By Richard Smith: The first two weekends of the Six Nations tournament has given rugby fans everything they could have dreamed of with some great action on show. We have seen free flowing rugby mixed with good old fashioned northern hemisphere rough and tumble to give us a fascinating tournament thus far. The first weekend was all about attacking talent and flair while the second round of matches was more about grit and the will to win in difficult conditions.
Only one team has managed come through both of their first two games unscathed and that is of course England who are dreaming of their first Grand Slam since 2003. Stuart Lancaster and his men impressed with a comfortable home win against Scotland in their first game before coming through a turgid affair at the Aviva Stadium in Ireland.
England had gone ten years without a six nations win in Ireland but in the driving rain they kept their discipline to earn a hard-fought victory to the delight of the travelling fans. In the recent past England have crumbled under pressure away from home but not this team, the players appear to have a new found belief which saw them execute their plans under the most intense pressure.
The feeling is that Lancaster is really starting to rebuild the England team with the World Cup in 2015 now firmly in their sights. They finished off 2012 with a stunning win against New Zealand at Twickenham and they seem to have taken that confidence into the Six Nations. Young Owen Farrell is looking more and more like a world class fly-half with every passing minute and if he can stay fit he could well be challenging for a Lions starting berth come June.
It was a frustrating performance from Ireland against England considering the fact they went into the game off of the back of a brilliant away win at Wales in week one. Declan Kidney will have to do without the likes of Johnny Sexton and Simon Zebo after they picked up injuries and it will be interesting to see how they fair over the remainder of the tournament.
Wales on the other hand bounced back from that home defeat to claim a brilliant win away to France on game day two which will have given the defending champions a real shot in the arm when it was needed most. Previously Wales had lost eight games on the bounce so a win in France was a timely one and with Italy next up they will fancy their chances of securing back-to-back victories.
The French have performed their annual wobble having started the tournament as one of the favourites, but having lost their first two games they are now more likely to pick up the wooden spoon than the Six Nations trophy. Their defeat away to Italy was particularly damaging to their confidence and the French will now go to Twickenham with everything to prove although they will surely perform better away from home with the pressure off.
The Italians on the other hand were cock-a-hoop with their win against France in the Olympic Stadium on game day one but all that good work was undone as they were thrashed by a resurgent Scotland in their second match.
Scotland may have lost at Twickenham but they showed plenty of attacking intent which they backed up against the Italians and the feeling is that the Scots could finally be on an upward curve. Interim coach Scott Johnson appears to have found a way to harness their attacking talent and they will fancy their chances in the rest of the tournament with back-to-back home games coming up against a wounded Ireland and an inconsistent Welsh team.
All eyes will be on England though for the remainder of the tournament with the Grand Slam now firmly in their sites. They face France and Italy in their next two games at Twickenham which most would back them to win with a final day clash with Wales in Cardiff looming large on the horizon.
Given the form of both sides at the moment there is no doubt that England would start favourites for that match but as we know Wales would love nothing more than to spoil the English Grand Slam party which could ensure for an explosive end to the Six Nations for 2013.