By David van der Merwe
The week leading up to the second weekend of Six Nations Rugby was filled with some interesting talking points. First there was the Scottish try that was but wasn't given. In the eyes of the Scots a clear try however not given. In my eyes at most a 50/50 decision.
Discipline issues grazed the headlines and in the end all were happy with the 7 week ban handed out. But the big talking point was the pitch in France. Tents erected with blowers and heaters put on, because the field was frozen. And a wait till game day to decide if play would continue or not. But let us get to the action of what transpired over the last few days of Six Nations rugby.
ITALY vs ENGLAND
My prediction for this game was England to win by 16 or more. I made mention that if Italy ever had a chance to beat England it would be this game. What this boy from Africa didn't consider was the weather. The worst we get here in South Africa is a water clogged field but never a snow covered pitch with sub-zero temperatures. I mean over here freezing cold is between 8 and 16 degrees and weather interference is due to heat.
England started of well keeping Italy at bay and scoring the first points through a penalty. And up till about 8 minutes to go in the first half look in control. And then a silly mistake. Italy put a grubber kick through that England could not control. In fact England looked like they have never encountered a grubber before. Giovanibattista Venditti fell on the ball as Ben Youngs spilled it over the try line. From the kick off England got the ball back and 50/50 pass on half way saw Tommaso Benvenuti intercept and score Italy's second try. England fought back in the second half after being 15-6 down. A Charlie Hodgson charge down and 6 more points from Farrell saw England salvage the game 19-15.
England never looked comfortable or totally in control of the game. The weather didn't make it any easier but both teams had to play in it. England made it purely because Italy ran out of steam once again in the second half and Charlie Hodgson's was quick off the mark on opposition kicks. England will have some thinking to do before their game against Wales in 2 weeks time. Defensive lapses and a lacklustre attack will see them struggle against the Welsh.
Italy will take a lot of confidence out of this game although they lost. They made England defend when they started running with the ball. Their awareness on the field paid off as they scored two soft tries against England. Hosting Ireland in 2 weeks time in Italy might just play into their hands, as Ireland might just play France next weekend. Italy will however be well advised that a game is indeed 80 minutes long and not 60 minutes as calculated by previous Bok coach Peter de Villiers.
FRANCE vs IRELAND
The most controversial game of the weekend and it was never played. Thursday it was announced that the game might be called off due to pitch conditions. 2 hours before the game Dave Pearson announced play will continue only to postpone the game mere minutes before kick off. Reason being the pitch not being playable and player safety at stake.
FFR President Pierre Camou was clearly not happy with this decision and neither were the 78000 fans. Especially those who had travelled from Ireland. The IRB however supports Pearson and says player safety comes first. Wonder how they then explain play carrying on when a player is down injured. Is this not as dangerous as a frozen pitch? And did no one hear the French TV official who suggested the kick off being moved forward to the afternoon when conditions were much better?
In a game where money seems the most important factor these days it seems like money for once lost. Just a last comment on this to make a point: "Please never let Dave Pearson come to Kimberley to officiate a game. The field in winter barely has a tench of green and is hard as rock, yet we play Super Rugby and Currie Cup games on it." Rugby is a game of hard hitting tackles and hard men playing it, not a game played on mattresses by softies. So we will have to wait till next week or the first weekend in March to see if my prediction for this match is good at all.
WALES vs SCOTLAND
My prediction for this game was Wales to win by 7. Was it not for referee, Romain Poite, ruling a knock-on when Scotland's Stuart Hogg clearly scored a try, I might have had the margin spot on.
I must salute the Scots for having the roof closed over the Millennium Stadium, making conditions ideal for running rugby. The first half however never lived up to expectations as it ended 3-3. The most exciting moment of the first half was my goldfish giving birth. But the second half sure made up for it. Four tries, one disallowed try and two yellow cards made for some good running rugby and a brilliant fight back by Scotland.
Wales again showed that on attack they are dangerous. Defensively they were not bad and they kept Scotland at bay. Overall they don't have much to complain about and will work on some finer points over the next two weeks. They will face an England team growing in confidence but that still has to prove that they are a quality team.
Scotland will once again rue the chance they had but didn't use. They looked very good on attack and can surely complain about the disallowed try. The fact that they got two yellow cards should worry them as this cost them the game. Their attacking play were brilliant and their ball control improved a lot. Still some work to do before they tale on France in the next round but Andy Robinson should be a much happier man this week.
Follow Dave on Twitter @djvanman