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And Then There Were Three

11th February 2005 By Munster Rugby

And Then There Were Three

After this weekend’s round of matches in the RBS Six Nations only three sides, France, Ireland and Wales are still in position to claim the Grand Slam title.

After this weekend’s round of matches in the RBS Six Nations only three sides, France, Ireland and Wales are still in position to claim the Grand Slam title. Mind you going into the weekend games the number of championshp contenders only amounted to four, with Italy and Scotland never in the running.

England had already surrendered Triple Crown hopes in Cardiff a week ago and Sunday’s result coupled with Ireland’s win in Murrayfield sees the World Cup holders slip below Eddie O’Sullivan’s side in the world rankings.

And how the English managed to lose in Twickenham is still a mystery. In the opening half, France were awful and by half-time they looked totally out of it. By then England had scored two cracking tries and such was the dearth of imagination, or inspiration about this French side, that the penalties that England missed didn t seem terribly important.

But as we saw Ollie Barkley miss a third on 29 minutes and Hodgson s fourth drift wide there was the distinct feeling that England would pay for their profligacy.

And they did.

Dimitri Yachvilli had kept chipping away and knocking the penalties over from distance but perhaps the miss that will haunt Hodgson the most came in injury time.

His forwards had battered a path into the French 22 and worked their way to the left of the posts, offering Hodgson an ideal position for the drop-goal. Patience and a clean dispatch from Matt Dawson teed the out-half up but Hodgson was way off the mark and that was that.

After the near miss in Parc des Princes last week the question asked was, were Scotland improved (beyond all recognition) or were France poor.

The answer came on Saturday in the course of the Murray field (mis)-match with Ireland. France must have been pure dreadful in Paris because save for the opening fifteen minutes and a brief period in the second Scotland were woeful.

They opened with a flourish but it was a start that flattered to deceive. Once Ronan O Gara had opened the Irish account with a penalty and then edged his side in front with his 25th minute conversion of Malcolm O Kelly s try, the Scots visibly wilted.

In the face of a superb, O’Kelly, Paul O Connell inspired forward display, they were made to look a very very ordinary side.

And so three sides will go into the next round of games on the weekend of February 25th with Grand Slam aspirations and when the games are over, at least one will emerge with those hopes shattered.

It s Wales v France in Paris and Ireland and England in Dublin and on what s been seen so far, you d imagine the bookies would be going short odds on France being the ones to slip off the pace.

With England looming, the talk is of a back-lash. However, pound for pound, this Irish side is better than the English and they are playing with a composure and confidence that will see the sweet chariot trundle into town more in hope than confidence.


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