The first two tests were resigned to draws after weather forced New Zealand, and then England, into accepting a stalemate where they would otherwise have cantered to victory.
Prior commitment | England captain Alastair Cook embraces Matt Prior after his century against New Zealand. (Image | The Telegraph)
As a result, the series came down to the third and final test on an exceptionally flat pitch at Eden Park in Auckland.
Surely England, so recently victorious in India and sitting second in the ICC world rankings, could beat a New Zealand side down in eighth that have only beaten Bangladesh and Zimbabwe since 2006?
The Premier League recently announced that goal-line technology will be introduced in time for next season. Action came swiftly after FIFA president Sepp Blatter finally reversed his steadfast opposition to technology in football.
Disbelief | Frank Lampard holds his hands aloft in protest as his shot crosses the line against Germany, but no goal is given in South Africa. (Image | The Guardian)
He said that FIFA would appear to be “foolish” if it did not act on a series of embarrassing mistakes, such as the failure to award a goal to England midfielder Frank Lampard during a game against Germany at the 2010 World Cup.
England’s 30-3 loss to Wales at the Six Nations was a savage and dizzying one. As the worst ever defeat to their near neighbours, it left many pondering what is missing with this England team.
Hammering | England head coach Stuart Lancaster and his players walk off dejectedly after the defeat to Wales. (Image | The Sun)
Perhaps the answer is not that difficult, and the key ingredient is nothing more than a bit of swagger.
We should remember where the England rugby union team were when Stuart Lancaster took over as head coach.
The squad were in disarray, coming off a dismal showing at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and damaged further by embarrassing revelations about the rot that had set in.
What a tournament the 2013 RBS 6 Nations Championship was: surely the most closely-contested in recent memory, with none of the teams going unbeaten or losing all their games.
Champions | Wales rejoice after comprehensively defeating England to retain the Six Nations trophy. (Image | Sky Sports)
The matches themselves were also tight, with this tournament seeing the fewest tries in Six Nations history by a long way.
Going into the final round, Wales and England were the only two sides in contention for the title, while France, Italy and Ireland were fighting to avoid the shame and embarrassment of the wooden spoon.
Europe’s top six rugby nations will meet one more time this year on Saturday to decide which team will be crowned 6 Nations champions, and determine the destination of the dreaded wooden spoon.
Decider | England captain Chris Robshaw and Welsh skipper Sam Warburton face off against each other this weekend for the Six Nations crown. (Image | London24)
The fourth round of fixtures ensured that it will be a finale to remember, setting up a showdown for the title between England and Wales, and must-win matches for the other sides.
Scotland 18 Wales 28
Following their victory over Italy two weeks ago, the Welsh are now very much in the ascendency, having found their feet after a shaky start to the tournament.
Frederic Michalak’s wayward kicking has played a part in France’s underwhelming Six Nations campaign (Image | Reuters for OTP)
Prior to this year’s RBS 6 Nations, there were few who would have bet against the French as serious contenders. The only northern hemisphere nation to go unbeaten in the autumn tests, winning impressively against Australia, Argentina and Samoa, they looked to have absolved themselves of the mediocre form that saw them slump to a mid-table finish in the 2012 tournament.
Yet now they find themselves with three defeats from three matches, their title hopes long gone, and some serious work ahead of them if they are to avoid the wooden spoon.
Another round of fixtures into the 2013 RBS 6 Nations Championship and at last some discernible order is appearing in the standings.
Committed | Manu Tuilagi even drew blood for England in their 23-13 victory over France at Twickenham. (Image | The Guardian)
England are in the ascendency, Wales and Scotland are still finding their feet, and pre-tournament contenders France are floundering at the bottom of the table.
Not that the last round of fixtures were routine encounters: far from it.
A week is a long time in rugby, and early form in the 2013 RBS 6 Nations Championship counted for nothing in the second round as the tournament table was turned on its head.
Stu-perb | Scotland’s Stuart Hogg scores a superb solo try against Italy at Murrayfield. (Image | Metro)
It is fair to say that any one of the teams could still win it from here.
Scotland 34 Italy 10
Italy headed to Scotland riding on a wave of confidence after their win in Rome, hoping to become the first Azzurri side to record three victories in a row at the 6 Nations.
The tragedy of legendary England footballer Paul Gascoigne is one that has unfolded over many years and continues to be vividly played out on the front of tabloid newspapers and on 24-hour television news channels.
Troubled | Paul Gascoigne has once again been admitted to rehab for his alcohol problems. (Image | The Mirror)
Mercurial as a player, “Gazza” became a sporting icon as well as a supremely talented player capable of destroying opposition defences, but since his career ended, the 45-year-old has been slowly destroying himself.
Alcohol problems and mental illnesses have blighted Gascoigne during the last decade, and only this week his agent, Terry Baker, told BBC Radio 5 live that the ailing former star was “dying in front of us” and in need of urgent help.
What an opening weekend for the 2013 RBS 6 Nations Championship – fast, physical rugby, some fantastic tries, and above all the resounding proof that you never can predict what will happen in Europe’s premier rugby tournament.
Green giant | Ireland winger Simon Zebo takes the plaudits after scoring on his 6 Nations debut. (Image | The Sun)
Wales 22 Ireland 30
Cardiff played host to the opening game, with Wales hoping to get off to a winning start after a disappointing summer and autumn in 2012.
This did not exactly go according to plan, as a sublime pass from Brian O’Driscoll on his 121st appearance sent Simon Zebo over for a try after just ten minutes.