Six of the best: Six Nations highlights

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Close contests, fabulous tries, new stars and the wonders of Wales have made this the best tournament since the Five Nations expanded by one

This was the best Championship since the Five Nations became Six in 2000. England's dominance in 2003 and Wales's emergence from the doldrums in 2005 and Shane Williams-inspired attack of 2008 have their claims, but 2012 has entertained and intrigued all round.

Scotland's struggles against their tight-forward inadequacy and Italy's near-miss against England have been contributing factors; so too the settling down of the laws since the experimental meddling of a few seasons back.

Wales's third Grand Slam in eight years matches neatly their glory boys of the 1970s: those formative days, for so many, of colour TV and Bill McLaren's brogue. Would Gerald Davies have been able to sidestep today's huge Wales wings who look like they have stepped off a basketball court via a Venice Beach gymnasium? Were the England side who won 29 out of 36 Championship matches from 1996 to 2003, but with only one Slam, better than the latter-day Wales, who have had their lean streaks? Unanswerable questions, delicious debate.

What we know is that this Welsh team captained by son of a fireman, Sam Warburton, (and Ryan Jones and Gethin Jenkins when the flanker was injured) are fit and tight-knit with a pragmatic style under Warren Gatland, Shaun Edwards and Rob Howley recognisable from the coaches' previous stint winning trophies with Wasps.

Some of us doubted at the outset of the Championship that Wales would cope with their tight-five injuries. A desperately narrow win in Ireland got them going and they have marched on through this Six Nations' snow, frost, rain and warming sun.

Six tries of the Six Nations

1: Ben Foden for England v France. Bemoan the soft French tackling? No, celebrate the will to counter as Ben Morgan catches, runs, and slips a one-handed pass to Foden.

2: Manu Tuilagi for England v France. Foden contests a high ball (was it a knock-on?), Dimitri Szarzewski is slammed by Chris Ashton, Owen Farrell tidies up the loose ball, Tuilagi races 45 metres.

3: Jonathan Davies for Wales v Ireland. A Jamie Roberts decoy run distracts, George North with a floating sidestep and a straight dart goes between Gordon D'Arcy and Fergus McFadden, and flips a supple backhander pass for Davies to run it in.

4: Tom Croft for England v France. The clock reads 70 minutes, there are two points in it. Farrell spots England jerseys wide, passes long to Brad Barritt to Croft who bursts 30 metres. Individually brilliant.

5: Julien Malzieu for France v Italy. French shove Italy scrum off their own ball, Louis Picamoles from No 8 goes blind across the gainline, Malzieu bobs and weaves through four Italian defenders.

6: Richie Gray Scotland v Ireland. A ruck on the 22, a great blond gazelle has escaped from the local zoo? No, it's Gray on the gallop, finishing with a dummied pass to outwit Rob Kearney.

Best newcomer

Owen Farrell's armoury may be missing the odd weapon, and the 20-year-old fly-half will soon face competition from fellow tyros such as George Ford and Tom Heathcote. But Farrell's sang-froid served new England well.

Biggest biceps

Wales' Leigh Halfpenny looks as if he's halfway through a Bruce Banner to Hulk-style transformation.

Best quote

BBC TV commentator Brian Moore frothing at referee Alain Rolland's handling of the scrum. "I don't care if he speaks French. It just means he's getting it wrong in two languages."

Stupidest tweet

ESPN and BBC analyst Austin Healey in reply to a suggestion that Halfpenny is twice the player Healey was. "I've had sh**s with more talent."

Worst cock-ups

Postponing France v Ireland at the last minute with 80,000 people in the stadium. A week of weather forecasts and first-hand testimony predicted the Stade de France pitch would freeze. It did.

Referee Dave Pearson, blameless in calling the France v Ireland match off, had been an assistant in Dublin a week before, somehow recommending only a yellow card when Wales's Bradley Davies played tossing-the-caber with Ireland's Donnacha Ryan.

Freakiest injury

England head coach Stuart Lancaster slicing his finger open hitting a light fitting as he celebrated the win in Edinburgh.

Daftest drop-out

Stuart Lancaster protégé Danny Care had been mentioned as England leadership material – until a drink-driving offence saw him dropped for the Six Nations by his one-time mentor at Leeds.

The Three Invisible Men

1: Nick Mallett, about whom much was written in connection with the England head coach job. Sighted only by viewers of Supersport in South Africa where he did his homework analysing Six Nations matches. 2: Probable England captain Tom Wood missed the Championship injured. 3: Scotland fly-half Dan Parks played against England before retiring.

The quietest spin doctoring

A humorous article on George North, depicting the mighty Welsh wing barking Tarzan-like orders to his minions, was removed from website espnscrum.com after complaints by the Welsh Rugby Union.

The most uplifting sideshows

Packed houses for Wales Under-20 matches in north Wales and the increasing broadcast coverage for the women's Six Nations.

Six things we learnt from the Six Nations:

1: It's a young man's game – Toby Faletau, George North, Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi, Stuart Hogg – give them their head and let the coaches stand or fall.

2: If the Lions XV for 2013 was picked now it would be...

3: Warren Gatland will be the next Lions coach. Is it logical for a foreigner to coach an international team? Probably not, but Wales don't seem to mind.

4: It's been easier to win a Grand Slam in the Six Nations than when it was Five: Wales's is the eighth in 11 seasons.

5: Players and coaches aren't angels. Scrum-halves take the mickey out of spectators by keeping the ball in the ruck for hours. It must and will be outlawed.

6: TV replays don't always provide proof. Did Dave Strettle score against Wales? We need to invent a grass-cam.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent