Six Nations Breakdown: Italy s...

Rugby

Six Nations Breakdown: Italy still struggling to kick on while Eddie Jones gets his first win

Off The Ball
Off The Ball

08:36 6 Feb 2016


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It was an unexpectedly exciting game between Italy and France this afternoon, while Eddie Jones watched his England side get off the mark. 

Italy still in dire need of a test level goal kicker

As Sergio Parisse's drop goal attempt sailed wide and consigned the Azzurri to yet another 6 Nations defeat, it once again highlighted the dearth of test level goal kickers available to Italy. 

It was a pre-tournament worry for the Italians, how costly would it prove to be not having an international level goal kicker among their ranks?

Well the difference was clear today as French outhalf Jules Plisson, who took over kicking duties from Sebastian Bezy, landed a monster effort to hand the initiative back to the home side. It was left to Italy's Number 8 to take a crack at goal in the dying moments of the game, which did not go to plan.

 

The Italians performance today showed the progress that has been made in Italian rugby, with a smattering of star talent beginning to come through the ranks, as Michele Campagnaro and Carlo Canna combined well, but the lack of an experienced goal kicker cost them a famous win. 

French debutantes impress

Guy Noves gave several players their first French cap in the opening game of the 6 Nations, but none impressed more than left winger Virimi Vakatawa, who touched down to cap off an excellent performance. 

The Fijian born wing has been a star of the French 7s circuit for the past number of years and will be a player Joe Schmidt earmarks as a major threat ahead of Ireland's clash with France next week. 

Tolouse scrum half Sebastian Bezy also earned his first cap for Les Bleus, looking sharp from the base of the scrum, despite ending up with a 0% conversion rate from the tee.  

While the debutantes impressed and France did show some nice touches during the 80 minutes, they didn't really do enough to suggest they can beat Ireland for the first time since 2011. 

Powerful England do enough

Eddie Jones couldn't have asked for a whole lot more from his charges as they put themselves top of the Six Nations table after the opening day. 

The set-piece was solid while their defense was comfortable with whatever Scotland could muster in attack, and they were clinical when they had to be. 

The role reversals of Chris Robshaw and James Haskell looks to have promise, with the now 'unburdened' blindside having a fine game from the other side of the scrum.


This victory was built upon a powerful pack that controlled the set-piece, and while the game plan seemed to be as direct as possible, Billy Vunipola thrived at the back of the scrum, crashing into tacklers at will. The opening try was a result of this approach, with George Kruis burrowing over after Vunipola's pick from the back of a scrum. 

Meanwhile, new captain Dylan Hartley managed to keep himself on the right side of the referee and deliver a strong performance from the front of the scrum, despite apparently being warned about his language at the break.

Same old story for sorry Scotland

When Finn Russell intercepted a loose English pass close to his line with Stuart Hogg on his shoulder and only one covering defender ahead of him, a seven pointer seemed a sure thing. 

However, typifying the Scottish performance, the Glasgow Warriors outhalf decided to kick to touch in an effort to relieve pressure rather than turn the game around when trailing 15-9. 


Scotland tried hard, as they always do, but they lacked the guile to scythe through a comfortable English defensive line and cross the whitewash. 

Too often Scotland found themselves wanting in attack, when on multiple occasions they held a very flat offensive line, receiving the ball from a standing start and lacking any real dynamism with their go forward ball. 

When they did find themselves in threatening positions, they lacked a clinical edge as their handling and discipline let them down on more than one occasion. 

There were positives, of course, with Russell having a fine game as he continues his development into a test level outhalf, and John Hardie looking a quality player at openside. 

It was a gutsy performance from the Bravehearts as they kept themselves in contention to the final whistle, but unless Vern Cotter's charges find a ruthless streak in attack, this is going to be another long tournament for our Scottish counterparts. 

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