Five key things from the weekend's rugby action
Mark Clayton looks at five key points from the weekend's rugby action.
1 The Aviva Premiership fixtures at the weekend were the reverse of the opening-day games. Interestingly, the same was true in football's Premier League and Championship. However, the results were surprisingly the reverse in four of the six games from the opening day, with defeats for Saracens at London Irish, Harlequins at home to Wasps, Northampton at home to Gloucester and Exeter at Sale.
2 It seems that Leicester Tigers may have played London Welsh on a good day, or bad day, depending on your point of view. Exiles boss Lyn Jones was scathing about their first-half performance: "We were undisciplined and gave far too much away to Leicester. In fact, it was our worst 40 minutes in the Premiership." It would be interesting to know what was said by a clearly unhappy Jones at half-time. Welsh were at their best immediately after the break and came back from 16-3 down to within four points of Tigers in those 15 minutes.
3 On the subject of timing, the first 73 minutes and 37 seconds of the Welsh clash may prove to be among the most important of Tigers' season. The length of time flanker Tom Croft was on the Welford Road pitch was the latest sign that he is getting back to full fitness after his horrendous neck injury last season. Tigers know how vital a fully-fit Croft, back to his England form, will be around April and May when he will still be fresh after others have had a long season.
4 The non-appearance of Toby Flood for England against Ireland may have been disappointing for the fly-half, but may be good news for Tigers. England are likely to release players back to their clubs who have had little game-time as the Six Nations takes a break. Potentially, this could mean Flood, Manu Tuilagi and Thomas Waldrom returning for this weekend's big clash at Harlequins. Unfortunately, it is also likely to mean influential scrum-half Danny Care returning to Quins.
5 Football can learn a lot from rugby in terms of players' respect for officials. However, the reverse is true in terms of fixture scheduling. It is clearly wrong that, for four Premiership fixtures, teams will be missing some of their best players. It is cheating the fans, and to add two 'rest' weekends into the Six Nations schedule only adds to the sense of injustice.