Exeter exhibited the full range of its fighting capabilities as they battled back from a 12-3 half-time deficit to win against Northampton Saints and reach the summit of Aviva Premiership table.
England’s win over Wales and the victory for Scotland over France gifted the Red Rose the RBS 6 Nations Championship with a round to spare. Rounding off the action, Ireland bounced back in style over Italy.
Two teams that are trying to gatecrash the party of England and Wales at the top – France and Scotland, will square off in the weekend trying to see who can move up the table.
What do you do to the team that has just won a game? Simple, do not change! And that is exactly what head coach Warren Gatland has done as he named an unchanged Wales starting XV for the game against England on Saturday.
Scotland head coach Vern Cotter rang in changes in his squad ahead of their 2016 RBS 6 Nations clash in Italy. Cotter will be without Blair Cowan and Sean Maitland this weekend as his side try to grapple with various issues.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt let everyone know of his side’s need for a turnaround by adding three new players to his squad ahead of the clash against England. Chasing a three-peat, the Irish have been nowhere near their best by picking just a single point from the first two rounds.
France and Italy played a great game to open their campaign in RBS 6 Nations which eventually was won by France 23-21 at Paris. It could easily have been a different result if Sergio Parisse’s last-gasp drop goal wasn’t dragged wide for Italy.
France coach Guy Noves made six changes to the side that won on the opening weekend for the round two clash against Ireland. Some of these changes are tactical but most are forced because of personal or injury reasons.
When Warren Gatland was scheduled to announce his Wales squad for their second round clash of the RBS 6 Nations, all eyes were on the fitness of Dan Biggar. And keeping those hopes alive, Gatland announced that Biggar stays in the squad.
In a solitary change from the team that started the first game, Scotland recalled Duncan Taylor for their RBS 6 Nations second round clash against Wales. Taylor would be making his first start for Scotland since June 2014 and would be replacing the injured Matt Scott in the centre.
Vern Cotter resisted the urge to make any other changes from the side that lost to England, as he named an otherwise unchanged starting XV. Scott pulled out of training on Wednesday because of a quad injury and it was expected that he would be out of action this weekend.
Taylor had played only one game earlier in the RBS 6 Nations – having appeared against Ireland in 2014. His form this year, though, has been nothing less than spectacular for his club side Saracens.
Scotland lost their first round match against ‘Auld Enemy’ England 15-9 at BT Murrayfield and along with it the bragging rights on Calcutta Cup. Cotter also went for a jugular in the replacements with veteran Sean Lamont called in to help the squad.
Cotter knows that it would be a tough game ahead of them against Wales who are smarting from share of points against Ireland. Toppling the Welsh at the Principality stadium isn’t an impossible task but something which will take some doing from this side.
The opening game against England aside, this Scottish side has all the ingredients to come out trumps this weekend. The only question is on their ability to soak up pressure and improve their accuracy.
Cotter was quick to acknowledge that his side had to improve everywhere on the park. “As a team we know we can perform better and believe we're capable of making improvements all over the park.”
The game between Scotland and Wales should be pretty interesting considering the results of their respective first rounds. Both teams have enough reasons to feel disheartened from the games. Can Scotland overcome the blip and come out on top of Wales? Definitely a tough task!
Whenever England and Scotland play, sparks are bound to fly in Rugby. The next round of Calcutta Cup clash is set in the RBS 6 Nations when these two ‘Auld Enemies’ face off at Murrayfield. In the wake of this, the recall of John Barclay is being seen as a statement of intent by Scotland coach Vern Cotter.
The return of Barclay to the starting XV is quite a story in itself for someone who is as recently as the World Cup was not seen as good enough for the team. Cotter gave Barclay a cold shoulder for the World Cup but sees the burly forward vital to his plans of tackling the English in the 6 Nations opener.
Barclay’s inclusion at blindside flanker indicates that Scotland would try to approach the game in a specific manner. The best of Barclay is to pick a pass to one of the free-running backs as a number seven and this is where he can make a difference.
He has been playing in the more attacking role of number eight for Scarlets and the coach was quick to complement his abilities saying that he ‘has the skill set for that position’. Cotter was quick to credit Barclay for all the effort he has put to force his way back into the squad.
Cotter knows very well that England under Eddie Jones will try to spring a few surprises of their own. The new coach is brought in to change the fortunes and he would be eager to start well – and if it is against Scotland, England will appreciate it much more.
But, Cotter is not losing sleep thinking what Jones and his staff will offer for his team. What matters for him is the fact that whoever is selected will be capable enough to put it across England. The choice of Barclay clears tells that Cotter has set his mind on breaking the English play and build his team on top of that. Will he be successful in this tactic? Well, the start is just round the corner!
The Exeter Chiefs’ number eight, Thomas Waldrom, has been named as the December Forward of the month. Green Flag, the official breakdown cover supplier of Aviva Premier Rugby has announced this award.
Two of the young talented Second rows players Charlie Matthews and Sam Twomey have re-signed with Harlequins. Matthews is 24 years old while Twomey is 23 years old and both the youngsters are rated very highly within the club management. There is a strong belief that they could benefit from the presence of James Horwill and thrive at the club. These two young men are expected to become the corner stones of this club for many years to come.
Stormers Super Rugby tighthead prop Vincent Koch is in the news as his name has propped up as a target for Toulon and Saracens. He is close friends with former Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen who has incidentally moved to Toulon. That link is probably one of the reasons why Koch’s name has come up with the French club. Another club said to be interested in signing Koch is Saracens. The interest in the player is high and is an indicator of his potential though he missed out on Springbok selection for the Rugby World Cup squad.
Worcester Warriors have completed the signing of Samoa tighthead prop James Johnston, in a move that could significantly affect their chances in the Aviva Premiership. He will join up with the club immediately.