5 Things We Learned From This Year’s Six Nations Championship

Expect the unexpected.

So the Six Nations has come to an end. Rugby’s greatest championship once again fades away into the background, as we get ready to shift focus back to Europe and the business end of the domestic competitions.

But what have we learned from this year’s competition? Quite a lot if you ask me. Can anyone really say they expected things to play out they way they did in the end? Did we really expect England to finish fifth, or Ireland to steamroll their way to a Grand Slam?

Of course we didn’t. But that’s what makes the Six Nations so special.

Anyway, here are five things we learned.

This is a very special Ireland team.
There was very little talk of an Irish Grand Slam ahead of this year’s Six Nations. We knew they would be good given their November form, and Munster and Leinster’s performances in Europe. But we did not expect this. To not only win a Grand Slam, but to win it they way they did is a sign of a very special team. To lose so many players through injury, to have so many young players, and yet still demolish everything in sight. It was incredible. The sky is the limit for this current Irish team, and they deserve every bit of praise they have been getting.

England are nowhere near the level they thought they were at.
Eddie Jones’ men are not suddenly a bad team. They are still a very good team, who suffered throughout the Six Nations with fatigue and a number of injuries. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that they are nowhere near the level many have claimed. This talk of winning the Rugby World Cup, as opposed to putting themselves in the best position to give it right to go, needs to stop. They have a lot of work to do to reach a level anywhere near the All Blacks. And even before that, they have to catch up with Ireland. Jones has a lot of work to do between now and Japan 2019.

Wales are in a much better position that we thought.
Warren Gatland’s side surprised us all this year. They were one wrong decision away from defeating England, and their only other loss came against champions Ireland, giving them a very respectable 2nd place finish. Injuries in the beginning afforded a number of chances to fringe players, who impressed. Wales now have good depth in almost every position. They will be serious Six Nations challengers next year if they keep their players fit.

Scotland have a way to go yet.
Gregor Townsend’s men once again lacked consistency this year, particularly away from home. They secured two huge wins at Murrayfield against France and England, but suffered two battering’s at home to Wales and Ireland. They’re on the right path, but still have a way to go before they can consider themselves a member of the elite pack of international teams.

Italian rugby is still struggling.
Another disappointing Six Nations campaign without a win for Conor O’Shea’s Italy. The Azzurri only managed a single losing bonus-point against Scotland on the final day, and were destroyed in their other four games. It’s frustrating because there are some clear signs of improvement. Matteo Minozzi (21) and Sebastian Negri (23) are two cracking prospects. But Italy’s biggest problems are in the most basic of areas. They’re defensive structure for one is embarrassing. I still feel Conor O’Shea can improve this side, but there’s absolutely no doubt he and Italy are still struggling big time.