1) Player welfare should not be compromised

Early this season officials were hard on players whose acts risked causing a head injury. It led to a flurry of cards and bans but then came a World Rugby directive that the TMO should be used sparingly so games did not become addled by hold-ups. As a result, when Stuart Hogg was taken out by Peter O’Mahony and Rory Best, no penalty was awarded and there was no review; nor was there for any of the thumping challenges on Johnny Sexton. Hogg lasted 16 minutes and Sexton 23. Player welfare has been relegated below the flow of a game. Paul Rees

2) Carbery gives Ireland a different threat at 10

Joe Schmidt said after Ireland’s opening defeat that he did not understand those who were saying his side lacked a Plan B after England had powered their way to victory. It was less about plans and more about why Ireland are near-invincible when defending a lead in the second half but struggle when chasing. Joey Carbery provided something different when he replaced Sexton at fly-half against Scotland. Carbery is at his most comfortable in broken play, as he showed when picking up a loose pass, slipping away from two tacklers and setting up the match‑settling try. Carbery has been likened to Beauden Barrett by Ronan O’Gara. PR

Joey Carbery spins the ball down the line in the second half of the win over Scotland.

Joey Carbery spins the ball down the line in the second half of the win over Scotland. Photograph: David Gibson/Fotosport/Rex/Shutterstock

3) Wales do well to rest their best for the run-in

Wales’s second team beat Italy comfortably rather than convincingly. Warren Gatland chose not so much to rest players for the match against England in Cardiff as to expose players who will have a role to play in the World Cup. Yet Gatland is driven by the desire to mark his last year with Wales by winning the Six Nations. The last time they did so, in 2013, was also the year of their last victory over England in the tournament. Wales have a more taxing run-in, making victory at the Principality Stadium imperative. After falling for Eddie Jones’s feigned indifference to the roof being open or closed two years ago, Wales should quickly say that the elements can do their worst. PR

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4) No possession, no counter-attacks: Les Bleus left all at sea

England had stressed that they did not want France to slow the game by dragging out scrums and rucks. The hosts dictated the tempo by using their ball-carriers to commit the defence and then kicking the ball into space as the French waited for another runner. It is a tactic used by New Zealand and in rugby league, and gave Les Bleus little opportunity to counterattack. England had 63% of possession in the opening half but made almost as many tackles as France. Jonny May scored a hat-trick while covering 10 metres with the ball in hand in the first half. France were equipped for a game that was not being played and had no idea how to change course. PR

5) Robson kept waiting but may get his chance in Wales

Eddie Jones is renowned for pushing players mentally and he kept Dan Robson dangling before awarding him his first cap. The scrum‑half remained on the bench in Dublin and was the last off it against France, coming on with 11 minutes to go. Robson may be needed early in Cardiff but only a couple of weeks ago Ben Youngs’s worth was being questioned. As in Ireland, he was influential, getting the ball away quickly, allowing big carriers to run on to passes and hit defenders hard and he was quick to change the point of attack, confidence restored. PR

Dan Robson was the last England replacement to come on against France but may be needed early against Wales.

Dan Robson was the last England replacement to come on against France but may be needed early against Wales. Photograph: Jed Leicester/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

6) England’s formidable pack send a message to their rivals

England’s forwards coach, Richard Blaze, has to take a lot of credit for the dominance of the Red Roses pack in the 41-26 victory over the grand slam champions, France. Winger Jess Breach, a sevens specialist, caught the eye with two smart tries but it was the pack that provided the platform. Sarah Hunter, playing her 110th Test, was a major influence along with Poppy Cleall, who moved to the back row to help cover for the injured Marlie Packer. The scrum was immense and England dominated at the breakdown. The rest of their Six Nations opponents will not be able to withstand England’s forward power. Ian Malin

Team of the weekend

15 Elliot Daly England

14 Damian Penaud France

13 Henry Slade England

12 Sam Johnson Scotland

11 Jonny May England

10 Owen Farrell  England

9 Aled Davies Wales

1 Mako Vunipola England

2 Rory Best Ireland

3 Tadgh Furlong Ireland

4 Courtney Lawes England

5 James Ryan Ireland

6 Mark Wilson England

7 Thomas Young Wales

8 Sergio Parisse Italy

Hogg Horror

Stuart Hogg’s shoulder injury is a major blow for Scotland as they dust themselves down to prepare for France in Paris. Scotland’s players were unhappy with the tackle on the full-back by Peter O’Mahony (📷) and the Irish flanker could be cited for the hit

Halfpenny’s big value

Liam Williams has played well at full-back in Wales’s two victories but Warren Gatland would love the option of Leigh Halfpenny for the meeting with England. If Halfpenny is deemed fit following his long break with concussion he could return for a game that will decide the destiny of the Six Nations title

Hill Climbing

Ted Hill, the 19-year-old Worcester back-rower with World Cup ambitions, might have been downhearted
when he didn’t make the
Six Nations squad. But Hill made up for his omission with a captain’s role in England Under-20s impressive 31-19 over world champions France in Exeter

Try of the weekend

Jacob Stockdale  Scotland v Ireland,

A classic score, with clever play by Peter O’Mahony and Johnny Sexton carving out a chance for the Ulster wing. Sexton took the hit from Allan Dell but the fly‑half slipped a subtle inside pass for Stockdale to steam through the middle

source: theguardian.com


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