Six Nations 2015: How our picks fared in round one
England's Jonathan Joseph shines in round one as look back at how our six players to watch performed on the opening weekend
The opening round of the Six Nations gave us plenty of thrills as the drama unfolded, starting with England’s comeback win over Wales on Friday night.
It was far from a try-fest across the weekend, but there was still a lot of action to be enjoyed from all three games.
Before attentions turn to the second round of the championship, we round up how our six players to watch in this year’s tournament performed on the opening weekend.
We’re fairly pleased with their collective efforts and hope to see plenty more from them in the coming weeks.
Teddy Thomas (wing) – France
Big things expected and there were some wonderful moments from the Racing man. Against weaker defences he would have had a field day, as witnessed against Fiji in November, but Scotland have a sharp operator in Matt Taylor, who likes a wide defence, and it was near its best on Saturday as they ensured that the marauding French backline were kept out. Need to see more of his mesmeric side-stepping and pace from deep and that will surely come against more narrow defences and if Les Bleus give him a chance to operate. Still four matches remaining and a lot of chances to light up the tournament.
Alex Dunbar (centre) – Scotland
Plenty of plaudits across the backline for Scotland. Some great moments from the Warriors centre with ball in hand, as well as some useful kicking to put the French back three under pressure. The 10-12-13 combination playing their club rugby together in Glasgow brings with it plenty of extras benefits and they were collectively impressive in attack and defence. Arguably overshadowed by centre partner Mark Bennett, who made a try-saving tackle late in the game and twice had a hand in setting up Dougie Fife for the only try of the match, but Dunbar is an important if understated cog in the Scotland midfield. Likely to keep his place with Bennett in the Scottish midfield as Wales’ powerhouse centres head to BT Murrayfield for what will be another big test.
Kelly Haimona (utility-back) – Italy
Despite his promising form from the November internationals the Rotorua-born Italian was the least effective of our picks in round one. He was moved around the backline throughout the game to make the most of his hulking 6’1″ 114kg frame, but was too often found deeper than he should have been to menace the Irish defence. Looked better in the second half when he was moved to outside centre and was denied a try by English TMO Graham Hughes near full-time after the ball was adjudged to have been knocked on by the fingertips of Italian captain Sergio Parisse so had to make do with a solitary penalty goal in the first half for his Six Nations debut. Huge test away to England next up and it won’t be an easy ask, but could still cause a few problems.
Jonathan Joseph (centre) – England
Try-scoring hero on his first Six Nations start. The Bath Rugby man was a menace all night for the Welsh defence and his try was well-taken as he stood up Dan Biggar and out-foxed a groggy George North. Questions over whether he can perform on the big stage when it matters have been put to bed for now and he is set to keep his place for this weekend’s match with Italy despite Saracens rival Brad Barritt nearing a return. Stand-out performer from our picks.
Robbie Henshaw (centre/full-back) – Ireland
Not the most impressive collective display from the Irish backline, but plenty of encouraging signs from the Connacht man as he looks to establish himself as a centrepiece of Joe Schmidt’s team. Kept Haimona relatively quiet with a strong defensive showing and also caused a few problems in attack. Still more to come, but a promising start to life after Brian.
Rhys Webb (scrum-half) – Wales
Looked lively early in the game and got into a great position from a scrum to receive a pass from Taulupe Faletau and shake off England wing Jonny May to score the game’s opening try. The Biggar and Webb show failed to get going in the second half and there wasn’t enough of the Ospreys man’s usual sniping. A poor collective performance from the Welsh forwards didn’t help his cause, but he oozes class and will be back with a point to prove against Scotland.