Nine takeaways from England's Six Nations win over Ireland this morning.
If the All Blacks don't win the World Cup this year, please, please, don't let England or Ireland take it by boring other teams to death. For the sake of the game, may a side that uses all 15 players on attack emerge victorious.
Few moments of joy
The Six Nations test in Dublin, where England upset Ireland, 32-20, had about 12 minutes of rugby worth watching. The first couple, for a beautifully executed try for English wing, Jonny May. Then the last, fruit loopy 10 minutes, when Ireland started trying to play like a Fijian sevens side, with predictably disastrous results. The rest of the game was the same old kick and grunt that over the years has too often made the Six Nations about as much fun to watch as an appointment with a censorious dentist unimpressed with your dental hygiene.
Stone wall of England
England's defence, while it may constantly, cynically, challenge the offside line, is superb. The tight white jerseys make many of their forwards look as if they've never met a buffet they didn't like, but technically they're brutally efficient, and they're patently much fitter than appearances would suggest.
With the exception of May's opening try, which came from a superb, cut out pass by Owen Farrell, after a period of dramatic, exciting, running and passing, England basically had two variations in play. Sometimes halfback Ben Youngs kicked the ball. Then the tactics would change. Farrell would kick instead.
No wonder Farrell likes to tackle without using his arms. When he tries to tackle legally he's basically a revolving door.
If England were soullessly efficient, Ireland were just as dull, without even the consolation of victory. Irish halfback Connor Murray has a magnificent high box kick but dear Lord, yesterday he did it so often it was more predictable than Groundhog Day.
Johnny Sexton is a great first-five. But even the great ones can have a shocker. It was a reflection of the sort of afternoon he had that it was his sloppy pass that was intercepted by Henry Slade, who stumbled, crawled, and somehow got over the line for England's last try.
Feed the backs
There are some very gifted runners and attackers in both the England and Ireland lineups. Manu Tuilagi, for example, is a terrific second-five. (And yes, he was born in Samoa, but I won't play the race card the English media do about Pasifika players in the All Blacks. He went to England when he was 14, and has played all his significant rugby there.) Jonny May has gas to spare. Garry Ringrose has everything you'd want in a centre. It's a pity they don't get the chance to do more with the ball.
By a mile the best rugby in the north happened in the first 40 minutes of the France-Wales test in Paris. When a French team is on song rugby really is like the game they play in heaven. It was a bit sad (if you had no emotional skin in the game) that Wales, stunned and down 16-0 at halftime, then plodded along like England or Ireland, and ground out a 24-19 victory in the second half. If a northern side does win the world cup, at least France would do so with style.
* Phil Gifford joins Simon Barnett on the new Newstalk ZB Afternoons show from July 2019