Six Nations open thread

by Chris Bertram on February 3, 2012

At this time of year, we traditionally have an open thread on the Six Nations (if only to permit some deluded North American commenter to make the same lame joke about the Iroquois as has been made on previous occasions). I can’t really see beyond France, though they do have the capacity to collapse for no discernible reason. One of the first games is Scotland-England at Murrayfield, where most people seem to expect the Scots to win. I’ll be rooting for England, myself, despite a recent discovery that one of the Corries was a distant cousin. Thoughts, opinions, … anyone feeling optimistic about Ireland or Wales?



Niall McAuley 02.03.12 at 8:55 am

As usual, I’ll be backing Ireland against everyone else, and then everyone else against England, but I do think Wales have a decent shot this year. Which France will show up for the match in Cardiff?


dsquared 02.03.12 at 9:09 am

I am not sure that this isn’t the first time the word “optimistic” and the word “Wales” have been used in a grammatically correct sentence together.


Neville Morley 02.03.12 at 9:31 am

Ireland have an awful lot to prove after the World Cup – great victory over Australia followed by something of a shambles against Wales; no insult intended, but I’d worry that they’re in something of the same position as England have been for the last few years, relying too heavily on old stalwarts and not quite sure how to bring new players into the side without losing their shape. Wales have managed that spectacularly, and were the surprise package of the World Cup, but haven’t had anything like the same degree of preparation this time round and have a horrendous injury list. It pains me as a Welsh support to say it, but I’d tip Ireland for the win this weekend; however, they could well flatter to deceive, whereas if key players return in a couple of weeks’ time Wales should finish very strongly.

France remain entirely unpredictable; alleged Scottish revival remains unpersuasive to me, but I think they’ll probably win at Murrayfield; England will attempt to play more expansive rugby at Murrayfield, lose, and then revert to their traditional slow, forward-dominated tedium which no longer works in the way it used to, followed by another managerial bloodbath and further interventions from Clive Woodward to undermine the whole enterprise. They really are the gift that keeps giving at the moment, to the point where I almost start to feel sorry for them. Finally, it would be good to see Italy win at least one – preferably England, but playing Scotland at home should give them a chance as well.


Chris Bertram 02.03.12 at 9:42 am

Well that’s a fiver from me on France for the grand slam @ 4.7…..


Jim Henley 02.03.12 at 12:56 pm

I think the Iroquois have a shot. #tradition


Neville Morley 02.03.12 at 1:03 pm

When are we allowed to start using this as an analogy for the state of Europe, by the way?


mollymooly 02.03.12 at 1:38 pm

@Neville Morley: way ahead of you


Bruce B 02.03.12 at 1:54 pm

#6: Considering that I had to consult an outside source to find out what the hell the OP was talking about (rugby) and considering that the post mentions 5 out of the 6 nations and the only nation left out is the one southern European nation (Italy), I would say the post is a good analogy of the northern European discourse on the state of Europe.

The Iroquois are much more interesting.


ajay 02.03.12 at 2:22 pm

8: Ireland is also a southern European nation from the point of view of the eurozone crisis. It’s one of the SPIGIs.


deliasmith 02.03.12 at 2:35 pm

It was better when you got 3 points for a try, Clive Rowlands was kicking for touch [1] and Wales v Ireland on black and white TV was a study in grey.

[1] Wikipedia: In the 1963 Five Nations match against Scotland in wet and muddy conditions, Rowlands and David Watkins decided to kick for touch as many times as possible, with the result that there were 111 line-outs in the match.


Chris Bertram 02.03.12 at 2:52 pm

#8 Glad to have prompted you to self-educate.


ajay 02.03.12 at 3:19 pm

It was better when you got 3 points for a try, Clive Rowlands was kicking for touch [1] and Wales v Ireland on black and white TV was a study in grey.

Nowadays, through the miracle of colour TV, rugby at Murrayfield in February is a study in grey and brown.


rea 02.03.12 at 4:19 pm

In the 1963 Five Nations match against Scotland

So, it used to be the Five Nations, and now it’s the Six Nations?

Ae you sure this has nothing to do with the Iroquois?


Niall McAuley 02.03.12 at 4:34 pm

Before the Five Nations, it was just the Home Nations, no Johnny Foreigners allowed at all.


Mise 02.03.12 at 4:48 pm

Hang on its no longer three points for a try?!


Metatone 02.03.12 at 6:06 pm

I’d expect France to be more consistent in the past – and win the championship, but probably not a Grand Slam. Not sure who they will lose to, possibly Ireland.

