Now build Lions first XV around a nucleus of Welsh champions

 
John Inverdale
SPORT COMMENT

REFLECTIONS on a Six Nations that got the barnstorming, rip-roaring finale it needed after the mediocrity of the previous three rounds.

A) Don’t be fooled by the results of the clubs and regions in domestic competition. The Welsh sides may be a mess but the national team is the only “club” that really matters.

They were deserved champions because they had the best all-round side and should form the nucleus of the British and Irish Lions’ first choice team in the summer.

The Irish provinces may be successful but that is largely due to the influx of overseas players. Coach Declan Kidney made a seismic error in overlooking Brian O’Driscoll as captain, which split the team, and ended in his greatest player’s ignominious farewell with a yellow card for stamping against Italy that could have been red.

MANIC
B) It is clearly a pre-requisite when applying for the job of French coach to declare that all previous coaching expertise will be abandoned in favour of a manic selection policy that requires several of your side to play out of position.

C) Sergio Parisse swears at referees and trips up Irishmen but is probably the best player in northern hemisphere rugby and Italy may just have turned the corner. All they need are a couple of half-backs.

D) Scotland always seem as though they are about to turn the corner, but then suddenly the corner gets longer and longer.

E) England aren’t as good as some of you thought, but they will be. Coach Stuart Lancaster will have learnt that blind loyalty to out-of-form players like Chris Ashton is misplaced, but the manner of the defeat in Cardiff will have hurt so many of that team, as it did with the England side of 1999, that it will spur them on to considerable success in the future.

UNACCEPTABLE
F) There is no subtlety in back play anymore. Manu Tuilagi and Mathieu Bastareaud are the embodiment of what is wrong and apart from O’Driscoll’s offload to Simon Zebo on the opening day, Justin Tipuric’s pass to Alex Cuthbert on Saturday was the solitary piece of classic centre play in the championship.

G) The clock must be stopped until the scrums actually start. There was a two-minute hiatus at the start of the second half in Cardiff while the two front rows pouted and postured. With ticket prices heading towards £100 a time, that is simply unacceptable.

H) For all the gripes, it is still the best rugby competition in the world. And already you’re talking about next year!