Six Nations 2022: what we learned from Round Three matches as France, England and Ireland win

The latest edition of Rugby’s Greatest Championship continued at the weekend as the title favourites continued their push towards a famous Grand Slam victory.

There were highs and lows in Round Three of the 2022 Six Nations Championship as Scotland and Wales saw their slim title hopes ended while England and Ireland did enough to keep on the tails of France.

The first match at Murrayfield saw Les Bleus at their very best to comfortably conquer the Scots while Eddie Jones’ side were thoroughly tested by their fierce rivals at Twickenham.

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Then there was Ireland v Italy, a game that was already a one sided contest being effectively ended as a spectacle by a harsh, but ultimately correct, ruling.

There are still some big questions to be answered though and the next round of matches could be the most intriguing yet with serious stakes at both ends of the table.

Here are six talking points from Round Three of the 2022 Six Nations Championship:

No shame in defeat but alarm bells should be ringing in Scotland

Duhan van der Merwe of Scotland breaks through to score their second try during the Six Nations Rugby match between Scotland and France

Most predicted the final score of Scotland v France to be much closer than it ended up but the visitors were so impressive that they probably could have cruised past any team in world rugby on Saturday.

That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be concern in the Scotland camp and the biggest worry has to be the number of points that the French landed from defensive dominance and turnover penalties.

Scotland went behind early to two magnificent tries that even their renowned scramble defence couldn’t prevent and you simply have to acknowledge the brilliance of the visitors.

However, Gregor Townsend’s side lacked composure when chasing the game and that was perhaps the reason it ended 36-17 rather than by a smaller margin.

There were just too many mistakes, top of that list being Stuart Hogg’s knock on when he looked in for a simple finish, and that is something that their next opponents could look to exploit.

Italy could very well aim to throw the kitchen sink at the Scots in Rome in the opening quarter, knowing that an early lead could force errors the longer their opponents are behind and chasing.

Scotland should still have more than enough to ensure the win but they need to show the same composure they did in Round One when they beat England.

Training day in Dublin benefits nobody

Ireland’s hooker Dan Sheehan offloads as he’s tackled by Italy’s centre Leonardo Marin during the Six Nations international rugby union match between Ireland and Italy

What did we learn about Ireland in week three? Simply put, nothing at all.

You can’t learn anything from a side playing against 13 men when even a full 15 of Italian players were already massive underdogs.

The moment replacement hooker Hame Faiva was shown a red card was the moment that any small chance of an actual contest in the match was ended.

The red card was the right decision and the rules are the rules regarding uncontested scrums but it benefits neither team to play an hour in a 15 v 13 match.

Ireland were able to simply stroll to a 57-6 victory with Italy putting up as brave a fight as they could but it’s hardly good preparation for Andy Farrell’s side ahead of their trip to Twickenham in Round Four.

They had to be professional and play what was in front of them. They did that.

Wales improving week by week with pride on the line

Josh Adams breaks away to score their first try during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on February 26, 2022 in London, England

Their slim chances of retaining the title may have been ended in London but there were plenty of positives for Wales to take from their 23-19 defeat.

Twickenham is one of the most daunting venues in world rugby for a reason but the visitors dealt with pressure superbly and the result could have easily gone their way had a couple of key moments had different outcomes.

The week one defeat in Dublin is firmly in the rear view mirror and Welsh Rugby has restored the pride it lost from that one sided drubbing.

It’s perhaps scant consolation for a nation with such a rich history of success but it’s worth pointing out how many key players are still missing from their current line up.

So much of this current crop of players have plenty more Six Nations Championships in their future and there’s the small matter of the 2023 Rugby World Cup on the horizon.

The fact that they can put in these gritty performances against the odds bodes well for their chances of having a real go at winning the big one in 2023.

They have France in Round Four and you can never count them out but win, lose or draw it’s going to be another important test in preparing the players for serious contention in future tournaments.

Italy refuse to give in but bravery is no substitute for quality

Michele Lamaro and Juan Ignacio Brex of Italy look dejected following their side's defeat in the Six Nations Rugby match between Ireland and Italy

Italy deserve credit for fighting to the bitter end against Ireland but bravery alone just isn’t going to be enough to win matches in this tournament.

Like Wales, pride is of huge importance to the Italians and the Azzurri’s 13 men could leave Dublin with their heads in the air despite the scoreline.

Will they manage to finally break this seven year losing streak in the Six Nations though? It still looks very unlikely.

On the basis of the tournament so far their Round Four match at home to Scotland really will be their best chance of doing that this year but you cant hide from the fact that the Scots just have so much more quality to call upon.

As we mentioned earlier, they will have seen areas of Scotland’s game that they can exploit from France’s win at Murrayfield but it would take a complete capitulation from Gregor Townsend’s side to not leave Rome victorious.

England are still here and still in the title hunt

Jack Nowell of England breaks with the ball during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on February 26, 2022

Round Three was easily England’s best performance of the 2022 Six Nations Championship so far.

They were far more disciplined and composed and took advantage of the opportunities that Wales presented to them in order to secure the win.

They withstood a barrage of Welsh attack for long periods in a complete performance from 1 to 23 that is sure to give the whole squad a much needed lift.

In an ideal world they would have picked up a winning bonus point but that was never really on offer and their chances of winning the championship are still in their own hands.

England have Ireland at home and France away to come and if they can build on the performance against Wales and improve further, which we all know they are capable of, then they will have a real shot at the silverware.

Week four is the crucial fork in the road of their 2022 championship. Win and they have turned a disappointing beginning into an all or nothing final day fixture. Lose and there’s every chance they could still finish the tournament in fifth which would be a disaster.

France, c'est magnifique

France wing Damian Penaud dives over to score the 6th France try during the Six Nations Rugby match between Scotland and France

No amount of superlatives can do France’s performance in Edinburgh justice, it was simply a thing of beauty however you approach your analysis.

The offloading was a joy to behold and their ability to turn defence into attack was what really won them the game.

The 2022 Six Nations is theirs to lose, as is the Grand Slam, but both those titles could be just the tip of the iceberg for this incredible group of players.

Winning a Grand Slam is already enough to secure legendary status in your own nation but this France side could transcend that into the annals of the greatest rugby teams off all time.

They have a home World Cup to look forward to next year and all the evidence points towards them starting that as heavy favourites.

Before that though they need to get the job done in this Six Nations and there is still a long way to go.

First to Cardiff in Round Five, they will be tested big time but they have already shown they will be up to it.

Then Le Crunch, England in Paris. Probably the perfect end to what has so far been a phenomenal campaign (should they survive Wales) would be beating England at home to win the Grand Slam.

Whatever happens, watching them in action last weekend and over the tournament so far has been a privilege.

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