The Six Nations ended in triumph for England, securing their first Grand Slam in 13 years with a 31-21 victory over France in Paris. It was a far cry from the England team who competed in the World Cup just six months ago, dominating the championship and only conceding 4 tries throughout.
The win now takes England to a tally of 13 Grand Slams, 2 ahead of fierce rivals Wales with 11 and 4 ahead of France who have 9. The win would have been somewhat bittersweet for the team, a great victory and well deserved but many must have been wondering why they couldn’t deliver such a performance a few months ago instead of taking an early exit at their own tournament.
The last 6 weeks has provided us with some memorable moments, with each nation throwing everything at their opponents in what is a very hotly contested championship which in theory is wide open, though in recent years it seems to have been a battle between England, Wales and Ireland.
Incidentally it was Ireland, England and Wales who took the top 3 places in both the 2014 and 2015 tournaments. Last year it was one of the closest tournaments ever with all three nations taking 8 points and Ireland only taking the cup on points difference. In 2014 it was also points difference which decided who would take the trophy home, with Ireland coming out triumphant over England.
The famous trophy
The 2016 trophy was the second year of the latest iteration, designed by Thomas Lyte who is a world-renowned silversmith. He was commissioned in 2015 to design something new to take account of the tournament having been expanded to include a sixth nation in that of Italy.
The previous trophy was introduced in 1993, the brainchild of the Earl of Westmorland, with France being the first country to receive it.
The present trophy weighs 7kg and consists of 50 individual pieces, having been hand spun from Sterling 925 Silver and stands 75cm in height. It also took an astonishing 200 hours to cast, spin, engrave and polish the trophy, all by hand.
What about injuries?
Due to the nature of the sport and the fact that it takes a lot to keep a rugby player on the ground, unlike a footballer, we don’t often hear about player injuries. The truth is that due to the physicality of the sport a player is probably more likely to incur an injury than a footballer. Some rugby injuries are more common than others but typically cover hamstring injuries, head injuries, ankle injuries, fractures and dislocations to the thumb and shoulder injuries.
The severity of an injury and the resulting recovery time can vary dramatically depending on the nature of the condition and the person injured, as we are all affected differently and have different healing times.
Whilst listing every Six Nations injury could result in a lengthy post we’ve simply put together just a few and how this may have impacted on the team, as there is always a question mark as to whether your finishing place in a tournament is influenced by the players available to you and could it have been different if you had everyone you wanted on the pitch?
Despite taking the trophy with a game to spare and subsequently taking the Grand Slam accolade England had a number of early headaches with regards to injuries. Before even a ball was kicked England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster had to deal with the prospect of losing a number of vital players, not just for the opener against Wales but the entire tournament.
Ollie Devoto: He was concussed playing for Wasps and given the new rules surrounding head injuries in the sport has been ruled out for up to 3 weeks. Due to the potential severity of suffering from a head injury it is essential that players refrain from taking part in training and especially a match to minimise the risk of further damage being caused. As a result of the injury he missed the game against Ireland.
Ed Slater: He has had a bad run of luck so far this year, having suffered ligament damage to his right knee which ruled him out of the Six Nations but also requiring quite a few stitches to his hand when his knife slipped attempting to cut a frozen bagel. The hand injury is not something commonly found on the rugby pitch but ligament damage is. There are four different ligaments within the joint located at each side, the anterior cruciate ligament (front), posterior cruciate ligament (back), medial collateral ligament (inside) and lateral collateral ligament (outside). As with ankle ligament damage grades range from one to three which could be anything from a couple of weeks out to surgery and 9 months on the sidelines.
Josh Beaumont: As with Ollie Devoto, Beaumont was ruled out of the Ireland game after dislocating his shoulder whilst playing for Sale Sharks. Given the nature of the sport and depending on its severity he could be out of action for a couple of months. Firstly the shoulder will be need to be reset in position before the rotator cuff assessed via an ultra sound to see if any further damage has been caused which may result in surgery.
Jamie George: An injury which is not particularly common in rugby is that of a bicep injury, with George missing the final two games of the tournament as a result. The injury means he will now spend 10 weeks on the sidelines whilst the muscle heals, followed by a period of strengthening exercises. In serious muscle ruptures surgery may be required to repair the damage.
Whilst a number of key players didn’t make it due to injury those players who did managed to fill the void and come out on top. Interestingly enough, England did not experience any major injuries throughout the tournament therefore whilst injuries can be detrimental to your success at a tournament, it seems that if they happen before a ball is kicked then the team you do select have time to adapt.
Following their dominance of the championship for the past couple of years Ireland finished the tournament in third place with just two wins and a draw.
Sean O'Brien: Ruled out after the second game with a hamstring injury which saw him miss the remainder of the tournament. This injury was a reoccurrence on a previous condition which highlights that once you have sustained an injury you are more likely to see the same injury again in the future.
Mike McCarthy: Suffered a head injury and initial reports ae that he could be out of action until the beginning of next season which shows that it is not a minor infliction.
Rob Kearney: Missed the last game of the campaign with a hamstring injury which was thought to have been only a minor issue, however this was not the case. They can vary dramatically in severity with a grade one tear being relatively minor with a couple of weeks out of action compared to a grade three which may require surgery to stitch the muscle back together.
Wales dominated England in the World Cup just a few months ago but this time it was England you came out on top on their way to taking home the Grand Slam and leaving Wales in second with three wins and a draw.
On the injury front there were no major casualties with doubts cast over certain players during the tournament, not helped in that both club matches are played throughout the Six Nations.
Luke Charteris: Was a doubt for the match against France in Round 3 owing to a sore knee sustained when playing for his club. The injury itself was only thought to be minor but led to him sitting out of his Racing 92 game in a bid to be fit for the national side.
Jonathan Davies: Having sustained a groin injury Davies was doubtful for the game against France and as with Charteris had to sit on the sidelines of his club match leading up to the Round 3 game in Cardiff.
A disappointing tournament in general for France ending in fifth place on point’s difference despite having two wins to their name, the same as Scotland. The last time they took the trophy home was back in 2010 where they also took Grand Slam honours at the same time. France also have the record for the longest wait for a title, a total of 43 years (24 tournaments) between 1910 and 1953, which is considerably more than Ireland in second place with 24 years (24 tournaments).
On the injury front injuries were rather minimal and therefore it seems that lack of quality was the main issue behind their fifth placed finish.
Teddy Thomas: Missed the trip to Wales in Round 3 following a reoccurrence of a hamstring injury whilst playing for Racing 92. There are times during recovery that a player my push too hard which can result in injury, with Thomas being sidelined for around three weeks.
2016 saw an improvement over their 2014 performance, moving from bottom of the table with no points to fourth with two wins under their belt.
Matt Scott: The first casualty of the Scottish campaign occurred after the opening match with England. The elbow ligament injury sustained resurfaced at club level resulting in the player missing the rest of the tournament. It took an MRI scan to confirm the damage and was a big blow to the team, given than Scott is a pivotal member.
Jonny Gray: Following victory over France in Round 5 Gray suffered a pectoral strain resulting in him missing the final game against Ireland which they lost 35-25.
The tournament was a great confidence booster for England as they look to rebuild following the struggles from a few months ago. As spectators we all saw some fantastic rugby and whilst the debate regarding injuries and team performance will never stop it is purely speculative as to what might have happened.