Now that we are 2 rounds into the 2018 NatWest version of the same championship I thought it might be interesting to predict the outcome of this year’s championship using similar criteria.
I have rated each of the 6 nations on a scale of 1 (poor) to 10 (perfect) against each of 5 HPO characteristics. It should be noted that my conclusions are informed by 2 rounds of matches rather than a full championship analysis but let’s give it a whirl.
As was the case in my previous HPO analysis of Ferguson and Mourinho, there is of course a slight bias to my ratings. I do however welcome any challenges to my assessment!
While Ireland’s style of play is often criticised on the basis that it is over structured, their strategy is incredibly well understood and executed. Every player knows his role and sticks to it. A well executed kicking strategy according to Sam Larner was the difference between England and Wales and not the TMO error. Scotland’s strategy against Wales in Round 1 was a disaster throwing the ball around before earning the right.
Ireland lost a number of leaders including Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell since 2014 but new ones have stepped up to the plate. Leaders come to the fore when the team needs them most. The drop kick under pressure by Jonny Sexton in the 83rd minute against France showed some bottle. Contrast that morale courage with the shenanigans of the French players in downtown Edinburgh after the Scotland match. England’s Mike Brown is a wonderful player but his unsporting behaviour following Scott Williams’ failure to score at Twickenham was ethically questionable. France’s manipulation of the HIA process is certainly ethically dodgy.
For a lesson in performance management it is worth the 15 minutes it takes to read Murray Kinsella’s analysis of Ireland’s 41 phases leading up to Jonny Sexton’s drop kick against France. Performance is all about consistency and learning from mistakes. England have not lost a home game under head coach Eddie Jones and Scotland haven’t won in Twickenham since 1983. That tells its own story. Italy keep on leaking tries with 15 scored against them in 2 matches. Let’s see if they fix this against a weakened French team in Rome
Despite losing eight front-line players including 6 British and Irish Lions, Wales still beat Scotland convincingly. They kept England to within a converted try after losing another Lions player in Leigh Halfpenny. This suggests a squad of well-motivated players empowered to deliver. Following Ireland’s defeat to Argentina in the world cup Joe Schmidt was determined to develop the depth of the Ireland squad. He now has up to 3 players for virtually every position all ready to take the place of injured front-line players. He knows the importance of engaged, fully developed and empowered players. Witness how he has managed the development of Jordan Larmour and Jacob Stockdale
Ireland’s style of play especially against the top nations is not pretty. The Irish public is crying out for a more expansive type of game. Schmidt is more interested in results rather than entertaining the public. Wales’ tactics have evolved. The Warrenball era is over in favour of a playmaking, off-loading style. It is certainly a more enjoyable customer experience
According to our analysis, it’s down to the wire for this years’ 6 Nations. It’s not just Ireland and England. Wales are definitely in the mix.
Bring on the Patrick’s Day showdown!