Lions Watch: Who impressed on Six Nations opening weekend?

Lions Watch: Who impressed on Six Nations opening weekend?

Finn Russell and Alun Wyn Jones
Scotland’s Finn Russell and Wales’ Alun Wyn Jones helped their sides win on the opening weekend

The stadiums had been closed to supporters on the opening weekend of the Six Nations – however crucial spectator was watching from the stands.

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland was in London and Cardiff as all 4 nations had been in motion.

It’s nonetheless not sure whether or not the Lions will have the ability to journey to South Africa this summer season, however there’s nonetheless hope the tour will go forward in some type.

So who impressed on the opening weekend?

Steering the ship

Eire’s Johnny Sexton has proudly and admirably worn the quantity 10 jersey on the final two Lions excursions, however the Irish stalwart can be nearing his thirty sixth birthday when the Lions journey to South Africa, and Gatland can be contemplating alternate options.

The opposite two main candidates at this stage went head-to-head at Twickenham on Saturday, and Finn Russell clearly got here out on prime in his Calcutta Cup battle with Owen Farrell.

Russell was influential as Scotland claimed their first victory on the residence of English rugby since 1983, making seven carries and extra metres off the boot (460) than another participant on the sector. He additionally scored greater than half of his aspect’s factors from the tee.

Farrell was surprisingly laboured as he struggled to launch the hosts’ potent backs, with former England full-back Mike Brown calling for the captain to get replaced by George Fordexternal-link – who stands flatter to the acquire line – in Italy.

Farrell has not performed for Saracens this season and it is clear England’s second highest factors scorer of all time will enhance as he regains his match sharpness, but it surely stays to be seen whether or not Gatland will favour his tried and examined pragmatic type or Russell’s aptitude.

In the meantime, Sexton’s Eire had been crushed in Cardiff and he struggled to inject a lot impetus into their backline, albeit they performed the vast majority of the sport with 14 males. The skilled fly-half made extra dealing with errors (two) than another Irish participant, whereas solely Keith Earls and Conor Murray made fewer metres (37).

With 12 minutes remaining, and Eire trailing 21-13, Sexton missed the possibility handy his aspect momentum by failing to achieve contact from a penalty. His alternative Billy Burns suffered an analogous destiny within the last act, however this was removed from classic Sexton.

Reverse quantity Dan Biggar additionally had a quiet recreation as he missed essentially the most tackles (three) within the Wales aspect.

The declare for captaincy

Alun Wyn Jones is a Wales colossus and his efficiency towards Eire was inspiring.

Sadly for Hugo Keenan, the veteran lock made three bone-crunching tackles, two of them on the Eire full-back simply minutes aside within the first half.

Taking part in his first recreation for 2 months after recovering from a knee damage, Jones made 25 tackles in whole, with solely Justin Tipuric finishing extra. Choice for the category of 2021 could be a fourth tour for the 35-year-old, however he continues to exhibit his longevity on the highest degree after lasting the total 80 minutes in Cardiff.

Scotland’s Stuart Hogg may also be within the hat for captaincy after a superb show from full-back. The visiting skipper made extra metres (112) than another participant at Twickenham as he led his aspect to victory from the entrance.

He additionally broke essentially the most tackles (eight) on the opening weekend.

Maro Itoje, but to captain England however tipped to guide the Lions, was a shining gentle on a soggy evening for England as he confirmed his dedication by charging down two Ali Value field kicks.

Farrell nonetheless stays a greater than viable selection, as he performed two of the three Exams towards New Zealand in 2017 at quantity 12, so the skilled vacationer gives another choice even when he’s not picked at fly-half.

Midfield contenders

In a perfect world, England’s Manu Tuilagi and Wales’ Jonathan Davies would pair up in midfield, however with each presently out injured, who might fill the void?

England handed a full debut to Ollie Lawrence at inside centre, but it surely was his reverse quantity and fellow debutant Cameron Redpath who impressed.

The previous England Beneath-20 worldwide, who rejected Eddie Jones’ advances to decide on Scotland, produced a efficiency that belied his years. Balanced working from 12 noticed solely Hogg make extra metres for the Scots.

Cameron Redpath
May Scotland centre Cameron Redpath be a shock inclusion within the British and Irish Lions squad this summer season?

He is clearly in need of Check match experiences, however former England scrum-half Matt Dawson stated Redpath was “on the aircraft” if he “performs 5 video games like he performed on Saturday”.

In the meantime, skilled Wales and Lions wing George North moved inside to quantity 13 towards Eire. He additionally marked his 99th Wales cap with a formidable strive as he noticed lock Iain Henderson within the inexperienced line earlier than throwing the dummy and sprinting clear.

Eire’s Garry Ringrose didn’t deserve to complete on the dropping aspect. Solely team-mate and wing James Lowe made extra metres than the surface centre (137) throughout all six groups, and his incisive strains and neat offloads (5) saved the Welsh defence trustworthy, regardless of their numerical benefit after Peter O’Mahony was despatched off.

The battle of the breakdown

The Scots by no means appeared like dropping management as they claimed that elusive win in England, and their tenacious efficiency was epitomised by lock Jonny Grey and flanker Hamish Watson.

The entire Scottish pack had been relentless of their ball-carrying and work on the breakdown, forcing England to concede 15 penalties, however Grey made a crew excessive two turnovers and 12 tackles, as Watson made 11.

Grey additionally carried the ball essentially the most of any Scot (16), whereas Watson broke extra tackles than another visiting ahead (4).

Warren Gatland

Billy Vunipola’s most up-to-date recreation was a pleasant for Saracens towards Ealing Trailfinders final month, and it confirmed at Twickenham as he didn’t impose himself with ball in hand, whereas Tom Curry didn’t look fairly as efficient with out his back-row associate Sam Underhill.

Each gamers have loads of credit score within the financial institution after enjoying a vital function as England gained the Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup in 2020, however they are going to be below the highlight within the coming weeks.

In Cardiff, again row Tipuric was dominant on the breakdown and made a formidable weekend-high 29 tackles as Wales got here from behind to beat Eire.

The blue scrum cap appeared to be in all places within the second half, and on this proof, the two-time Lion appears more likely to grow to be a vacationer once more.

One to look at

In addition to Redpath, one other teen who shone was Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit.

The 20-year-old produced a end within the nook with a contact of sophistication as he rode Tadhg Furlong’s deal with in mid-air earlier than grounding the ball with an outstretched arm.

The Lions are literally properly stacked up with speedy wingers from the final tour, however one other couple of tries like that, and Gatland can be pressured to take notice.

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