London (AFP) – Talking points from this weekend’s Six Nations action:
Henshaw injury leaves Schmidt to ponder
Despite Ireland’s bonus point win over Italy, star centre Robbie Henshaw’s injury is proving a worry and could have a lasting impact on where the Six Nations title ends up. The options for head coach Joe Schmidt with the daunting visit of Wales to come in a fortnight are limited. Schmidt doesn’t believe Garry Ringrose will be quite ready to return from his own injury, which means veteran Keith Earls may be switched from the wing to accompany Bundee Aki in midfield. That leaves Schmidt with a headache as to who comes in on the wing as youngster Jordan Larmour crucially missed tackles for two of Italy’s tries after making a brief appearance off the bench. New Zealander Schmidt may be reluctant to give him a start.
TMO in the spotlight
Thoughts that the introduction of the television match official would end disputes over contentious decisions had long been dispelled before Saturday’s clash between England and Wales provided another example of a replay fuelling a row. With England leading 12-0 at Twickenham, Wales’s Gareth Anscombe, under challenge from home wing Anthony Watson, raced to get the first touch to Rhys Patchell’s kick ahead and claimed a try. But with French referee Jerome Garces referring the decision upstairs, experienced New Zealand TMO Glenn Newman ruled Anscombe had not grounded the ball properly, despite getting the first touch. It was a tight call but following England’s 12-6 win, Wales coach Warren Gatland was unimpressed by the ruling from his fellow Kiwi. “You get a guy over from New Zealand to be the TMO, he has one big call to make and unfortunately he’s made a terrible mistake,” said Gatland.
Townsend shows steely side with Russell
Finn Russell is yet to click during the 2018 Six Nations and despite victory over France, Scotland do not look like potential tournament winners, despite being cast as dark horses for a first title since the Five Nations became six in 2000. He was not alone in performing poorly against Wales but whilst others improved vastly on Sunday, the France-bound playmaker — who joins Racing 92 next term — was off target at Murrayfield. Twice he failed to gain valuable territory for the hosts by missing touch with penalties from the hand. He also sent another kick straight into touch when he was looking to keep it in play. Head coach Gregor Townsend’s bold move to replace him midway through the second-half — while the game hung in the balance — with Ali Price, and moving Greig Laidlaw to fly-half, could act as the wake-up call he needs.