SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings: RBS 6 Nations, Round 5
The final weekend of the tournament led to much data for the computer to process, but the output is clear as ever. The S/G Ratings are of course not definitive, and the computer often leaves out MoM recipients as they are covered on many other sites, so if you want to throw your nominees in then please use the comments.
James Haskell - How many times do we have to go though this before this hideous selection mistake is consigned the the SHITbucket Of History? Knocked on more regularly that a 14 year old with wanker's cramp, was not particularly physical (his stong point, apparently) and then did a WWE/Christophe Dominici flying leg-scissors and got himself binned. And that's before we even get into the issue that his inability to pop pass properly vs Scotland meant that England didn't win the championship. Please, please, please, please stop this madness now. Please.
Scotland - Often it looks like Scotland are a half-decent side lying dormant within some poor decision making in key moments. This weekend they looked like a terrible side hidden within an even more terrible one. Had one job at the weekend, to not be SHIT. They failed.
Anthony Watson - He isn't a winger.
Scott Spedding - There are members of native amerindian tribes deep in the rainforests of the South American continent who live a rudimental hunter-gatherer life, untouched by civilisation and unadorned by modernity, who have no anthropological concept of sport and who would make better international fullbacks than this bloke.
Sam Warburton - Two weeks on the trot now and seems to be building very nicely towards the World Cup. Rugby fans of all nationalities will hope he stays fit as we should all want the best at their best in the premier tournament.
George North - not had the best of championships, but this weekend he engaged Hulk Smash! mode and ran in three tries. Admittedly it was againt a complete shower of an Italy team, but the computer is all about the outcome not the process.
Ben Youngs - There are three phases of development that many players go through: 1) unabashed tyro, 2) potentially unfulfilled promise, 3) consummate performer. Some never get beyond Phase 1 (James Simpson-Daniel); others start at Phase 3 and stay there (North, Folau, Wilkinson); England nines of the past few years have got stuck at Phase 2 (Danny Care, in particular). Ben looked to be locked there also, but evidence throughout this championship and certainly in this game suggests that he could finally be moving into Phase 3.
Peter O'Mahoney - Face like a Dickensian street urchin, talks like an auctioneer on speed, but the lad can play.
SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings: RBS 6 Nations, Round 4
The computer apologises for the delay in delivering this week's analysis, but some malware meant that there was a spectacular amount of processing time spent in a spurious attempt to fathom Andy Nicol and running an algorithm to try to figure out where to buy rugby world cup tickets.
Dougie Fife - When you see how the likes of Fife play, it suddenly becomes clear why Sean Lamont has so many caps, it could be that he's the one eyed man in the kingdom of the blind wingers who can't tackle
Jonny Sexton - This was classic 2011 Sexton; all the talent, all the ability, all the fragility of wet tissue paper stretched across Jacques Fourie's arse.
Jack Nowell - This goes against the grain of what pretty much everyone else is saying, but for all the GOOD, and there was some, there was also plenty of turning the ball over and so many knock-ons it was like he had dicks for fingers. And that hair gets points knocked off as well.
France vs Italy - A game that was a great advert for sticking your head inside a bucket full of broken glass.
James Haskell - Replaced by Tom Wood on 65 mins. Please, in the name of blue christ, let that be an end to this whole, sorry, soul-powdering repeated selection episode.
Leigh Halfpenny - puffs out cheeks, stares at sky, shakes head, attempts to express how good Leigh Halfpenny is using actual words, makes strange sound that's somewhere between a squeak and a growl, gazes at Leigh's arms, sighs. Gives up.
Luke Charteris - stole lineouts, made an amazing 37 tackles and generally put in a legendary performance. This is even more amazing when you consider that on the field of play he constantly looks like a horse doing a cartwheel.
Sam Warburton - Just imagine for a second if he could stay fit and play like this all the time.
Stuart Hogg - When asked about certain players playing in the like of the 12 or 15 shirt, one of this blog's old coaches would often use the phrase, "he doesn't have the football for it". It's fair to say that Stuart Hogg possesses shitloads of football.
Blair Cowan - Arguably the best seven across the whole tournament thus far.
SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings: RBS 6 Nations, Round 3
The Six Nations is back after the break and the computer is back from being de-fragged by Franck Tournaire's gouging finger.
James Haskell - NORMAL SERVICE RESUMED KLAXON! The computer knew this would happen and did not at all have cold sweats in the early hours when thinking of it not happening. Haskell's physicality is much admired, but being unable to apply it in any consistently effective way has always been his problem. And so it came to pass...
Ben Youngs - With England taking such a forward pounding and an inexperienced backline it was not unreasonable to expect that the forty-plus caps man could bring a modicum of composure to the limited possession. Or maybe it was, given what happened.
