So, the final score in the final match of the Rugby Union Six Nations has resulted in France winning the Grand Slam. England finish the tournament with easily the best performance of their tournament, a performance which gave a fascinating insight to the squad Martin Johnson will take to the Rugby World Cup.
This was not a good tournament for England – coming in third in the table, losing to Ireland and France, and with a draw to Scotland, but it was a tournament where Johnno matured as a manager, and where the England squad managed to finally slip into a new era of transition, where Johnny Wilkinson is not by definition the vital pin holding the operation together.
After a great 2009, this Six Nations was disappointing too for Ireland. Their defeat on the final day to a surging, electrified Scotland led by Andy Robinson was rated an 11/1 shot at kickoff. Losing also to France during the tournament, they will reflect that Jonathan Sexton is no replacement for the metronomic Ronan ‘the ego’ O’Gara. His confidence far outstripped his performance in every match in which he was favoured over O’Gara, taking kicks from way outside his comfort zone which simply didn’t pay off in the end. I don’t know anyone who thought Ireland deserved the championship.
Scotland, as noted, have lots to feel positive about. Their new manager has given them a level of self-belief I haven’t seen amongst the caledonian hoard in years, and it’s fantastic to see the sheer workrate of Dan Parks. He is stunning, and if they can hold the development curve they have managed through this winter and spring together, the World Cup could be a longer affair for them than they’re used to.
Wales had a disappointing time. Least said, soonest mended.
So, in conclusion, France were just too classy and well developed a squad this year to be beaten; Ireland hadn’t a chance, England came bloody close. I won’t make stupid predictions, but if I was to make any prediction, it would be England for a better World Cup than we thought they’d have under Martin Johnson.