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Six Nations Review: England Dominate France at Twickenham

England 44 – 8 France

Twickenham Stadium, 10th February 2019

Scoring a try just six seconds over the one-minute mark was a good sign of things to come for England as they hosted France at Twickenham.  In this Rugby World Cup year, performances like this at the Six Nations can be hugely promising.

The try in question came via Jonny May who chased down a kick from Elliot Daly and came down on the ball just inside the touchline.  Owen Farrell’s conversion attempt narrowly missed the target – and despite the early lead, this failure to kick between the posts caused a drop in the smile of Eddie Jones.

Farrell succeeded in his chance to regain lost points when minutes later French hooker Guilhem Guirado gave away a penalty for not rolling away, leaving the English captain a 35-yarder from straight in front of the posts.  It’s the seventh minute of the match and the eighth point for England.

France put a reminder in to not discount them – with Parra scoring moments later, again by way of penalty which went in perfectly halfway between the posts.  Yet another penalty in a row was scored, Farrell taking it again ensuring that from here on out, it was England’s game.

Going forward with devastating pressure from a lineout, England started to batter through France’s defence in the 24th minute.  With little ground left to cover, the French team were desperate not to concede again, but Farrell had other ideas, whipping the ball out to the left for May to catch again, who powered home on the last few yards.

May seemed desperate for the hat-trick, and following the commotion of a France knock-on claimed his third of the day.  Farrell made his second conversion, and it made it look easy as he effortlessly took the shot.

A last minute try from Henry Slade sealed the first half at 28-8 for England.  France ended the half looking desperate for anything they can get, resulting in openings being left and mistakes being made.  England yet again utilising the forward kicking meta game to advance and remained tight in the defence whenever France took the ball.

France fullback Huget took one too many knocks in the first half and was pulled by the team doctors after failing a head injury assessment during the break.  Thomas Ramos fills his boots from the 41st minute onwards.

France were instantly put on their heels in the second half and stayed on the back foot for most of the duration.  After a long run and break from England, Ashton was high-tackled by France’s Fickou just off the try line, resulting in a penalty try being awarded by the referee.  Giving England this penalty try was about the closest the French got to scoring themselves in the second half, with a dominant showing from the men in white.

Five minutes later, the referee uses TMO to halt the French protesting over captain Owen Farrell’s touch down on the right hand side.  The Saracens man converted his own try, taking his personal points tally to sixteen.

France started to gain some creativity points later on in the second half.  A few cheeky runs towards the England end we taken, featuring close slips around some of the forwards, but each advance was ultimately stopped by the English grit.  The might of Eddie Jones’s high expectations and erratic behaviour on the touchline only served to spur the team on as complacency peered around the corner.

Courtney Lawes seemingly took control of the game for a few minutes, with a whole host of smashes against the advancing Frenchmen and then returning fire as he lead the way back into their half of the pitch.

The game ended 44-8 – a devastating blow to France’s hopes in the Six Nations, but a fantastic five points for England, picking up the bonus point for a three-try lead over their opponents.

What did the Managers think?

Farrell and Slade take top praise in this match from the boss Eddie Jones and fans alike, and the pace-driving kicks of Ben Young deserve a special mention here too.

Jones’s focus on improving England’s team unity over looking at the French side paid off.  After calling them “an interesting side to play against,” the coach was full of their praises as an unpredictable, creative side and one that’s “full of talent.”

His opposite number at the helm of the French bench, Jacques Brunel was similarly praising of the England side he’d just faced.  Speaking to press after the game, Brunel spoke of a side who “always impose their power” in defence and on the front foot, too.  Recognising that England had seen the better of pre-tournament favourites Ireland and then relentlessly dominated France the coach said “they have found their form… I was very impressed with their performance. They dominated most of the game.”

England v France, Six Nations: The Line-ups:

England:

Backs:
15 Elliot Daly, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (capt), 9 Ben Youngs

Forwards:
1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Jamie George, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Courtney Lawes, 5 George Kruis, 6 Mark Wilson
7 Tom Curry, 8 Billy Vunipola

Replacements:
16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Dan Robson, 22 George Ford, 23 Jack Nowell

 

France:

Backs:
15 Yoann Huget, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11 Gael Fickou, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra

Forwards:
1 Jefferson Poirot, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 3 Demba Bamba, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 5 Felix Lambey, 6 Yacouba Camara, 7 Arthur Iturria, 8 Louis Picamoles

Replacements: 16 Pierre Bourgarit, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Gregory Alldritt, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Romain Ntamack, 23 Thomas Ramos

 

Wales v England Preview – Principality Stadium, Saturday 23rd February 2019

England finished at 44-8, their biggest victory over France in a century, and an impressive follow-up to their 32-20 victory over grand-slam champions Ireland.  Similarly, Wales won their 11th test on the trot in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome to equal their national record of 100 years.  Two teams are about to collide, and both look to be on top form.

The clash features the only two unbeaten teams in the tournament, and will undoubtedly be one of the key moments in deciding the competition winner.  England look to be on the warpath in this World Cup year, but Wales have beaten France and Italy back-to-back to see themselves in a narrow second place in the points table.

Despite England seeming the more dominant side in the matches so far, we haven’t had a chance to compare them like-for-like and Eddie Jones is taking no chances.  “We’re playing the greatest Welsh side ever,” he said, “we’re going to have to be at our absolute best. Preparation starts on Wednesday.”

Jones remarks on the knowledge and experience of Wales head coach Warren Gatland, who he sees as a formidable force who has “been at the top of the tree in European rugby for the last 15 years.”