I too am suspicious of the Scottish revival – to the extent that I can see England winning the game if they stick to their advance billing about how they will play. Score a couple of tries and I still don’t see this Scottish team keeping up.

Italy are getting better, but they still need some luck and nasty weather to bring a game in their reach.

Ireland feel like the new France, deeply unpredictable. They could explode into the form of their HEC sides and sweep to victory, or implode (as Neville mentions) under the weight of trying to replace any of their greats who fall to either age or injury.

Wales – so much depends on injuries. If they can get by Ireland and gain some momentum and get a player or two to step up and a player or two back they could surprise me. However, my feeling is that their performance in the recent past has linked to (a) responding more quickly to the rule changes (leading to Grand Slam form) or (b) Step-ahead of everyone fitness regimes (World Cup). There haven’t been the rule changes and I don’t think there has actually been the time for them to get a fitness edge on the other teams – who have all learned lessons from the WC too – and so in the absence of a fit and settled side I’d expect Wales to be mid-table. Probably beat Scotland, Italy and England.

Brave new England will stick to their new approach, Lancaster is like Guardiola, he believes in the system he uses. I think it will carry them past Scotland and Italy. England v Wales is too hard to call from here. The new approach could actually surprise the Irish, if the Irish are off-form, but England won’t beat France.


Scott 02.03.12 at 6:51 pm

As a Johnny Foreigner from the Southern Hemisphere, I’m a miserable creature with no right to an opinion, but I’ll be cheering on Scotland. Not that it will do them any good.


mds 02.03.12 at 6:52 pm

(if only to permit some deluded North American commenter to make the same lame joke about the Iroquois as has been made on previous occasions)

Quois custodiet Iro custodes?

… No, wait, that’s right, it was Henley’s version.


Eli Rabett 02.03.12 at 7:08 pm

The Scots had better revive as Eli is living about 200 m from the stadium and wants to survive.


grackle 02.03.12 at 7:44 pm

Can one assume that the Six Nations exists so that no one has to face the All Blacks?


ben in el cajon 02.03.12 at 8:07 pm

So I have two ignorant questions:

1) Does Rugby get to be called “football,” or do the English yell at you when you do so?

2) Europeans are now wont to claim that the Euros of football (association football) are a better competition than the World Cup because all the losers of the rest of the world aren’t involved. Is there a similar snobbery about the Six Nations?

3) Bonus ignorant question: Shouldn’t it be Six Nations’ ?


Chris Bertram 02.03.12 at 8:37 pm

1) Well Leicester Football Club play Rugby Union, and no-one yells.
2) Never met anyone who thinks that.
3) ?


jsavage 02.03.12 at 9:41 pm

2) Given six of the seven Rugby world cups have been won by teams outside of the Six Nations, it would be a difficult belief to justify.


Chunter 02.04.12 at 9:26 am

3) Terry Godwin, in his book ‘The International Rugby Championship 1883-1983’, wrote:

The International Championship has never been formally or officially recogised.
The International Championship, or as it sometimes described, the Five Nations’ [sic] Championship, is practically meaningless.

So, 20 years ago, the competition had no official status, and was generally referred to as the International Championship.

(Perhaps Godwin was a founder member of the Apostrophe Protection Society).


Chris Bertram 02.04.12 at 10:31 am

Chunter, 1984 might seem like 20 years ago, but it is nearly 30, in fact.

I’m now regretting not including a reference to the Calcutta Cup in the OP (and thereby omitting a reference to one of the sides playing for it), thereby confusing more readers.


Chunter 02.04.12 at 10:57 am

Chris Bartram: Er, yes. (I’m supposed to be a mathematician).


Chunter 02.04.12 at 10:59 am

Another mistake: Bertram, not Bartram.


Philip 02.04.12 at 11:02 am

Stoke City Football Club get accused of playing Rugby and their fans sing Swing Low Sweet Chariot. Apart from in club names football is soccer and if you called rugby ‘football’ then you would just be met with confusion (it is sometimes called Rugby Football). My football team is Sunderland Association Football Club. The main contention when using ‘rugby’ would be to which code you are referring (union or league), I take union as the default.


Chris Bertram 02.04.12 at 11:14 am

Well yes, Philip, but context is all re disambiguation. I’ve hears it said often of an RU player that he is “a superb footballer” or similar.


dsquared 02.04.12 at 11:20 am

I think the claim made for European superiority over the World Cup is made for the Champions’ League rather than the European Championship. The idea being that the clubs in the Champions’ League employ all the world’s best players and aren’t constrained by artificial national boundaries, and therefore you’re seeing a higher standard of play when it’s Manchester United against Real Madrid than you do in international games.

