Six Nations 2022: Ireland's forwards, England's Tuilagi trauma, Scottish resilience and Welsh woes
The opening round of the 2022 Six Nations did not disappoint.
Ireland kicked things off with a dominant home win against Wales, before Scotland came out on top in a nail-biter against England.
France rounded things off nicely, taking top spot in the table after defeating a surprisingly spirited Italy.
Those three games leave much to discuss. Here are five of the top talking points, with help from Rugby Union Daily's Chris Jones, Ugo Monye, John Barclay and Sam Warburton.
Ireland's fancy forwards
Ireland are second in the table on points difference after their ruthless 29-7 dismantling of defending champions Wales.
Wing Mack Hansen impressed on his debut, but it was the skill of Ireland's forward pack that caught the eye of the Rugby Union Daily experts.
The likes of Tadhg Furlong and Tadhg Beirne battered their way through Wales' defence and provided quick ball for Ireland's backs to attack.
Former Scotland captain Barclay says Ireland's forwards have an "advanced skillset" greater than that of France, who they face in round two.
"They have forwards who are passing on the gain-line," he continued. "They are so organised."
England were in the driving seat at Murrayfield - 17-10 up with 15 minutes to go - but Scotland stayed in the fight and were awarded a penalty try because Luke Cowan-Dickie batted the ball into touch.
After Scotland took a 20-17 lead, England battled for one last penalty in a scrum but the hosts held firm.
Barclay was especially impressed with the win because Scotland "did it the hard way".
"It wasn't the perfect performance but the manner in which they did it was superb," he continued.
"They have players that have swagger now. They're looking at a championship. Every game that they go into they are going to believe they are going to win."
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Elliot Daly and Henry Slade formed England's midfield for the Murrayfield encounter, meaning a lack of physicality with captain Owen Farrell and centre Manu Tuilagi both injured.
Tuilagi is expected to return later in the tournament after impressing off the bench for Sale on Sunday.
But former British and Irish Lions captain Warburton questioned why England rely so heavily on a player who has had numerous long injury lay-offs throughout his career.
He said: "It is ridiculous. A country who has got 12 pro teams, three players per team contracted full-time who can play 12, so 36 inside centres.
"Let's say six aren't English qualified. You have got 30 inside centres professionally contracted and they can't find someone to replace Manu Tuilagi. It's inexplicable."
Wales took the title in 2021, but look unlikely to repeat the feat after their loss in Dublin.
Wayne Pivac's side is wrestling with a lengthy injury list which leaves them short of over 700 Test caps, with Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau and George North among the stars unavailable.
But Warburton believes the result is cause for wider concern over the side's future, saying the country does not have "a good enough player pool to pick from".
"I thought after the last World Cup there was going to be a changing of the guard but there wasn't," he continued.
"I don't think the young players have been coming through so we've had to hold onto people.
"I think they've got a really good coaching group. Normally in every group of players that comes through you can identify six, seven or eight guys who are going to be world class.
"If I told you to name eight guys now, I'm not sure you could but that is what you need to be competitive at this level."
In contrast to the opening round of the Covid-hit 2021 Six Nations, all three fixtures in round one this year were played in front of packed crowds.
Murrayfield perhaps delivered the best atmosphere of the weekend with Monye saying he "got goosebumps" hearing the home fans sing Flower of Scotland.
Barclay agreed, saying it was a "real privilege" to be in the stadium, while Warburton added he "couldn't believe how good the atmosphere was".
Jones said: "When England had a good third quarter the crowd needed something from the Scotland team.
"When the team gave it to them, the crowd were just awesome for that final 15. I do not think I have seen an atmosphere like that at Murrayfield."
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