For many rugby supporters tournaments like the 6 Nations are unwelcome distractions. That’s particularly the case if your Club team loses players to international duty and you find your team struggling in a relegation dogfight. Still whether you’re a Club or Country man, you couldn’t help but be drawn in by the tournament this year. Form seemed to go out of the window. Teams that had previously struggled suddenly found form, and teams that were tipped to take the title ended up with the wooden spoon. When they say rugby’s a funny old game, they certainly mean it. Macclesfield Rugby caught up with Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett, this week ahead of the Fylde game and here’s what he had to say about the tournament.
“I thought England played pretty well in general, even though they slipped up at the end. I think Stuart Lancaster has done a really good job, and relatively speaking he couldn’t really have done much more. Sadly England tailed off just as some of the other teams lifted their performance. They played well initially, but got worse as the tournament went on. The exact opposite happened with Wales, and we all saw what happened at the Millennium Stadium as a consequence. On the day, even though it might have come as a shock to the players, Wales were considerably better than England. Wales bullied that game. If there’s a problem it’s that England are high on team work, and credit to Lancaster there, but haven’t really got the talent to take it to the next level at the moment. There are just no world class players in there.”
“You can’t really say that about Wales. Wales were considerably the better team at the weekend and deserved to win. Their back 3 are outstanding and the front row is also immense. That was what made the difference at the weekend.
“Scotland had a decent tournament overall. To be fair to Andy Robinson they’ve often looked and played better than their results would suggest. In this tournament for the first time their results matched their performance. And I think you have to give Scott Johnson credit for that. One of the best moves he made was bringing in Dean Ryan – a top man. Scotland have definitely improved and that will only inspire more confidence.”
“The team that’s improved most for me are Italy. Everybody grumbled about England’s performance against the Italians yet completely overlooked the fact that Italy played bloody well. England may not have brought their A game that day, but that was mainly because Italy wouldn’t let them. If anything I thought Italy were very unlucky not to get the win, having played most of the rugby.”
“All of a sudden they look like a rugby team. They’ve always been seen as a 2 man team of Parisse and Castrogiovanni plus 13 others. They’ve also struggled with their half back pairings. Now they’ve got a decent backline to go with their big strong pack, and boy has it made a difference. They’ve made real progress under their new manager. They’ve now got half backs who look to do things with the ball, rather than just running around cluelessly. I think I’m right in saying the only team they haven’t yet beaten is England, and on their last performance that could be on the cards sooner rather than later.”
France and Ireland
“France and Ireland had shocking tournaments. On paper both sides look good, on the field they look anything but. To be fair to Ireland though, they had an enormous number of injuries, so at least they’ve got some form of excuse. You can’t say that for France. They’ve no excuses whatsoever. Put it this way, if France were Blackburn Rovers, St Andre would’ve been out of a job on Sunday morning. France just looked ordinary, and when you consider some of the players they’ve got, that’s shocking. They barely found any form at all during the whole tournament. Individually they’ve got some outstanding players, collectively they’re a shambles. If you have to point the blame, you can only point it in one direction – the coach. What is Saint-André doing with his selection? Why pick players out of position, and why consistently pick Michalak when he was playing so badly? Bizarre; to say the least. I can see big trouble ahead for Saint-André unless he manages to turn things around.”