The Winners & Losers From Round Four Of The Six Nations
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The Grand Slam awaits?
The penultimate round of the Six Nations saw Ireland crowned champions on Saturday, and deservedly so.
Knowing that they could seal the deal with a week to go if results went their way, the boys in green put in another composed and clinical performance to produce a bonus-point win over Scotland. This, coupled with England’s surprising 22-16 loss to France, saw Ireland claim the title, and now puts them on track for their first Grand Slam since 2009.
Sunday’s game saw a much-changed Wales produce some flashes of brilliance to see off Italy 38-14, with the backline looking particularly impressive. With one final week to go before we have to wait another year, we take a look at the winners and losers from round four of the NatWest Six Nations.
Has Stockdale been the best find of international rugby this season? The winger put in another sublime performance in Dublin, scoring two tries at the Aviva stadium to tie the record of the number of tries scored in a Championship season (6). On top of that, Stockdale has now scored multiple tries in three successive games, a feat only previously achieved by England’s Cyril Lowe way back in 1914. The 21-year-old Ulster man has been key to Ireland’s attack over the course of their campaign, and it is clear that Stockdale will be looking to break many more records over many more years to come in a green shirt.
Arguably the most consistent hooker of the Six Nations this year, Guirado has often gone under the radar due to uninspired French performance over the years. However, this was not the case in Paris on Saturday, as the captain led with aplomb during ‘Le Crunch’. Apart from a few dodgy throws at the lineout, Guirado put in another seismic shift in defence, making 12 tackles over the 65 minutes he was on the field. What was particularly impressive was his work in the loose, with the hooker carrying 8 times for a return of 41 metres. After sustaining an injury to his right knee, it will be a shame if Guirado is ruled out of the final weekend, and we wish him a speedy recovery.
George North looked superb in a two-try performance, and Justin Tipuric was brilliant. But it is impossible to look past man-of-the-match Hadleigh Parkes after his performance at the Principality Stadium. The centre was everywhere on the pitch, constantly looking for work both on and off the ball. He scored the first try of the match, was denied a second score by the TMO, and put in a lovely pass to send Tipuric over the whitewash. He has been brilliant since his international debut, and has now seemingly nailed down the number 12 jersey once Jonathan Davies makes his return from injury.
After a decent display against England at Murrayfield, Hogg put in a relatively disappointing performance against Ireland on Saturday. Whilst he cannot be blamed for the Huw Jones pass that should have seen Scotland score, Hogg failed to make an impact, often running the ball by himself when his team had numbers out wide. He also made a number of poor passes, which really summed up Scotland’s performance on the day. The back-to-back winner of the Player of The Tournament will be therefore be looking to bounce back against Italy in Rome on the final day, who are guaranteed the wooden spoon.
The entire England team.
You’ll have to excuse the literal ‘Losers’ label, but once again England looked completely at sea during their match against France. They were flat in attack, and conceded 16 penalties over the 80 minutes, the highest of the tournament so far. The back three struggled to get involved, and the breakdown (much like 2015) has been highlighted as an area of concern for Eddie Jones’ men. England of course have the star-power and resolve to bounce back after consecutive losses, and the players are use to scrutiny from the media. But it remains to be seen if they can put it right against Ireland on Paddy’s Day.
After a promising opening performance against England, Italy have gone back to their old ways over the course of the Championship. They conceded two tries in last 20 minutes against Wales, and perhaps should have had a third gone against them after Hadleigh Parkes’ effort was ruled out by the TMO. Conor O’Shea has certainly improved the ball-in-hand play of the Italians, and flanker Sebastian Negri has been a revelation this tournament. However, Italy’s fitness in the last 20 minutes is clearly still an issue, and another bottom-places finish will continue to raise questions over their place in the Six Nations. Unfortunately, O’Shea has a long path ahead of him if he is to turn things around.