Six Nations prepares to crown victor – finally

Six Nations prepares to crown victor – finally

Morning all. For such a big and multi-dimensional country, I think its fair to say that the US does not offer as much as it should by the way of culinary delights. Rare is the day I say, “I want to go to American restaurant” or “Let’s order American tonight.” The fact that the word “American” isn’t really part of the takeaway lexicon speaks volumes for the lack of influence it exerts on global cuisine. (I am of course aware that, as a Brit, I don’t have much of a gastronomical leg to stand on).

Having lived on the US’ doorstep in Mexico for the past five years, however, I have come to realise that there are a few exceptions. There’s a Kansas City BBQ place down the road from me that does the greatest, juiciest corn-on-the-cob in the world. A good burger and chips is hard to beat. And corn bread. How f**cking good is corn bread?!

They also have pumpkin pie, which really comes into its own around this time of year. I’ve only discovered it in the past couple of years, but my God I love pumpkin pie. At once sweet and savoury, firm and tender, indulgent but (at least slightly) nutritious. Whisper it in these parts, but it might just be my favourite dessert in North America.

Anyway, sport. Rugby. When conoravirus was ravaging its way across the world in February and March, sports tournaments – along with all other cultural events – ground to a halt. Few were more greatly disrupted than the Six Nations, which was just building up to a fascinating conclusion before having to indefinitely postpone all fixtures just one week before the final round of matches.

After a six-month hiatus, international rugby finally returned to the sporting calendar this month when Australia and New Zealand got together for a couple of Bledisloe Cup games in preparation for the Rugby Championship in November. In the first match, which was somewhat incredibly attended by 30,000 fans, the Aussies threw away a brilliant chance to claim their first win in New Zealand since 2001 after conceding a late penalty to draw 16-16 in Wellington. In the second, normal service was resumed as the All Blacks returned to form with a convincing 27-7 victory in Auckland.

And last week the Northern Hemisphere sides got in on the action. France warmed up for their final Six Nations fixture – a potential title decider against Ireland in Paris – with a comfortable 38-21 victory over Wales. Scotland ran in eight tries in a 48-7 drubbing of Georgia and Ireland predictably thrashed Italy 50-17. Meanwhile, England’s match against the Barbarians was called off after 12 Babas players broke their COVID-19 bubble to go for dinner together in a London restaurant. After everything that has gone on this year, what a monumentally stupid thing to do.

Anyway, everything is now set up for a intriguing final weekend. England, France and Ireland all have the chance to win the tournament. Without getting bogged down in the nuts and bolts of all the permutations, England probably sit in pole position. If they beat Italy with a bonus point in the afternoon game – which feels almost certain given the Italians’ dire record at Twickenham – they will be crowned champions as long as France beat Ireland with a lesser margin of victory later that evening. Ireland could still win with a bonus point victory in Paris, but that is highly unlikely to happen given the strength of the current French side.

It’s been a strange tournament all in all. France looked fantastic in the early stages as they beat England and Wales with some typically flamboyant expressive rugby. They have a well-balanced team, with the dynamic strength of backrowers Gregory Aldritt and Charles Ollivon providing the foil for the silky skills of Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack and Anthony Bouthier in the backline. With the help of Sean Edwards as their defensive coach, I thought they looked destined to walk away with a Grand Slam until they self-imploded against Scotland.

England, meanwhile, seem to be suffering a hangover from their World Cup final defeat to South Africa in November. They were solid in grinding out victories in tough conditions against Wales and Scotland but lost to France after a sloppy display in Paris. Ireland and Scotland have also been plagued by inconsistency, while Wales – under new coach Wayne Pivac – and perennial wooden-spooners Italy have struggled. Throw into that a six-month break for COVID-19, and I don’t really know what to make of it all.

I guess I’m just happy rugby, and particularly the Six Nations, is back. In a funny way, I’m also glad that it has taken so long to complete. I always associate the tournament with frosty mornings, cups of tea and chocolate digestives, so it would have been strange to hold the remaining fixtures in the heat of summer, for example. I feel comforted to know that, even in Mexico, I’ll be wearing my jumper on Saturday.

Right, that’s all from me today. Have a good end to the week and I’ll be back here on Friday with an Arsene Wenger-themed Top 5. Until then.

How do you think the final Six Nations table will look this weekend? Let me know in the comments section below! —