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Ireland vs France
February 25th 10:50 PM
The splendour of the exclusive Hurlingham Club on the banks of the Thames, where such is the demand for membership that the waiting list has been closed, served as the backdrop for the launch of the Six Nations Championship. A foggy morning disguised the black eye sported by the England coach, Eddie Jones, as he reluctantly posed for photographs. If there were conflicting reports about how he acquired the injury, it was not down to the refinement of Dylan Hartley’s tackling technique taking longer than anticipated.The launch is a time for optimism, for looking forward. It has been Scotland’s favourite time of the year having only once started a Six Nations campaign with a win, and that was in 2006. They left for the flight home drenched in compliments, especially from Ireland’s Joe Schmidt, whose team kicks off this year’s tournament at Murrayfiel on Saturday.
Feudal was how Scotland’s coach, Vern Cotter, in his last season before joining Montpeller described a tournament that succeeds whatever the quality because of deeply entrenched national rivalries.The bonus point system is being trialled this season in an attempt to entice teams out of their straitjackets. Had it been applied in the three previous tournaments, there would have been a total of 29 accumulated: 17 for a side losing by seven points or fewer, one for securing four tries in defeat and 11 for scoring four tries or more in victory. Closer examination shows that 10 of the 12 for tries scored were in matches played in March (the two in February were against Italy) and 14 of the 17 losing bonus points were in February contests.I am not sure about bonus points,” Schmidt said. “There was none on offer when we went to Chicago and played the All Blacks, but there were nine tries in a game played in fine weather. You play in a manner to suit the conditions.