Six Nations: How each country fared before the competition was suspended
The 2020 Guinness Six Nations saw four matches postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak and is unresolved in terms of its title destination.
Here, the PA news agency looks at the performances of each nation so far.
Life after the World Cup in Japan, when England were beaten finalists, could hardly have started on a more painful note as they came horribly unstuck against a rejuvenated French team in Paris. It went badly wrong for Eddie Jones’ team that day, and although they recovered to defeat Scotland in an Edinburgh monsoon, it was not until the first 40 minutes of an emphatic victory over Ireland that they truly hit their straps. Wales at Twickenham two weeks later produced another win, which clinched the Triple Crown, but again it was not entirely convincing. It proved a rollercoaster Six Nations season, but it is a tournament that England can still win if the competition is resumed.
New Wales boss Wayne Pivac experienced his first Six Nations campaign, and his team began their title defence well by crushing Italy 42-0 in Cardiff. But three successive defeats then followed – the first time Wales had experienced such a Six Nations losing run in one season since 2007 – which ruled them out of silverware contention. Pivac is trying to evolve Wales’ style of play post-Warren Gatland and there were green shoots – notably flanker Justin Tipuric’s stunning try against England – but the second half of this year will be challenging, with Wales scheduled to face New Zealand three times before meeting world champions South Africa.
Scotland’s campaign was overshadowed by the Finn Russell saga, with their brilliant fly-half playing no part in this season’s tournament following a breach of team protocol. It undoubtedly affected attacking options, but Scotland performed solidly throughout, bouncing back from narrow defeats against Ireland and England to beat Italy and then demolish French Grand Slam hopes through a convincing and clinical display at Murrayfield. New captain Stuart Hogg, despite a couple of high-profile individual errors, led impressively, while prop Rory Sutherland was a dominant force in an impressive pack. A campaign when positives outweighed negatives.
Andy Farrell gathered the coaching reins in Ireland, taking over from Joe Schmidt, and it is difficult to make a considered judgement on the Irish after two of their five games were postponed. An underwhelming performance against Scotland still produced a victory, while misfiring Wales were dismissed in bonus-point fashion by a team that did not move out of third gear. The worry for Irish fans will be the way England then dismantled Farrell’s men at Twickenham, especially during a dominant first-half display when Ireland’s forwards were horribly outgunned and revered half-backs Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray had an afternoon to forget. The jury is still out on Farrell’s Ireland.
Easily the most improved team in this season’s tournament, France – along with England and Ireland – maintain realistic title hopes should the competition reconvene. Under new head coach Fabien Galthie, and driven by the masterly direction of defence guru Shaun Edwards, Les Bleus lit up the Six Nations in their opening game by seeing off England. They also defeated Italy and edged out Wales in comfortably the best match from 11 played. Defeat to Scotland ended hopes of a first Grand Slam since 2010, but France are back after a lengthy spell in the doldrums, and they are being inspired by an exciting generation of newcomers, led by half-backs Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont.
Italy, once again, propped up the rest. A 15th Six Nations wooden spoon beckons, and in two of their three games played – against Wales and Scotland – they failed to score a point. Their inspirational former captain Sergio Parisse is poised for international rugby retirement, and there appears to be little hope of the Azzurri being genuinely competitive any time soon. The Six Nations promotion and relegation debate continues to be fuelled by Italy making no impact on the competition whatsoever, and it proved another campaign to forget.