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What we have learned so far from the 2014 Six Nations


It has been a miserable championship for Scotland and it could yet get worse

It has been a miserable championship for Scotland and it could yet get worse

It has been a miserable championship for Scotland and it could yet get worse

Six games into the Six Nations and there are two teams still in contention for a Grand Slam, three with championship hopes and two battling to avoid the Wooden Spoon.

Here is what we have learned after 480 minutes of action.

Scotland are worse than we thought

Perhaps it is fitting that the pitch in Murrayfield is in its current state, a reflection of the fortunes of the home side.

Vern Cotter might be having second thoughts about taking over from interim boss Scott Johnson in light of what he has seen so far, though it is a continuation from November.

They offered little attacking threat against Ireland and drew a blank last time out against England, which means they have gone four games in a row without scoring a try and have failed to even score in two of those defeats.

Johnson attempted to ruffle a few feathers by dropping some established players, but even this has failed to have the desired effect.

Italy will have high hopes of victory in Rome next Saturday and things are likely to get worse before they get better.

The Irish squad is as competitive as it ever has been

Despite losing Sean O’Brien to injury, Craig Gilroy and Simon Zebo only getting back to match fitness and Paul O’Connell missing the Scotland clash, Joe Schmidt will be happy to see the replacements staking claims for regular starting spots.

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This field is required

Competition is particularly fierce in the back row and on the wings, but the biggest shift is the development and introduction of quality prop forwards.

Marty Moore and Jack McGrath are progressing quicker than expected and such is the options available to Schmidt, Munster’s highly rated Dave Kilcoyne currently can’t get a look-in.

A welcome headache for Schmidt when it comes to team, and indeed squad selections.

Warrenball has its limitations

When it’s good it’s very, very good, but when it’s bad it’s horrid. Warren Gatland hasn’t exactly reinvented the wheel with Wales, just simply maximised the strengths of his playing squad which are power and physicality.

Agonisingly close to a World Cup semi-final and still in the hunt for a third successive Six Nations crown, it makes sense to utilise the strengths and skills of the likes of Mike Phillips, George North, Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert.

While it has brought success, on the days when it doesn’t go according to plan – see a number of games against Southern Hemisphere sides and Ireland at the Aviva – then the men in red look very ordinary indeed.

France can expect a backlash next week in Cardiff.

France playing up to their stereotype

No team lives up to the stereotype quite like the French, but their inconsistency is now apparent within games. The first half against England was as good as we have seen from Les Bleus in quite some time, while the second period was a reminder of why Philippe Saint-Andre has come in for such stinging criticism and they were fortunate to limp to victory with a late try.

Conservative at best, the game plan doesn’t seem to provide the best attacking platform for Wesley Fofana and Gael Fikou’s continued selection on the bench highlights that Saint-Andre prioritises pragmatism over flair.

Friday night’s game against a brooding Welsh outfit will make for fascinating viewing.

Red mist

The competition was without a red card since Scott Murray was given his marching orders for Scotland in 2006, and Craig Joubert promptly gave two in one go.

French replacement Rabah Slimani and Italian substitute Michele Rizzo were dismissed in Paris, though discipline has been good in the six games so far, with only Mike Phillips, Alex Dunbar and Sebastian Vahaamahina spending time in the sin-bin.

England have a real general

Danny Care’s talent was never in question, his attitude and temperament however has been a different story on occasions.

The Harlequins scrum-half is now making headlines for all the right reasons and he has been outstanding in both away games.

In a backline that is generally set-up for ‘up the jumper’ rugby, his creative spark has been vital for Stuart Lancaster, while his ability to land a drop goal has also proven valuable.

A brilliant passer, a sniping runner and sound defensively, he is the key to this England side that has its sights on a Six Nations title.

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