France are looking very strong while it could be time for a Six Nations play-off

CHRIS FOY’S WEEKEND VERDICT: European rugby needs to be developed, France are a force to be reckoned with and Ireland must get a bigger stadium

  • A play-off to get into the Six Nations could be the way forward in the future
  • France have won their first three Six Nations games and will take some stopping 
  • Ireland’s 51,000-seater stadium is not big enough and is costing them revenue 

After another weekend of Six Nations action which saw France, England and Ireland pick up victories, Sportsmail’s Chris Foy gives his thoughts on the current state of the championship with two rounds of the competition remaining.


It was good to see Sam Warburton calling for an end to the Six Nations closed-shop format. 

Having dismissed the prospect of South Africa joining the tournament, BBC pundit Warburton said: ‘We need to develop Europe — bring in promotion and relegation. There should be a play-off. We need to remove the glass ceiling.’

He’s right, especially at a time when Spain and Portugal are on the rise.

Italy lost heavily on Sunday and it may be time for a play-off to get into the Six Nations


Michael Lowry struck a blow for smaller players with his accomplished Ireland debut. The Ulster full back has been outstanding all season and deserved his chance. He took it, with two tries — and an unselfish assist.

Lowry’s sheer joy at becoming a Test player and the way he was mobbed by team-mates when he scored against Italy was wonderful to behold. Here’s hoping he wins many more caps.


There is so much fanfare for the likes of Antoine Dupont and France’s other box-office superstars, but an indication of their progress is the impact of some of Fabien Galthie’s less heralded players. 

South Africa-born lock Paul Willemse is no longer just a huge lump in the pack, he was excellent against Scotland — in attack and defence. And prop Cyril Baille showed that he has sublime handling ability.

Paul Willemse (C) looks to have a bright future for France after starring against Scotland

Paul Willemse (C) looks to have a bright future for France after starring against Scotland


Long before half-time at Murrayfield, the Gallic contingent in the crowd were making themselves heard in support of their Grand Slam-chasing side. There were clearly a lot of them and they were in fine spirits. 

The French don’t always travel in huge numbers, but they are mobilising again to follow their wonderful team. Their flags and music add so much vibrancy.


Italy had every right to feel aggrieved about the law quirk which forced them to cope with just 13 men against Ireland, but they can’t complain about Hame Faiva’s red card. 

He made contact with the head of Dan Sheehan. Faiva had to go. When will the message get through to players about the need to tackle lower?

Hame Faiva was sent off against Ireland and it was the right decision by the referee

Hame Faiva was sent off against Ireland and it was the right decision by the referee


Ireland need a bigger home. The Aviva Stadium only holds 51,000 people. It is modern and shiny, but that modest capacity means it is not truly fit for purpose, with a tiny stand at one end to appease local residents. Across Dublin, Croke Park has an 82,000 capacity — the Irish Union should be finding ways to develop an arena of that size. They are missing out on vital revenue.


Michael Lowry (Ireland); Damian Penaud (France), Gael Fickou (France), Jonathan Danty (France), Alex Cuthbert (Wales); Marcus Smith (England), Antoine Dupont (France); Cyril Baille (France), Julien Marchand (France), Kyle Sinckler (England); Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), Paul Willemse (France); Peter O’Mahony (Ireland), Taulupe Faletau (Wales), Josh van der Flier (Ireland).