Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt will feel content after assuming top spot in the 2015 Six Nations table after Round 1 of the tournament, but he'll know as well as any that the team's perch is far from secure.
The competition regularly proves to be wild and unpredictable, where the slightest stumble could see a side go from championship contenders to mid-table mediocrity.
It's still early days in this year's contest, but the table is primed to undergo drastic change in Week 2, where Ireland's place comes under fire from the visit of France.
We've gazed into the crystal ball in an attempt to predict how the table layout will look in a week's time, with England among those looking to pounce.
|2015 Six Nations: Round 2 Schedule, Predictions|
|Saturday, Feb. 14||2:30 p.m. GMT/9:30 a.m. ET||England||vs.||Italy||England by 25|
|Saturday, Feb. 14||5 p.m. GMT/12 p.m. ET||Ireland||vs.||France||Ireland by 5|
|Sunday, Feb. 15||3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET||Scotland||vs.||Wales||Scotland by 5|
|2015 Six Nations Current Standings|
England Find Another Gear at Twickenham
London has been host to some historic rugby moments through the decades, and while this weekend's fixture against Italy may not go down as a classic, it will be the site of something memorable.
Last Friday's 21-16 win over Wales was a scrappy, but altogether gratifying, result for Stuart Lancaster's England, whereas this Saturday's clash against the Azzurri promises to be all the more glamourous.
Even with the injury absences suffered in recent months, England were a united outfit at the Millennium Stadium, particularly during a pristine second half in which they failed to concede a single point.
Italy, on the other hand, could manage just one penalty en route to a 26-3 defeat against Ireland. Sir Clive Woodward writes for the Daily Mail that this England team is coming of age, a just description of a team finally maturing into more than would-be champions:
As an England ‘fan,’ I’m still buzzing about that win over Wales, while the coach in me is trying not to get too carried away. There is no question, however, that the result was huge leap forward for Stuart Lancaster’s team—the night we started to see their World Cup team and gameplan take shape. What a start to 2015, which is Rugby Year.
England were comfortably better than Wales and would have won by more save for a few errors. But most important of all, Friday was also the night we saw a sea change in England’s mindset and attitude and that’s what excited me the most. It was like seeing boys suddenly becoming men.
Italy were left scraping the barrel for ideas against the Irish, and if England can combine the same stingy defending with clinical back movement at Twickenham, they promise to run rampant.
Azzurri coach Jacques Brunel has also been hit by news that centre Michele Campagnaro and flanker Alessandro Zanni will be absent for the trip, per the Press Association (h/t Daily Mail), weakening their ranks further.
England will look to start from the beginning with their tails up, but even if it requires another patient examination, as was the case in Cardiff, their depth should see them through to a big try haul.
|2015 Six Nations: Predicted Table After Week 2|
Murrayfield Fire Urges Scotland Past Wales
Leading into the opening matchup in Paris, it was difficult to call whether France or Scotland would emerge victorious last Saturday. In the end, Scotland succumbed to their hosts, but the 15-8 loss didn't come without a great deal of positives.
Wales can't quite say the same. Losing a 16-8 half-time lead to lose 21-16 was bitterly disappointing for Warren Gatland's men, especially considering the atmosphere their home crowd laid on at the Millennium Stadium to begin with.
In the wake of that result, it's difficult for the Welsh to know where to look. Do they take the impressive first half as a foundation to build on or rue their second-half shortcomings and admit they fell miserably short in both attack and defence?
Vern Cotter's Scots will be the more jubilant party at present, and France prop Uini Atonio has spoken highly of his recent opponents, per David Ferguson of the Daily Record, labelling them the "Springboks of the north."
Writer Gavin Mortimer reports the French press as damning their team for a weak display against the Scots, but the truth is, Cotter's side merely made the match a tight one:
Travelling to France is no easy task, and a return to Murrayfield this Sunday promises to coax the best out of a fierce and extremely physical Scottish team, while the Welsh may still be downtrodden.
The Welsh squad, of course, still have their weapons, shown in the 51-3 defeat of Scotland in Cardiff last year, but if Scotland can neutralise their threats as England did, they stand a chance of excelling in Edinburgh.