Two Cents Rugby: Five changes Six Nations teams should make for Round Three
With the third week of the Six Nations on the horizon, Two Cents Rugby highlights five changes he’d like to see in the next round.
The fallow week has given sides the opportunity to take stock and see which areas of their starting XV needs to improve.
Matthieu Jalibert (France)
Limited to a bench role for France since the Japan series in July 2022, it would be fantastic to see Jalibert start against Scotland. However, coming off a loss to Ireland, it’s unlikely that Fabien Galthié will make sweeping changes as they look to bounce back. The Antoine Dupont-Romain Ntamack combination seems set in stone, but Jalibert has come off the bench several times to spark the French attack into action. The recent game with Italy was a great example of this and, although he had less influence against Ireland, where he was operating at full-back, Jalibert needs a crack at the number 10 jersey. With limited chances between now and the Rugby World Cup, it’s getting towards now or never to get a look at the Bordeaux man.
Ross Byrne (Ireland)
Due to Johnny Sexton’s groin injury being managed by the Irish medical staff, Byrne getting a start in Round Three may be a forgone conclusion. But even if Sexton is fit, the 27-year-old needs a start for Ireland – probably more than one – before the Rugby World Cup. Byrne has certainly had his critics when wearing the 10 jersey for Ireland in the past, and probably rightly so. However, for mine he has been playing at a high level in the last six months or so and needs to experience that pressure of leading the Test side once again. With Italy next on the horizon, it would seem the perfect chance not to risk Sexton and for Byrne to build on the form he showed from the bench against France.
Gavin Coombes (Ireland)
With Caelan Doris in the form of his life and Ireland firing on all cylinders, Andy Farrell is surely loathe to change much about his line-up. That being said, in the same fixture last year we did see him tinker slightly, so this might be the week for it to happen. Coombes was released to play for Munster at the weekend and responded with a hat-trick of tries. Not only that but he had the most run metres and defenders beaten of any forward, plus the most carries and tackles of any Munster player. The Irish back-row is definitely going to be very hard to crack for Coombes, but surely, if there was a “pick me” performance, that was it, even if just for the bench against Italy.
Nick Tompkins (Wales)
Warren Gatland has opted for Joe Hawkins for the last couple of games at 12 and he has certainly looked promising. However, a few defensive frailties have been exposed and, with Wales needing a result to boost morale, it’s time to look towards the more experienced player in Tompkins. I rated the centre highly last year. His involvement rate with the Welsh attack was high, be it his ability to carry and offload or just his general distribution game. Plus, defensively I think Tompkins will be more secure in the immediate term than the still very young and still learning Hawkins. Especially with Tompkins playing his club rugby in the Premiership, England will be a familiar foe which may give the Saracens man a leg up compared to Hawkins.
Jack Walker (England)
A big step for Jack Walker in week two where he came off the bench for his Test debut. Now I’m not saying Walker needs to start ahead of 70+ cap British and Irish Lion Jamie George. But what I do think Walker needs is more than the paltry seven minutes he’s played so far across two games. I can understand Steve Borthwick not wanting to chuck Walker in the deep end during the game against Scotland given how tight it finished. But what that meant was a full 80 minutes sat on the bench and nothing much gained. Seven minutes against Italy was a brief taste but more is needed. It’s something we saw under Eddie Jones too in that only when George and Luke Cowan-Dickie played together was there faith shown in the replacement to play more than token minutes. With Cowan-Dickie out for the Six Nations, Walker needs to have more faith shown in what he can bring. Over 20 minutes for Walker – if selected – please.
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