Despite the compliments, they seemed somewhat charged, with Jones reminding press of the comments made by Gatland last summer that the two teams were nowhere near each other in ability.

Gatland didn’t shy away from his low expectations of England prior to the tournament.  He acknowledged that he thought “the decider might come down to that last game with Ireland,” and that he predicts Wales will see “no lack of motivation. It will be electric.”

No one can truly predict what will happen at the Principality Stadium.  All we know is that one of these sides will be almost certain to win both the Triple Crown and the Grand Slam come the end of the Six Nations.


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Six Nations Review: England Secure Victory Against Ireland

Having claimed a dominant victory against an Ireland who have beaten every other top national rugby team in the past year and a half, Eddie Jones’s England side look unstoppable.  Will they take the Six Nations Championship Trophy back to Twickenham?

Six Nations Clash: Ireland 20 – 32 England

Spending most of the rugby game on the front foot, tactical mastermind Jones orchestrated one of the most exciting shut-downs in recent years.  Ireland were still looking strong and powerful throughout, and never let their nullified attacks slow their pace, but were struggling to get past an aggressive England defensive line at the Aviva Stadium.

Owen Farrell took the honours of opening the game, and the Six Nations, and within moments England had broken through their host’s defence and Jonny May placed the ball on the try line at the edge of the pitch.  This was England’s first try in Dublin since 2011, signifying a change in early direction to the previous two meetings between the nations which both saw Irish victories.

Ireland took three points back with a Johnny Sexton penalty.  They then took the lead at twenty-four minutes with a converted try from Cian Healy and another Sexton kick.  England seemed frustrated by this loss of the lead and followed up with another ten points before half time.

Elliot Daly set up the try with a quick kick, chased down by Ireland’s Stockdale but fumbled and quickly reclaimed by Nowell.  Daly finished off the move he started, diving for the ball in the try zone at the thirty-minute mark.

It took fifteen minutes in the second half for the Irish to start trying to reclaim lost ground on the scorecard, claiming a penalty after a high tackle on Ringrose.  It went over taking the hosts to 13-17.  It was raw aggression from the English in their defence that was as much their downfall as it was their saviour.  Tuilagi and Sinckler were workhorses ensuring that the Irish offence couldn’t break through, as England held tight.

A break from a scrum just inside their own half all but ensured the English victory in their opening Six Nations match.  The ball made its way out to May on the touchline, who kicked it forwards.  Henry Slade chased it down and touched it down to bring England nine points into the lead.  A missed conversion by Farrell was soon made up for by an on-target penalty which just about reached over the cross bar after a thunderous kick from the halfway line.

Henry Slade racked up his second try of the day, and the fourth of his England career with minutes to spare in the game.  The young fly-half pounced on a sloppy Irish pass just yards away from the try line, and al but crawled over the line to bring England to 32 after the conversion.

With just a minute to go before the 80th, Ireland were still pushing forward and refusing to give in before the final whistle.  At the 79th minute scrum-half Cooney scores and a conversion moment later brought the score to Ireland 20, England 32.

 

Ireland v England, Six Nations: Tactical and Highly Intense

This was a hugely memorable contest between two of the best national teams in the world today.  High-intensity offence and defence from both nations throughout the game treated fans at the Aviva Stadium to a glimpse of what is to come in one of the most anticipated Six Nations in years.

England took control of much of the game, delighting the fans with endless pressure against the Irish line and promising the English rugby fans who made their way over the Irish Sea much more to come from them in the rest of the tournament.

While the Irish proved they’re a world-class test team, they simply were a step behind England for much of the game.  Eddie Jones’s tactical wizardry secured a victory, with a huge emphasis on the classic ’10-man’ kick-and-chase style of play.

Few pundits saw this final result coming – the Irish were favourites to win long before either team sheet was even considered.  Being caught off guard against a strong English side set them on the back foot early, and they struggled to regain control of the momentum until England really stopped trying to score with minutes to spare at the end.  The performance from England was truly terrific, and no man in the team seemed to be lagging in any department.

The aggressive defending which won England the game could have lost it for them, too.  They were lucky to have only given away twice the penalties that Ireland did, and could have easily seen many more points rack up against them.

Ireland looked most on top of the game when Tom Curry was sin-binned in the first half for a late tackle on Keith Earls, taking up some ground on the 14-man England.  Credit is due to every man in green on the pitch – despite taking a mashing in their own territory, there was never a moment when they seemed despondent or lacking in the motivation department.

Last year’s Grand Slam champs are still considered likely to do well in the Six Nations 2019, and will be wanting to prove themselves worthy in their upcoming games, especially in the Celtic clash with Scotland this weekend in Edinburgh.

 

What does this mean for the rest of the Six Nations?

England now shift ahead of Ireland in the bookies’ predictions, now coming in at 7/2 over Ireland’s 7/1.  Wales and Scotland are 6/1 and 11/1 respectively, with France pitched as low as 100/1 and Italy given 5000/1 by one bookmaker at time of writing, though most have them between 500/1 and 1000/1.

It’s all to play for still.  While one good showing against Ireland is a promising sight for English rugby fans, in the Six Nations anything can happen.  Eddie Jones still has to take his men to the Principality Stadium and host France, Italy and Scotland at Twickenham – and any one of these games could be a tournament-changing upset.

Ireland are still a strong side and one less-than-anticipated performance shouldn’t knock them back too hard.  Coming from their Grand Slam victory of 2018 they are still strong contenders in the competition.  England vs Ireland was always going to be the toughest match of the tournament, so they’ll have plenty more chances in the coming weeks.


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