Scotland surprises England as Ireland leaves its mark on Wales: 5 things we learned

Ireland got off to a good start to their Guinness Six Nations campaign with victory in Wales, while England lost their opening game under Steve Borthwick as Scotland triumphed at Twickenham.

Italy made life difficult for reigning champions France in Rome, but ultimately fell to defeat.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at five things we learned from the opening weekend of the championship.

Tentative signs of reactivation

Steve Borthwick’s first game as England manager ended in defeat (Adam Davy/PA)

A third successive Calcutta Cup defeat hurt England, but there was promise in their maiden outing under new head coach Steve Borthwick.

Mistaking expectations, they defended poorly but displayed the kind of ambition and precision in attack that was expected to be applied at a later date.

Their set piece still needs attention and they missed a big run that really took a toll on the line, but by scoring three tries they showed a purpose that was lacking in the latter stages of Eddie Jones’ time in charge.

duhan is the man

The difference between the rivals in a gripping Calcutta Cup encounter was Scotland’s unwavering willingness to attack and their most powerful weapon, Duhan van der Merwe.

England’s loose kick, fragmentary chasing and dismal tackling provided the platform for the giant wing to score one of Twickenham’s great first-half tries, but it was still a magnificent finish.

And with six minutes to go he showed strength and agility to condemn the hosts to defeat with a classy second.

For a Scotland back line blessed with dangerous running backs, Van der Merwe brings his own brand of X-factor.

ireland in the box

As well as struggling for a lengthy period in the second half, Ireland fully justified their title favorites tag with a 34-10 win over Wales in Cardiff.

A 27-3 lead at the interval came after a near flawless 40 minutes in which they physically dominated Warren Gatland’s undisciplined side and, after losing their way, finished strong with Josh van der Flier grabbing the bonus point.

France’s visit to the Aviva Stadium in the second round has the looks of a decisive title decision and on this evidence Ireland have to lose as they live up to their billing as the highest ranked team in the world.

Rookies offer hope to struggling Wales

Jac Morgan was one of Wales' best players against Ireland

Jac Morgan was one of the best players for Wales against Ireland (Nigel French/PA)

There was no fairy tale script to accompany the return of Warren Gatland as Wales head coach, with Ireland, favorites to the Six Nations title, winning 34-10 in Cardiff.

Wales were terribly outclassed during a forgettable first half, but overall performances from wing Rio Dyer, center Joe Hawkins and wing Jac Morgan should give Welsh fans cause for optimism. All three made great contributions during a difficult afternoon to improve his reputation.

When there is so much to fix in Welsh rugby, this exciting young talent is well worth savoring.

Italian rugby on the rise

“It’s pretty hard to swallow this defeat,” was fly half Tommaso Allan’s reaction to Italy’s 29-24 defeat and with a little more composure in a dominant last 10 minutes, they could have pulled off a momentous win over France.

Wins against Wales and Australia in 2022 have provided a boost to Italian rugby that was on full display when they went toe-to-toe with the Grand Slam champions, who were crushed by their high penalty count.

Full-back Ange Capuozzo burst onto the scene last year and her electric attacking skills, typified by her witty try against France, are the focal point for a team proving themselves worth a place in the Six Nations.

Italy visit Twickenham on Sunday and England must beware of a dangerous encounter.

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