Traditionally, Week Three of the Six Nations is defining; leaders step forth from the crucible of heated battle, reputations are forged or broken. A pattern is woven, six colours vying for attention, drawing the eye. But who will provide the masterpieces, who the poor forgeries of rugby’s greatest tapestry?
Italy, riding high on a wave of confidence following the downing of Les Bleus in Rome, were shot down in flames by a resurgent Scotland, with Hogg, Scott and Visser showing a tantalising taste of what may lie ahead for flocculent Scott Johnson’s charges. Italy, outfought and outthought, return to Rome looking for home comforts, something that may be difficult if Sergio Parisse’s grande bocca costs gli Azzurri il loro Capofile*.
France and Wales found themselves at a metaphorical decussation last week. For Cymru, it was a case of choosing an apparently forgotten direction; George North’s beautifully taken try closed out a doughty victory for Howley’s Wyverns who will go to Rome now with renewed spirit. Phillipe Saint-André, having somehow removed France’s Esprit de Clocher in Paris, now travels to rugby HQ in the hope that the meaty fare guaranteed by Les Rosbifs will contain more than a little nag.
England, the only unbeaten team left in the tournament, ground out a fine win in Dublin, signalling a transition from maybes to likelys. Welcoming their old foe in fine fettle, they will be satisfied with nothing less than a reenactment of 1346’s Battle of Crecy.
Ireland, on the other hand, have gone from maybes to maybe nots, travelling to Edinburgh beaten and bruised, hoping that the back-row nous showed in Dublin will be enough. The Scots may beg to differ on that point.
So once more unto the breach, dear friends. Here are my tips and tipples for the tournament-defining third week.
Saturday 23rd February 2013
Italy v Wales Stadio Olimpico 14:30
You’ll want to get into the beers early on Saturday so I heartily recommend several Nastro Azzuri, dotted at half time by some Grappa. You will then need to round out the half time break with a Welsh whisky, possibly Penderyn Madeira, before assaulting the second half with Tudor Brewery’s Sugarloaf. Six or seven will do.
Saturday evening at HQ calls for nothing less than ales and champagne, champagne and ales. Jerry tells me never to mix the grain with the grape but what does he know?
The jumped-up scarf salesman has one Appletini and he’s telling anyone who’ll listen about the drop goal in Durban that made him loved the world over. Prince of Centres, my arse. England to march remorselessly forward but not without a Gallic scare. Champagne glasses downed in favour of many, many pints of Abbot Ale, a beer as old as the Domesday Book and twice as fun.
Sunday 24th February 2013
Scotland v Ireland Murrayfield 14:00
The Celtic brethren go at it again, and, by starting with a drink loved in both countries, Buckfast, you’ll be guaranteed to get your Sunday off to a colourful start. Then it’s a whistle-stop tour around the Western Isles with nods towards Tobermory, Talisker and Abhainn Dearg, before crossing the water to pop into Bushmill’s for a pint or two of 21 year single malt. You may need a friend to help you home. Likewise Ronan O’Gara, who may discover that, after years of being the dagger to the heart of teams with his kicking, you do not bring a knife to a gunfight.
Scotland to add to the clamour for a Kidney transplant in Ireland.
Then, thankfully for the taste buds and liver, a two-week break.
I myself foresee tremors.
* transcribed by Droptheclaw in advance of Sergio’s judiciary hearing from jottings found on discarded colostomy bag packaging