All Blacks great Justin Marshall believes that there is a big difference between France and Ireland, and the rest of the Six Nations sides.
The tournament began with a bang following the Irishmen’s stunning victory over the French and the entertaining Wales v Scotland and Italy v England encounters.
Although the first match on Saturday was drama-filled, with the Scots denied a match-winning try by a controversial TMO call, observers felt it lacked quality, especially in the second period.
That was also an accusation levelled at the contest at Twickenham, which ended in the hosts scraping a 16-14 victory.
With the two best teams in Europe, France and Ireland, not going head-to-head at the weekend, Marshall felt that there was a “drop-off” as a result.
“I don’t mean this disrespectfully, let’s just keep this in check because I know what can happen – the referees get social media coming at them but so do former players – but France and Ireland are at a different level than Wales, England and Italy,” he told The Platform.
“I just feel that because that match-up didn’t happen this weekend, there was just a little bit of a drop-off in skill set, performance, tempo and physicality.
“That’s just me looking at it objectively and the way that the second round played out.”
Marshall thought that the quality and entertainment was in stark contrast to Round One, having seen Ireland produce a stunning display and the other two matches end in tight wins for Scotland and England.
“The second weekend was a little off,” he added.
“The first weekend was amazing. France-Ireland was amazing, Wales-Scotland, Italy put up a fight against England, but honestly the England v Wales game was a bit of a drag.
“The only thing that kept it really interesting was the score. I certainly felt that the game in Scotland was a lot better but I did feel that there was a buttoning off of quality.”