CHRIS FOY: French covidiots, Rees lightning and comical refereeing make the Six Nations verdict in unique, enthralling 2021 tournament
- The 2021 Six Nations tournament was an unusual but always fantastic spectacle
- Wales and France are battling for the title, while Scotland and Ireland improved
- Eddie Jones’ England and frequent wooden spoon contenders Italy disappointed
- Below is the Sportsmail verdict on the good, bad and ugly from this tournament
- From illegal waffles in Rome to Damian Penaud’s outstanding try against England
This year’s unique Six Nations tournament saw thrills, spills, the sublime and the ridiculous as Wales lost out at their chances of a Grand Slam but could yet win the Six Nations title if the France v Scotland match on Friday goes their way.
Ireland and Scotland showed signs of improvement, both beating England, while Eddie Jones’ side finished a hugely disappointing fifth despite a fine victory against France showing them what could have been with consistent performances.
Below, Chris Foy provides Sportsmail with his verdict on everything that went on, from illegal waffles in Rome to Damian Penaud’s outstanding try and everything in between.
France scored a last-gasp try to win 32-30 and deny Wales the Grand Slam in Paris on Saturday
There were plenty of decent contests and it is almost a dead heat between two. England v France was a thunderous, pulsating classic, as was France v Wales on Saturday. The latter probably just about edges it, given the magnitude of the stakes and the significance of the last-play climax.
Again, lots to choose from — in contrast to the barren wasteland of the Autumn Nations Cup. Louis Rees-Zammit’s solo effort against Scotland stood out but the team masterpiece was France’s strike move off a long line-out which Damian Penaud finished off at Twickenham.
France winger Damian Penaud (left) scored a breathtaking try off first phase against England
Leaving the Principality Stadium after Wales thumped England and wandering through a deserted Cardiff city centre was a parallel universe activity. In any other circumstances, there would have been raucous, merry mayhem. This rammed home the utterly bizarre backdrop to Covid-era sport.
France head coach Fabien Galthie and a number of his players endangered the whole tournament by failing to adhere to Covid protocols and breaching the team bubble. The fact members of the squad threatened a health emergency to eat waffles in Rome was outrageous.
Classy Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg was a standout performer and lifted the Calcutta Cup
Even more outrageous was what happened next. Despite their pre-Six Nations pomposity, the French government colluded with the rugby federation to sweep a large mess under the carpet and effectively declare ‘nothing to see here’. Really? They were lucky to avoid being evicted from the tournament.
It’s a small thing but Wayne Pivac sprang a surprise by opting to name his team early — on a Tuesday — for Wales’s match against Italy. It was good to see a coach demonstrating his confidence and lack of paranoia. Here’s hoping it catches on.
It was all going so well in the England camp last week — then Eddie Jones decided to stir the pot. Perhaps spooked by a sense of contentment in the ranks after their win over France, he let rip about the media filling his players’ heads with rat poison. Bonkers.
There was excellent refereeing, aside from the controversies involving Pascal Gauzere when Wales beat England. But the stand-out officiating performance came from Romain Poite in charge of Scotland v Ireland. Falls, collisions, hilarious lectures, a broken whistle, the lot.
Warren Gatland did the rounds and has some new names to consider. Ireland’s Tadhg Beirne has gone from nowhere to Test contention, Wales pair Wyn Jones and Rees-Zammit have timed their run too and Hamish Watson shone even when Scotland struggled.
Ireland forward Tadhg Beirne (right) has timed his run perfectly into Lions starting contention
Both BBC and ITV provided some high-class coverage and viewers were well-informed by former players who have become pundits. Sam Warburton is outstanding, as are David Flatman and Benjamin Kayser — a Frenchman speaking eloquently in English — to name just a few.
Rugby does not do itself any favours sometimes, when it comes to governance. There was always a danger this championship could be disrupted by Covid, it happened and the officials realised they had no plan for rescheduling or player release. So they winged it — as always.
Italy took the lead against England with an outstanding try cleverly conjured by their rookie playmakers. Fly-half Paolo Garbisi showed good touches and vision, but he couldn’t lift the Azzurri to compete with the rest. Their plight is harming the integrity of the whole event.
Chris Foy’s Six Nations team of the tournament
Backs: 15 Liam Williams (Wales), 14 Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), 13 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 12 Gael Fickou (France), 11 Anthony Watson (England), 10 Mathieu Jalibert (France), 9 Antoine Dupont (France)
Forwards: 1 Wyn Jones (Wales), 2 Ken Owens (Wales), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 4 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), 5 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), 6 Tom Curry (England), 8 Taulupe Faletau (Wales), 7 Charles Ollivon (France).
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