Sometimes sport really does leave you speechless. The final day of the 2015 6 Nations was built up as a classic finale but no one could have predicted what occurred in one of the most exciting, captivating and absorbing days in the tournament’s history. It was a climax full of scintillating, attacking play across all three fixtures. The score-lines say it all – Italy 20 v 61 Wales, Scotland 10 v 40 Ireland and last and most remarkably England 55 v 35 France. An astonishing 221 points from three games with 27, yes 27, tries. In one afternoon we saw England achieve a record score against France, Ireland power to their biggest away win and Wales score the most tries they’ve ever scored in one championship half.
England and Wales came within inches of the Championship but it was Ireland who got there by the skin of their teeth, a mere six more points than England giving them back-to-back Championships for the first time since 1948/1949. Now the dust has settled it’s a little easier to assess surely the greatest day in the tournament’s history. Nobody will forget an afternoon that was a perfect advert for rugby union in a World Cup year – and another motivating factor for why you should to take your passion for the game abroad through a rugby gap year with Sport Lived.
An intense and tight came of rugby with few points on the board can still be a thrilling spectacle. Nonetheless, there is nothing quite like seeing end-to-end, attacking rugby at its finest. It’s the kind of rugby that defines Southern Hemisphere teams such as Australia and New Zealand, not the plodders from the North. Yes there were more mistakes and errors of judgement as the straightjackets came off but the players revelled in this freedom, casting off attrition in favour of art and endless running. France, as well as the three main protagonists in this battle for the Championship, all showed that Northern Hemisphere teams can excel playing open, attacking rugby. Supporters revel in this type of rugby; all speed of hands, limbs and mind – the record-breaking peak audience of 9.63 million during the England match would certainly agree. Players thrive under the challenge it presents too – its why so many go to test themselves in Australia and New Zealand, the homes of this expansive form of the game.
Indeed this points feast will have been enough to get the heads of the All Blacks, the Wallabies and of course the Springboks turning as the World Cup creeps upon us. The previously unseen intensity and unconstrained ambition in the attacking play on show could well challenge the all-court game mastered by Ritchie McCaw’s New Zealand. The desire to keep ball in hand, to steer clear of mauls and rucks when possible and, bar the pitiful second half efforts of Scotland and Italy, the remarkable defensive line speeds. All characteristics of found in the clubs Sport Lived send its rugby participants to in Brisbane, Melbourne, Dunedin and Cape Town. For example, England made 599 metres with the ball in hand against France, while George North managed to score a hat-trick in merely 10 minutes. With ball in hand on a dry day, there’s some great talent in the North.
Those three teams fighting for glory on the final day didn’t just show a way of rugby that we thought had died and been laid to rest in these parts but demonstrated just how close they are to each other right now. In a World Cup year that is tremendously exciting – all three have realistic chances of going all the way in less than half a year’s time in familiar conditions and with droves of fans behind them. Certainly Stuart Lancaster, Warren Gatland and Joe Schmidt were quick to talk up the prospects of their sides in the aftermath of this epic three-way tussle. Ireland went that extra bit further in this photo finish but the margins between them were miniscule. For example, if Scotland’s Stuart Hogg hadn’t dropped the ball as he went over in the final minute up at Murrayfield England’s 19 point win would have been enough. If Wales hadn’t shipped a late Italian try Sam Warbuton’s men could have been the ones celebrating. They were inseparable throughout the tournament, regularly knocking each other off the top, right from the opening night when England defeated Wales in Cardiff. The last four titles have been shared by Wales and Ireland: England have lost just four matches in that period.
It was gripping rugby that showed the quality of those involved and advertised a pulsating way of playing the sport. It will have got fans drooling at the prospect of the World Cup being just round the corner. With this great Championship in the bag and another rugby spectacle to come it really is the optimum time for you to start thinking about playing the game at the home of attacking rugby through a gap year with Sport Lived.
This was a compelling six-and-a-half hour festival of edge-of-your-seat rugby engulfed by drama, excitement, bravery and anticipation that went down to the very final play of the tournament. The Six Nations greatest every day? Without a shadow of a doubt.