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Six Nations: talking points from the opening weekend’s action | Sport


1) Curry gamble backfires and unbalances England

However Eddie Jones hoped England’s back row was going to go, it didn’t. The decision to pick Tom Curry out of position to cover for Billy Vunipola cost them twice over, because it meant they didn’t get the best out of their star flanker and also lacked a real ball-carrying threat at No 8. He has options, since Ben Earl and Lewis Ludlam are both in the squad and can cover the position, but given that he could have had one of Alex Dombrandt, Sam Simmonds, or Nathan Hughes playing there instead it might be time to admit he got this one plain wrong and pick a specialist to do it. Andy Bull

Match report: France 24-17 England

2) France show hints of greatness – and inexperience

Well as the French played in the final quarter, when they came uncomfortably close to blowing it, was a reminder of just how young and inexperienced they are. They should sweep past Italy at home easily enough next week, so we’ll have to wait to the Test against Wales in the third round to get a clearer idea of exactly what they’re made of. They were hints of greatness about the way they played against England in the first hour here. If they can reproduce that form over the entire match when they’re in Cardiff, then everyone else really will have something to worry about. Andy Bull

France’s hellfire and brimstone crush Red Rose in a Can-Can cauldron

3) Ireland’s errors and injuries will concern Farrell

As an opening statement of Andy Farrell’s regime, it will do. But no more than that. Farrell was rightly delighted with Ireland’s grit, their absolute refusal to give up their line easily, no matter how inevitable the opposition’s crossing of it might seem. Elsewhere, there were too many technical errors for celebration, and the edge they yielded at the scrum was a concern as much as it was a surprise. Further, Ireland emerged with a list of wounded. Caelan Doris must be doubtful after his concussion. Garry Ringrose suffered a hand injury, and that chastened front row lost Tadhg Furlong and Andrew Porter. But another home match, this one against World Cup semi-finalists Wales, is more in line with what the doctor might order. Michael Aylwin

Match report: Ireland 19-12 Scotland





Andy Farrell speaks to Tadhg Furlong after Ireland’s narrow win.



Andy Farrell speaks to Tadhg Furlong after Ireland’s narrow win. Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

4) Old failings leave adventurous Scotland pointless again

Scotland remain a delight to watch, a nightmare to support. Few teams on the international circuit delight and enrage in such equal measure. Gregor Townsend hailed this latest exposition of exhilarating attacking rugby, but the sense there was nothing new to see here hung over his every utterance. Scotland, as always, lacked the discipline and nerve to make their bewitching approach play tell. There will be those who might start to question Townsend himself, but this trait feels so utterly ingrained in this era of Scottish rugby that it is doubtful blame for it can be laid at his door. A lack of punishing physical heft is also a factor, one common to any era in Scotland’s history of feisty underdogs. Michael Aylwin

Townsend defends Scotland captain Hogg despite tryline howler

5) Smith believes good times are coming for Italy

Another new coach but the same old result, 23 defeats and counting in the Six Nations. Franco Smith, in charge for the Six Nations as the Italian federation scours for a permanent successor to Conor O’Shea, was asked a question that recurs every tournament: do Italy justify their place in the championship? “I can understand there are questions around it,” he said. “It makes sense but what I know about Italian rugby and what is coming through – we beat Wales in the under-20 championship. There is a good group emerging. I would have not accepted this role if I did not believe Italy could step up. They can and they will.” When? Paul Rees

Match report: Wales 42-0 Italy

6) Tompkins provides spark for Pivac’s Wales revolution

Wales 2.0: width, wit and wile. Wayne Pivac said that change from the Gatland years would be a slow burn, but the 42-0 victory over Italy, the first time Wales had kept their opponents pointless in the championship for 46 years, signalled a change in emphasis: kicking out of hand was more strategic rather than an invitation to take on a team that used defence as a means of attack and when boot was put to ball, they were prepared to kick it out of play. A comfortable victory, in which all five tries were scored by three-quarters, was not without its blemishes, not least in the scrum, and they will face a far greater test at the breakdown in Dublin on Saturday, but Nick Tompkins provided a spark in midfield and there remains a selfless quality about Wales, who rise to each challenge. Paul Rees

Wales’ Biggar admits more than trickery needed to beat Ireland

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