March 2013 saw the exciting climax of the Northern Hemisphereâ€™s most prolific rugby event – RBS Six Nations Rugby. Albeit the final table shows a vast range in class between certain teams, for example Walesâ€™s four wins to Franceâ€™s one, it cannot be said that the quality of rugby in the 2013 tournament has not been of the highest standard for each of the participating nations.
The biggest turnaround team of the year has to be Italy. Ask anybody with half a mind for rugby, and they would immediately tell you that the wooden spoon contenders are either the Italians, or the Scots. Perhaps the Italiansâ€™ final position was not as good as the Scottish contingent, who themselves recorded two consecutive wins for the first time, but the heart and character they put into every match was equal to any of their peers. They perhaps should have been more clinical against a lacklustre English side, and they could have done better when playing at Murrayfield, but the Italiansâ€™ overall results show just how far they have come in a decade of competitive international rugby.
The biggest flop of the tournament, now matter how you look at it, is surely Les Bleus. The French team, who only one and a half years ago came runners-up in the world cup, were constantly lacking composure, making poor decisions, and getting riled-up unnecessarily when they should have been staying calm and seeing off their opposition. Yes, there were some moments of beauty from the likes of Fofana and Picamoles, but these flourishes are not enough to make anybody a world-class side. Some may say that the Irish were more deserving of the foot of the table, but comparing their countless injuries to the fresh legs of the French, it is only fair to declare that French rugby has hit a new low.
And now, to the moment that will be talked about for years to come: Walesâ€™s annihilation of England. It was, for the English, eighty minutes of pain, anguish and heartbreak. For the majority of viewers, it was a marvellous match where, unquestionably, the best team won. England seemed to be shaken at the prospect of a grand slam title, whereas the Welsh, playing on home turf, did not look for a second like they were going to falter. They may have had a bad run of results in the summer, but now, under just one manager, they are a side that will contend any team for a winning result.
Overall, the 2013 Six Nations had a lot to offer. There may have been less tries, and less one-sided events, but that goes to show how far each team has come in their rugby development. If, in the years to come, other developing rugby sides such as Spain or Holland were to be included in the tournament, it would only act as a benefit to world rugby as a whole.
Image reproduced from wsc.co.uk