The weekend just gone is usually the start of Six Nations duck shooting season. When the Super Rugby tournament coincides with the Six Nations, it is time for all the southern hemisphere pundits to get out their Elmer Fudd hunting hats, trusty rifles and start shooting away at everything rugby up north.
The usual ammunition rounds involve pellets of bile aimed at the forward-based, collapsed scrums, kick-orientated negativity of the northern game. But this time around there seems to be a bit of a cease-fire, with those down south who have the time between the endless first round Super Rugby games to watch the Six Nations discovering that it's actually not bad fodder -- especially if you've decided to follow Wales.
I know it is sacrilege to say this in these southern parts, but some of the Six Nations fixtures this year have been markedly superior to what was on offer during the first round of Super Rugby -- especially the second half of the Waratahs-Reds game, which was simply unwatchable. The once most important fixture in Australian Rugby is now a damp squib, due to the poorly run Reds having absolutely no idea about how to play the game.
"Don't be bluffed by Jones's sudden self-imposed media ban, and that it is all about him putting the British rugby press in their place."Greg Growden on Jones' vow of silence
At least the Six Nations teams have learnt the lessons of last year's World Cup, with the calibre of play shown so far this year indicating that the perceived substantial gap between the two hemispheres, which was exacerbated by none from the north making the semi-finals, has tightened by a considerable margin.
The first round match between Ireland and Wales, justifiably finishing in a 16-all draw, was a brutal, but inspiring affair. The sheer physicality of that game was overwhelming. Admittedly not pretty, but still invigorating viewing.
While many are moaning about the Wales-France match, those who were irritated by it all should instead have a cold glass of water, then go back and watch the home team's extraordinary defence in the second half, where for more than ten minutes, they somehow stopped France, who were perched within sniffing distance of the line, from scoring. This was good, meaningful rugby.
As impressive during that period was how they successfully defended a France driving maul from a five metre lineout. Admittedly one Welsh forward was a tad offside, but I guarantee you there will be quite a number of Super Rugby coaches watching that moment over and over again to get some idea how to thwart a maneuver which last year became almost a blight on the game.
As well, Wales have a No.10 in Dan Biggar, No.8 in Taulupe Faletau, a winger in George North and an openside flanker in Sam Warburton as good as anyone this side of the equator.
If you use the Wales team as your core, you can pick a pretty handy Six Nations lineup, which would certainly threaten on their next southern tour venture.
As invigorating is observing the antics of our own Pommie Eddie Jones. The "we'll only be good in three years time" routine was classic Eddie, trying to buy some breathing space as he realises that it will take some time to cull the chaff from his okay-but-hardly-startling England squad.
It is not as loony as the mumbo jumbo that Matt Williams used to go on with during his underwhelming time as Waratahs head coach, as he constantly asked the media to give him years, decades, centuries to get this team right as it steadily got worse and worse. But it is still a calculated diversionary tactic by the England coach.
If Jones brings up a 'Twelve Tribes of Israel' line, which a desperate Williams once trotted out, then you know it is time to call in the men with the white coats.
Also don't be bluffed by Jones's sudden self-imposed media ban, as that it is all about him putting the British rugby press in their place.
A lot of it has to instead do with Jones knowing that his Welsh counterpart Warren Gatland also knows a thing or two about pre-match rev-ups.
Jones carefully picks his targets, and he realises Gatland, a similar beast, could easily out-do him in the sledging stakes. Rather than provoke, better to avoid that cheeky Kiwi monster. Normal transmission will resume following the England-Wales fixture.