So, at the end of the ultimately unsatisfying 2006 RBS 6 Nations tournament, France have emerged as the slightly unconvincing champions, edging ahead of Triple Crown winners Ireland with a superior points difference.
And was the final weekend a good one for the tournament’s London-based players?
On the up:
What a great few weeks it’s been for Thomas Castaignede (France, Saracens). Following his recall a few weeks ago, the experienced full-back has never passed up an opportunity to show his class. And during France’s snatched victory over Wales on Saturday, he demonstrated his worth repeatedly.
Playing for the final 30 minutes of the France-Wales match, another veteran Olivier Magne
(France, London Irish) would also have been proud to be a part of his team’s tournament victory. He hardly covered himself in glory on Saturday, but didn’t do much wrong either – and when you’ve just lifted the trophy, that’s good enough.
In England’s appropriate last-minute defeat to Ireland, Joe Worsley (England, Wasps) must have demonstrated his highest international work-rate to date. If only the rest of his teammates could have played with his commitment (and, on occasions, composure), the result of the match might have been very different.
Johnny O’Connor (Ireland, Wasps) didn’t spend much time on the field during Ireland’s victory over England, but he performed well when given the chance.
The BBC made much use of the jutting chin and frustrated scowls of the one and only Lawrence Dallaglio (England, Wasps) during their coverage of the England-Ireland match. However, for the match’s entirety, Dallaglio’s frustrations were confined to the touchlines, as he never made it off the bench.
The slow-passing Matt Dawson
(England, Wasps) replaced the just-plain-slow Harry Ellis for the last 15 minutes of the England-Ireland match, but wasn’t able to inject much energy into the English backs’ performance. England desperately needs some better scrum-halves.
Tom Voyce, Stuart Abbot and Simon Shaw (all England, Wasps) enjoyed rare starting positions for England, but were unable to make much of them. Shaw in particular did his team no favours by fitting the England second-row stereotype and getting himself sin-binned in the first half.
It was a hard weekend for Raphael Ibanez
(France, Wasps), whose enjoyment of the French victory must have been tempered by being on the unpleasant end of hard tackles, a sin-binning and an eventual substitution. Oh well.
Serial substitute Eoin Reddan (Ireland, Wasps) will have enjoyed Ireland’s victory over England, but must be champing at the bit to get off the bench and into Peter Stringer’s boots. Maybe next year.
No London-based player featured in Scotland’s narrow victory over Italy.
So what insights have emerged from this year’s tournament? England head coach Andy Robinson and his band of fellow incompetents are vowing to stay on and further ruin England’s 2007 World Cup prospects. Italy are finally really starting to compete with the Northern Hemisphere’s best, and Scotland have shown that they are not just the tournament’s perennial whipping-boys. Wales have reverted to their standard level of disappointment, tempered by occasional glimpses of “false dawn”, and Ireland (as worthy Triple Crown winners) are definitely regaining the flair and passion that they promised several years ago.
Finally, tournament winners France are as unpredictable but ultimately classy as ever – they’ll continue to keep us guessing until the last minute for the World Cup next year.
Picture taken from e_mulvey’s Flickr photostream.