Welsh rugby is in the eye of the storm. Three days ago, the players threatened a strike worth 9 million pounds, the income brought to their federation by the game of the year: England’s visit to Cardiff. As much as the pandemic makes a dent in the accounts, it is difficult to accept a drop in salary while your bosses sign a million-dollar contract for the coach, Warren Gatland, propose exotic projects such as a zip line in the national stadium or defend themselves against misogynistic behavior. It was written that in such a week the XV of the Rose, far from excellence, would take the victory. Thus came the twelfth Welsh defeat (10-20) in the last 15 games, their third in three days of the Six Nations.
The strike threat stemmed from the blockade between the Welsh Rugby Federation (WRU) and the four regions that comprise it. The consequence is that the clubs could not offer renewals to the players. After planting, they will be able to do so from Monday. The other barrier was a rule that would prevent Welshmen who play outside the country from going to the national team if they do not accumulate 60 caps. The players have not managed to eliminate it, but they have lowered it to 25. It is a key aspect because local clubs cannot compete for salaries in the English or French leagues and if a player wants a lucrative contract he leaves the country to get it. That’s why there was rugby in Cardiff.
After the debacle in Scotland, Gatland changed to nine pieces of his lineup and recovered the sacred cows that he did without in Edinburgh, such as the captain, Alun Wyn Jones, the international rugby ‘recordman’ with 157 appearances. Lacking virtuosity, the duel was an overdose of intensity. England, once again the solidity of Owen Farrell as a winger, dominated the territory without excessive expertise in the final meters, enough to go ahead at half-time (3-8) after a test by Watson on the wing.
The party concentrated its bubbles in just five minutes. Louis Rees-Zammit intercepted Max Malins’ sloppy pass en route to the goal test that put Wales ahead. An advantage that lasted a breath, what it took England to put together their maul –the mobile platform of his forwards– for Sinclair to pose before the rivals could turn him over. Things went back to his way: sterile English rule. That Farrell misses three kicks to sticks is as newsworthy as it is symptomatic. Wales came within range in the last minutes, but their barren attack – they have three trials in three games – is not enough. So Lawrence closed out the victory of the XV of the Rosewho maintains his title options with 10 points.
It won’t be easy for Wales to avoid the wooden spoon – the penalty for losing every game – when they visit Rome in two weeks. Italy gave a good scare to a decimated Ireland – without their captain, Jonny Sexton or starters like Garry Ringrose –, who promised them happiness after a thunderous start and saw how their rival was close to a comeback. The Italians opted for anarchy to unhing the most orderly scheme that rugby currently has. The tournament leader suffered to win 20-34, who avoided the collapse and wields the maximum possible points after three days (15).
Ireland took up the challenge of a frenetic game full of transitions and smashed the opposition defense with their rear. The powerful James Lowe opened the hostilities by pardoning a sung trial and then assisting the mark of his namesake Ryan when barely two minutes had elapsed. Hugo Keenan increased the score after breaking a weak Italian tackle attempt and decided the match with the collaboration of Bundee Aki and Mick Hansesn, who exchanged a more classic try after fixing their forwards. After half an hour, the duel seemed resolved (10-24).
But this Italy has nothing to do with the team that lost 36 games in a row in the tournament. The game changed with an interception from Bruno to a careless pass from Aki with the first half time up. With the relief of that test, the local team grew after enduring an endless Irish attack of almost ten minutes without conceding points. He XV of Clover He accumulated indiscipline and found himself defending the Italian attack on his goal line that would have put the tie ten minutes from time. The anarchy ended in a rush and veteran Conor Murray, fresh off the bench, later settled the contest by opening the highway to Hansen’s final test.
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