French facing HIA investigation
Sexton is Ireland's hero
Wales and England storm to wins
There was blood, there was controversy, there was drama.
The 2018 Six Nations rugby championship kicked off on Saturday with Wales, Ireland and England all claiming impressive victories. But that’s not even half the story.
Here’s the main talking points from the weekend’s action.
French use of the head injury assessment (HIA) rule is under the microscope again after Saturday’s encounter with Ireland in Paris.
With five minutes remaining and with all eight substitutes used, French scrumhalf Antoine Dupont went down with what appeared to be a knee injury.
The independent match doctor, however, ruled that Dupont had to be sent for an HIA – as had happened earlier in the match when French flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert also went down with an apparent knee complaint.
With rugby rules stating that temporary replacements are allowed to enter the field during HIA, France was allowed to reintroduce starting scrum half Maxime Machenaud to ensure a full complement of players as it tried to repel an Irish side making one last push for victory.
Six Nations organizers announced after that match that they would be investigating the HIA incidents.
France faced a similar investigation last year when it was found to have not followed HIA rules during its Six Nations game with Wales.
Dupont reportedly suffered cruciate knee ligament damage and will miss the remainder of the season.
Sexton last gasp winner
In the end, the extra man didn’t ensure victory for France.
A last-gasp drop goal from Ireland’s talismanic flyhalf, Johnny Sexton, brought an element of drama to what was a stodgy and uninspiring encounter for Ireland.
Trailing by a point, the Irish picked the ball up inside their own half as fulltime approached and had to batter their way into French territory to allow Sexton the chance to notch the game winning score.
Speaking after the game, Ireland full-back Rob Kearney described Sexton’s contribution as “quite incredible” while former Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll took to Twitter to compare the savior Sexton with Jesus.
Ireland now face three home matches in a row before a potential last day shootout against England at Twickenham.
Wales demolish Scotland
Much of the talk prior to the Six Nations was about whether Scotland could finally win the competition for the first time since 1999.
Gregor Townsend has presided over home and away victories against Australia since taking over as Scotland coach last year and came close to notching a first ever Scottish win against New Zealand.
But it took only six minutes for Scottish optimism to fade in Cardiff as an injury-hit Wales made a blistering start.
Gareth Davies scored the opening try of the tournament on six minutes before Leigh Halfpenny stretched the home side’s lead by crossing the whitewash shortly after.
On what was a sobering afternoon for the Scots, the home side eventually ran out comfortable 34-7 winners.
Champions England up and running
England has won the Six Nations for the last two years while the last time Italy finished anywhere other than last was 2015.
As expected, Eddie Jones’ men duly racked up the points to claim a comfortable 46-15 victory in Rome.
Among the star performers was Six Nations debutant Sam Simmonds who crossed the line for two of England’s seven tries.
Anthony Watson, Owen Farrell, Jack Nowell and George Ford also scored for an England team which has now won 23 out of its 24 matches since Jones took over in 2015.
For Italy, it looks like it could be another long Six Nations and potential wooden spoon finish.