Five takeaways from Saturday's Six Nations games

Sport360’s Niall McCague lists five lessons to take away from Saturday’s Six Nations matches.

Niall McCague
by Niall McCague
11th February 2017

article:11th February 2017

What we learnt from Saturday's matches.
What we learnt from Saturday's matches.

Sport360 picks out five of the most interesting talking points after England and Ireland’s respective wins.

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The winning streak continues

Wales dominated the tackle area and looked sharp in attack but couldn’t string together the killer pass to force a breakthrough midway through the second half.

England, on the other hand, seized an opportunity from a Wales slip-up to extend their unbeaten run to 16 games.

With Italy and Scotland awaiting in their next two matches, Eddie Jones’ side should equal the All Blacks record of 18 unbeaten wins by the time they roll into Dublin to face Ireland in five weeks.

Dylan Hartley rarely finishes a game but England have enough leaders

The England captain was substituted early again, with Jamie George entering the fray after 47 minutes.

Hartley has been substituted inside 60 minutes in his last six international games. Some may question bringing off a captain that early in a Test match and what it does to the dynamic of the team, but England have enough natural leaders to deal with Hartley’s absence.

With Maro Itoje stepping up, Owen Farrell a key figure, and Ben Youngs and Joe Launchbury captaining their respective clubs, Jones has plenty of leaders without Hartley’s on-field presence.

In George, England clearly have a better player who offers more in ball carrying ability and work-rate, but Hartley’s strength is his physicality, set-piece presence and experience.

Late decision making cost Wales the game

Leading by two points, Wales defended effectively for up to 30 phases before an attempted Jonathan Davies clearance kick failed to reach touch. From the ensuing England attack, Owen Farrell spread the ball wide to Elliot Daly who raced through from 30 metres to score the winning try.

In those frenetic moments, it’s important to think clear under pressure but in that position, it’s criminal for a player not to make touch even if it’s inside his own 22.

CJ Stander is a class act

The Munsterman was an inspirational presence at the Stadio Flaminio, battering Italy at every opportunity.

His sterling performance was capped off with three fine tries, as well as producing a Ronan O’Gara-esque kick to tee up Craig Gilroy for Ireland’s eighth try.

The 26-year-old continues to develop into one of Ireland’s central figures despite having only 12 caps to his name.

In addition to his scoring exploits, he made 22 runs (a total of 62 metres) and 10 tackles.

Surely, a shoe-in for the Lions?

Vast improvement from the Ireland bench

Ireland never looked in trouble but it was fitting to see some notable contributions from the replacements when introduced.

Stander, understandably received man-of-the-match as he started, but Gilroy deserves a special mention for his 30-minute hat-trick, evading each would-be tackler better than the next.

Josh van der Flier was outstanding for Ireland’s final try, John Ryan looked solid when introduced for Tadhg Furlong, and Ultan Dillane showed a touch of panache that was absent against Scotland last week.