Six Nations miscellany: World Rugby continue clampdown on dangerous play

Momentum with Wales . . . Ireland’s long shot at title glory . . . . On this day in 2006

The issue of head injuries has been a dominant theme of the 2021 Six Nations. Ireland alone have seen Peter O'Mahony red carded for a high tackle, had numerous players undergo HIAs, with players such as James Ryan and Caelan Doris having to spend time on the sidelines.

The no-nonsense approach of referees towards players making contact with the heads of others is a part of World Rugby’s Head Contact Process (HCP), which was officially launched on Thursday.

The HCP has been developed: “through extensive collaboration and consultation with current and former players, coaches, referees and medical experts” and aims to “assist the sanctioning process for contact with the head and neck”.

Among those involved is World Rugby's director of rugby and high performance – former Ireland boss Joe Schmidt.

According to World Rugby: “The HCP is an evolution of the High Tackle Sanction Framework, which supported rugby’s ambition of reducing the risk of head injury through stronger and more consistent on and off field sanctioning of high-risk tackle actions, in turn encouraging a positive change in player behaviour.

“Within the evolved HCP, the scope for sanction consideration has been broadened to include all illegal head and neck contact, including dangerous clean-outs, head-on-head collisions and head contact which arises from ball carriers leading with an elbow or forearm, in addition to high tackles and shoulder charges.”

It is already in use in the Six Nations, and in other elite competitions, but is now set to come into effect at all levels of the game.

Wales grabbed the momentum and ran with it

Momentum has become the buzzword of this year’s Six Nations – especially when it comes to discussing Wales’ title charge.

Wayne Pivac’s side had none of it heading into the tournament but now they are hoarding it all as they stand two victories away from a special Grand Slam.

And the importance of this momentum has been reflected in Pivac’s team selection for Saturday’s trip to play Italy in Rome.

The Kiwi has made just two changes to his starting XV – one injury-enforced – with Gareth Davies and Cory Hill the players coming in.

This means there will be no rest for the likes of Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Biggar and Taulupe Faletau against an Azzurri side who are without a Championship win in 30.

Wales face France in Paris on the final weekend, with the title likely to be on the line. Points difference – and momentum -–will be key. (148)

Longest of long shots could see Ireland take title

It’s highly unlikely – and almost certain not to happen – but Ireland can still be crowned Six Nations champions in 2021.

If Andy Farrell’s side win their last two fixtures against Scotland and England with bonus points they can reach a total of 17 points for the Championship.

Table leaders Wales currently have 14 points from three fixtures, France have nine from two, England six from three and Scotland five from two.

Were Wales to lose to Italy and draw with France they’d only have 16 points. If France were to lose to England, beat Scotland without a bonus point and draw with Wales, they’d have 15.

Providing Ireland can put Scotland and England away with bonus points, they’d then be crowned champions. We did say it was unlikely.

Quote of the day

"A sport is sport and so is life. It's never going to be up all the way up, it's never going to be perfect." – Tom Curry – flanker first, philosopher second.

Number of the day: 5

Number of wins for James Ryan from his five encounters with Scotland.

On this day: March 12th, 2006 – France 31 England 6

England had landed a hefty blow to swing the pendulum of this great rivalry in their favour in 2003, as they beat France 24-7 in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals.

They would go on to be crowned world champions down under – the first, and still the only, northern hemisphere side to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

But Les Bleus would go on to deliver a degree of revenge as they won the next three Six Nations meetings between the sides – the third of which was a complete thrashing in 2006.

Bernard Laporte's side were rampant in Paris as they ran out 31-6 winners, Dimitri Yachvili at the heart of things as the French set up a final round shoot-out for the title with Ireland.

France were crowned champions on points difference. Eddie O’Sullivan’s side had to settle for a final round win over England and with it the Triple Crown.