I've been laid up in bed (well, on the sofa) with a nasty cold for the last couple of days. Having played havoc with both my work and social diary, the only upside was that I had the perfect excuse to watch the entirety of both Six Nations games back-to-back yesterday.
The game in Paris was one of the most bizarre I've ever seen. The Irish were playing quite well, but for some inexplicable reason, kept gifting the French easy tries. Of the six tries Les Bleus scored, only one did not involve an obvious Irish blunder.
Having got themselves 40 points to the good after 50 minutes, without actually having any posession or field position to speak of, the French then completely switched off, and the Irish promptly ran in four tries of their own, to make the scoreboard look respectable. Ten tries may be a great advert for the game of rugby, but to my mind it showed up the glaring deficiencies in both teams. Makes you wonder if the French are going to stutter all through this tournament, and only fully switch on mentally when England are in town.
Down in Rome, the Italians turned in one of their best ever performances to make England work hard for their win. While I never felt worried about the result, even when Italy led by a point early in the second half, it was good to see one of the 'lesser' nations take the mighty English pack on with some degree of success.
Interesting also, despite the hype over the one-dimensional English approach, all four England tries came from the backs. Worsley and Moody really went to town in the second half, and the resulting quick ball allowed Charlie Hodgson to show why I think he's currently second only to Dan Carter in the world's premier outside-half stakes.
I think if Italy will work Scotland and Wales really hard - the Welsh in particular will have to raise their intensity from last week if they're to compete.