With much of the focus being placed on the top of the Six Nations table, Dominic Evans assesses the candidates in the running for this year’s Wooden Spoon.
Ireland and France remain in the mix for the Grand Slam, with England close behind if the two unbeaten sides slip up. Of course the primary focus is highlighted on the race for the title. On the bottom half of the table, potentially three teams could covert the undesirable Wooden Spoon. Two obvious candidates are the non-winners Italy and Scotland (who sit 5th and 6th respectively), while The Red Dragons (Wales) form is an inaccurate picture of their position.
Round 2 results: Ireland 26-3 Wales.
Scotland 0-20 England.
France 30-10 Italy.
Italy: The Azzurri (The Blues) forward pack is the most capped unit to ever grace a rugby field, bonded with an internationally youthful backline in contrast. The inexperience seeps through on the statistics, more importantly the score line. Missing routine penalties, unforced errors in vital areas and mistiming moves all contributes to losing matches.
An important factor to consider is Jacques Brunel’s Italy is in a transitional stage. The ex-French international is developing a team to play expansive attacking rugby, instead of over-relying on forward dominance. At times, a French style is apparent. To create a formidable attack takes considerable time, whereas with a solid weeks training defensive lines can be sorted. He can select backs in every position with 30 plus caps, however Brunel is opting to train a new generation into a winning mould. Italy are a team for the
Scotland: For all of Italy’s mistakes, they display promise. Scotland on the other hand, do not. With the exception of two genuine world class players, Stuart Hogg and David Denton, this particular roost is devoid of talent.
Against Ireland the Scottish conjured one or two half chances. On Saturday, they were even worse. 1 maul won compared to 10 for England, only 24% possession in the second half and 5 out of 12 line-outs lost. Stats do not always reveal an accurate portrait. In this circumstance, the future is gloomy.
Coaches, critics and fans alike publicized scathing criticism followed in the aftermath of the Calcutta Cup clash. Sir Clive Woodward quoted in The Daily Mail. “Saturday was a sad day for Scottish sport and their rugby team have never been worse.” Sir Ian McGeechan told The Daily Record “It was very painful. We didn’t look as though we were going to score, never mind win. It was very disappointing.” Some even suggested Scotland should be relegated, therefore allowing another team to prosper.
McGeechan and other Scottish fans will be aware of 48 points conceded in the opening two losses and realise the Italy match in round 3 will be crucial to salvage a win.
Wales: While England also claimed two points so far, the form of either side is starkly contrasting. The stuttering start against Italy was accepted as an isolated performance. In a certain aspect, this is true. Wales were naïve and outmuscled in Dublin, whereas they boosted the intensity when required in Cardiff. A 30-3 score line was not harsh. A 78th minute flare up was about as much fire as The Red Dragons produced in the entire game.
In spite of their damming display, the Welsh are highly unlikely to be crowned with the embarrassing wooden spoon title. Nonetheless nothing is certain in sport. A loss in round 3 to France than to England in round 4 could place them in contention. The final match of the 2014 Six Nations against Scotland may produce the winner (or loser) of the award.
It is still fresh in our memories when the Lions side in June side with 10 Welshmen dismantled Australia in the final test of the series. They have the ability to remain a potent force.
Pundit Arena, Dominic Evans.
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