Wesley Fofana - Completely anonymous again. Waxing about his ability is proving increasingly strange when he's playing so very very poorly.
Sean Lamont - See last week, but this time with added forward pass hideousness. In his defence, Hogg may have overrun it slightly, but reason and fairness is not the computer's problem to deal with.
Kelly Haimona - Played like a remote control car being operated by a blindfolded toddler. Then ended up on the winning team. The computer is still trying to figure this out.
Kicking from hand - 153 possessions across the whole weekend were booted away, and for all the "what a wonderful championship" oppressive PR speak that sometimes appears compulsory for all viewers and fans this is not what most people want to see. Shaun Edwards said the choke tackle was ruining the game but this kicking fetish, combined with the fact that refs want to penalise anyone who challenges in the air, plus the endless and interminable scrum issue are what we should all really be worried about.
Leigh Halfpenny - Invaluable. Anyone who can't see that is ill.
Luke McLean - Played a lot of the match at first receiver and looked functional and dependable, which given Italy's perennial issue there leads the computer to wonder why he hasn't been given a run at 10 since 2009.
Paul O'Connell - Keeps doing it year after year after year after year after year (repeat to fade)
Samson Lee - Has one bad game, has a think about it while they reshape his head, comes back like a magnificent, flame coloured ball of solidity.
Jamie Roberts - All bristling physicality and penetration. (as an aside, the sooner Bath stop arsing about realise this is what Burgess could do for them, the better for them and ultimately England)
SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings: RBS 6 Nations, Round 2
A disco-free weekend for the computer to process, let's see where the data takes us.
Jonny May - That turn of pace is world class. Not much else is.
Scott Spedding - Two matches in and other than cause people to marvel at his size for a full-back he has done absolutely nothing. Also doesn't like he's capable of doing much either.
Simon Zebo - Cheeky chappie, clever back-heel flick merchant a few years back, looks class. Is not really, when you look closely.
Sean Lamont - Wingers don't have to be lightning quick. Campese wasn't that quick. Campese made up for it in other ways. Sean Lamont is not David Campese.
Kelly Haimona - The latest from the "PLEASE, PLEASE, LET THIS ONE WORK!" strategy that Italy use in relation to the 10 shirt. This one doesn't work either. Particularly his kicking boots, which appear to be made from Toblerone and axle grease.
The Jamie Roberts/Alex Dunbar Axis Of BOOM! - Jamie Roberts gets over the blip of his showing against England and comes up against that mythical creature, The Lesser Spotted Classy Scotland Centre. The result was a high class duel between two players of the highest order.
Jonathan Joseph - More tries, more twinkling feet, more stupid, pointless and doomed comparisons with Jeremy Guscott. The computer instead intends to call him the new Barrie-Jon Mather, a comparison that the Bath man will definitely not struggle to deal with.
Jonny Sexton - Returned with more aplomb than Kim Kardashian's arse coming out of the cosmetic surgeon's. The time in France has lent a calm serenity to his always obvious ability and the result is a player who looks like he has an extra two seconds on the ball. Hard to think of many better tens in the world.
Stuart Hogg - Fully over his late 2013/14 season dip in form and back to being the footballer that all fans of any nation want him to be; fast, clever, accomplished, massive arse in his shorts.
Liam Williams - His legs are so bowed they look like the McDonald's logo in shorts and has the running style of the world's crappest Terminator 2 impersonator, yet still he manages to be outstanding. Hats off, sir!
SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings: RBS 6 Nations, Round 1
The computer has already passed judgement on the unexpected win for England in Cardiff, so here it takes on the other two matches of the weekend.
Italy vs Ireland - Rugby, but not as you know it. A spluttering, stuttering, stammering mess until Ireland got the "stop pissing about" signal from the bench, aka Ian Madigan, and looked like a functioning rugby team for a bit. There is a tendency in the Six Nations for everyone to say every game is great as there is a certain amount of drinking the Kool Aid that goes on with this tournament. Let's be clear, this one definitely was not, it was SHIT.
Camille Lopez - Much was made about his snazz, pizazz and jizz-jazz being what France need to get them going, but from what the computer could see he's another one off the "Will This Do?" fly-half production line that France appear to have utilised exclusively for some time.
Rabah Slimani - In 2008, modern art genius and all round headcase Marc Lievremont selected Julien Brugnaut for France. At the time, Brugnaut was putting in decent performances for Dax in the 2nd division at loosehead. Mad Marc picked him at tighthead (obviously), where he had never played before and he got turned into and origami swan by the Scottish scrum (THE SCOTTISH SCRUM!). After then spent ages unfolding him after the match, Ireland then made a paper aeroplane out of him a week later. It seems a very similar outcome can be expected with Slimani.
