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It’s not just Italy who are looking to play a more positive game. It was evident that the other teams are beginning to want to use the ball more too.
Wales and Ireland both showed flair in the competition opener, with Ireland in particular looking good running the ball in the first half. England too looked good attacking through the midfield, while Scotland at times showed they could do it, more on that later.
Consequently, the skill level is improving and it seems the teams are beginning to learn when to play expansively too. There were still cases where bad passes were thrown, balls were dropped and reckless play was seen, but this is only to be expected. The encouraging thing is they are improving and heading in the right direction, which can only be good for the game.
Indeed it was Carwyn James’ 1971 British and Irish Lions team that many credit to showing the world, or New Zealand at least, how to counterattack and play an expansive form of rugby. A skilful midfield of Mike Gibson and John Dawes, flying wingers Gerald Davies, David Duckham, John Bevan and J.J. Williams with the impeccable J.P.R. Williams at the back were as good as any at playing the running game. Gareth Edwards provided the service for this team, with the likes of Barry John and Phil Bennett calling the shots in the No. 10 jersey.
As the years progressed they began to take a more conservative approach to the point where the lack of flair in the Six Nations became something of a joke amongst the Southern Hemisphere nations.
But as history shows us, they are capable of playing this form of rugby. If they can rediscover the ability to do it effectively the gap between the two hemispheres will indeed close in the coming years.