Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: At last, something to make Six Nations interesting

18 comments

Six Nations rugby does not often rev my engine.

Conditions dictate, and it is often an extension of the attritional game which marks rugby north of the equator.

The game is slower, more oriented towards set-piece power, mauling and territory. Forwards salivate and backs get bored.

It is captivating because capacity crowds continue to fill the stadiums. Arguments for that interest are varied.

Many rugby followers watch any version of their favoured sport. Some prefer the ambience compared to soccer's hooliganism, others like to soak up the social backdrop.

The landscape has been more compelling this year as the Six Nations series is the selection turf for the Lions touring party to Australia.

But rugby diehards such as former England coach Brian Ashton have bemoaned the standards and lamented interminable scrum resets, time-wasting, penalty fests and the players' search for contact rather than space.

Host nation Wales battle it out with England this weekend for the Six Nations title and places in Lions' coach Warren Gatland's notebook.

After their smart deeds against the All Blacks late last year, England have regressed. They have shown modest attack plans, and their forwards were shaken by Italy.

England have claimed a solitary Grand Slam in the last 17 years, and debate roars over whether this figure will remain after this weekend.

Wales have shaken off their pre-Christmas woes, opted for a kicking game and won away from home. Now they are back on their plasticine pitch in Cardiff with the chance to take down the enemy.

Opposing captains Sam Warburton and Chris Robshaw will be duking it out at the breakdowns and perhaps for those twin roles with the Lions.

Maybe Gatland will take both now Warburton appears to have regained some of the prowling instincts that made him such a central figure for Wales at the 2011 World Cup.

Scotland and Ireland play their final games against France and Italy with accompanying interest about the Lions future for men such as Brian O'Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip or the Scottish back three of Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland and Tim Visser.

Gatland's game plan and tactics for the tour Downunder will fascinate.

Some of his concepts will become clearer with his selections and in the tour matches around the three-test series.

Some contenders will be eliminated by injury, just as the Wallabies have lost their skipper David Pocock.

Others will be picked on gut-feel, some for the balance and touring maturity they will bring, characteristics which might put veterans such as Jonny Wilkinson and Paul O'Connell back in the frame.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 20 Dec 2014 13:23:51 Processing Time: 434ms