Six Nations: Biggest Blunders in Tournament History

Tristan Barclay@@tjbbarclayContributor IFebruary 4, 2014

Six Nations: Biggest Blunders in Tournament History

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    When England debutant Jack Nowell slipped on his backside in the 17th minute of his side's clash with France last weekend, he inducted himself into a dubious hall of fame.

    The young Exeter winger's mistake allowed Yoann Huget to collect the ball and dive over for his second try of what was a thrilling match.

    But Nowell shouldn't feel too embarrassed. He joins an impressive line-up of Six Nations blunderers. Here we expose the biggest gaffes ever made in the competition.

7. Eoin Reddan's Face Charge Down

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    You can't fault the man for effort, but Eoin Reddan took commitment to the cause to a new level playing for Ireland against Wales in 2011.

    The plucky scrum-half flew in for a charge down on Wales full-back Lee Byrne, forgetting to protect his face with his hands. The result: Reddan was knocked clean out by the cannon ball dispatched by Byrne's boot.

    Reddan made it to his feet a few minutes later, but it was to be the end of his involvement in Ireland's 19-13 loss to the men in red.

    With Reddan at Leinster and Byrne moving from French side Clermont Auvergne back to Wales with the Newport Gwent Dragons, the two men will meet again in the RaboDirect Pro12 next season. Let's hope for the Irishman's sake he doesn't find himself on the receiving end of Byrne's howitzer boot any time soon.

6. Danny Care's Feisty Moment of Stupidity

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    He might have been the star of the show in England's narrow loss to France last weekend, but Danny Care was the villain against Ireland in 2009. 

    In true scrappy scrum-half fashion, the Harlequins man decided it would be sensible to shoulder charge Ireland's Marcus Horan as he stood defenceless over a ruck. Care thought he'd gotten away with it as play was allowed to continue.

    But moments later referee Craig Joubert summoned Care for a quiet word and flashed the yellow card. With England trailing 11-6 in Dublin, the scrum-half was duly dispatched to the sin bin and his side were condemned to labour with 14 men for the final ten minutes.

    A semi-miraculous fightback saw England close to pinching a win, but Ireland did enough to hold on to win 14-13. With Care's sniping runs and tenacity at the breakdown, it could have been a different story.

5. Mauro Bergamasco Plays at Scrum-Half, Sort of

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    When a 2009 injury crisis left Italy coach Nick Mallett without a single scrum-half at his disposal, he came up with a novel idea.

    The South African turned to openside flanker Mauro Bergamasco to fill the No. 9 shirt against England. Even the most boneheaded of Italy fans would find it difficult to call the experiment an unqualified success.

    The 15 st Bergamasco entertained the Twickenham crowd by following his flanker instincts and diving into a ruck while the ball ran free behind him. England, unsurprisingly, ran out 36-11 winners and Bergamasco was quickly returned to the back row.

4. Ben Cohen's Slippery Fingers

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    The year was 2006 and England were in the doldrums after the high of World Cup glory three years previous. Ben Cohen took the ball against Scotland and, with only the slimline Chris Paterson to beat, looked certain to bundle over the line.

    Unfortunately for England's winger-turned-dancer, his handling skills deserted him as the ball slipped through his fingers. With the score at 3-3, a try would have been handy for the visitors at Murrayfield.

    Scotland eventually caused an upset by beating England 18-12 to take the Calcutta Cup, their first victory against the "auld enemy" since 2000.

3. David Skrela's Banana Kick

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    As France's fly-half in the post-Frederic Michalak era, David Skrela always had a pair of eccentric boots to fill. But even the erratic Toulon man would have been ashamed of a restart as bad as this.

    Playing for France against Wales in 2008, Skrela had plenty of time to size up his restart kick. Yet somehow, much to the Welsh home crowd's enjoyment, the No. 10 managed to slice the ball back into his own half. At least he found touch.

    Skrela's kicking was so poor, he was relieved of penalty duties as Jean-Baptiste Elissalde found the target with three kicks.

    France eventually succumbed to a dire 29-12 defeat by Wales, who secured their second Grand Slam of the decade.

2. England Release Premature Grand Slam Video

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    Now to an off-field blunder of epic proportions. If you're going to film a Grand Slam champions TV advert, you'd better make sure you actually win the Slam first. Or, if you're so desperate to appear in front of a camera that you can't wait that long, it's probably a good idea to make sure the video doesn't leak online.

    Unfortunately for them, the England team of 2011 heeded neither of these warnings. Their 30-second Nike ad was supposed to celebrate a famous Grand Slam win, England's first since 2003. 

    Standing in their way were Ireland and the newly-built Aviva Stadium. Predictably, England contrived to lose to the rampaging men in green and with that went Nike's chance of ever airing the ad.

    Only, Nike failed to keep the commercial under wraps. It leaked onto YouTube and, to compound matters, details of 5,000 commemorative Grand Slam T-shirts to be sold at full-time also surfaced. This was all much to the delight of Ireland fans.

    As Hugh Farrelly of the Irish Independent put it:

    If losing the Grand Slam to Ireland was not bad enough, England have suffered the embarrassment of a celebration video being leaked to YouTube as well as thousands of unwanted commemorative T-shirts in the wake of Saturday’s 24-8 defeat at Lansdowne Road.

1. Ball Boy Helps Mike Phillips Score a Try

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    Ireland thought they were in control of a tight match with Wales at the Millennium Stadium in 2011, but their efforts were to be thwarted by one of the most infamous refereeing decisions of recent years.

    Wales hooker Matthew Rees opted to take a quick line out, tossing the ball to Mike Phillips who duly powered over the line for a try. Controversy ensued as it emerged Rees had taken a new ball from a ball boy, meaning he shouldn't have been allowed to take a quick throw.

    In fairness to referee Jonathan Kaplan, he asked his touch judge Peter Allan whether or not Rees had collected a new ball before the throw. Allan said he hadn't, so the blame for the try that should never have been rests on the touch judge's shoulders.

    Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll was far from impressed with Allan's foul-up. As BBC Sport reports, he said at the time:

    Games hang in the balance on decisions, everyone is human and wrong calls are made sometimes, but some are unforgivable.