Six Nations Round 1: Roman Holiday

Italy 23, France 18

National soccer teams are supposed to reflect the national character of their countries. This doesn’t always work, like in the case of Italy, which is the spiritual home of the car crash but is also famous for playing defensively organized, responsible soccer.

The Italian rugby team seems much more in touch with the Italian spirit. Their style of play can best be described as “buccaneering,” almost cheerful – filled with players running backwards and reversing field and attempting improbable kicks and that sort of thing. All that was missing was a table with a red-checked tablecloth in the middle of the pitch, with two dark-haired men eating improbably large plates of pasta while arguing.

France expected to just turn up and win while Italy fell apart, but instead Italy made a couple of improbable kicks and scored a couple of improbable tries, and by the time France realized they were in trouble, it was too late for them to do anything about it.

The last three minutes of this match – as Italy held out, ten yards in front of their own end zone, against waves of French attacks – may have been the most exciting three minutes in the history of the world. The crowd was roaring like Romans in the Colosseum, which of course they pretty much were, and when it was all over, Italy celebrated like they’d just won the whole competition. It’s hard to beat that for fun.

Ireland 30, Wales 22

For the first 45 minutes of this match, everything that Ireland tried worked. By that time it was 30-3 Ireland. Wales, which had ruined its own chances by doing dumb things, continued to do them, but also did good things as well, which is why the game ended up being 30-22 instead of 45-3.

Wales probably should have won, being at home. They look like the kind of team that could end up being the best team ever to lose every game. Which, we have to remind ourselves, is what they have done since they won last year’s Six Nations – lose every game.

England 38, Scotland 18

Scotland are just good enough to be “terrible”, rather than “abysmal.”