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Six Key Lessons From The Opening Weekend Of The Six Nations

A couple of fine attacking performances from England and Wales, surprising performances from France and Italy and underwhelming performances from Scotland and Ireland, but the latter got away with it, with that drop goal in overtime – last weekend had it all.

Wales and England helped a total of 15 tries to be scored, the most in an opening weekend for five years.

But what key lessons did we learn from an exciting three matches that left us looking forward to?

Without further ado, here are the lessons from the opening weekend of the Natwest 6 Nations 2018.

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Wales’ injuries will be a blessing in disguise

What Wales’ injuries have done, is they’ve forced them to play new players, and thus, there was never a temptation to revert to type from their team, particularly fly-half Patchell.

Wales have been trying to introduce a new style, and there has been a drip-feed of new players. But these forced changes, which has allowed an influx of Scarlets players into the team has made for a very exciting, attacking Welsh team.

They go to Twickenham next week full of confidence. It will be a huge test for the men in white and a chance for Wales to make a big statement.

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Scotland need to improve their defence before they can properly challenge

Scotland’s attack has been superb under firstly Vern Cotter and now Gregor Townsend, but their defence has been pretty questionable, particularly last year.

They conceded 261 points at an average of 24 per game last year, despite nilling Italy and playing against a 14-man Australia.

They will have plenty to offer to this year’s Championship, but if they defend like they did in the first 15 minutes against Wales, they will struggle to win a game.

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You have to put Ireland away to beat them

It really looked like Ireland were beaten. Of course, there was a possibility, but I didn’t think they’d be able to do it once Thomas crossed the line, despite having controlled the whole game.

But they showed, in those 41 phases and the stunning drop goal, that they have the composure and experience within their ranks to win a game from pretty much anywhere.

With three home games to come, they may well head to Twickenham playing for a Grand Slam.

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France will be a real handful

France were given very little chance of doing anything in this Championship, but they showed there’s life in the team with a really good performance against Ireland, especially in defence.

Their discipline in non-threatening areas, rather than Sexton’s stunner, was what let them down. Nevertheless, they showed that spirit and toughness which defined Brunel’s previous international job at Italy.

They still may struggle to get wins on the board, given those away games against Wales and Scotland, but anyone who thinks it’s a guaranteed win is very wrong.

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Italy will go for it

Conor O’Shea vowed that his squad would go for it in this year’s competition and they looked superb in attack against England.

Defensively, they conceded a few tries but England were sharp well in attack and it was errors and weaker substitutes, rather than fitness, which ultimately killed them off.

Three away games makes it hard to see Italy having the kind of impact they had on, say the 2013 tournament (when they beat France and Ireland) but four more performances like this should be enough to keep calls for relegation away for the time being.

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HIAs need to be reviewed

For the second 6 Nations game in a row, France exploited the rules around Head Injury Replacements to their benefit, using it to allow them to bring back on Maxime Machenaud at a crucial point in their game against Ireland.

It flustered Ireland, affecting their concentration, potentially enough to cause Teddy Thomas’ try but either way, it was simply not fair.

The rules around HIAs make sense, but there is no other word for what the French did than cheating. But they shouldn’t be allowed to have the option.

The rules around HIAs to be reviewed.

Nick Powell, Pundit Arena

Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team. If you would like to join the team, drop us an email at write@punditarena.com.