6 Nations 2014: Be the Biggar man

And so a dream dies.

Wales’ hopes of winning three consecutive Six Nations Championships came crashing down courtesy of a 29-18 defeat at the hands of the English.

In all fairness, an impressive England side thoroughly deserved their win and players like Mike Brown, Luther Burrell, Danny Care and Courtney Lawes put in solid performances. England sealed a Triple Crown victory (beating the other three “home nations”- Wales, Ireland and Scotland) which comes courtesy of a competent, attacking team, who showed some great vision in the Wales match,

That being said, they did get a lot of help from a Welsh side that gave “sloppy” a bad name.

The boys never really looked like a genuine threat and there were far too many handling errors on display, which meant even our half-attacks stalled.

George North, aside from a few flashes was nullified by the English defence, and Taulupe Faletau was anonymous for the first half. Others fared slightly better although Gethin Jenkins suffered from seemingly being singled out by the referee (more on him later) to the extent that when his 10 minutes in the bin were up he opted not to return to the field.

The only performance in a red shirt deserving of real praise was Leigh Halfpenny, who’s sensational kicking earned all of the Welsh points. Unfortunately after making a try-saving tackle Halfpenny was forced to retire from the game and is now said to be out for the rest of the season, and means someone will have to fill his rather big boots next weekend.

Bad news for Wales as Halfpenny leaves the field.

Bad news for Wales as Halfpenny leaves the field.

Although Wales were weak around the park, the worst performance came from number 10 Rhys Priestland, who’s kicking from the hand was woeful. I’ve never been a massive fan of Priestland, who even at his best is merely passable. He impressed against the Italians, but he was terrible against the Irish and in the defeat of the French I struggle to remember him doing much. Against England he fell apart.

Rhys Priestland possibly replaying his kicking in his head

Rhys Priestland possibly replaying his kicking in his head

The frustrating thing about the Priestland situation is that Wales have two possible replacements- James Hook or Dan Biggar, who did come on after an hour of play, but who should have been called off the bench sooner. Changing the line-up clearly isn’t an issue for the coaching staff after they dropped Mike Phillips after his tantrum against the Irish. In my opinion Biggar should start against the Scots, he’s a solid player at 10 and a more robust player than Priestland, who sometimes looks terrified of taking a hit. His kicking is less erratic and also, I get a personal buzz from seeing him in the red jersey because in my past life as a sports commentator I was calling for him to join the Wales squad back in ’09, so whenever he does play I feel smug.

Watching the Wales game was immensely frustrating, not least because I did it with my English flatmates. Wales’ performance was so bad that I was almost as embarrassed by them as I am by these chumps:

*Shudder*

*Shudder*

Adding further irritation were the antics of referee Roman Poite, who sin binned Gethin Jenkins around 10 minutes into the second half having seemingly been singled out by the ref. I appreciate that this sounds like Welsh fan whinging, but that’s genuinely how it seemed, but the worst thing was that twice Poite called for the TMO (Television Match Official) and then appeared to not listen to their recommendations. That being said, he’s still not my least favourite referee, lagging behind Alain Rolland and Joel Jutge.

It’s now a three horse race for the title, after France and Ireland picked up the expected victories over Scotland and Italy respectively. With three teams tied on 6 points the France vs Ireland match looks set to be the decider.

I’d say Ireland are favourites at the moment, because after thumping the Italians 46-7 they now boast an 81 point advantage, so any victory against France will gift them the win, unless England win in Rome by more than 50 points. England should win, and that will be enough to place them in second place at least, but even away from home I think Ireland can edge out the French and take the prize, hopefully allowing Wales to finish third.

And if I’m being honest, an Ireland victory is the outcome I want the most- the French have been inconsistent and I can’t bear to think of the smug chorus of “Swing Low” that will echo around if England win, so next weekend, I’ll be cheering on Ireland.

irish

Round 5 predictions: Victories for England, Ireland and Wales (current score 8/12)

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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