Ireland celebrated a Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam and Scotland additionally loved a event to be pleased with, however England and Wales have been left with extra questions than solutions six months out from the World Cup.
Here, the PA information company assesses the quartet’s performances over the past six weeks and appears forward to their possibilities at this autumn’s international showpiece in France.
Ireland delivered on the pre-tournament hype and stress to substantiate their standing because the world’s primary aspect by changing into Grand Slam champions with victory over rivals England on St Patrick’s weekend.
The championship clear sweep – their first achieved in Dublin – was the fourth within the nation’s historical past – following triumphs in 1948, 2009 and 2018, which have been clinched in Belfast, Cardiff and London respectively – and was secured with some spellbinding rugby and amid loads of adversity.
Ireland’s pulsating second-round win over France because the world’s high two sides confronted off within the event for the primary time will reside lengthy within the reminiscence, whereas overcoming the injury-hit mayhem of Murrayfield on the penultimate weekend was equally as essential.
Andy Farrell’s males have gained 22 of their final 24 matches, together with a collection success in New Zealand, and don’t have anything to concern going into the World Cup, having overwhelmed every of their main rivals throughout that run.
Yet a draw made in December 2020 has not been variety because the planet’s present top-five nations have been positioned in the identical half of the draw, with hosts France or the All Blacks probably quarter-final opponents, if Farrell’s aspect progress from a pool containing Scotland and reigning champions South Africa.
On the proof of this Six Nations, England can depend themselves fortunate to have been gifted a form World Cup draw and even a bunch that has Argentina and Japan as their closest rivals is not seen as a formality.
From a low base progress was made on the set-piece and the battle proven in defeat by Ireland was reassuring, however in any other case the event continued the slide that started in the course of the latter levels of Eddie Jones period.
A report Twickenham defeat by France was an all-time low and the group rebuild should be a fair greater mission than Steve Borthwick first realised.
Alarmingly, they now lack the type of ahead energy that has all the time been an English calling card. Yet, for all their troubles, they continue to be favourites to win their World Cup pool and, with a win in opposition to in all probability both Wales or Australia – additionally middling sides – they’d discover themselves within the semi-finals.
There is little doubt that Wales’ Six Nations marketing campaign proved an underwhelming expertise, with one victory from 5 begins consigning them to a fifth-place end simply six months earlier than the World Cup shall be up and working in France.
There was additionally the risk mid-tournament of a gamers’ strike as Welsh rugby grappled with off-field points comparable to contracts, monetary issues and Wales’ 60-cap choice rule, and there’s no doubt that every one had an influence on the nationwide squad.
On a constructive observe, there was a continued emergence of younger expertise like wing Rio Dyer and centres Mason Grady and Joe Hawkins, along with lock Dafydd Jenkins and flanker Jac Morgan, they usually all look on the right track to characteristic in head coach Warren Gatland’s 33-man World Cup squad.
Fiji and Australia are the key hurdles to beat in Wales’ World Cup pool – solely two groups from every group make the quarter-finals – and there’s no doubt that on present kind they face a major problem, however Gatland’s World Cup report was spectacular throughout his earlier stint as Wales boss, highlighted by semi-final appearances in 2011 and 2019, so it will be silly to wager in opposition to him turning issues round.
Scotland can mirror on a largely constructive Six Nations marketing campaign after ending up with three wins from their 5 matches for the primary time since 2018.
Their solely defeats within the championship got here in opposition to the world’s two highest-ranked nations, Ireland and France, and the Scots have been happy with the best way they competed for lengthy vital durations of each matches and certainly upset to not come away with extra to indicate for his or her efforts.
In beating England, Wales and Italy whereas additionally being aggressive in opposition to the large two, Scotland eclipsed pre-tournament expectations.
They can now gear up for the World Cup, the place they are going to be in a tricky group with Ireland and South Africa, in much more optimistic temper than may need been the case a few months in the past.