5 things we learned from the second round of Six Nations action

France took pole position for Guinness Six Nations glory, while Scotland came down to earth in style.

Here, the PA news agency selects highlights from Round 2 of the Championship.

The French team to beat

Les Bleus entered the tournament as favorites and underlined that status with a spellbinding victory over Ireland in Paris. Touted as a potential early title decider, the thrilling contest did not disappoint. Antoine Dupont’s superb try set the French tone and physique, the intensity and ball speed were sometimes out of the ordinary, to the delight of a noisy Stade de France audience. Fabien Galthie’s formidable hosts are on a steady upward curve and marching relentlessly towards the World Cup on home soil next year. They are now undoubtedly the team to beat as they attempt to end a 12-year wait for Championship glory.

New-look England join Azzurri’s blues

Marcus Smith scored the first of England’s tries in Rome (Mike Egerton/PA)

Italy’s Under-20s made history on Friday by beating England for the first time. There was no such joy for their senior counterparts, whose inclusion in the Six Nations continues to be the subject of much scrutiny. The Azzurri have now lost a remarkable 34 league games in a row, dating back to 2015. Eddie Jones’ much-changed England healed a few injuries from their opening-day reverse against Scotland but, in truth, a Routine 33-0 victory at Rome was entirely predictable. After Saturday’s riveting drama in Cardiff and Paris, too many matches involving the Italians are relative non-events.

Five horse race

While France currently have the upper hand, the standings are well placed for a two-week break. Only the perennial winners of the wooden spoon, Italy, are not in contention for the title, with Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland each retaining hopes of chasing the leaders on the back of one win and one loss each. Despite all the Blues’ early promises, perhaps their rivals can take comfort in the fact that they have benefited from two home games. In-form Ireland, in particular, should go forward full of confidence after continuing their progress under Andy Farrell by winning in defeat in the French capital.

Disheartening defeat for Scotland

Scotland had it all ahead of their trip to Wales, having secured an emotional Calcutta Cup victory and faced a side dismantled by Ireland seven days earlier. The Scots hadn’t won in Cardiff since 2002, but they were clear favorites to further pile the misery of the Six Nations on the defending champions. Gregor Townsend’s side, however, failed to score key moments and fly-half Finn Russell’s yellow card 12 minutes from time cost them dearly. Two of their last three games are against France and Ireland, so they have everything to do to try to prevent their campaign from collapsing.

Welsh warriors

They may have a combined age of 65, but Dan Biggar and Jonathan Davies have once again proven their unwavering commitment to the cause. Both players celebrated Wales and the British & Irish Lions 100th Test match in style, with captain Biggar defying a knee problem to score 15 points, including a drop-goal winner, and center Davies making two tackles late game reviews. instead when the Scots pressed relentlessly. The next World Cup may be 19 months away, but expect both to be there – and still performing.

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