6 Nations 2014 Rugby: Complete Power Rankings Following Round 2
Ireland sit on top of the pile as we head into the first break of the Six Nations.
The Irish have completed two-thirds of the Triple Crown with England next up at Twickenham in what is shaping up to be a pivotal clash in determining the title.
Ireland and France are the only two sides with 100 per cent records, and they remain on course to decide the Grand Slam on the last weekend in Paris if they can keep their respective bandwagons rolling.
It gets tough for them both in Round 3, however, as the French head to a wounded Wales and Ireland cross the sea to take on an improving England.
Here is how they stand.
It is hard to see Scotland salvaging anything from this championship.
They were beyond awful on Saturday. The well-documented problems with the Murrayfield playing surface don’t make it easy, but both sides had to deal with it on Saturday and the Scots got bogged down.
Their longstanding struggle to assemble anything resembling a dangerous back line was compounded by some curious selections by coach Scott Johnson.
The dropping of Kelly Brown for Chris Fusaro was ineffective, while the withdrawal of Dave Denton, their one powerful runner, early in the second half, all but removed the one threat they carried.
The Telegraph’s Paul Hayward has not pulled his punches Monday, calling for Scotland to shape up or ship out.
Dark days indeed for Scottish rugby.
Italy’s blunt attack and goal-kicking frailties cost dearly in Paris.
Having withstood an early French assault, they drew a string of kickable penalties from the breakdown as France tried to slow their attacks down, but could only convert one of them.
In the second half, after the home side had come to life for two quick tries and third gifted to them by an interception, the Azzurri pretty much monopolised the ball.
But their old problem of failing to convert pressure into points returned to haunt them, and Tommaso Ianonne’s try was too little, too late to repair the damage.
The defeat to Ireland was described by Warren Gatland as one of the most disappointing of his reign.
Wales were simply awful. They hemorrhaged penalties throughout the first half both at the scrum and breakdown, and their powerful strike runners had little to no success.
Against the assured Jonny Sexton, No. 10 Rhys Priestland looked devoid of confidence in his game plan. Meanwhile Mike Phillips spent more time moaning at the officials and trying to pick fights than he did trying to get his side going.
Skipper Sam Warburton looks short of match fitness, which is no surprise, but he should not be starting if this is the case. Wales need to find vast improvement before France roll into town.
A 20-nil victory is a result to be respected whoever it comes against in the Six Nations. But England may have had harder training sessions.
Their basics were well-executed throughout the side, but Stuart Lancaster will be a little occupied by their failure to score more points.
Luther Burrell’s burst should have lead to another try before half-time, and their second-half dominance should have yielded more than just seven points.
On a better surface Owen Farrell would have been more successful with the boot and perhaps more tries would have come England’s way.
They’ll take the win and look to sharpen up for the visit of Ireland.
Another wildly inconsistent display from France yielded their second win in as many games.
Early pressure brought little reward and it seemed for the rest of the first half as though they had run out of ideas.
Then a burst of energy early in the second half helped them pull clear before they clocked off again.
It’s hard to see them getting away with such a patchy performance when they travel to Cardiff for their first venture away from Paris in this championship.
Blindingly simple, ruthlessly effective. Ireland were the epitomy of these two virtues on Saturday as the set about squashing Wales in Dublin.
Their scrum was dominant, their lineout imperious, their rolling maul unstoppable. And in Jonny Sexton they had a man able to execute his coach’s game plan to the letter.
He pinned Wales back with the boot and Ireland’s kick chase meant the dangerous Welsh runners could make no inroads from deep.
There was nothing tactically ingenious about Joe Schmidt’s strategy. The beauty was in the delivery, and his players delivered in spades.
In truth, with Scotland in the doldrums and Wales so clearly off-colour, Ireland are yet to be tested in this campaign, but they look in fine fettle as they head to Twickenham in two weeks’ time.
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