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Six Nations round two: TMO drama & kicking woes

Written by 
Published in Rugby
Sunday, 11 February 2024 22:48

Scotland's try that never stood was the big controversy of round two of the Six Nations, but there were plenty of other talking points.

Could a tedious kicking exchange prompt a change in the laws? Should Wales' charging down of George Ford's conversion attempt have been allowed? Will Ireland's strength in depth bring them back-to-back Grand Slams? And which players stood out?

The try that never was

Scotland were denied victory over France at Murrayfield by a controversial last-gasp try review which went against them.

You'll have probably read chapter and verse about it and seen all the various angles.

By the letter of the law, there had to be a clear and obvious grounding of the ball to overturn the on-field decision of no try.

The protocols were followed but the "right decision" was not reached, according to former Wales fly-half Jonathan Davies on BBC Two's Six Nations Rugby Special.

Former England wing Chris Ashton had a slightly different take, saying Scotland had multiple chances to seal the victory before those frenetic final moments.

"Scotland will be looking back thinking we had five chances to score in other places," said Ashton.

"There were enough opportunities for Scotland to win the game elsewhere."

Kicking laws need to change after 'horrible rugby'

Before the frantic ending, a loophole in rugby's laws led to a tedious kicking exchange that frustrated spectators and TV viewers.

Known as the Dupont Law, after France scrum-half Antoine Dupont who first seized upon the flaw, players can stand in an offside position from a kick and will be played onside as soon as the opposition catcher carries the ball five metres or uses the ball.

But Finn Russell knew this and, with his team leading, simply watched his steps before punting the ball back to France.

"There needs to be a rule change. The fact that a team can just kick from deep and look for territory is so boring for fans to watch," former Scotland international Johnnie Beattie said on BBC Sport's Rugby Union Daily podcast.

"The game of rugby is meant to be hyperactive, physical and a game of chess which is incredible to watch. Instead you have a stand off."

Scotland dominated for large portions of the game but Louis Bielle-Biarrey's second-half solo try was the difference and saved Fabien Galthie's side from a second consecutive defeat.

"France were abysmal and showed absolutely nothing until that try," Beattie added.

"I would like to see them win with style. To win like that, yes it is always better to win even if it is horrible rugby, but it was horrible rugby."

They will look to bounce back with a big win over Italy on 25 February at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille.

We will have to 'stand like statues'

England fly-half George Ford lined up a routine conversion to level the game against Wales, but one small step to his left and he was denied the chance to kick a conversion after Ben Earl's first-half try.

That movement resulted in a rush of red jerseys and the ball was kicked off the tee.

The error was not game-defining with England winning 16-14 at Twickenham, but Ford is convinced he did not start his run-up.

"It doesn't make sense to me," said Ford. "Some of us kickers are going to have to stand like statues at the back of our run-up now.

"What it means for us kickers is that we've got to be ultra-diligent with our set-up and process because if they're going to go down that route and look for stuff like that, we can't afford that."

However, with his side trailing 14-13, Ford made no mistake from a 72nd-minute penalty to seal the victory.

England are two wins from two and next travel to Murrayfield to face Scotland on 24 February.

Reffell reminds Borthwick of his talent

When Steve Borthwick left Leicester to take over as England boss, his son Hunter gave him some selection advice: "You have to pick Tommy Reffell."

Borthwick quickly let Hunter know the Leicester flanker was Welsh.

Reffell, 24, produced a stellar performance in attack and defence at Twickenham to show he is developing a well-rounded game.

Known for his poaching ability, Reffell showcased his tireless work at the breakdown, but also displayed his footwork in attack when his step and offload helped set up Alex Mann's try.

"I played with him at Leicester and his carrying wasn't what he was known for - it was his breakdown work," Ashton said on Six Nations Rugby Special.

"The stuff he could do in milliseconds in training in such small spaces is exactly why he is so good at international level. It is unbelievable how quickly he is making decisions - when to get on the ball or how quick to get on the ball."

An injury to World Cup captain Jac Morgan, who was one of Wales' standout performers in at last year's World Cup in France, opened the door for Reffell, who will look to continue his form in Dublin against Ireland's imperious back row.

Crowley continues to shine for rotated Ireland

Ireland made six changes from their impressive opening victory against France as Andy Farrell rotated his squad against Italy.

Equally impressive as the 36 points scored against the Azzurri in Dublin was no points conceded - the first time Ireland have kept a team scoreless in the tournament since 1987.

Fly-half Jack Crowley, who scored his side's opening try, backed up his performance in Marseille with another excellent display that drew parallels with the way Johnny Sexton used to run games.

"In that side and the way they are playing at the moment, Crowley could grow into a world-class player," Davies said on Six Nations Rugby Special.

"He has the confidence and awareness of an experienced player [so early in his career]."

Farrell's side face Wales on 24 February in Dublin hoping to keep alive the goal of becoming the first side to win back-to-back Grand Slams in the Six Nations.

Player of the week - Bielle-Biarrey

The 20-year-old produced a moment of magic with a chip and regather to snatch victory at Murrayfield. The wing regained his starting spot in the France team and showed why with his electric pace to finish.

"He's a freak," said Beattie. "He's going to be terrific."

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