Peter Bills: Sean Fitzpatrick comments could haunt him

So Sean Fitzpatrick doesn’t believe the skill levels in the 6 Nations Championship have been good enough, thus far. He may be right. But we are entitled to ask for clarification here. Good enough for what and for whom?

Presumably, the former All Blacks captain had in mind rugby in the southern hemisphere and the standards that will pertain at the Rugby World Cup later this year. And when you look at a lot of teams in the 6 Nations, certainly Wales, Ireland, Scotland and of course Italy, it is undeniable that a quantum leap is required to envisage those nations going as far as the semi-finals.

Good enough, for sure, to get out of their pools as runners-up, but likely quarter final fodder for the big boys? Maybe.

Yet it is worth making the point that this is very early in the rugby year. No nation of sane mind would want its team to be hitting its peak about now, in February. Not with the Rugby World Cup not even starting until September.

And I suspect we shall know a great deal more about the qualities England and France may bring to the World Cup party after this Saturday’s meeting of the two at Twickenham. If this is indeed to be a potential Grand Slam decider – and, in France’s case, with only Italy and Wales left to play, the latter in Paris, it would seem this game will be crucial in determining whether the French win a second successive Grand Slam – then let us see the quality of the fare provided.

Is it not possible that we shall see a barn-storming affair at Twickenham, a match of such quality that even the southern hemisphere nations are forced to sit up and take notice? After all, England produced something of the sort in destroying Australia last November with an outstanding demonstration of the attacking possibilities afforded under the new law interpretations.

There are two other issues worth considering at this point in time. The southern hemisphere’s Super 15 season kicked off at the weekend and, with one or two exceptions, was largely a damp squib.

The Melbourne Rebels, Danny Cipriani, Gareth Delve et al, reminded us that Australia hardly have enough quality rugby players to fill four Super rugby teams, never mind a fifth. When you have to import players like Greg Somerville, the ageing ex-All Black prop, a couple of ex-Rugby League players and guys who never quite made it in northern hemisphere rugby, then you are faced with an uncomfortable truth.

The only reason for the Melbourne Rebels existence is commercial profit. There isn’t likely to be any decent rugby worth watching from the latest Aussie franchise this season.

In South Africa, the experienced Blue Bulls, reigning champions, just about survived a roaring second half comeback from the John Mitchell coached Lions in the second half in Johannesburg. But it was far from a convincing display by the Bulls. And in Durban, the Sharks and the Cheetahs produced a desperately poor game.

Only in Auckland, where the Blues beat the Canterbury Crusaders, was there any real quality on display. So inferior skill levels in the 6 Nations? It isn’t just in the northern hemisphere we’re seeing this problem, Sean.

The other matter of huge relevance to world rugby this year and the World Cup is the onerous length of the Super 15 competition. It began last Friday, February 18 and the final is on July 9. A couple of weeks later, the Tri-Nations starts, and when that is finished the World Cup is nigh.

This looks to me like a schedule from hell for the southern hemisphere’s finest. What sort of state are the likes of Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Kurtley Beale, Victor Matfield and certain others going to be in at the end of that long list of commitments?

Be careful what you say about the teams of the 6 Nations, at this early stage of the year Sean. Those comments could come back to bite you around late October as the World Cup builds to its climax.


  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk