CHRIS FOY: Warren Gatland has some Lions selection headaches, Italy’s place should be under threat and Antoine Dupont could defend his Player of the Championship award… Six Nations opening weekend verdict
- Antoine Dupont brought out all the tricks as France brushed aside Italy in Rome
- Promotion and relegation must be introduced to improve the Six Nations’ quality
- England and Scotland drew a huge TV audience in the last free-to-air campaign
- Warren Gatland has some Lions selections headaches after Scotland’s display
- George North seems back to his best and concussions badly affected his career
The opening weekend of the 2021 Six Nations certainly provided its fair share of sub-plots despite the opening weekend being behind closed doors for the first time ever.
After Scotland won their first Calcutta Cup clash in England since 1983, Wales squeezed past Ireland after Peter O’Mahony’s early red card and France swept aside Italy, Sportsmail’s Chris Foy picks out the key points from the three games.
Dupont show is on repeat
Antoine Dupont won the Player of the Championship award in 2020 and early evidence suggests that he has every chance of claiming the coveted prize this year.
France often produce supreme scrum-halves, but the incumbent from Toulouse is a phenomenon, as he proved with an all-singing, all-dancing show against Italy, including an outrageous, no-look, over-the-shoulder try assist.
Antoine Dupont’s over-the-shoulder try assist was the highlight of his display against Italy
Fans tune in to free view
England versus Scotland was a big draw for the locked-down public, with ITV confirming a peak audience of 8.7million viewers.
It was pointed out that they captured a large proportion of the younger market, which broadcasters are so hell-bent on attracting. It was a strong start to the last free-to-air campaign. Soon, such precious exposure will be lost — perhaps for ever.
Italian slump can’t go on
Italy need to prove they are worthy of a place at European international rugby union’s top table
Italy’s losing run goes on. They shipped a half-century of points at home to the French and now face an ordeal against wounded England.
Franco Smith’s Azzurri have not won a Championship game since 2015, while Georgia completed another clean sweep of the second tier by beating Russia. Time for promotion and relegation, or a play-off decider.
Scots look like Lions
Cameron Redpath could be a left-field selection for Warren Gatland’s 2021 British Lions squad
Warren Gatland left Twickenham with plenty of food for thought. The Lions head coach appreciates the political balancing act of involving all four home nations and in the past he has endured criticism for overlooking Scottish players.
Now he has an array of them to consider, with Cameron Redpath, Duhan van der Merwe and Rory Sutherland emerging as late bolters.
True North is clear to see
One of the delights of recent months has been the sight of George North enjoying a major career resurgence.
Having become a father last spring, the 28-year-old Welsh back has been a forceful, convincing presence again for the Ospreys and for his country. A series of head injuries appeared to have hit his self-belief but it is back in spades.
George North seems back to his rampaging best for club and country after becoming a father
TEAM OF THE WEEK
S Hogg (Scotland); T Thomas (France), G North (Wales), C Redpath (Scotland), D Van der Merwe (Scotland); M Jalibert (France), A Dupont (France); W Jones (Wales), G Turner (Scotland), Z Fagerson (Scotland); J Gray (Scotland), AW JONES (Wales), H Watson (Scotland), M Fagerson (Scotland), J Tipuric (Wales).
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