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Mallett Marvels At England's Defence. 2015 Round 2 review

Nick Mallett

If there was one area of Friday's clash in Cardiff that best illustrated the difference between Wales and England then it was in defence.

England's line speed was excellent throughout and so aggressive that Wales' marquee ball carriers like Jamie Roberts and George North were stopped behind the gainline time and again.

But it was not just line-speed and accuracy in the tackle that characterised their defence, they were also able to use it to force turnovers with the choke tackle proving particularly effective as James Haskell came to the fore.

Jonny May's decision to step in on Taulupe Faletau and leave Rhys Webb a simple run-in at the start of the game was virtually the only defensive blip from Stuart Lancaster's well-drilled outfit.

In contrast, Wales were 'out-passioned' by England with a defensive line speed that was nowhere near as impressive.

Take Jonathan Joseph's try for example; while his footwork to avoid Dan Biggar initially was impressive, the rest of the try owed far more to shocking Welsh tackling than to any skill on the centre's part.

North and Webb completely missed him and as Wales clearly tired, England went from strength to strength.
On top of their fitness, what was also impressive from England was the fact that they did not panic at 10-0 down after 10 minutes, they still played for territory and had clearly learned the lessons of 2013.

Their set-piece was accurate for the most part, certainly more so than Wales who struggled in the scrum and lineout all night, but it was England's kicking game that penned the hosts in their own half.

Varied chips, grubbers and up and unders kept the Welsh back three guessing and also created Anthony Watson's first-half score.

In terms of positives for Wales there were not very many. Leigh Halfpenny may have just about won the battle of the goal kickers but even then he missed one shot at the goal that you would normally bet your house on him getting.

Over in Rome, patience was certainly a virtue for reigning champions Ireland as they left it late before eventually seeing off Italy.

The key moment was Leonardo Ghiraldini's yellow card in the second half for persistent collapsing of the Ireland maul as, while the hooker was in the sin bin, Ireland scored both of their tries.

Until that point Ireland had persisted with close-range attacks but struggled to make any headway in the face of an aggressive, narrow Azzurri defence.

But in the face of mounting pressure and an Italian tackle count that doubled Ireland's, the men in green finally made their dominance count in the last 20 minutes when they moved the ball further out wide - although Andrea Masi's attempted tackle on Tommy O'Donnell was pitiful.

And finally in Paris, Scotland will take much heart from running France so close but to be brutally honest I thought the final scoreline flattered the visitors.

Scotland's first-half try was wonderful, showing all the variety of their direct and lateral attacking plays through the phases before a prop, Euan Murray, offloaded to winger Dougie Fife to go over out wide.

The first half was very evenly contested but in the second half France dominated territory almost totally and I hardly remember Scotland being in an attacking position in the French half in the second 40 minutes.

Scotland were forced to defend for large periods of the second half and did so with bravery and excellent 'scramble' defence to deny Yoann Huget in particular.

But France's iron control of territory in the second half caused Scotland to be penalised in defence and that made it virtually impossible for Vern Cotter's men to get into a position to win the game.

Throughout the RBS 6 Nations, the Accenture analysis team, which includes Nick Mallett, will be providing fans with insight and analysis to see beyond standard match data. Follow @AccentureRugby

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