Italy and England upset the odds on a day that will live long in the memory


The world was turned upside down and after giving it a good shake, what fell out was entertainment. Proper good fun. A day of Six Nations upsets was exactly what rugby fans wanted โ€“ and needed.

It was in danger of looking like rugby’s current levels settling, having been poured out across four weekends of Six Nations. But if the last weekend is always Super Saturday, this one was Saturday the Six Nations stuck its finger in the plug socket. What a rush.

It all began with Italy stunning Scotland to win in Rome for the first time since 2013. Yes, you read that right. It was a long time between drinks but Italy were good value for their 31-29 victory.

And it climaxed with a slobber-knocker of a match between England and Ireland. We were told Ireland were already on their way to back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams, while England were meant to be as exciting as white noise. At Twickenham, Steve Borthwick’s side happily pulverised that notion, with Ben Earl on a tear through the fabric of any assumption.

It all finished up with a snapshot drop-goal from Marcus Smith to win the match 23-22. And the crowd in Twickenham went berserk.

It feels mad to label two home sides winning as Six Nations upsets but there was an established world order coming into these games. But the best thing about this day was that in order to overturn the odds, the matches had to be of a certain level of adventure.

Italy had roared back from 12 points down against Scotland, with Ignacio Brex and Tommaso Menoncello baiting and bashing the Scots. The Azzurri held on at home despite so much recent history of losing grip in Rome.

But for England it was the muscularity of their performance. We know โ€“ because we’ve been told enough โ€“ that quick ruck ball is hugely important in rugby. But you have to treat that with an equal measure of urgency when you move it on. And England were hammering onto live ball in a way we haven’t seen their carriers do for some time against top-end opposition.

At home, they had a fire to their play, and the crowd responded. No need for gimmicks, pyrotechnics or ear-splitting chat on the tannoys. The play was electric and the crowd responded. This is what the Six Nations is all about.

Can you measure the scenes in Rome against those in London? Give them both their space. And hope like hell Wales and France can keep this adrenaline-fuelled party going.

For those checking, France are currently favoured by the bookies to be the most likely winners tomorrow…

Download the digital editionย of Rugby World straight to your tablet orย subscribe to the print editionย to get the magazine delivered to your door.

Follow Rugby World onย Facebook,ย Instagramย andย Twitter/X.