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Dublin: 14 °C Friday 29 August, 2014

Six things we learned from this weekend’s Six Nations action

We pick the bones out of a weekend that ended in disappointment for Ireland.

Image: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

1. So much for Grand Slams

IRELAND’S DEFEAT ENDED  not only their Triple Crown dream, but also the possibility of a Grand Slam in this year’s Championship.

It’s a disappointing defeat to take,  but  it makes for a thrilling final two rounds of fixtures in the Six Nations as four teams sit together on four points.

There remains an awful lot to play for and with a points difference of 42  - double that of our nearest rivals, England – Joe Schmidt’s side are still the team with their destiny in their own hands in this competition.

2. Ireland far from finished product

For the third year in a row, Ireland could not find a way to overcome England’s physicality. Stuart Lancaster’s pack successfully suffocated their visitors at every turn.

The hyper-efficient breakdown witnessed in the win over Wales was shut down by Joe Launchbury and Tom Wood and the running options in attack were read, covered and shut down at almost every turn.

When Rob Kearney stormed over to give Ireland a 7 – 3 lead after half-time it looked like the hosts had been given the rope-a-dope treatment, 10 – 3 just looked like a plan coming beautifully together. But the poor kicking witnessed in the first half carried over into the second and Schmidt’s side did not earn enough time in opposition territory to put more than those two scores on the board.

3. Wales are right back on track

Schmidt was only too happy to agree with Warren Gatland’s assertion that Wales didn’t show up at Lansdowne Road a fortnight ago, but on last night’s viewing they looked very much like their old selves.

The champions did ride their luck at times, but for the most part they suffocated last year’s wooden spoon winners with ferocious and accurate breakdown work.

To win by 21 points against any side in the Six Nations should be regarded as a statement of intent, but to so thoroughly humiliate France will lift Gatland’s side back to the level of confidence they took into February.

The margin of victory did their claim for the title no harm either and they edged pack into a positive points difference while before sizing up a big finish against England and Scotland.

4. Luck of the French runs out

Praise for England before today’s battle with Ireland at Twickenham often rested on the phrase ‘they should have beaten France’. The reason they didn’t was the late flourish from Les Bleus. But Philippe Saint- Andre’s men were only still in the game in winning time by virtue of two lucky bounces.

Rugby Union - RBS 6 Nations - Wales v France - Millennium Stadium

Source: Tim Ireland

Last night, the early bounce went against them and despite all the talent and mythical flair, they could not get their head around the Welsh line-speed.

5. Le Deluge?

Most coaches will tell you than every second counts at half-time, little details, minor tweaks have to be put right; so you wonder how much, if any, say Saint-Andre had in his team’s early exit from

To see the French side arrive back out onto the field a good four minutes before schedule must have been the most worrying thing for supporters in that country. They were 14 points down but the visitors in Cardiff did not huddle, they stood disjointed as they arrived back out under the Millennium Stadium roof without so much as a ball.

That said, we just can’t help but feel it’s far too early to be licking our lips at the prospect of facing Les Bleus on the final day in Paris. Despite an awful, listless display yesterday they still managed to create chances against the champions.

The city of lights continues to hold some sort of spell over Ireland and, with Scotland also on their fixture list, we don’t think PSA’s squad have completely thrown their hat at this campaign just yet.

6. Scotland score tries = Scotland win games

After 214 minutes of rugby, Alex Dunbar’s try finally gave Scottish rugby reason to cheer in Rome today. And fortunately for the centre, the Azzuri defence seemed happy to offer him another gaping hole to streak through within 15 minutes.

What began as an unwatchable dogfight, finished as one of the games of the tournament, Scotland shocked into delivering a performance with the wooden spoon hovering over them.

Duncan Weir’s late drop-goal was the moment that sealed the win, but Vern Cotter will watch have been thrilled to see that his future squad can create openings after all.

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