Wales' pulsating clash with France set the Six Nations alight, the best game of the tournament to date and it was followed by England ending Ireland's Grand Slam hopes at Twickenham.

Eddie Jones' side put in their best performance since the Rugby World Cup semi-final victory over New Zealand, comprehensively ending Ireland's aspirations of a clean sweep and keeping their own title hopes alive.

Next up it's Wales's turn to head to Twickenham to take on the old enemy, Grand Slam chasing France go to Scotland and Ireland will expect to comfortably dispose of Italy in Dublin.

But who were the main winners and losers from this weekend's round of action?

Head of Sport Paul Abbandonato takes a look...

WINNERS

The Six Nations

For many this will always be the greatest rugby tournament of the lot, but it needed the pulsating Wales versus France encounter to set alight the 2020 tournament after a slightly inauspicious first couple of rounds.

This was rugby at its absolute finest - brutal, ultra-competitive, confrontational, ferocious, some dazzling French running.

And played out in front of a magnificent Principality Stadium crowd, the two sets of fans creating a fervent and vibrant atmosphere.

We know how good Welsh rugby fans are, the best in the world. End of.

But, sensing a new era dawning, the French travelled over to Cardiff in their thousands to roar on their team. At times, when La Marseillaise was being sung and chants of 'Allez Les Bleus' rang around the ground, you could have been forgiven for thinking you were momentarily in the Stade de France.

Way after the final whistle, when most had departed, thousands of them stayed behind to applaud their team on a post-match lap of honour.

The travelling support, as well as home fans, is what makes the Six Nations such a unique and magical competition.

May that continue - which it will.

Will the newcomer

He was on the field for just quarter of an hour but in that time Will Rowlands carried the ball four times for 13 metres, made a clean break, beat one defender and put in a pass, an offload and a tackle.

Everyone gets to be famous for 15 minutes, we were once told, but such was Rowlands' impact the suspicion is his time in the sun could last a bit longer.

Wales could do with more ball-carriers and the big man from Wasps appeared to fit the bill in that area.

His was a promising effort.  

French half-backs

What a couple of players these two are and how well served France will be in the key nine and 10 positions right through to the next World Cup on home turf.

At 23, Antoine Dupont is three years older than Romain Ntamack, but there is an argument for saying he is already the best scrum-half in the world.

Quick in thought and deed, he is the catalyst for this French side. He marshalled his troops superbly, bossed the forwards around, pinged out passes with pinpoint precision and even found time to put in a huge hit on Alun Wyn Jones on one occasion.

Romain Ntamack of France goes over to score
Romain Ntamack of France goes over to score

Dupont will get better and better and could easily have been named man of the match, were it not for the starring performance of his even younger partner.

Ntamack was just imperious, precise kicking from the tee or out of hand, always looking for gaps to exploit. And, of course, it was him picking off Nick Tompkins' pass to race clear for a personal points haul of 17.

New-look France are already building towards the World Cup.

Gone is the yo-yo approach they've had at half-back. These two will be part of the foundation of the team that could conquer the world.

Wales gave them a right old game, though.

Nick Tompkins

The Wales newcomer went from high to low on his first two appearances - dubbed brilliant against Italy, poor versus Ireland.

Which Tompkins would take the field against the French?

He was one of Wales' better players on the day and had a big second-half, notwithstanding the pass that Ntamack snaffled for a try.

Players of more fragile stature could have folded at the point. Tompkins is made of sterner stuff, doubtless has to be given he has been a Saracens team-mate of Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and co for years.

The English and European champs have tended to deal in winners in recent times.

Tompkins put in his tackles, made the hard yards and towards the end gave Welsh fans hope of a sensational win with that darting charge upfield which saw him shrug off would-be tacklers and take play deep into French territory.

It wasn't to be, as referee Matt Carley ruled he was holding on, but Tompkins can be pleased with his performance and has probably cemented his place against England.

Virimi Vakatawa one week, Manu Tuilagi the next... this Test rugby lark doesn't get any easier, does it?

Ross Moriarty

Given we've had Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau and Josh Navidi amongst others, there aren't too many teams who have outplayed Wales in the back row battle down the years.

The current French trio of Charles Ollivon, Greg Alldritt and Francois Cros could yet end up as their best breakaway triumvirate  since the halcyon days of Rives, Skrela and Bastiat and their ferocious work at the ruck area meant Tipuric and Faletau had quieter games than normal.

But Moriarty didn't.

He smashed into contact, was a lineout target, tackled non-stop and even had a thunderous run down the wing at one point.

With Aaron Wainwright having made such strides, and the world-class Tipuric and Faletau having to play, of course, there was previously no place for Moriarty.

But he certainly made the most of his new opportunity and is surely a shoo-in for England - against whom he tends to play rather well.

Eddie Jones

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

England coach Eddie Jones has never had that philosophical problem. There is always someone to hear what the Australian has to say.

And this year's Six Nations have been as lively as ever from the 60-year-old - even if he overstepped the mark a little last week.

But it was his selection that sees him in the winners column this week.

Picking five locks in the squad, opting for a 6-2 split on the bench once more and moving centre Jonathan Joseph to the wing all raised eyebrows ahead of the Ireland clash.

But ultimately, he was vindicated - allowing him to have the final word.

"I don't need vindication," he said afterwards.

"You guys [the media] are all so clever, so I've got to suck it all up and try to learn from you.

"We're going to go for six locks next week so we'll give you something to write about."

