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So what on earth happened out there this weekend? Shock results? Last minute winners? Just who is in charge here? Get a grip! Everyone just keep a lid on it for Pete’s sake.
Well, we predicted the outcomes, correctly calling Wales, Ireland and England as victors, but the matches and score outcomes were a little unexpected.
So what does this mean? Well, our model feeds in games from the previous 4 years and works out an expected score for each team based on location and current ranking. More accurately speaking, this means each score is actually a metric to describe the relative strengths of the two teams, based on their performances over the previous 4 years. However, we think it is more fun to think of them as predictions. Any significant difference to the predicted score could therefore indicate over or under performance relative to their previous matches.
Italy and England was the game we got ‘most’ correct. We predicted a 27 point win and got a 31. Not too bad. Italy played well and competed throughout but ultimately were outclassed by England, who racked up seven tries, three in the last ten minutes, in a scoreline that was a little harsh on a spirited Italian performance.
England were expected to win this game with few problems and they delivered exactly that. It is hard to really read much more into this game than job done for England, a good run out, some fabulous tries finished in style and, crucially, few injuries – barring what looked like a potentially serious one to Ben Youngs.
England have got their Six Nations defence off to a great start and will look to take that confidence and try scoring to Twickenham where a much stiffer task in Wales awaits. England will likely need to be more authoritative and, although their scrum was impressive, their defence was less so at times and against a Welsh attack that looked potent against Scotland they may struggle more. It will be interesting to see how they develop against stronger opposition throughout the tournament, but England’s current Six Nations run at Twickenham is impressive and it will take a strong team to break it.
England did not have it all their own way however, with Italy scored two magnifcently worked tries. Conor O’Shea had guaranteed that Italy would show spirit and initiative and they did. They never gave up and kept coming at England with innovative and engaging play. However, they displayed their familiar fade around the hour mark and allowed England to finish the match in style, with the eventual scoreline unfortunately giving the Italians little credit.
Sadly for the Azurri however, the task does not get any easier. They travel to Dublin next weekend for a showdown against an Irish side that will be keen to put any residual French nightmares to bed. Following that they are away to both France and Wales, both games that will be tough for them to win. Their final game is against Scotland in Rome. It will be tough for Italy to record their first Six Nations win since 2015.
Italy showed class and deserve praise for their performance. However, this is not unheard of for Italy in week 1. They will need to continue these performances and compete throughout the tournament if they are to avoid the usual calls (harsh we feel) of replacement by Georgia.