Robson kept waiting but may get his chance in Wales
Eddie Jones is renowned for pushing players mentally and he kept Dan Robson dangling before awarding him his first cap. The scrum‑half remained on the bench in Dublin and was the last off it against France, coming on with 11 minutes to go. Robson may be needed early in Cardiff but only a couple of weeks ago Ben Youngs’s worth was being questioned. As in Ireland, he was influential, getting the ball away quickly, allowing big carriers to run on to passes and hit defenders hard and he was quick to change the point of attack, confidence restored.
Wales do well to rest their best for the run-in
Wales’s second team beat Italy more comfortably than convincingly. Warren Gatland chose not so much to rest players for the match against England in Cardiff as to expose players who will have a role to play in the World Cup. Gatland is driven by the desire to mark his last year with Wales by winning the Six Nations. The last time they did so, in 2013, was also the year of their last victory over England in the tournament. Wales have a more taxing run-in, making victory at the Principality Stadium imperative. After falling for Eddie Jones’s feigned indifference to the roof being open or closed two years ago, Wales should quickly say that the elements can do their worst.
Carbery gives Ireland a different threat at 10
After Ireland’s opening defeat, Joe Schmidt said that he did not understand those who were saying his side lacked a Plan B after England had powered their way to victory. It was less about plans and more about why Ireland are near-invincible when defending a lead in the second half but struggle when chasing. Sexton was replaced at fly-half by Joey Carbery, who provided something different against Scotland. Carbery is at his most comfortable in broken play, as he showed when picking up a loose pass, slipping away from two tacklers and setting up the match settling try. Carbery has been likened to Beauden Barrett by Ronan O’Gara.#
No possession, no counter-attacks: Les Bleus left all at sea
England had stressed that they did not want France to slow the game by dragging out scrums and rucks. The hosts dictated the tempo by using their ball-carriers to commit the defence and then kicking the ball into space as the French waited for another runner. It is a tactic used by New Zealand and in rugby league, and gave Les Bleus little opportunity to counterattack. England had 63% of possession in the opening half but made almost as many tackles as France. Jonny May scored a hat-trick while covering 10 metres with the ball in hand in the first half. France were equipped for a game that was not being played and had no idea how to change course.
Player welfare should not be compromised
Player welfare looks to have been relegated below the flow of a game. Early this season officials were hard on players whose acts risked causing a head injury which led to a flurry of cards and bans. Then came a World Rugby directive that the TMO should be used more sparingly so games did not become addled by hold-ups. As a result, when Stuart Hogg was taken out by Peter O’Mahony and Rory Best, no penalty was awarded and there was no review; nor was there for any of the thumping challenges on Johnny Sexton. Hogg lasted 16 minutes and Sexton 23.