Wales young guns

Before we forget, a shout-out to Wales under-20s who produced a scintillating 14-11 win over France in wet and windy conditions at Colwyn Bay on Friday night.

France are reigning world champions at this level, so it was no mean feat for young Wales to bounce back from losses to Italy and Ireland with such a rousing performance.

As Pivac builds towards the next World Cup, so many of these players will make the step up in the coming years and become household names in their own right.

LOSERS

Johnny Sexton

As days at the office go, this was a rough one for the Ireland fly-half.

Aimless kicks, a gilt-edged penalty in front of the sticks dragged wide and a dreadful fumble that allowed George Ford to score - all within the first quarter of the match.

Things didn't exactly get better for the Leinster man as the match progressed.

When he lost his right boot in the first-half, it largely summed up his efforts for the day.

No doubt he'll bounce back, but this will be one he'll want to forget in a hurry.

Ireland's Johnny Sexton appears dejected
Ireland's Johnny Sexton appears dejected

Wayne Pivac

There is no hiding place as coach of Wales - you are even under more scrutiny than the First Minister, given there are three million selectors here.

Pivac, some felt, was meant to usher in an exciting, new-look team, but he opted for experience for this one, picking a side with the greatest number of caps for any Six Nations match.

Welsh experience and know-how versus French youth and verve - and unfortunately Pivac's men came off second best.

Given he is new to the job, and despite the demands that go with the territory, Pivac deserves time to stamp his own mark on this team.

But hopefully this week will have been a huge learning curve for him, in more ways than one.

Wales weren't overly-dignified in the build-up with complaints about French and Irish scrummaging. Mind games are fine, but a player calling France 'cheats' proved counter productive, antagonised the French and drew attention to Wales' own scrummaging.

Pivac spoke afterwards about ref Matt Carley not picking up on Demba Bamba driving across a key scrum, instead of straight, when the French were awarded a penalty for Wales collapsing.

He may, or may not, have been correct in his take on matters. But any manner of things go on at scrum time, for and against, and it's better Wales drop this narrative before they are seen as whingers, or bad losers.

They're above that.

Blaming the referee is the easiest thing to do, and oldest trick in the book.

There were plenty of other reasons why Wales did not win this game, like half-backs taking the wrong options at times against 14 men.

Let's hope those are amongst the issues Pivac deals with pre-England, because one person he won't be able to influence at Twickenham is referee Ben O'Keefe.

We saw the evidence of that with Carley and that decisive scrum on Saturday, given the concerns Wales had raised ahead of kick-off.

Pivac deserves latitude, Test rugby is as steep a learning curve for a coach as it is for any new player.

But in the build up to Twickenham, one presumes Wales won't be talking about the scrummaging techniques of Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler.

Gareth Davies

The Wales number nine jersey swings one way or the other at the moment.

Tomos Williams, then Davies, with Rhys Webb still hoping to be part of the mix.

Davies, it is fair to say, didn't grab his opportunity with two hands on Saturday, so it's up for grabs again against England in a fortnight's time.

Perhaps Pivac needs to choose one and stick with that man.

Given Williams is four years Davies' junior, and presumably the more likely option for the next World Cup, perhaps he needs to be given his head.

Although it's only a matter of time before highly-rated Ospreys teenager Harri Morgan bursts through and challenges the pair of them.

Jaco Peyper's eardrums

Deontay Wilder was left with a badly beaten up ear during his defeat to Tyson Fury in Las Vegas.

But you wonder how referee Jaco Peyper's eardrums were holding up after the barrage of chat it received from both sides during the England v Ireland clash.

Sexton, Owen Farrell, Kyle Sinckler, Conor Murray - all fine players, all quite vocal.

Maybe it's his approachable nature that leaves him more open to players offering their input, but a quick skim of social media shows that neither set of fans were overly thrilled with his interpretation of the game.

Welsh composure

Despite having two men in the bin, France just looked altogether more smooth and slick with the way they went about their business, with their players handling confidently and skillfully.

By contrast, Wales were imprecise in a lot of what they did and took the wrong options, when overlaps presented themselves against opposition one man down for a quarter of the match.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but would Alun Wyn Jones have been better off chipping away at the French lead by going for goal, rather than a try, at the end of the first-half?

Those five minutes used up in what was in effect one passage of play, and which failed to secure any points, meant Greg Alldritt was able to return to the fray after 45 minutes, instead of 10 minutes into the second-half.

There was also the melee at the end, but we won't go there.

Welsh defence

The number crunchers at Opta came up with a stat after the game which revealed it was the first time since 2013 (v Ireland) for Wales to concede three or more tries in a home Six Nations game.

The last time they'd conceded more was in 2001, when they leaked six against England.

Look, it’s early days and it would be wrong to make snap judgements.

But defence underpins everything in modern rugby and Wales will know they need to tighten up in that area, and quickly. 

Italy

That is 25 straight defeats for the Azzurri and this time they couldn't even score a single point in going down 17-0 in Rome to a Scotland side who had lost the opening two matches themselves.

Italy were hoping for different fortunes under Franco Smith and this was the game they would target, more than any other, to end the losing streak.

Their record against the Scots at the Stadio Olimpico is decent - before Saturday it read won five, lost five since joining the Six Nations back at the start of the millenium.

To surrender in such abject fashion, then, almost left more questions than answers.

Without Sergio Parisse, they are simply not the same and two more heavy losses beckon against Ireland and England.