Which team has a 'strong feel-good factor' but which side has 'more pain to come' – Six Nations report card

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France (pictured) and Ireland still have 100% records after two rounds of the tournament

With two rounds done, the Six Nations squads are in the midst of a rest week, nursing injuries and refining gameplans.

With four head coaches making their debut in the competition ,though, who is top of the class and who must try harder at this point?

Former England fly-half and BBC Radio 5 Live analyst Paul Grayson is here to hand out his half-term report card.

England

Jones is yet to agree an extension to a contract that expires in 2021

After the run to the Rugby World Cup campaign, losing away in France without really firing a shot was very disappointing. England were just so ineffective.

I think coach Eddie Jones has made a few selection mistakes with his squad as well, leaving himself without much wriggle room if he gets injuries in certain areas.

For instance, George Furbank is probably his third- or fourth-choice full-back but, with a couple of injuries, he was thrust into the first team.

Six Nations highlights: Scotland 6-13 England

It is too early to call the experiment with Tom Curry playing at number eight in Billy Vunipola’s enforced absence. It didn’t work in the opening game in France. He was better in the second game, but the conditions really made that game such an oddity.

I would have liked to have seen a specialist number eight in the squad – either Harlequins’ Alex Dombrandt or Exeter’s Sam Simmonds.

For all that, though, the big caveat is that when England perform well we know that they are more than a match for anyone.

Grade: C-

Wales

Pivac (right) has succeeded fellow New Zealander Warren Gatland as Wales head coach

Wales are probably the team that have changed the most under a new coach.

Wayne Pivac has made a decent capture in convincing former England under-20 centre Nick Tomkins to commit himself to Wales, even if the harsh realities of Test rugby caught up with him against Ireland somewhat after his try-scoring debut against Italy.

Six Nations: Wales 42-0 Italy highlights

Pivac also seems keen to get Wales playing a more adventurous gameplan, similar to the one which he used to guide Scarlets to the Pro12 title in 2017.

There is a similar shape to the team and a similar willingness to chance their arm with offloads out of contact.

Pro12 final highlights: Munster 22-46 Scarlets

When it come off it looks great, when it doesn’t it looks risky and messy.

Are they moving too fast from the central tenets of the Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards era? I’m not sure.

Italy at home in the first game was a nice soft landing for a new coach, but it was disappointing not to be able to put Ireland under the same sort of pressure.

It is going to take some time to up-skill to an all-court game in attack and, defensively they have to be better than they were at the Aviva Stadium.

Grade: C+

Ireland

Farrell played for England in the 2007 Rugby World Cup and coached them in the 2015 Rugby World Cup

With new coaches, there is often the expectation that there is going to be some sort of immediate shift in style, despite the players being largely the same and the time it takes for any new philosophy to stick.

Farrell is going about it the right way. There is not change for the sake of change, but instead a more gentle evolution.

Six Nations highlights: Ireland 24-14 Wales

He has made a few tweaks here and there – Jordan Larmour is now the definite first-choice full-back with Rob Kearney out the the picture, Andrew Conway is getting a go on the wing – but he is keeping the elements that made them the world’s top side in 2018.

He is doing things his way, but not at the expense of the framework for success that predecessor Joe Schmidt laid down.

To put away a decent Wales side at home, and take the bonus point in doing so, was impressive.

Grade: B+

Scotland

Gregor Townsend was appointed Scotland boss in 2017 after building an exciting Glasgow Warriors side

The big call for Gregor Townsend so far in the Six Nations has come off the pitch – dealing with fly-half Finn Russell refusing to play for him.

It feels like a issue that has been a long time coming. You don’t have a catastrophic breakdown in the relationship between your coach and star player over one evening or one breach of team rules. It must run far deeper and more fundamental than that.

The to-and-fro in the media has not been an edifying spectacle and, with two losses from two so far, Townsend desperately needs a victory.

This poor start to the Six Nations follows on from a dismal World Cup campaign and it is clear that they have gone backwards in the wake of Vern Cotter’s departure.

Six Nations: Ireland 19-12 Scotland highlights

They beat Ireland and Wales in Cotter’s final Six Nations campaign in 2017.

They fought hard against England and Ireland, but they have made some basic mistakes, not least captain Stuart Hogg.

There are some bright spots for them. They have the makings of a good team. The pack is improved and Adam Hastings has done well filling in for Russell at fly-half, but I can’t see where they will turn the corner.

It feels like there is more pain to come.

Grade: C-

France

Edwards is working under new France head coach Fabien Galthie

France have made some fantastic appointments behind the scenes, not least in recruiting defence coach Edwards from Wales.

England could not deal with France’s line speed in defence on the opening weekend in Paris and, while France were patchier in their win over Italy in the second round, Edwards will really galvanise that squad.

He has the sort of personality that will win over the players and give them direction and discipline in defence.

Six Nations: France 24-17 England – highlights

I was at the Stade de France for their win over England and I have never known an atmosphere like it in Paris. Usually there is a hint of chaos in the crowd, but this time it did not feel like anyone was about to turn on the team or coaches.

That feel-good factor is strong and signs that is only going to get better. In Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack they seem to have found a generational half-back pairing, who will play together for the next decade or so.

Behind them there is a very promising crop of youngsters, who have won successive under-20 world titles. Prop Demba Bamba leads a handful who look like they can lock down their national shirts for the foreseeable.

Grade: B

Italy

South African Smith has spent time in the Italian club game, coaching Treviso, before taking on the national team job

New coach Franco Smith has tried to innovate. He has brought in a dual playmaker axis with Tommaso Allan and Carlo Canna at 10 and 12 respectively.

Gloucester back row Jake Polledri, one of the Premiership’s strongest ball-carriers, is a gem and wing Matteo Minozzi is quick and dangerous.

But they are in transition. With number eight Sergio Parisse joining prop Martin Castrogiovanni in retirement at the end of the tournament, you can’t see where their successors are coming from.

Highlights: France score five tries to beat Italy

Their Six Nations games tend to fall into a rhythm of them conceding early – both Wales and France scored tries inside the first seven minutes of their matches – and Italy being unable to dig themselves out of trouble despite a few promising patches when the opposition’s concentration wavers.

It is so hard trying to close the chasm in quality between them and the best northern hemisphere sides.

Grade: D

Paul Grayson was speaking to BBC Sport’s Mike Henson.



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