Wales landed a well deserved 3rd Grand Slam in 8 years at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday beating a disappointing French team relatively easily but perhaps that is simply a sign of a highly talented team, performing effectively in front of a hugely partisan crowd! Well done Wales, a deserving winner, lead by the most talented back line in the 6 Nations.
England the most improved team in this years’ competition, deserve many accolades not least for discarding under performing superstars and demonstrating the importance of team work and effort, and also for redeveloping the players enthusiasm for playing on that stage.
By far, Stuart Lancaster, a good Scotsman, was my coach of the year for the results, team selection and discipline he installed in the new look England team. If England do appoint a different Head Coach over the next few weeks many commentators will be devastated, as he has reminded the sport of some of the basic skills and values need at this rarefied level. Ireland on Saturday found the run of 4 matches over 4 weekends simply too much of a physical challenge, and were submerged by the home team.
The match of the weekend, perhaps not in terms of the impact on the Championship but in terms of honest endeavour, emotion and raw passion was found at the magnificent Stadio Olimpico. Unfortunately, this was provided only by the home team and Italy ran out a far more comfortable winner than the score line of 13-6 would suggest. Man of the match Martin Castrogiovanni and Sergio Parisse simply took Scotland apart in the forwards, an area where the Scottish pack had been hoping to dominate.
Unfortunately Scotland’s singular contribution over the weekend was to the Italian catering and drink industry- indeed a number of establishments visited needed to place additional orders for Guinness. Italy deservedly win the award as hosts of the tournament.
Whether the Scottish team were overawed by the impressive stadium, the rousing and award winning anthem of the tournament, or the direct and effective Italian performance, only one team deserve to win, and actually the final score probably should have been more decisive. That being said Scotland did win the Wooden Spoon but perhaps deserved a full canteen of wooden cutlery for their efforts.
Best supporters award again is presented to Scotland.
While this might be biased, the kilted travelling fans made a significant impact on Rome, and shrewd and careful substitutions in bars, clubs and hotels over the weekend made the Scottish fans performance exceptional and memorable. Perhaps with some additional recruitment, coaching, and skills development over the next 9 months, we might be in a great position to retain this hard won accolade next year.
The Glen Grant support to National and Club rugby in Italy has been significant at a time when rugby is growing rapidly in Italy, with a playing population of around 3 times that of Scotland. Well into the early hours of Sunday morning, at one of Rome’s top night clubs, players of both teams were doing what generally comes naturally in most rugby circles, but not necessarily in the professional ranks, enjoying each others company after a tough and arduous campaign.
For all their activities over the season but particularly over this weekend, Glen Grant is awarded the well deserved accolade for hosting the “party of the tournament”.
So it is all over now for another 6 Nations series, but the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup and the RaboDirect pro 12 rugby competitions are still ahead, before the long preparation for next years 6 Nations.
Bob Cunningham, former Scottish Rugby Internationalist.