by Rugby4Cast / 02nd February 2019


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Well, what a first weekend that was! Wales pipped an enthralling match of two halves in Paris. Scotland won comfortably at home against Italy, but let in some loose tries at the end. And England comfortably beat Ireland in Dublin – something that no one has been able to do since New Zealand visited back in 2016.

Rankings Update

England will leapfrog Wales into third place with their away win in Dublin. Wales pick up a few points in France but, due to the large difference between themselves and France, not enough to stay in third. Scotland gain nothing from a home win over much lower ranked Italy.
Cooney’s try for Ireland in the 79th minute brought the score differential to under 15 points which, crucially for Ireland, prevented England gaining the points to overtake into second.
Needless to say, the possibility of Ireland taking New Zealand’s spot at the top of the world rankings is now impossible. New Zealand fans can breathe easy. Nobody can gain the required points from this Six Nations to overtake them in first.

France v Wales

The question when France play is always, which France is going to turn up? Well, in this match, we got all of them. They swept effortlessly to a 16 – 0 lead, scoring two fabulous tries and dropping a wonderful goal to cement their advantage before half time. And then they stopped. And not only stopped but proceeded to gift Wales two of the softest tries you are ever likely to see.
As far as we have been able to tell, this comeback was the biggest in Four, Five or Six Nations history. A remarkable turnaround, but France will be kicking themselves for letting another advantageous winning position slip through their fingers. France have now won just 3 matches from their last 19 matches, those against Italy, England and Argentina.
[new_royalslider id=”22″] Wales on the other hand are now on a 10 match unbeaten streak, with their last defeat coming at the hands of the Irish in last year’s Six Nations, nearly a year ago. With Italy visiting Cardiff next week, this will likely extend to 11. But after that they host England, before visiting Murrayfield and then finishing against Ireland at home. We give them around a 10% chance of winning all three of these games.

Scotland v Italy

Scotland looked in control for all of the match, as was expected, but will be annoyed at their lack of concentration in the last 10 minutes. Letting in three tries at the death was loose, and whilst it didn’t affect the result, they will not be able to afford similar lapses against other sides.
However, obtaining a bonus point win was the minimum requirement, and Scotland achieved that. As a result they (just) top the Six Nations table, something that we think has never happened before. However, with Ireland at Murrayfield next weekend and Italy and France visiting Wales and England, they are unlikely to stay there for long.
However, they have good home form, with only four defeats since the start of 2016 and, having beaten Ireland on their last visit to Murrayfield, will feel they have a reasonable chance.
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Italy continue their miserable run in the Six Nations – currently on a record 18 losses in a row – with their last win taking place at Murrayfield in 2015. Conor O’Shea’s goal has always been around improving the Italian rugby infrastructure, and he is undeniably doing so, but Italy are now staring down the barrel of another wooden spoon. Their best chance of a win is when France come visiting in the final weekend, but the Algorithm gives them just a 14% of victory in that match.

Ireland v England

What a turn up for the books this was. Whilst The Algorithm gave England a 1 in 3 chance of victory, reasonable odds for anyone visiting Dublin nowadays, there would have been few people who foresaw an English win this comprehensive. England dominated the match throughout and Ireland rarely looked like they would take the win. 
This was the first Irish defeat at home since New Zealand visited back in 2016, and the first at home in the Six Nations since England in 2013. It was a famous win for an England side that were not given much hope, and a much needed scalp for Eddie Jones in the most important year of his tenure. England haven’t won this big in Dublin since 2003, and we all know what happened that year …
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The Title Race

In a tournament where away wins are so coveted, we saw two in the opening weekend. Usually, whomever records an away win in a venue other than Rome (or historically Murrayfield, but less so now), will go on to be a strong contender for the title. So who does fortune favour now: England or Wales?
The Algorithm now has England as the strong favourites for the title. Despite Wales excellent form at the moment, the Welsh have difficult fixtures to close and are likely to lose at least one. Meanwhile, England have Scotland, France and Italy at home, and Wales away. Three fixtures they should win comfortably, and one they might.
The fact that they also picked up a four try bonus point, and Ireland failed to pick up a losing bonus point, could also be crucial later on. For Ireland to now win the title they will now likely need Wales to beat England in Cardiff before then recording a bonus point win over Wales in Cardiff themselves. A very tough ask.
However, things can change very quickly in the Six Nations. This weekend has shown that if nothing else. England are certainly in the driving seat, but a rogue result could easily mix things up again.
Bring on round 2.

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