Andrea Masi - The air in Coventry is obviously not good for him, or something
Blair Cowan - Brave and tenacious in the tackle and also a marvellous footballer. Scotland are using him at first and second receiver and distributor at times and he is very comfortable in there. The gameplan that the Scots are trying to lay down is a brave one, but also not an easy one, and the openside will have large part to play in making sure they get there.
Bernard Le Roux - The computer expected much from this fella in the France shirt last year and was ultimately so disappointed it melted its own vga cable in frustration. On the evidence of Saturday it should have no such fears this year.
Mark Bennett - Lovely running with the ball in hand in particular some clever angles. Looks a keeper for Vern Cotter.
Tommy O'Donnell - Came in very late for Sean O'Brien. This can't have been easy as Ireland and the Irish fans bloody love Sean O'Brien. The computer struggles understand why, he's a decent player and all that, but he's a good, honest grafting carrier type of seven who often doesn't actually carry as well as he should and on this showing O'Donnell offers a bit more than that.
SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings: Autumn Internationals, week one
The Autumn fairground carousel of international rugby has started turning, but after the first weekend who doess the computer think are the flying horses and who are the waltzer cars full of an overspun teenager's vomit?
Handre Pollard - South Africa's wunderkind turned up and attempted to play like, er, some kind of wunderkind in very un-wunderkind friendly conditions. The result, his wunderarse placed in his wunderhands by erstwhile Irish wunderkind Jonny Sexton.
Mike Brown - Needs to find the jar in which he put his 2013 mojo for safekeeping. Lancaster is a loyal coach and Brown has proven his class at this level, but netierh of them can afford another brainless, aimless runout like this.
Rhys Webb - Yes, he played pretty well. Yes, he scored a clever and insouciant try. But if you can't see a 6 foot odd bloke all dressed in yellow stood inbetween you and where you want to pass, and that pass is also about 137 feet long then the computer will take a dim view.
Christian Lealiifano - Never has looked that convincing, and did nothing on Saturday to suggest that view will change at this level. The computer would like him dropped for purely solipsistic reasons as it has to keep spellchecking his name.
Joe Schmidt - Good coaches are those that can make fans say, "why's he done that?" before a game, then "ah, now I see" afterwards. Schmidt did a turbo version of this for the hammering of the Boks.
Dave Attwood - one of the great things about England under Lancaster for this blog has been the resurgence of Attwood and his performance on Saturday - full of new dad pride and old rugby nous - was outstanding.
New Zealand - even at 70% they carry out what in the end was a comfortable win. Another away from home World Cup malfunction may be required for another side to get a look in.
Rhys Ruddock - This blog thought he should've started ahead of Chris Henry anyway and after this performance so should everone else.
Adam Ashley-Cooper - His tackle on George North to hold up the big man and deny a try was outstanding and, as it turned out, crucial.
The Official Brian O'Driscoll Farewell Rugby Venn™
The great man is shuffling off the international coil, so we thought it best to honour him in the only way we know how, via science, sarcasm and diagram.
RBS 6 Nations Preview: England vs Ireland, Twickenham, 16:00, Saturday
With Wales becoming derailed and France still unconvincing, this could be the game that decides the championship, and even without that this promises to be fascinating.
The Ireland pack that pushed their Welsh counterparts around like a septic tank of wheels in Dublin will not find the England eight to be so obliging. England may not be able to pass or create much, but mauling comes as natural to them as talking utter bollocks to John Inverdale. Likewise, the English lineout won't be as easily snaffled, at least not until Tom Youngs comes on with his arm like a spooked chipmunk.
With such evenly matched packs, then it will come down to control at half back and in this Ireland are ahead.
Farrell has been taking baby steps in his journey to being a top flight 10, but Sexton, after a shaky start at Racing, seems to have finally arrived there, adding some lovely territorial kick consistency to his craft and incision. This, the experience in the Irish backs and that they look more likely to score tries means that a close win for the visitors beckons.
B&M Prediction: Ireland by 6
Spotter's Badge: After going 6-0 up after nine minutes, Peter O'Mahoney wins the game for Ireland by filibustering the ref for the 71 minutes remaining, only stopping speaking in time for the ref to blow up.
England: Mike Brown, Jack Nowell, Luther Burrell, Billy Twelvetrees, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Danny Care; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley, David Wilson, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw (captain), Billy Vunipola
Replacements: Tom Youngs, Mako Vunipola, Henry Thomas, Dave Attwood, Ben Morgan, Lee Dickson, George Ford, Alex Goode
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble, Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, Dave Kearney, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Paul O'Connell (captain), Peter O'Mahony, Chris Henry, Jamie Heaslip
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Martin Moore, Iain Henderson, Jordi Murphy, Isaac Boss, Paddy Jackson, Fergus McFadden
RBS 6 Nations Preview: Ireland vs Wales, Uvavu Stadium, Sat 14:30
There have been many epic rivalries in history; Wellington vs Napoleon, Tom Jones vs decency, Ronan O'Gara vs this blog, Stuart Barnes vs all rugby fans with ears and a brain. But, it is these supposed Celtic cousins that have become the new head to head that enthralls the 6 Nations with their quite obvious utter contempt for one another. Sure, they're friends on Lions tours and the like, but put them back in their national jerseys and they would happily feed the other to a lion and then let said lion crap all over their hotel room and/or team bus.
