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Six Nations below standard ahead of NZ tour

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    21 Mar 2017     Getty Images

That was the view of former international first five-eighths Stuart Barnes in The Times.

"It is hard to argue the standard of the tournament was remotely in the vicinity for which we hoped, certainly the coaches of the six nations.

"England won the tournament but did not make any consistent improvement from last year. They could have lost to France and Wales and walked a fine line en route to the title," he said.

Barnes said only against Scotland did England reach the sort of heights coach Eddie Jones expected of prospective Rugby World Cup winners.


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Yet the way England's run was stopped in its tracks by Ireland at the weekend suggested the success against Scotland was more due to Scotland's defensive negatives than England's attacking positives, he said.

"Given the incredible atmosphere of the tournament, for all our love of its tribalism and its tight finishes, this was again, a first-rate competition in every which way off the field, but on it the rugby fell short," he said.

"Or rather it fell short of the standards needed to scare New Zealand."

The competition had been too inconsistent and the form of players was reflected in weekly selections of the side in newspapers which would have been 'thoroughly bamboozling' for most readers, he said.

"Every week has been a churn where players who went into the weekend as likely candidates came out looking like last week's dirty laundry…Home advantage was the obvious difference between a winning, moderate and poor campaign. That is a big worry for the Lions," he said.

Only one win away from home, discounting last place Italy, was achieved, that by England in Wales.

"Unfortunately, the Lions do not have the benefit of home advantage. Dublin is difficult but Auckland [where two Tests will be played at Eden Park] is an abomination for visiting sides.

"Going into Saturday's grand-slam game, it was assumed that England would constitute the core of the Lions Test team. Incapable of pulling it off on a grey day, the chances of the Lions appeared ever murkier as England's winning run and grand-slam dream came to an end," he said.