To be honest, I have only ever really heard this argument made by fans of Ryan Giggs, or any other talented player who comes from a country like Wales which never qualifies for the World Cup.


Philip 02.04.12 at 11:24 am

Chris, yes it can make sense in context. I thought the original question was referring to Brits criticising Americans for using ‘football’ as the general term for American Football and ‘soccer’ for Association Football.


Chunter 02.04.12 at 12:02 pm


The OED defines ‘football’ as ‘An open-air game played with this ball by two sides, each of which endeavours to kick or convey the ball to the goal at the opposite end of the field.   There are various styles of playing the game, but the most widely recognized are the Association and the Rugby Union and League games, and American football (see sense b below). ‘

and ‘rugby’ as ‘one of the leading forms of the game of football’,


Philip 02.04.12 at 12:13 pm

Chunter, I know they are all forms of football, I was just discussing how the words are generally used in the UK. With the OED definition I don’t know why they have the ‘open air’ bit in 5-a-side association football is often played indoors.


bert 02.04.12 at 12:40 pm

Are we ready to forgive England and the RFU? Seems a bit early to me.
Perhaps we need a judicial inquiry into what happened in New Zealand.
The whole England setup could be branded “institutionally shit”.
We’ll get an insight this afternoon into where the collective mindset is right now.


Niall McAuley 02.04.12 at 12:53 pm

When Irish commentators refer to a Rugby player like Tommy Bowe’s footballing skills, they are referring to the skills he learned playing Gaelic.


J. Otto Pohl 02.04.12 at 3:06 pm

Why does not it not surprise me there is a six nation thread and no African Cup (currently going on in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea right now) thread on CT?


bert 02.04.12 at 3:15 pm

You talk about African football and don’t mention Egypt? How very typical, JOP.


J. Otto Pohl 02.04.12 at 3:31 pm

Bert, Egypt did not qualify to play in the the Africa Cup of Nations this year despite winning the tournament in 2010 when it was played in Angola.


bert 02.04.12 at 3:40 pm

Take a moment to check the internet. There were some very newsworthy events in Egyptian football recently, but you don’t mention them. “Why does it not surprise me etc…?”
While we’re about it, mercifully, nobody on CT’s mentioned the Superbowl.


ben in el cajon 02.04.12 at 4:54 pm

1) good

2) by “that,” I assume you refer to the Rugby

3) Doh. After thinking for 10 minutes I realized how stupid I was. Only “America’s Cup” is possessive. By the way, those looking for socio-political analogues in sport should start with the yachting competition’s name and recent results.


ben in el cajon 02.04.12 at 5:04 pm

Oh, interested Americans can see the Scotland-England game now (12 et) on BBC America. Nice.


TheSophist 02.04.12 at 5:24 pm

Ben (#41) – Thankyou so much. I would have never noticed that otherwise. Now I know where my next couple of hours are going!

(The last time I saw Scotland play, Andy Irvine wore the number 15 jersey!)


Chris Bertram 02.04.12 at 6:00 pm

Well it wouldn’t be all that surprising to have a thread on the ACoN here, since I started ones on that very topic in 2004 and 2006. Of course, since then, we’ve all become extreme racists as a result of hanging around in the London pubs J Otto Pohl deplores and watching too many Bernard Manning dvds …. Any other things it “does not surprise you” to find us not writing about here Otto?


chris y 02.04.12 at 6:52 pm

I hope Chris Bertram didn’t back his instinct that Scotland would win at Murrayfield. That was embarrassing.


Eli Rabett 02.04.12 at 8:28 pm

Scotland, to put it politely, walked all over England, but neglected to score.


Andrew Burton 02.04.12 at 10:42 pm

At 0:10 in the Guardian’s minute by minute commentary onScotland-England, one Dan Lucas does assert that the Heineken Cup has a higher standard of play than the Six Nations:

I saw the first ten minutes and the last twenty minutes of the match. Not an advert for the sport. If anyone brought any flair onto the pitch, it was sent to the sin bin by a referee’s assistant.


Chris Bertram 02.05.12 at 5:09 pm

Terrific performance by Wales, and a deserved victory over Ireland.


bert 02.05.12 at 5:20 pm

Shame the result was a gift from the ref in the 79th minute.
But I hope anyone new to rugby upthread who forced themselves to sit through England-Scotland caught this match too.


nick s 02.06.12 at 4:10 am

It was good of England to remind me of why I always end up reaching back to my ancestry and cheering for the Celts.


