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Six Nations 2013 Tournament Review

After Wales claimed Six Nations glory on Saturday, George Barrett looks back at the winners and losers from this year's tournament

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Action from Wales' 30-3 demolition of England on Saturday. Image: Sum_of_Marc via flickr Creative Commons
Action from Wales' 30-3 demolition of England on Saturday. Image: Sum_of_Marc via flickr Creative Commons

Despite what some people may say, this was not a classic Six Nations. The weather, for much of it, ruined the style of play. Strong defences and three-pointers characterised much of the middle of the tournament, though both the first and last weeks saw some fantastic rugby being played.

However, what characterised this Six Nations was not the quality of rugby, but the unpredictability of it. At the start of the tournament, few would have picked Wales to seal it in such style after a nightmare Autumn Internationals, whilst many thought France would take the title. Oh how wrong we were!

I for one am going to have to take the time to eat my fair share of humble pie here, as my predictions couldn't have been further off the mark.
So how did each team fair over the course of the tournament? And where do they go from here, particularly with a Lions tour not too far off for some? Let's start with the bottom of the table...


What a mess. This was the first time France have won the wooden spoon since 1999, when the tournament was still the Five Nations. Philippe Saint-Andre's side had, quite frankly, a shocking Six Nations. The French media are hardly the forgiving type, and, after one of their worst tournaments in living memory, the calls for his head will only grow.

Quite why he decided to play players out of position is beyond me, particularly sticking Wesley Fofana on the wing in the opening two rounds. Moaning about the number of foreign players in the Top 14 is a waste of time, and nobody with even an ounce of knowledge about French rugby will agree with him on this one, whilst only Saint-Andre seems to understand why Fredrick Michalak continues to be picked at fly-half.

When a team that boasts so many quality players fails to deliver the buck normally stops with the coach. Saint-Andre will be sacked and France will kick on into a new era under new management.


Bloody, brusied, battered. Ireland finished an incredibly disappointing Six Nations hobbling on one leg. The number of injuries sustained throughout the tournament was ridiculous, and after 40 minutes of quality rugby against Wales, their Six Nations spiralled into the depths.

Brian O'Driscoll, who is and always will be an Irish hero, should have been picked as captain, whilst Paddy Jackson had a shocker against Scotland, though to his credit he did improve.

The losses to Italy and Scotland exposed an enormous lack in depth in this Ireland squad, who now need to go away and rebuild after legends such as O'Driscoll and Ronan O'Gara have had probably their last Six Nations of their careers. Declan Kidney also needs to seriously re-evaluate his position and question whether he is the right man to take this Ireland side forward. I believe he is, though I accept many people will disagree.


This was Italy's best Six Nations to date. Wins over France and Ireland and a near miss against England show that this side are definitely moving forward. They are certainly no longer the tournament walkovers of old. Sergio Parisse was once again fantastic throughout but there were other notable contributions. Luciano Orquera was at times brilliant (anyone remember that chip over England's defence to give Italy the lead at Twickenham?), whilst Martin Castrogiovanni was crucial to their success.

It will be fascinating to see how this side kicks on in the future. With three away matches in next year's Six Nations, it will be incredibly difficult to achieve the heights of this tournament, but one should not be pessimistic about their chances, because slowly but surely Italy are starting to challenge the top teams. When they can do this on a consistent basis, both at home and away, the Six Nations could become even more intriguing.


Like Italy, Scotland have also improved. They will kick themselves slightly for losing to France on the final day, as victory in Paris was a very real possibility, but there has certainly been progress.

Despite being well beaten by England in round one, Scotland have put together some decent results. They thrashed Italy, showing they can (sometimes) score tries, and how they ever beat Ireland is beyond most people.

Stuart Hogg was the team's sensation, though Kelly Brown and Johnnie Beattie were brilliant from the back of the scrum and all three have stuck their hands up for a seat on the plane to Australia this summer.

Scott Johnson should be given the job of head coach on a permanent basis - I certainly can't think of anyone else who can and will take this Scotland team forward. And besides, who doesn't like his press conferences?

Owen Farrell's form dipped towards the end of the tournament. Image: Sum_of_Marc via flickr Creative Commons
Owen Farrell's form dipped towards the end of the tournament. Image: Sum_of_Marc via flickr Creative Commons


For England, one needs to look at their Six Nations as a whole and not limit their tournament to the second-half in Cardiff. There has certainly been improvement from an English perspective, though this has been a tale of two steps forward, one step backwards.

For starters, this is an incredibly young side. The fact that they were chasing a Grand Slam on the final weekend of the tournament despite having less than 300 caps should not be overlooked. Chris Robshaw has been magnificent throughout, leading from the front and giving absolutely everything, totally justifying his captaincy - and remember, he only has 17 caps.

However, the fact that this side has dipped so alarmingly toward the latter end of the tournament is certainly cause for concern. The performance against Italy was almost embarrassing, whilst the men in white were taken to the cleaners in the second-half against Wales. The way in which Owen Farrell tailed off in the tournament almost epitomised their Six Nations. Added to this, England's inability to score tries (they have only scored one in their last four games) certainly needs a big look at.

Despite this, England have progressed and will gain much from the Cardiff experience, where they were well beaten by a team that had been there and done it all before. The scrummage is a key area that needs to be addressed urgently, whilst England need to learn to score tries. Generally, however, one should be positive off the back of this tournament and be optimistic about a promising future.

Dan Biggar kicks a drop goal in Saturday's match. Image: Sum_of_Marc via flickr Creative Commons
Dan Biggar kicks a drop goal in Saturday's match. Image: Sum_of_Marc via flickr Creative Commons


The transformation from the first half against Ireland in the first round has been quite something. This side, after having lost eight matches in a row, five at home, did not become a bad team overnight. But what they have showed as the Six Nations has progressed, is that they can regroup amid all the pressure and produce performances like their record win over England.

In Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric, Wales have two ferocious open-sides who are both in with a huge shout of starting for the Lions. Warburton, who was seriously off form in the opening stages of the tournament, has rekindled the belief of those who see him as captain of the Lions. Wales also have an absolute gem in Leigh Halfpenny. Halfpenny is certain to start for the Lions and is my player of the tournament: solid under the high ball, dangerous in attack, and a monster in front of the posts. Added to this, the front row is quite the unit, destroying both England and Italy.

Rob Howley will be very pleased with the way his side have finished off the tournament. England may be a team for the future, but this is Wales' moment and beating the Southern Hemisphere teams on a consistent basis must now be the aim.

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1 Comment

Griff Posted on Monday 18 Mar 2013

"For starters, this is an incredibly young side"

Be careful not to confuse young with inexperienced. Yes the England team is young, but no more so than Wales. The Welsh and English teams on Saturday had the same average age, the difference is that the Welsh youngsters were picked at an even earlier age and therefore have twice the caps, and therefore experience, that the English team does.