Martin Crowson's five things: Structure of the season is a joke
Martin Crowson looks back at five key points from the weekend's rugby action.
1 There is no other sport like rugby. What other league would allow its blue riband events to be played without its biggest stars? Yet again, the Tigers v Saracens game was played during an international window with 12 of the 30 likely starters missing on England duty. It is a game that should be one of the highlights of the season. Instead, it was reduced to an afterthought. The structure of the English season is a joke. And not a funny one.
2 France coach Philippe Saint-Andre was hugely critical of the set-up in his own country after their defeat by England, which was a third straight loss in this year's Six Nations. He said there were too many foreign imports at key positions in the big-spending Top 14 league and that was stifling development of young French talent. He probably has a valid point, too. Not that it stopped him creating a league of nations when he was in charge of Toulon, mind you.
3 I was astonished by the critical reaction by some sections of supporters to Tigers' defeat against Saracens. A small minority were actually calling for the head of Richard Cockerill after a five-point defeat by a Saracens side who played some fantastic rugby during their 32-27 win, and were missing just half of the players that Leicester were to international call-up or injury. Sometimes, within the constraints of a salary cap, Tigers just get beaten by a better team. When it comes, a sense of perspective is vital towards a team in third place in the league and the last eight of Europe.
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4 England's win against France proved just how far they have come as a team. Not only did they beat a French side that, on paper, should be the strongest in the Six Nations, but they did it by grafting and getting seriously stuck in, coming from behind and missing a shed load of tackles to boot. They showed maturity beyond their years and are likely to have to beat Wales in Cardiff to complete a Grand Slam.
5 I found myself cheering for Scotland against Ireland on Sunday for no other reason that I have come to like and respect new forwards coach Dean Ryan. Since leaving Gloucester, he has become a fantastic pundit for Sky and a straight-talking and honest coach north of the border. Long may his success continue.