NotJohn 02.06.12 at 3:11 pm

What a great match on Sunday!
Wales deserved to win, but there will be some reasonable sense of grievance in Irish ranks. Having said that bert @48 oversimplifies. Even without the penalty, which I’ll get to below, Wales had brought the ball forward 40 metres in just over a minute. The most likely scenario is that they would have manufactured a drop-goal chance, with 3 potential kickers making the block very hard.
As for the Davies/Ferris question. If Warburton’s red card was right, then Davies should have got a red as well. Ferris’s ‘tackle’ was an order of magnitude less unpleasant, but to me was still a penalty. I would go for Davies – Red, Ferris – Penalty and maybe Yellow. But also a Yellow for Ryan for his diving shoulder into Davies’ face which provoked his retaliation. Probable result – Wales win anyway.


Philip 02.06.12 at 7:45 pm

Ireland vs. Wales was a great match and I though Wales played a bit better. France vs. Italy: I felt France had a couple more gears they could move up and hope Italy’s new, more expansive, approach works for the. Scotland vs. England was dire but Scotland can’t take any opportunity to score a try. I think England could struggle against Italy and can’t see them beating anyone else.

Going back to Ireland and Wales it all goes back to the interpretation of a 2009 memo, which states:

– The player is lifted and then forced or “speared” into the ground. A red card
should be issued for this type of tackle.
– The lifted player is dropped to the ground from a height with no regard to the
player’s safety. A red card should be issued for this type of tackle.
– For all other types of dangerous lifting tackles, it may be considered a penalty
or yellow card is sufficient.
Referees and Citing Commissioners should not make their decisions based on what
they consider was the intention of the offending player. Their decision should be based
on an objective assessment (as per Law 10.4 (e)) of the circumstances of the tackle.

IMO Davies should have been sent off for dropping the player. Ferris should not have got a yellow but I could understand a referee givinga penalty, it just comes down to what is deemed as a dangerous tip tackle.


kevin quinn 02.06.12 at 9:58 pm

“At this time of year, we traditionally have an open thread on the Six Nations (if only to permit some deluded North American commenter to make the same lame joke about the Iroquois as has been made on previous occasions). ”

Death To The Tuscaroras!! You’ll be in The Short House When We Get Done With You!

Mohawks Rock!


Sam C 02.07.12 at 4:11 pm

On the question of whether the Six Nations is a better tournament than the Tri-Nations: yes, it is probably a better tournament but the rugby is definitely of a lower standard. It’s played over a short period (6 weeks) by teams that are reasonably well-matched (averaged over the medium term). With two well-matched teams, a rugby match is a lottery, especially if the weaker team is the home team, and either team can win. Oh yes, pundits can produce all sorts of post-match analysis to explain why that result was inevitable but few can actually predict accurately. A lot depends on chance: is this the day the kicker’s stats are better than his average or worse than his average? Does a speculative cross-kick bounce up into your player’s hands for an easy try or does it give the defender a clear run up the touch line to make good ground? Does your star player tweak a knee? Did a foot touch the line?

The Six Nations also is played in a group of close countries, so the crowd on any day will have a decent proportion of away fans, which adds to the atmosphere.

But for atmosphere, I think the best match in my locale is the grand final of the English professional league. The 4 top teams (from a league of 12) play two semi-finals, with (huge) home advantage according to league position, then the grand final is played at Twickenham, often with a capacity crowd of about 80,000, which can be reasonably evenly divided between the two teams. There you have two teams, both at the top of their games, both well-coached and with players who understand each other, going after the big prize. So it’s almost the same quality of rugby as the Six Nations internationals, but with less nervousness, less error, more space, more daring.

Oh, and rugby is never called “football” in my half-century in Britain. (“Rugger” for us public school types, perhaps, but that term went out of fashion years ago.) A rugby player who is a good “footballer” means one with good skill levels, not a lumbering gym monkey who just bashes into people.

I watched the Superbowl – I did feel sorry for the Americans, apart from the razzmatazz and the prize it was just the same as any other American football match. Or is that unfair? Whereas in rugby (and football, i.e. soccer), there is a huge difference between international and national tournaments. Having a match that’s just bigger because it’s more important is a little sad.


bert 02.07.12 at 5:05 pm

bq. I watched the Superbowl – I did feel sorry for the Americans

It built to a climax where a man attempting not to score accidentally scored by squatting down and toppling backwards onto his arse. The Americans seemed to enjoy it.


Tomboktu 02.07.12 at 11:59 pm

This should clarify the nations bit:

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