The 2023 Guinness Six Nations enters the first break week with plenty of talking points after a trio of thematic encounters in round two.
Here, the PA news agency examines five talking points arising from the games.
Two tier tournament
After two rounds, a clear division has emerged between the title contenders and the chasing pack. Ireland and France are the heavyweights, with their classic encounter in Dublin producing a remarkable 46 minutes of ball in play, closely followed by a Scotland side who have been a joy to watch. A step below are England, Wales and Italy, teams starting from the ground up after changing their coaches or, in Italy’s case, attempting to reverse years of Six Nations failure. Having dispatched champions France with such class, it is Ireland’s tournament to lose.
Russell is box office
Scotland’s buccaneering victories over England and Wales have propelled them into title contention, with their genius fly-half Finn Russell steering the ship. “I’m just doing my job out there, making other boys look good!” Russell said after orchestrating a first Scottish win against Warren Gatland, but make no mistake – he is the star of the show. Antoine Dupont is rightly regarded as the sport’s finest player, but much more of this and Russell will be snapping at his heels. In a game dominated by structure, the Racing 92 ringmaster is a rare free spirit whose exuberance brings a smile to the face.
England off the mark
Setback for Italy
Italy arrived at Twickenham amid high expectations but their revival fell flat on its face as they failed to show up until the second half. They won the second half 14-12 after Marco Riccioni and Alessandro Fusco ran in fine tries, but they were surprisingly passive in a one-sided forward battle. After taking France to the wire in round one, as well as toppling Wales and Australia last year, they must regroup quickly or risk seeing the optimism that had gathered over Italian rugby being cast as a false dawn.