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5 things to watch - Round 2 Women's 6 Nations

5 things to watch - Round 2 Women's 6 Nations

1 Goalkicking

The goal kicking in round 1 was disappointing. Five of England's seven tries went unconverted, half of France's were missed while a straightforward penalty went astray, all three of Wales' tries failed to be converted, while Scotland missed both of theirs. 

Though neither France nor England would rue their missed chances, in the tighter games, goal kicking could become a real issue in determining this title. 

Analysing goalkicking in the women's game is a thorny issue. Historically viewed by many as one of the areas the women's game has a real weakness, the improvements in recent years, as players take the game up younger and have more investment and thus time to practice, have been positive.  So it was a shame to see such poor returns at the weekend.

This weekend with the Ireland V Italy game expected to be the tightest, who kicks best may well decide who takes home key points. 

2 England's fitness

There was an inevitability to Italy's second half collapse against an England team, who had much more to offer in power and pace as the game went on.

I have no statistical evidence to back this up, but I am confident that England are the fittest team in the tournament, and have been for some if not every year of this competition. Living with them for 80 minutes is always a challenge, and it will be tough for a Welsh team who suffered their own near collapse in their second half against Scotland, thought that was as much down to Scotland's reorganisation and improvement than anything else. 

For every team who can live with England beyond the hour mark, it will take a lung busting, all-out, give-everything commitment to stay with with them to 80. France look the most likely - though there is nothing like a game against England to fire up the Welsh. 

3 Scotland's selections

Shade Munro has not been afraid to move players positionally and mix his team around as he attempts to build more options as his side builds, he hopes, towards World Cup qualification. 

But it has hardly a coincidence that Scotland fared best in a second half where Munro brought on more experience from his bench and shifted players back to positions they know better. With Jade Konkel back in the back row , Hannah Smith looking even better in the centre (though she also excelled at flanker) and Lana Skelton and Sarah Law coming on, Scotland look so much stronger.

Against an on form French midfield and an outstanding French back row, Scotland have an uphill challenge this weekend but with Law and Skelton starting, they are stronger. It will be fascinating to watch Munro's changes later in the game. 

4 Ireland's response

After their worst loss to France in over a decade, how Ireland respond at home against Italy will be telling. Ireland's players talked up the positives they can take for the game in the aftermath - something of course they must do in public - but in truth this was a dispiriting game for a side who look shorn of morale at the moment. 

Italy might be considered the perfect team to get back on the horse again, however Italy were impressive for 50 minutes against England and if they can hold their composure for 80,  this won't be an easy game for Ireland, especially with the Italian's employment of a strong outside-in defence that makes attacking wide channels difficult. 

On paper the hosts should win - but they will need composure. Losing has become a bit of a habit for Ireland but they are fortunate that the schedule now sees them play three home games in a row.

5 France flexibility - and fragility?

What was remarkable about the French performance was the flexibility of their squad. Jade le Pesq in particular played in three different position during the match, while Pauline Bourdon played in two, and that is before you take into accout that ex-centre Mayans is now a second row alongside ex-no 8 N'Diaye.

Much of this has come from sevens where le Pesq and Mayans both tried out their new positions for the first time.
 
France can be magical in front of their home crowds - as we saw at the weekend - but the same team can look very different when playing away. Can the new management team inject more consistency into the team especially with some players in new positions? That they went into the break against Ireland looking like they would run away with the game, but seemed oddly muted for much of the second period, may be a concern, though it is early days and they will expect to perform for 80 minutes this weekend.