Six Nations 2015

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Conor O'Shea

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Conor O'Shea won 35 caps for Ireland over a seven year period which took in both the 1995 and 1999 World Cups. After a spell in charge of London Irish and then with the RFU, O'Shea has been director of rugby at Harlequins since 2010. It has been a spell which saw him guide Harlequins to their maiden Aviva Premiership title in 2012.

Six Nations
The day that restored faith in rugby
Conor O'Shea
March 22, 2015
© Getty Images
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We have had some exciting matches during this year's Six Nations but for sheer unadulterated drama you could not have matched the six hours of rugby we witnessed on Saturday. If you ever want your faith in the game you love restored then just sit down and watch what unfolded. With each game the drama grew and from Rome to Murrayfield to Twickenham, from Wales to Ireland and then finally England each team knew what they needed to do. Each team went out with the mindset to deliver.

If truth be told at half-time in the Wales-Italy match you would never have guessed what would unfold but from the moment Wales unleashed themselves in a second-half blitz that saw a George North hat-trick you knew the next team had to react. Wales were outstanding but how they will look back and reflect on what could have been. They will lament their second-half against England in Cardiff where they let an eight point lead go, they will look to the end of the game in Rome where they allowed Italy to escape through Leonardo Sarto and score a seven pointer that gave Ireland a bit more belief and a smaller mountain to climb.

 
"With Manu Tuialgi at inside centre, England could become anything"
 

But boy Ireland took on the challenge head on and who else but Paul O'Connell went crashing over within minutes of the start to show what they were about. It was another game in which some individuals were just outstanding but none more so than Sean O'Brien. He started the campaign not match fit but he has played his way back to fitness and is the vital cog in Joe Schmidt's game plan. Alongside Johnny Sexton and captain O'Connell, it is O'Brien who gives Ireland go forward when they have no right to any.

If there were little moments along the way that can change matches then how about Jamie Heaslip's tackle on Stuart Hogg, which dislodged the ball as Hogg was in the act of scoring. That never say day attitude saved seven points as England fell short of their points chase by six.

The game of the championship came last at Twickenham. Finally the old France decided to throw the ball around and give it a go. As a game we must encourage teams to play. Wales, Ireland and then England knew that they had to score points to win and their attitude and ambition were a joy to behold. It may not be fun for defence coaches but even then we can talk about a tackle - Heaslip on Hogg - that decided the championship.

Graham Rowntree consoles Billy Vunipola, England v France, Six Nations, Twickenham, London, March 21, 2015
Graham Rowntree consoles Billy Vunipola © Getty Images
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England-France was not just the game of this championship, it has to go down as one of the great Test matches of all time. Both teams were intent on attacking and any turnover was going to leave opportunity. Will we ever forget Vincent Debaty's try?

I know all of Ireland could barely watch as England drove to the line as the seconds counted down and with all their backs involved in the maul. Then came the penalty and Ireland exhaled but in the spirit of the match, France decided to run from their own tryline. The Irish supporters could barely contain themselves at that point, but then came relief. It was Rory Kockott kicking the ball off that signalled the end to one of the truly great days of rugby.

Where to from here? Scotland and Italy will be wary of what lies ahead in a World Cup year but they will have time to prepare. They will get better but will not nearly be good enough. France will feel they have turned a corner but what they showed is they can always turn it on for one game but, lest we forget, they were still well beaten by England and are way off where they should be. Having said that come the World Cup New Zealand will not want to play them.

The three top teams from this year's championship will all go into the World Cup very confident of where they are. Ireland have a dream of a draw and if they keep their team fit they can really target a first World Cup semi-final. If they get there, with their team fit, then anything is possible.

For Wales, both they and England have got a horrific draw ahead of them with Australia also in their pool but both are in good shape. England will be gutted not to win the championship but they have shown they can play any style they want and at home they have a serious chance of delivering the World Cup. With Manu Tuialgi at inside centre, this team could become anything.

In the end the scenes in Murrayfield made it a great day to be Irish but more importantly, above all else, this was a great day for rugby.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
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