Six Nations Results 2014: Key Lessons Learned from Week 4 Action

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2014

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 08:  Brian O'Driscoll of Ireland looks on during the RBS Six Nations match between Ireland and Italy at Aviva Stadium on March 8, 2014 in Dublin, Ireland.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The penultimate weekend of the 2014 Six Nations saw Ireland close in on the championship with a huge win over Italy in Dublin, while England claimed the Triple Crown by beating Wales at Twickenham.

Completing the fixtures, Scotland grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory as a late penalty saw France claim an unlikely two-point win.

Most likely, a win for Ireland in Paris next weekend will see Joe Schmidt's men crowned champions as their points difference has them 49 points better off than second-placed England.

Read on for a roundup of the important lessons learned from this week's round of matches.


O'Driscoll has still got it

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 08:  Brian O'Driscoll of Ireland in action during the RBS Six Nations match between Ireland and Italy at Aviva Stadium on March 8, 2014 in Dublin, Ireland.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Brian O'Driscoll played his last home international at the weekend and was a key contributor to Ireland's 46-7 victory over Italy. Retiring from international rugby after the Six Nations finishes, the 35-year-old became the most capped international player in history on Saturday.

And he proved that he has still got the talent to compete at the highest level. He set up three of Ireland's six tries in an age-defying performance that befitted the occasion of his domestic farewell.

The opening try of the game saw O'Driscoll exchange passes with Jonny Sexton and put the fly-half over for the score after just seven minutes.

This set the tone for the game and Italy was blown away.

O'Driscoll will face a tougher contest next weekend when he faces opposite number Mathieu Bastareaud in Paris. But if he can inspire his team to victory and a Six Nations triumph, O'Driscoll will enjoy a fitting end to his glorious career.


England are growing with every game

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 09:  England player Mike Brown goes past George North during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on March 9, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

England managed to put to rest the ignominy of their 2013 Six Nations defeat to Wales with a comprehensive 29-18 win at Twickenham.

Their Grand Slam hopes were left in tatters by a rampaging Wales last year, but this time, it was England's young guns who ran out easy winners.

But for a string of unnecessary penalties conceded, all six converted by the metronomic Leigh Halfpenny, England's win would have been even greater.

Slight indiscipline aside, however, this young England side look to be improving steadily with each contest.

Stand-out performers included Courtney Lawes, Owen Farrell, Tom Wood and Mike Brown. But it was the endeavour and imagination of the team as a whole that will have satisfied Stuart Lancaster most.

With Ireland in the driving seat for the Championship, even a massive win over Italy in Rome next weekend will likely see England settling for second place.

But with the World Cup coming next year, this young England side are heading in the right direction. 


Scotland must learn how to close out matches

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - MARCH 08:  Mathieu Bastareaud of France is tackled by Ryan Grant (L) and Scott Lawson during the RBS Six Nations match between Scotland and France at Murrayfield Stadium on March 8, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland.  (Photo by David Roger
David Rogers/Getty Images

France were distinctly average at Murrayfield but they still managed to claim a 19-17 victory with a late penalty.

Scotland led 14-9 at half-time and the Murrayfield crowd would have been cautiously optimistic about a home win. 

They ran in two tries, their first since the opening game of last year's tournament, and looked to be on top against a very poor French side.

But early in the second half, a calamitous pass from Duncan Weir in the France 22 was intercepted by Yoann Huget, who ran the length of the field to score for France.

It was these kind of mistakes that Scotland paid for. In the end, the nerves got to Scotland with Kelly Brown giving away a penalty with minutes left to hand France the victory. 

More clinical finishing would have won it for Scotland; there should never have been only one point in the game so late on. Scotland must improve their finishing if they want to win games.