Man of the match Finn Russell was responsible for 19 of Scotland's 29 points in a stunning win over WalesYoutube: RBS 6 NATIONS

The third round of this year’s Six Nations provided three fascinating matches. Scotland notched up their first win over Wales in 10 years; Ireland came out on top in a ferocious battle against the French in Dublin; and England had to overturn a half-time deficit in order to beat a defiant Italian side.

The match in Edinburgh was very much a tale of two halves. Scotland were outplayed for most of the first half, and ill-discipline hurt them badly. They were probably fortunate to only find themselves 13–9 down at the break, but a spirited second-half performance saw them score 20 unanswered points to claim victory. Stuart Hogg once again showed his class with several beautifully timed passes to create both of Scotland’s tries.

Scotland are to be applauded for their performance here, particularly without their stalwart captain Greig Laidlaw, who has been ruled out for the rest of the tournament with an ankle injury. They coped brilliantly, with clear leadership throughout the team and accurate kicking from the boot of Finn Russell. What a great result for them.

Wales, on the other hand, will be bitterly disappointed with how they lost their way in the second half. Confusion over whether to kick for goal or the corner at a crucial time will be particularly frustrating. While captain Alun-Wyn Jones wanted to take the three points, “the kickers said no” and went for the corner instead. Wales lost the line-out and the opportunity was missed.

There will be plenty to work on for their clash with Ireland in two weeks’ time, though they will be buoyed by the fact that it will be in front of a sell-out home crowd in Cardiff. As against England, Wales lacked precision at key moments, and will know that this is something they will have to improve upon if they are to turn things around.

Another tough match was played out in Dublin on Saturday, where Ireland emerged victorious, winning 19–9. The game marked the return of Irish fly-half Jonny Sexton, who looked in fine form, despite a long absence. He made sure that Ireland played the game in the right areas of the pitch, got stuck in defensively, and struck a fantastic drop-goal, too. One move in the second-half showed the threat that he poses in attack, looping around his centres and turning the French defence inside-out to set free his wingers.

The return of Jonny Sexton inspired Ireland to a 19–9 victory at home to FranceYoutube: RBS 6 NATIONS

There were a lot of positives for Ireland, though there were some scrummaging issues. CJ Stander had another barnstorming game, as did the two props, Furlong and McGrath, who carried destructively. There are also very positive signs behind the scrum, as the combination of Murray and Sexton continued to thrive, while the two young centres – Henshaw and Ringrose – look to have formed an exciting partnership which could last long into the future.

France, meanwhile, continued their revival under Guy Novès. At times, they looked very dangerous, stretching Ireland out wide and making some scintillating line breaks. The footwork and offloading ability of inside centre Fickou asked questions of the Irish defence all night, while their young scrum-half, Serin, also looks a fantastic talent. Yet Louis Picamoles continues to be their main man, and they will keep looking to him to deliver. Unfortunately, though, results aren’t quite going their way just yet and it looks like Wales vs France on the final weekend will be a battle for fourth place.

On Sunday, I watched the strangest game of rugby I have ever seen. In fact, according to Eddie Jones, it “wasn’t rugby”. Italy came armed with a tactic that few have ever seen: ‘no-ruck rugby’.

When they made tackles, they committed no men to the breakdown to compete for the ball. This meant that, according to the rules of the game, no ‘ruck’ was formed. If there is no ruck formed, then there is no offside line. This meant that Italian players could rush up to block off passes without being caught offside, essentially trying to stop England from playing. It made for a chaotic game and credit must go to the referee, Romain Poite, for the way that he handled it. He even had to remind England’s James Haskell that “I’m a referee, not a coach”.

Italy took England completely by surprise, and the wry smiles on the faces of the Italian coaches throughout the first half said a lot. England couldn’t get any structure into their attacking game. But thanks to a rolling maul, they came away with a try. The home side were very clinical – I can only think of one try-scoring opportunity that went begging.

Italy's unwillingness to form a ruck threw England completely off their strideYoutube: RBS 6 NATIONS

The confusion of the first half saw England give a lot of penalties away and, if it weren’t for the poor kicking of Italy’s fly-half, England would have found themselves behind earlier. As it was, as the first half came to an end, Italy struck the post with a penalty and managed to score a try from the rebound, perfectly summing up the 40 minutes. The tactics were working: Italy led 10–5 at the break.

Eddie Jones was clearly frustrated after the match, suggesting that his side should go and do some training because they hadn’t played any rugby all day. Yet, in a way, this was another perfect challenge for England. They’ve shown that they can win when they’re starved of possession, with 14 men, and when they only have four minutes left, and now they’ve shown that they can win when the game as they know it was thrown out of the window. The way that they adapted in the second half deserves great credit.

England will still be disappointed with how they performed, especially early on, when silly errors blighted their attempts to start quickly. There were knock-ons, needless penalties and some very poor kicking. Farrell, on the occasion of his 50th cap, had one of his worst days with the boot in a very long time. The general state of confusion cannot have helped matters.

Yet in a game which was so broken up, individual skill came to the fore. Te’o showed why he deserved his starting place, with several brilliant offloads and a try, while Danny Care was sharp to score his at the start of the second half. Jones’s ‘finishers’ also really added in this regard. Off the bench, Jack Nowell scored two tries, while Henry Slade made one phenomenal offload during his five-minute cameo, and Kyle Sinckler, the replacement prop, made an outstanding charge through the Italian defence, which set up a try. No one can live with England in the last quarter of games. In the end it was 36–15: six tries to two, and the bonus point secured.

Italy wanted to avoid a thrashing. By playing no-ruck rugby, they achieved just that. Credit must go to them for finding a way to stop England, but one has to ask whether this is really what we want the game to become. With all the talk about relegation, this doesn’t necessarily do them any favours.

The Six Nations league table as it standsrbs6nations.com

As we head into another rest weekend, England will be happy at the top of the table as the only unbeaten side, and we can all start looking forward to what will be a great test match against Scotland in two weeks’ time. Should England win, they will equal the world record for the most consecutive wins for a Tier One nation of 18

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