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Clive Woodward says there are now two tiers in the Six Nations

By Kim Ekin
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Rugby World Cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward has claimed that there are now two ‘clear’ tiers to the Guinness Six Nations.

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France were crowned Grand Slam champions to claim their first title since 2010 after emerging emphatic 25-13 winners in Paris, although a jittery performance caused by the nerves of the occasion prevented them from pulling clear at any stage.

It is the third time in five years England have ended the tournament nursing three defeats, a poor return that raises questions over Jones’s suitability to continue just 18 months out from the World Cup.

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A big win over the All Blacks in November gave the French the favourite’s tag heading into the Six Nations and they embraced it, with the win over England seeing them finish a point above Ireland.

The English finished third, an improvement on last year’s fifth place but one unlikely to ease the pressure on coach Eddie Jones after a second straight championship in which they lost three games.

It’s been a difficult couple of years for England and now their former coach sees there as being a clear division within the tournament.

“My take is that there are manifestly two divisions. There are France and Ireland and then there are the rest,” wrote Woodward in his Daily Mail column.

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“France and Ireland are forging ahead in their understanding of the modern game, their skill levels and attacking intent and the tempo they attempt to play the game at.”

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“The French have lit up the rugby world. Stars such as Antoine Dupont, Cameron Woki, Gregory Alldritt, Romain Ntamack and Damian Penaud will eventually be remembered as legends of the game when they retire but, make no mistake, they are more than a random gathering of freakish talent.

“France under Fabien Galthie have fearlessly and systematically selected young tyros they believe in, while Edwards has got them fit and remodelled their defence.”

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“Ireland, meanwhile, have a relentless pace and array of skills that reminds me of Farrell’s great rugby league side at Wigan when he was skipper,” wrote Woodward.

The tables have certainly turned since the early 2000s. Readers of a certain vintage will remember during Woodward’s reign as head coach, that some voices within the sport were calling for the Six Nations to be split into two divisions, with England and France on one side and the rest on the other.

The rise of Ireland and Wales in the proceeding two decades, and more recently Scotland, put pay to this rather narrow and arrogant view of the competition.

additional reporting AAP

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