Wales come into this with a less than convincing performance against a plucky Italy, while Ireland return home again after a third gear demolition of a Scotland team whose forwards played like they were on qualuudes. In short, it's hard to pick the game on form.
Wales have Sam back in the ranks to bring his much vaunted "jackal" to the backline, which Tipuric, for all his strengths, does not have so much. Much will depend on whether Dan Lydiate can shut out Peter O'Mahoney, who had a strong game last week, because if Lydiate can do that, then I would back Sam to best Henry, and Faletau is simply better than Heaslip.
The big weakness for Wales is at 10, with the half-functioning Priestland retained despite the fact that it's going to waz it down with rain and blow a gale and so a territorial game, much more suited to Dan Biggar, should be the order of the day. But, it's clear that Gatland loves Rhys more than Cadbury's Creme Eggs, so he's in and that's that.
The teams are evenly matched all over the field, and perhaps the biggest battle of all those around the park with be Adam Jones vs Cian Healy. Whoever wins that wins penalties, and speaking of penalties..
Given the conditions, this will not be a big scoring game, and Jonny Sexton is far more likely to implode off the tee than Halfpenny is and that is what it will all come down to.
B&M Prediction: Wales by 5
Spotter's Badge: Mike Phillips accuses Conor Murray of spilling his pint; Murray thinks Phillips said "you look a sight", Murray tells Phillips "You're in my fucking pocket", Phillips thinks Murray said, "Do you fancy a Locket?", Phillips is penalised for delaying the put-in while he tries to figure out if he's being insulted.
Ireland : 15-Rob Kearney, 14-Andrew Trimble, 13-Brian O'Driscoll, 12-Gordon D'Arcy, 11-Dave Kearney, 10-Jonathan Sexton, 9-Conor Murray; 1-Cian Healy, 2-Rory Best, 3-Mike Ross, 4-Devin Toner, 5-Paul O'Connell, 6-Peter O'Mahony, 7-Chris Henry, 8-Jamie Heaslip
Replacements: 16-Sean Cronin, 17-Jack McGrath, 18-Martin Moore, 19-Dan Tuohy, 20-Tommy O'Donnell, 21-Isaac Boss, 22-Paddy Jackson, 23-Fergus McFadden
Wales : 15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-Alex Cuthbert, 13-Scott Williams, 12-Jamie Roberts, 11-George North, 10-Rhys Priestland, 9-Mike Phillips; 1-Gethin Jenkins, 2-Richard Hibbard, 3-Adam Jones, 4-Andrew Coombs, 5-Alun Wyn Jones, 6-Dan Lydiate, 7-Sam Warburton, 8-Taulupe Faletau
Replacements: 16-Ken Owens, 17-Paul James -, 18-Rhodri Jones, 19-Jake Ball, 20-Justin Tipuric, 21-Rhys Webb, 22-James Hook, 23-Liam Williams
RBS 6 Nations Preview: Ireland
Ireland come into this year's RBS 6 Nations off the back of an an Autumn series that saw them unspectacularly beat Samoa, put in the worst Irish performance since Jedward versus the Wallabies, then earn some redemption with a barnstorming showing vs the Kiwis. In fact, the performance was so good it's easy to forget that they lost.
Ireland fans will be hoping that the heart and moxie shown in that All Blacks battle can be directed to a consistent gameplan that wins by Joe Schmidt, and if anyone can do it the all-conquering Leinster coach can. Or at least, if he can't then who else could?
The return of the talismanic Paul O'Connell to full, rampaging form is a plus, but Sean O'Brien is out and there are worries about the fitness of Johnny Sexton. However, Madigan's showing for the Wolfhounds should ease the anxiety of the coach if he decides the Racing man isn't ready for a full outing.
Ideally, Ireland will want the exact opposite of what happened last year, when a decent first 40 against Wales was followed by a slow, grinding descent into misery, misanthropy and Ronan O'Fucking Gara. At least the last thing can't happen this time, eh?
We must be up to Ireland Transitional Phase Version 4.8 by now, and because of this they have too little tested cover in too many key positions to win this time around, but top half is likely.
B&M Prediction: 3rd
One To Watch: Brian O'Driscoll - and up and coming young Leinster centre who may or may not actually be Jesus.
What Will Keith Wood Say? "Despite being 15 points down, I think Ireland are on top in many ways"