a win. They’re a team that thrives on momentum, beating England on the 5th February (Wales’ first Six Nations game) will give them bags of it.

The squad for this game were picked on Saturday by Warren Gatland (Wales’ coach), and there are a few surprises. Namely the exclusion of Martyn Williams and Dan Bigger (Wiki them). While I’m glad Bigger isn’t there, I do feel some reservations about Martyn Williams. He would not start because Sam Warburton is playing better, is faster and stronger; but he has such a wealth of experience that would be extremely useful to have around the squad. I suppose, however, it should be taken as a sign of strength that we can afford to not include such a player of his calibre.

Onto the starting fifteen- I feel that because we’re missing the likes of Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones (both out because of injuries), it is especially important that our backs are sharp and scoring tries; something that they’ve been struggling to do recently. To remedy this I propose we start James Hook at 10. It’s a risk because he hasn’t played much there recently but the Hook/Steven Jones rotation we had during the 2008 six nations proved really effective. Also, with the return to fitness of Shane Williams and Leigh Halfpenny ,we’ve got two of our top finishers back on the wings. I’d keep Lee Byrne at fullback, due to a lack of options mainly. In my opinion he’s still a better option than Rhys Priestland (even though I support Scarlets), who will benefit massively from some time in the Welsh squad. Hopefully Byrne will recover some of the form that made him one of the best in the world 2 years ago. Centres pick themselves, Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies. Both are really big strong runners and are top players for their regions. Scrum half is a bit more difficult. Mike Philips hasn’t really performed recently, but would Dwayne Peel be a better option? I’m not so sure. I think I’ll leave that one up to Warren Gatland.

As for the forwards Sam Warburton and Dan Lydiate are surely the best bet for flankers and, Matthew Rees will captain from hookers, and Alyn Wyn Jones should accompany Bradley Davies in the second row. Number Eight could go either way between Andy Powell, Ryan Jones and Jonathan Thomas. I hear Powell is playing out of his skin at Wasps, but I think I’d keep him on the bench and bring him on in the final 20. I’d also put Thomas on the Bench, like Jones, he covers 4, 6 and 8, and would be a good option if somebody isn’t firing. That leaves Ryan Jones to start. He’s been playing well the last month and probably deserves to prove himself after a run of bad form. Last but not least, the props.  As I mentioned, we’re in a bit of a crisis since we’re missing both Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones are injured. They’ve both been the core of Wales’ team for a few seasons now and will not be easily replaced. Paul James will probably take over at lose head (left side of the scrum) while I’d expect Craig Mitchell to start at Tight head (right side) with John Yapp on the bench. It won’t be the strongest front row, not by a long shot but hopefully it’ll do the job.

If you fancy building your own team go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/welsh/squad_selector/default.stm

It’s available for England, Scotland and Ireland as well so knock yourselves out.

Wales will play England in the Six Nations on Friday 5th Febraury in the Millenium Stadium (Cardiff). Coverage will be shown on BBC one from 7.30pm.

Good Luck Wales!

Until next time, Paul

If this all sounded like gibberish to you, don’t worry, Paul will be writing a post for new supporters of rugby before the Six Nations starts.