Six Nations

Six Nations 2024: the story so far

The 2024 Six Nations has showcased some tantalising rugby over the past few weeks, from flying wingers to marauding back-rowers, we’ve seen it all.

Ireland will clinch victory with one round to spare if they claim a bonus-point win in Twickenham, while England’s attacking struggles persist.

We take a closer look at the standout talking points from the 2024 Six Nations so far ahead of a blockbuster final couple of weeks of rugby.

Irish dominance

Not many would have been bold enough to predict a repeat of Ireland’s imposing run that brought them their fourth Grand Slam at the 2023 Six Nations.

But, having registered a ruthless three bonus-point wins from three to start this campaign, they find themselves as heavy favourites once more. 

They kicked open their account with a stellar 38-17 win in France, in a blockbuster curtain-raiser that was dubbed by many as the tournament’s ‘deciding’ fixture. 

An utterly perfect performance to thump Italy was then followed up by a statement win over Wales to secure their 11th win on the bounce in Six Nations matches, the joint most in history alongside Eddie Jones’ England.

“Ireland are the best team in the world, I’ve just never seen a team so complete,” said former Wales captain Sam Warburton. 

Ireland’s dazzling attacking displays have been the cornerstone of their dominance in the competition, showing no signs of slowing down in the post-Johnny Sexton era. 

Head coach Andy Farrell has also been pleased with his side’s defensive stability and physicality. 

“Our defence is top drawer, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “It has been for quite some time.” 

Now, Farrell’s men are in a commanding position to become the first team in the Six Nations era to clinch back-to-back Grand Slams.

What’s going on with France?

From one team who have shaken off their World Cup disappointment to one that hasn’t, as France have clearly been struggling to cope without their captain Antoine Dupont. 

The scrum-half swept the player of the tournament award three times in the previous four editions of the Six Nations, but he is not the only thing Les Bleus are missing.

Confidence appears to be at an all-time low in the camp following their heart-breaking defeat to the eventual world champions South Africa in Paris.

And the French team have allowed it to creep into their performances. 

Their level in the loss to Ireland and the 13-13 draw with wooden spoon contenders Italy was a mere shadow of the team that claimed Grand Slam success in 2022.

The string of worrying on-field showings has provoked former France manager Guy Noves to lash out at current boss Fabien Galthie. 

“During my tenure, I did not receive the tolerance that exists today in the French team,” said the 70-year-old in an interview with Le Parisien. 

Despite these claims, French Rugby Federation president Florian Grill has confirmed that Galthie is “absolutely not in danger” of losing his job. 

England’s disappointing attack

England may have been delighted with a third-place finish at the World Cup in October, but the shaky showings did not fill the nation with optimism heading into the 2024 Six Nations competition. 

And they had reason to be concerned, as the puzzling performances have carried through and England have registered just six tries from three outings.

They kicked off the campaign with unconvincing wins over Italy and Wales and, after a fourth straight loss in the Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland, they are left with little hope of success.

Steve Borthwick’s side struggled in the attacking phases at Murrayfield, and the 24 handling errors made in a broken back line are reflective of the issues.

They will have their backs up against the wall once more when they face heavyweights Ireland next week, but wing Elliot Daly says their plan to attack is the ‘clearest’ it has been in years. 

“We’re very clear on how we want to attack,” Daly told BBC Sport. “I think it’s the clearest we have been in years.

“We are going into these last two games against Ireland and France to get exactly what we want out of them.”

Italy penalty drama

The first three rounds of matches have not been without controversy, but perhaps the most contentious decision came in the dying embers of Italy and France’s clash in Paris. 

With the match poised at 13-13, Italy looked set to seal a historic win over France and bolster their chances of avoiding a ninth successive wooden spoon with an injury-time penalty, but Paolo Garbisi’s kick rebounded agonisingly off the post. 

During the Italian’s routine, the ball fell off the tee and he was forced to rush his kick with the shot-clock closing in on zero, resulting in a misplaced kick. 

The complaints were aimed at Yoram Moefama, the French wing who made a burst towards the ball once it had been replaced on the tee, causing Garbisi to rush the remainder of his routine. 

But Christophe Ridley, officiating his first Six Nations match, did not allow the kick to be retaken. 

“If you look back at it now then definitely the kick should have been given again,” Marius Goosen, Italy defence coach, told Telegraph Sport.

“But we all know in that pressure-cooker situation, as a referee, it’s not that easy to always make the right call.” 

On any other occasion, the Italians would have been delighted with a draw against a calibre of opponent such as France but, after spurning the opportunity to claim a statement win, it was nothing but heartbreak for the Azzurri. 

Six Nations 2024 – what next?

After an interim fallow week, we are left with plenty more mouth-watering clashes to pull the curtain over another tense edition of the Six Nations. Here are our top picks from each of the remaining weekends.

England vs. Ireland, Twickenham, round four

Ireland will travel to the home of English rugby with an imposing sense of assurance as they aim to further their chances of an increasingly likely second successive Grand Slam. 

England haven’t looked the sharpest in attack but past results will go out the window when they walk out in front of the 82,000 in south west London, or will they? 

Wales vs. Italy, Cardiff, round five

Will it be a ninth consecutive bottom-place finish for the Azzurri after their round five conclusion?  

Although Wales scored narrow defeats to Scotland and England, Italy have impressed greatly and their resurgence of form might be just enough to leapfrog the Welsh after their clash at the principality.

Feature image credit: Daieuxetdailleurs via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 4.0 licence

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