Three BIG takeaways from the weekend
SIX NATIONS ROUND TWO: France maintained their title bid with a hard-fought 15-13 win in Dublin on Sunday, as Ireland lost their second match in a row.
Wales again benefitted from their opponents being reduced to 14 men in edging out Scotland 25-24.
Meanwhile, holders England returned to winning ways with a 41-18 victory over Italy, as the Azzurri suffered yet another Six Nations defeat.
AFP looks at three things we learned from the second round of the 2021 Six Nations Championship!
(Continue below video …)
Penaud takes his chance
To be preferred ahead of a wing as talented as Teddy Thomas is quite a compliment, but Damian Penaud justified the faith shown in him by coach Fabien Galthie.
Penaud, the son of former France flyhalf Alain Penaud, did not have many opportunities in attack.
But, importantly, when given a rare chance in the 54th minute he took it, making sure to run an excellent angled line to exploit an overlap from a pass by Brice Dulin.
And in a match where les Bleus showed they can win ‘ugly’ as well as playing the free-flowing rugby that saw Italy thrashed 50-10 in the first round, Penaud also did not let France down in defence.
Halfbacks help give Italy hope
Another Six Nations match, another Italy loss, with Saturday’s fixture at Twickenham their 29th successive reverse in the Championship, a run stretching back to 2015.
And yet, for all the talk of tournament chiefs needing to introduce promotion and relegation, this was a much-improved Azzurri showing following their first-round thrashing by France in Rome.
Halfbacks Stephen Varney and Paolo Garbisi were lively throughout and helped Italy stun England as early as the third minute when the visitors opened the scoring through a try by Monty Ioane.
“It was a step in the right direction,” said coach Franco Smith.
“The spine of our team is still a young group. It was much better than last week against France.”
Fagerson red costs Scotland dear
When Peter O’Mahony was sent off for a head-high collision in Ireland’s opening loss to Wales, it should have been the warning all other teams needed that the authorities meant what they said by insisting there would be a clamp-down on such challenges this Six Nations.
Unfortunately for Scotland, the message did not get through to prop Zander Fagerson, who saw red in the second half when his shoulder connected with the head of Wales front row forward Wyn Jones during a breakdown.
Lawrence Dallaglio was in no doubt that Fagerson had to go, with the former England captain tweeting: “Ran in from distance at speed and made contact with head. He didn’t need to attend that breakdown. Clear directive pre-tournament to protect the players.”
Fagerson’s dismissal was not the only reason Scotland, fresh from a first win over England at Twickenham since 1983, lost a match where they had led 17-3.
But it was a timely reminder to England, Wales’ next opponents, about the importance of keeping all 15 players on the pitch.