Let's get the non-events out of the way first. Scotland were abysmal against England and made a very limited English team look good. Take out Wilkinson and maybe Ellis and you don't have a spark of creativity in the back line. But England have now reverted to their World-Cup winning formula: keep it tight and let Jonny kick the goals. Their forward dominance will of course lead to tries as well but they are playing a low-risk limited game. Let's see how they fare against Ireland and France.
I was very tempted by the -14 spread on offer about France at 10-11. They beat it comfortably against an Italian team that can't score tries, despite their sturdy and competitive pack. But this was not a real match and France will get a nasty shock when they come to Croke Park and encounter a fired-up pack and creative backs. It looks like Scotland and Italy will be vying for the Wooden Spoon.
Ireland were unconvincing against a passionate but depleted Welsh team. The line-out was scrappy and our scrum was wheeled nearly every time - so most of our possession was of poor quality. But for virtuoso displays by D'Arcy and O'Driscoll we could have lost. The most satisfactory aspect was the defence, which never gave Wales the sniff of a try (apart maybe from Easterby's last gasp save). O'Connell was very subdued; O'Gara looked rattled most of the time; even the ever-reliable Stringer made a number of uncharacteristic errors.
But winning in Wales is difficult for even the best so this was a satisfactory start for Ireland.
Week 2 Predictions:
Ireland 21 France 14
England 38 Italy 9
Scotland 14 Wales 18