THE BLOG
16/02/2015 12:25 GMT | Updated 18/04/2015 06:59 BST

Oh France, Where Art Thou and Other Thoughts

France have certainly got the makings of a very good team but there seems to be a malaise running through this squad and it would be a real shock to hear if the French players on the whole were completely on Saint-André's side.

We've had the first two rounds of this year's Six Nations and here are my thoughts on some of the key themes of the opening weeks.

Oh France where are thou?

I was really hoping to not have to write about France's continuing struggles under Philippe Saint-André but that performance against Ireland has really taken the cake.

For years you'd associate French flair with the dashing attacking play of the likes of Serge Blanco, Philippe Sella, Cedric Heymans (if you're looking for a more recent vintage) and even Saint-André himself yet that seems that have been lost under his management of the national team.

Now French power has been just as important to French flair as anything else and while that power and rugged physicality has been evident, its marriage to that exciting ability in the three-quarters has been severely lacking under Saint-André's watch.

Yesterday we saw precious little of that with France only really using Mathieu Bastareaud to crash the ball up at Jonathan Sexton while the outstanding attacking talents of Wesley Fofana, Yoann Huget and Teddy Thomas were forced to play off scraps.

Now Ireland were certainly efficient in the way they nullified French attacking play but barring the last twenty minutes when the French replacements got into the game, it was pretty simple for the home side to defend their line.

France have certainly got the makings of a very good team but there seems to be a malaise running through this squad and it would be a real shock to hear if the French players on the whole were completely on Saint-André's side.

Something needs to change and maybe that's Saint-André or maybe the players need to take control and play the way they want to. For the next match against Wales I'd love to see Morgan Parra starting along with Brice Dulin and Gael Fickou. Power is all well and good but against Wales that won't be enough and those three players all bring something different to the team.

The 'Points of Difference'

In the lead-up to the England-Italy match, there was much talk around England's 'points of difference' with Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson both showing their game-changing ability in the opening win over Wales. Both provided even more evidence of that in England's victory on Saturday with Joseph scoring two superb long-range tries and Watson showing his ability to step and break with little space on offer.

Seven months out from the World Cup and England seem to have found two players who can lift their attacking play to another level and the reality is that in an era where space is at a premium and defence is dominant those 'points of difference' are vital.

We've seen very fleeting glimpses of this from other Northern Hemisphere sides with the likes of Stuart Hogg, Wesley Fofana, Justin Tipuric, Simon Zebo all capable of producing something out of nothing and against the big three from the Southern Hemisphere, that ability to change a game can make or break a World Cup campaign.

Scottish Optimism

Two matches, two defeats, two performances full of promise. This is a familiar story for Scottish fans throughout the Six Nations era where performances have rarely led to victory. There is no doubt that there is the core of a good side especially with the Glasgow Warriors midfield of Finn Russell, Alex Dunbar and Mark Bennett but a lot of the praise and optimism brings back memories of Scotland in the 2010 Six Nations under Andy Robinson, where they could well have had four wins from five, and under Frank Hadden in 2006 and we all know how those particular reigns ended.

It's hard not to feel optimistic about the future especially considering how young the side is and there is a lot of talent in the squad with many of the younger players not having the baggage of their more experienced teammates.

Yet until this side prove their ability to win close matches, especially in the Six Nations, I will have to temper my optimism.