Today was something of a repeat of last Saturday – one joke game and one excellent one.
Scotland were a little better today than they were against Wales, thanks in no small part to the selection of the Evans brothers, but their pack is still getting beaten up a lot. Going in a game with only one specialist second row in your squad can’t be good. France, on the other hand, were largely incapable of capitalizing on their up front dominance, and the one try that they scored could have been ruled out for any number of reasons. Their 22-13 win was deserved, but only just.
England made a significant improvement on last week, and when they can get the ball to the likes of Flutie and Sackey they look a really good team. They were also superb in defense, snuffing out Welsh attacks in the red zone on a number of occasions. Joe Worsley really earned his man of the match award. And of course they scored two tries to the Welsh one.
And yet they lost, 23-15. They lost in part because the Welsh side is confident and disciplined; they lost in part because they were indisciplined; and they lost in part because they telegraphed their game plan. Some England fans will doubtless be complaining that Jonathan Kaplan favored the Welsh. I have no sympathy, and I think this should be a lesson for Martin Johnson. If you go into a game saying that you intend to bully the other team off the park, and prevent them from attacking by slowing the ball down, then the referee will be primed to look for infringements at the ruck, and will have his hand on the yellow card before the game has even started.
Next weekend there are no games, which will give you folks a bit of a break from my rugby fanaticism, and Shane Williams a chance to get his ankle right before the big game in Paris. I don’t expect the French to be as bad again. Here’s looking forward to a good game.