WATCHING England beat Ireland on Saturday, I wondered whether it was due to improvement on the part of the Lillywhites or an Irish backstep by the men in green. It was probably a bit of both, but one thought kept reverberating in my cranium throughout the match and it was an old quote about Jack Nicklaus spoken by the legendary Bobby Jones after the Golden Bear won the 1965 Masters: “Mr Nicklaus played a game with which I am not familiar.”

I also remembered another quote made by Arnold Palmer in 1962 after losing the US Open to a 22-year-old Nicklaus in a playoff: “Now that the big guy’s out of the cage, everybody better run for cover.”

Jones and Palmer were referring to the powerful physical way that Nicklaus played golf. Having been privileged to watch the great man play and even meet him a few times, especially on that day he played his last round at the Open at St Andrews in 2005 – the press corps rose as one to applaud him as he arrived from the 18th hole – I was struck by the fact that he wasn’t as tall or as burly as I had thought.

In his early days he was broader and well-built – a euphemism for what racing people call “condition” on a horse – and used his muscular weight to out-hit just about every other professional golfer. He did, of course, ally power with a marvellous dexterity that enabled him to become the holder of the record number of majors. (With 18, he still holds that record and with Tiger Woods simply not the man he was I cannot see Nicklaus ever losing that record.)

Physical power was just one of the key elements of the Golden Bear’s transcendent talent, but it was a pretty important one, and sadly we saw in the first round of the Six Nations that sheer bulk of muscle has replaced skill as the number one attribute for modern rugby union.

The trouble with international rugby union, as evinced in Dublin and Paris at the weekend, is that power play has become the be all and end all of the modern game. Watching the packs of Wales and France trying to steamroller their opponents into submission I was bored witless at times – how I longed for a Philippe Sella or Jonathan Davies to dhow the flair that was almost wholly missing in a game which Wales won in the luckiest fashion possible

With the French forwards averaging nearly 20 stone a man, it was clear how they were going to play and in the first half they were very good at the bashing game. They did score two good tries when they moved the ball wide, the first a classic sidestep by the outstanding Louis Picamoles and the second the best try of the whole weekend when Yoann Huget finished off a swift right-to-left, ball-through-the-hands move to score in the corner.

If only for those two moments of flair, France deserved their half-time lead and could and should have been more ahead, but credit to Wales for their fightback, though it took Huget’s dreadful error and lock Sebastien Vahaamahina’s poor long pass to gift George North his brace. I can’t blame Sebastien Vahaamahina for at least trying to get his backs involved but it was a suicidal pass.

As for Ireland against England, this was little more than a slugfest, with England carrying the super-heavyweight punch against the light-heavyweight Irish. Irish coach Joe Schmidt summed up the game plan that his opposite number Eddie Jones devised: “It was a simmering physical intensity that made the pitch a suffocating place to be tonight.”

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It was exciting enough if you like that sort of thing, and certainly Johnny May’s opening try was a classic due to one piece of invention – the long throw that took out the Irish pack. If only there had been more like that. Again it was the punishment of errors that won the match, and you have to concede that England pressurised Ireland. They were also given a huge boost at the best time when referee Jerome Garces made a very serious error. He allowed Henry Slade’s first try after calling on the TMO to check whether Slade had been onside for May’s forward kick, which he was, but Garces could clearly be heard ruling out a review of the initial pass from Slade to May which was clearly yards forward -–merde, Jerome.

Which brings me to the most entertaining team in the Six Nations. Scotland should have won the match against Italy by a margin of 20 to 30 points. But ask yourself this: if before the match we had been offered a bonus-point victory, would you not have grabbed it with alacrity?

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Scotland also did it with a display of vim and verve until sleeping in the last 10 minutes. All the tries were inventive and well-worked, and while it’s not perfect, the Townsend style of playing rugby is fabulous to watch. Keep it up, please.