England wrapped up the RBS 6 Nations title with a round to spare but this does not hide the fact that this was one of the closest tournaments for years between the top five sides. Plenty of close fixtures means that the selection process for the Lions tour of New Zealand will be very tight and Rugby Club Magazine takes a look at how the teams fared.
Starting with England, the tournament itself was an undoubted success. To come away with their second consecutive title is a fine achievement and losing to Ireland away from home is nothing to be ashamed of.
However Eddie Jones always points towards the 2019 World Cup and it is questionable whether England made any progress over the tournament. With some injuries to key players there were chances for a number of players to make an impact but Elliot Daly aside none were able to nail down a starting position. That leaves them with question marks in their back row and at full-back in particular moving forward.
Ireland should probably be a little disappointed with their performance overall. They undoubtedly have a good team and have shown in the Autumn Internationals, this Six Nations and the one before the World Cup that they are more than capable of beating anyone and there is not a great deal between them and England.
To take a step forward they need to be able to produce on a more consistent basis but they certainly have the quality in place, particularly up front to do so and both their half backs stand a good chance of staring for the Lions.
In recent years France should have been a lot better than they have been but there is a feeling now that they are getting there. Their forwards are a formidable pack and competed with everyone they came up against.
All of their matches against the top sides could have gone either way and they have given themselves a better platform from which to build than they have had in quite some time. If their backs can click they could prove to be a real force to be reckoned with.
Scotland’s performances have improved significantly in recent years and they finally put together the results to underline their progress. Beating both Ireland and Wales was a superb result for them meaning that they were unbeaten at home and whilst the England result was a huge disappointment, particularly in terms of the score line, this still appears to be a team on an upward trend.
Vern Cotter now leaves the side and the work he has done rebuilding the team has been superb. It will be important, and difficult, for them to continue to develop if they are to make the most of the momentum they have built.
Wales continue to be a steady side in the competition and although results are worse than in recent years this is more down to the fact that other sides have improved rather than the Welsh going backwards.
The complaint for some time about this side has been that they aren’t getting any better and that feeling will have been enhanced during this tournament. It is difficult to see how they will take a significant step forward without a major change in their set up somewhere.
For Italy this tournament was a reflection of years of failing to progress and when they appointed Conor O’Shea it was always going to take time to turn things around. Whether they are able to do that remains to be seen and until they find a reliable goal kicker they are not going to worry the other sides in the competition.