LONDON, United Kingdom, Feb 27 – France stayed on course for a Grand Slam with a commanding 36-17 win away to Scotland, as England and Ireland remained in Six Nations title contention.
Below, AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from this weekend’s third-round action:
Baille play a sign of France’s progress
France ran in six tries during a dominant display at Murrayfield.
Perhaps the pick of the bunch came in the 13th minute when prop Cyril Baille charged up in support of a stunning back-line move before, despite being forced into a corner by five defenders, somehow managing a pass that sent in Yoram Moefana.
It was hard to know if Baille’s fitness — he kept going until the 58th minute — or skill was the more admirable quality.
Not that long ago France teams were characterised by raw, if often sluggish, power.
But coach Fabien Galthie, appointed after Japan 2019, clearly has no time for players with suspect stamina levels and that should make France all the more dangerous contenders for the game’s greatest prize when they stage next year’s World Cup.
Scrum delays still blighting the game
England’s 23-19 win over reigning champions Wales in a scrappy contest was blighted by several delays, especially at the scrum, with former England hooker Brian Moore lamenting the “interminable” stoppages in a Twitter post.
Scottish referee Mike Adamson could have imposed his authority earlier on at Twickenham, but scrum resets have been an issue for more experienced officials.
A side-effect of efforts to reduce the risk of injury caused by ever-stronger players at the scrum, which were not always lengthy affairs, is that what should have been an 80-minute match took, according to Moore, 101 minutes to complete.
Law of unintended consequences hurts Italy
Italy suffering a 35th successive Six Nations defeat was no surprise and they were duly thrashed 57-6 by Ireland.
But an already difficult task was made all but impossible by Italy having to play an hour of the game in Dublin down two men after losing both of their hookers.
Gianmarco Lucchesi was injured after nine minutes and his replacement, Hame Faiva, had not long been on the field when he was sent off for a high tackle on Dan Sheehan.
Italy lacked anyone else capable of playing hooker and that meant they also suffered the extra punishment of being reduced to 13 men after forcing a need for uncontested scrums as a result of having a specialist front-row receive a red card.
The law, correctly applied by Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli on his Six Nations debut, is designed to stop teams nullifying their opponents’ scrum by exploiting a safety measure.
A sport built on the principle of running forwards while only being allowed to pass the ball backwards is bound to create anomalies, but it was no wonder that Italy coach Kieran Crowley said of Sunday’s bizarre situation: “It is something that World Rugby will have to look at.”