The Dragons' roar here is barely a whisper there

The southern hemisphere view
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The Independent Online

Sorry to spoil the honeymoon, but daily life in rugby's traditional strongholds goes on virtually oblivious to the Wales Six Nations success. Even last Monday's headline in the local Auckland newspaper: "What a rout by the ABs in red" referred to the complete performance of the Crusaders at Eden Park, rather than giving a compliment to the Grand Slammers.

Sorry to spoil the honeymoon, but daily life in rugby's traditional strongholds goes on virtually oblivious to the Wales Six Nations success. Even last Monday's headline in the local Auckland newspaper: "What a rout by the ABs in red" referred to the complete performance of the Crusaders at Eden Park, rather than giving a compliment to the Grand Slammers.

In South Africa, the Six Nations was reduced to a sideshow on a true "Super Saturday" of TV sport. Screens lit up before dawn with live Super 12 coverage of the Chiefs playing Queensland's Reds. At breakfast it was the Hurricanes taking on the Bulls in Wellington. Then came qualifying from the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix, followed by action from the World Cup Sevens in Hong Kong. Viewers had no time to draw breath after the Crusaders' pulsating destruction of Auckland's Blues before the Waratahs beat the Stormers in Sydney.

Then there was Arsenal's win at Blackburn, France hammering Italy, Wales beating Ireland, the Cats losing to the Brumbies in Johannesburg, Otago's Highlanders taming the Sharks in Durban and Chelsea's victory over Crystal Palace. Finally, England closed out the day's live sport by beating Scotland at Twickenham. Need I mention the India v Pakistan cricket Test and Bolton v Norwich? The die-hards could even fill the gaps by watching domestic football on terrestrial TV.

Should the makers of Desperate Housewives want a new series, they need go no further than Cape Town or Johannesburg for inspiration.

By Monday, the Johannesburg Star had digested the impact of the Welsh Grand Slam, but in a blunt assessment the paper's UK-based rugby analyst, an Englishman, felt that the tournament had been "disappointing" in terms of "playing standards" and that the Super 12 form shown by the New Zealanders "spelt trouble for the Lions".

Comparisons aren't fair, but the Super 12 club competition, featuring sides from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, continues to put bums on seats in stadiums and sofas. It's their Champions' League of rugby.

And at the back of every rugby-lover's mind in the southern hemisphere is the simple fact: Wales went unbeaten through the Six Nations. This is the same side who narrowly failed at home against a tired South Africa and New Zealand during the autumn Tests. The All Blacks also humiliated France away, while Australia toppled England at Twickenham.

As form lines go, no matter whom Sir Clive Woodward selects for the Lions, the All Blacks secretly feel they will have their number. Graham Henry, the All Black coach and former Welsh Great Redee-mer, expressed his "surprise that England have fallen back so quickly". Of course, he retains "much respect for the strength in depth" that Woodward has to choose from.

Nick Mallett, a former Springbok coach and widely considered one of the best brains in the game, feels the Six Nations lacked something. "Not taking anything away from Wales, I feel that England and Ireland underperformed, which made the task a little easier," he said. Like so many others, he is looking forward to the Lions tour. But first there's a Super 12 competition to be won and lost.

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