It has been an eventful month in the world of Rugby, with the 2023 Six Nations getting underway, the women’s Interpros concluding and the URC intensifying. Here is your guide into the last month of Rugby!
Six Nations Deep-Dive
With three rounds completed of the 2023 Six Nations, Ireland currently sit top of the table after recording three wins in the opening rounds, picking up bonus points in each game. Ireland put Wales to the sword in Round One, registering a hugely impressive 34-10 win away from home. In Round Two, France came to Dublin in what was an absolute classic. It was a tight contest, but Ireland managed to record a 32-19 win, again picking up the four tries necessary for a bonus point. In Round Three, Ireland faced a hugely improved Italian side, who caused the Irish defence serious problems throughout the contest. Nonetheless, Ireland managed to win 34-20 and secure another bonus point in Rome. Up next for the men in green is a trip to Edinburgh for the clash against Scotland on Sunday 12th March. Just one week later, England will come to Dublin on Paddy’s Day weekend in what promises to be an epic clash. If Ireland manage to beat Scotland, this could be an opportunity for Ireland to win a Grand Slam in Dublin for the first time ever.
Scotland have had a bright start to their Six Nations campaign, beating England 29-23 in Round One, before thrashing Wales 35-7 in Murrayfield. When Scotland faced France in Paris in Round Three, their prospects looked grim after 20 minutes, conceding three tries and a red card. However, they showed a level of determination that has been missing from Scottish teams of late, and fought their way back into the game, only for France to secure the victory in the final minute. Scotland can take much confidence from this performance as they prepare to face Ireland in Edinburgh on March 12th in what promises to be a thriller, and could potentially be a championship defining match.
After an opening round defeat to Scotland, England have responded with two wins in a row against Italy at home, and Wales in Cardiff. England sacked head coach Eddie Jones in December and appointed Leicester Tigers coach Steve Borthwick to be his replacement. England are undergoing a period of transition between coaches and have therefore lacked cohesion and dynamism at times, as was evident in their 29-23 loss to Scotland. They have bounced back and beaten Italy and Wales since, although owing much of their success to the mistakes of their opponents. England will play France in Twickenham next, before travelling to Dublin for the final round of this year’s championship.
France’s Six Nations campaign has been mixed thus far. In Round One, they faced an inspired Italy side who, arguably, should have won. France’s discipline was poor and they looked uncharacteristically reserved. The following week in Dublin, France put Ireland to the test and made life difficult for the home side, before eventually succumbing to a 13-point defeat. Again, France looked lacking in structure, with their only try of the game coming from broken play. After a rest week, they faced a confident Scottish side in Round Three in what was a proper test match filled with drama and some brilliant rugby. First half red cards to Scotland’s Grant Gilchrist and France’s Mohamed Haouas ensured it was a tough day in the office for referee Nika Amashukeli. France went on to win 32-21 after a gripping contest and will have a week to recover before facing a trip away to England, followed by a visit from Wales to close out the tournament.
Despite suffering 3 defeats in the opening 3 rounds, Italy can take many positives from their performances. Italian rugby has had a significant resurgence over the past 12 months, starting with their famous victory over Wales in last year’s six nations. This year, the Italians have produced spirited performances in Rome to push both Ireland and France very close, just falling short in the end. In between those two fixtures, Italy were comprehensively beaten by England in Twickenham, who were fired up after their opening round loss. Wales travel to Rome next time round, and the Italians will be sensing a real opportunity to record a victory in front of their home fans.
It is safe to say that Wales have been well below their best in this year’s championship. Previous Head Coach Wayne Pivac was sacked in December after a disastrous time in charge, with previous manager Warren Gatland re-appointed. His homecoming has been rather underwhelming, however, as his side currently sit bottom of the table after 3 games. Wales were blown away by Ireland in the opening round, and despite a second-half surge, were unable to pose any threat. In round 2, they were comprehensively beaten by an in-form Scottish side after they collapsed in the second-half. In what was a cagey third round match against England, Wales fell to a 10-point defeat in front of a despondent home crowd. Two difficult fixtures remain, with trips to Rome followed by a trip to Paris looking increasingly ominous.
Elsewhere in the World of Rugby, Munster have been crowned champions in the 2023 Women’s Interprovincial Championship, winning the championship for the second year in a row. Munster began the competition strongly, beating Ulster 34-0 at the start of January in Cork. In what was a commanding first half, the Munster women had wrapped up a bonus point with 10 minutes still to play in the first half.
The following week, Munster made it two from two as they beat Leinster 26-17 in what was a much tighter contest. Tries from Deirbhile Nic a Bháird, Róisín Ormond, Clodagh O’Halloran and Stephanie Carroll put Munster in a strong position to reclaim the championship the following week.
In the deciding match, Niamh Briggs’ side beat Connacht 50-24 to clinch the Interpro Title, thanks to a brilliant second-half performance in which they scored 5 tries away from home.
Worcester Rugby Fiasco
Across the water, the ongoing fiasco of the Worcester Warriors situation continues. In September 2022, the historic club entered administration after a tax dispute with HM Revenue and Customs. As a result, the club was suspended from the English Premiership and all listed staff had their contracts terminated. Recently, the RFU announced that there would be no place for Worcester in next year’s Championship, despite their proposed rebranding.