The curtain has fallen on the 2017 Six Nations, and what a tournament it was.
66 tries, 51 conversions, 68 penalties, two drop goals, umpteen tackles, rucks and lineouts not to mention countless bumps,thumps spills and thrills later we have a winner in the form of England.
It was the most competitive tournament in recent memory illustrated by the fact that only one team won away from home (apart from in Rome of course).
Michael Keaveny is here to provide a graded analysis of each nation’s performance…
England: B +
Not many can argue with the Red Rose’s position at the top of the class.
The manner in which they fought back to claim late victories against France and away to Wales, coupled with the manner in which Eddie Jones’ side put Scotland to the sword to claim the title meant they were deserving winners.
However, their struggles with Italy’s unorthodox tactics, and Ireland’s backs to the wall performance raises concerns over their on-field leadership, and also suggests that they are far from the finished article.
There is a sense of this being the one that got away for Joe Scmidt’s side.
Ireland’s inability to put long spells of good play (both in games and between games) cost them dearly.
A slow start against Scotland and a failure to convert pressure into points against Wales meant our mauling of Italy and two hard fought, bruising victories against France and England went unrewarded.
The campaign was not without its positives though, as the establishment of backup players such as Marmion, John Ryan, Niall Scannell amongst others as genuine viable replacements for our front line players, as well as securing a top World Cup seeding for the first time, not to mention the extremely satisfying manner in which he prevented Eddie Jones, Dylan Hartley, Mike Browne and their band of merry men from claiming back to back Grand Slams.
This will be viewed as a generally positive tournament by the tartan army.
Their opening day ambush of Ireland, along with their second half dismantling of Wales and their whitewashing of Italy means that the Scots finish the tournament with more than just moral victories and the tag of “plucky Scots”.
However, these tangible improvements aside, it is difficult to ignore their complete capitulation against England and also to shrug the feeling that they are relying too much on certain key players (Hogg, the Grays, Laidlaw)
A case of a lot of good work done, a lot more left to do.
A decent showing from Les Blues who earned their first top half finish since 2011.
France are the only side in the tournament who can claim to be halfway through a transition. A decent set piece, an overall improvement of team fitness and the establishment of two proper international half backs are signs that they are on their way back to their former selves.
However, their failure to close out the game against England and an overall lack of cutting edge mean this “transition” will continue for another while.
A very poor tournament from the Welsh whatever way you look at it. They looked blunt in attack, and this was amplified by the fact that they failed to secure a bonus point against Italy.
A spirited home win against Ireland does little to paper over the cracks of the Welsh set up.
They almost appear to be treading water, a point proven by the fact that only three international debuts have been given to Welsh players since the World Cup ( versus 20 debuts given to Irish players).
Italy showed signs of improvement throughout the tournament, for example the first hour against Wales, and the much publicised no ruck tactic against the English.
These are encouraging signs that Conor O’Shea is backing up the good work he did in the autumn, and the Italians certainly have a talented coach at their disposal.
However, some of their old failings are still a major issue, as evidenced by their mauling at the hands of Ireland, their whitewash versus Scotland and the most damning statistic of all; five defeats from five games.