Morning Chronicle - Three things we learned from the Six Nations

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Three things we learned from the Six Nations
Three things we learned from the Six Nations

Three things we learned from the Six Nations

France cemented their status as pre-tournament favourites by launching their Six Nations campaign with a comprehensive 37-10 home win over perennial strugglers Italy on Sunday.

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Ireland also laid down a title marker by overwhelming reigning champions Wales 29-7 in Dublin on Saturday, while Scotland edged out England 20-17 in Edinburgh as their oldest rivals opened the Six Nations with a defeat for the third year in a row.

Below, AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from an intriguing first round:

Adams indiscipline sums up Welsh woes

For all Wales were without several first-choice players due to injury, they still had more caps in their side than the Ireland team that defeated them so thoroughly in Dublin.

What would have been a tricky fixture for even a full-strength Wales was made all the more difficult by the way they repeatedly conceded penalties, with Josh Adams's illegal shoulder charge on Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton the most blatant example.

Adams, normally a wing, had a frustrating match after Wales coach Wayne Pivac gave him a first Test start at centre, with his lack of specialist positional knowledge exploited by the Ireland midfield duo of Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose. For all that coaches like 'utility' players, this was another illustration of how Test rugby is no place to be learning the nuances of a specialist position.

Russell plays the percentages

Finn Russell has often been described as a 'maverick' fly-half whose capacity for inspired brilliance one moment is matched only by an equal facility for outlandish error the next.

Yet in a Calcutta Cup match where England dominated territory and possession, Russell displayed excellent judgement as he guided Scotland to victory. It was his precise cross-kick that led to a penalty try which tied the scores at 17-17 after England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie was ruled to have illegally batted the ball into touch.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend, himself labelled a 'mercurial' during his own career as a ball-playing Test back, kept faith with his chief playmaker for the full 80 minutes of a match that suggested the 29-year-old Russell is now into his rugby maturity.

By contrast, England coach Eddie Jones removed the 22-year-old Marcus Smith in the 63rd minute just after Russell's opposite number scored a well-taken try in a Six Nations debut where he was responsible for all of the visitors' points.

Menoncello's glimmer of hope for Italy

On the face of it, Italy's record-extending 33rd successive defeat in the Six Nations was an all too familiar story of an Azzurri defence simply unable to cope with the pace and power of superior opponents.

And yet Italy led early on in Paris when 19-year-old wing Tommaso Menoncello became the tournament's youngest try-scorer since 18-year-old Wales full-back Keith Jarrett touched down against England in the old Five Nations back in 1967.

Menoncello was one of four Test debutants selected by coach Kieran Crowley, whose youthful side suggested better days could lie ahead for Italy.

"They're young players who played well, they should be very proud of their first match for Italy," said Crowley, a former New Zealand full-back. "They will grow into it. Menoncello being the youngest to score in the Six Nations is something for him."