FRANCE v WALES
In terrible conditions in Paris, the Wales team initially tried playing too much rugby, forcing the game, leading to mistakes, turnovers and penalties. Despite the scoreline at the half, the French actually wasted a lot of their good possession by putting in a number of pointless kicks over the top with limited chase.
In the second half, Wales operated a much wider and aggressive defence. By being active and aggressive at the breakdown with just a tackler plus one to cause destruction at the ruck, they were able to commit only a small number of players there, leaving the defence to line up out wide and come up off the line at speed. This exerted the kind of pressure that caused France to self-destruct, creating the kind of panic that led to George North’s interception try.
IRELAND v ENGLAND
The result and performance vindicated Eddie Jones’s selections. The backline was balanced with Nowell and Tuilagi bringing the go forward, and Slade, Farrell and Youngs all offering tactical kicking options, whilst in the forwards George Kruis constantly pressurised the Irish set piece in the first half.
The physicality was on show throughout and ultimately England’s intensity was the game-changer. They forced errors throughout including five in open play and two holding on penalties and their line speed and two man hits nullified Ireland’s attack.
Mako Vunipola justifiably earned the most praise for his incredible 27 hits, but England’s aggressive defence was consistent across the park with a number of players making 15+ tackles. That intensity carried over to the attack with England winning every one of their 88 rucks as well constantly getting over the gain line with hard carries. However even when the slow ball came, they weren’t afraid to kick high and by putting on a good chase, win ball back in more favourable field position.
KEY TAKEAWAYS FOR OAs
- If we go behind early on, we just need to relax and trust in our system to go through the phases and regain our composure.
- Stay alive inside the ball. This allows us to get wider in defence and get off the line at speed
- No substitute for defensive intensity and work-rate. Aggressive two man hits and quick to get back to your feet and contest will always force the opposition into making errors.