High rugby hopes but lower expectations for Scotland
THE 2023 Six Nations rugby championship in Europe has moved into its middle section, with Scotland and Ireland showing the early way to the title. Scotland repeated their 2022 victory over a shocked England, scoring a converted try with two minutes left to give them a 29-23 victory, their first at Twickenham in 40 years.
They consequently retained the Calcutta Cup, narrowly won last year with a 20-17 score. This is the revered oldest international trophy in rugby. They also hammered Wales 37-7 to secure a maximum four points, giving them an effective joint lead with Ireland.
Scotland will probably therefore have some hopes of taking the championhip for the very first time in its 140 years history. But ahead of them are matches against the holders France, then against Ireland, the two recognised “power-houses” of the championship.
Ireland have also won their two opening matches, 34-10 over Wales who cracked badly in the second half. And an impressive victory over France by 32-19. This brought to an end France’s remarkable sequence of 14 winning internationals. Ireland and Scotland have both scored a total of 66 points.
However, Ireland have the easier ride ahead on paper with encounters scheduled against Italy, followed by a “cruncher” match against Scotland, which must favour the Irish even though they have to go to Murrayfield, Edinburgh. This might just be the match that settles everything.
Meanwhile England hammered out a 31-17 win over a spirited Italy yesterday (Sunday), with both sides showing fragile defences, but with many on-the-line escapes. And so they are in mid-table. There is much work to do by their new national coach Steve Borthwick.
As to Wales, this is certainly not the rugby force of previous years. They join Italy at the bottom of the log, having conceded 71 points while scoring only 17.
There is now a two-week gap before a resumption of the championship, which will feature Italy v Ireland, Wales v England, and Scotland v. France.
*Veteran sportswriter John Kelley, who contributes to The NewsHawks, who now lives near Portsmouth, England, is taking a keen interest on the Six Nations this season.