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6 Nations

WATCH: England demolish Italy with bonus-point victory | Highlights & Post Match

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Written by Oliver Green
photo by John Patrick Fletcher/Action Plus via Getty Images

England kept their Six Nation’s title hopes alive with a 57-14 battering of a poor Italy side.

Eddie Jones’ side are now just one point behind leaders Wales, who scraped past Scotland earlier in the day.

With Italy struggling to cope with England’s heavyweight back line, Manu Tuilagi and Brad Shields both scored twice in an eight-try victory.

Jamie George, Jonny May, George Kruis and Dan Robson also crossed for tries as Italy capitulated under pressure from England’s giant runners.

21-year-old winger Joe Cokanasiga was in terrific form as he caused Italy endless problems with his strong running and offloading.

Tommaso Allen and Luca Moris scored consolation tries for a dismal Italian side that had shown vast improvement in previous Six Nations games this year.

It was a 25th loss to England in 25 games, and lengthens the time since their last Six Nations win to four years.

England will go into the final game-week knowing that a Wales loss against Ireland will put the title in their hands – they will then have to overcome Scotland to claim the trophy.

How it happened

England started the game at a tremendous pace, pinning the Italians back with strong early running.

Cokanasiga was immediately involved, leaping highest to claim Owen Farrell’s clever kick-off.

The Bath winger then showed the finesse he possesses in addition to his brute strength, attempting an audacious one-handed offload that Tom Curry was unable to collect.

The all-action start from England set the tone for the game, and they were very nearly rewarded when Curry touched down in the corner, only for the try to be ruled out for a forward pass.

England’s attack was relentless though, with the Azzurri struggling to find answers to a monstrous centre partnership of Tuilagi and Ben Te’o, weighing a combined 34-stone.

Italy’s defence succumbed after eight minutes as a rumbling England maul saw Jamie George bundle over the line.

Twickenham was briefly stunned by Italy’s response though, as Allan evaded the English defence with a clever dummy and held off Ben Young’s to score with their first attack.

The home of English rugby breathed a sigh of relief just a minute later however, as May was released on the wing by Elliott Daly to score his 5th try of the competition.

Then, after just over 20 minutes, England broke down Italy’s feeble defence for a third time – this time it was Tuilagi bagging his first score in an England shirt since 2014.

The Leicester Tigers man, playing at 13 for the first time this tournament, shrugged off two tackles on the halfway line and a raced clear to score.

Farrell added three more points from the tee, before the bonus-point was sealed after just half an hour.

Tuilagi was involved again – this time feeding flanker Brad Shields after another strong carry.

Shields slid over the line for his first ever Test try.

Farrell then added the extras to send England 31-7 up at the interval.

England flew out of the blocks after the break at a similarly blistering pace to the first – Cokanasiga was instrumental again, this time with rampaging run down the middle, swatting away three different Italy defenders.

Ben Youngs recycled after the winger was finally brought down, giving it to Farrell who had the awareness to pick out Tuilagi on the wing, who duly scored his second of the game.

Then, in similar fashion to the first half, Italy responded immediately.

Conor O’Shea’s side showed a glimpse of the attacking rugby that saw them lead Ireland at halftime to reach the England five metre line.

Morisi eventually dived over in the corner after a slick backline move to offer the Italians a brief reprieve.

A number of England changes as the clock ticked past the hour mark saw their attack revitalised.

Kruis’ hard work was rewarded when he charged down Jayden Hayward’s kick and collected the loose ball to score under the posts.

England made it seven after a Cokanasiga raid down the touchline, with the 18-stone winger passing to scrum-half Robson who ran over from ten metres out to score his first international try.

Back-rower Shields then completed the rout, benefitting from another charge down from Kruis as he collected the ball to score England’s eighth and final try of the day.

The result leaves everything to play for in the final games, with England, Wales and Ireland all able to secure the title.

For England, the Calcutta Cup will not be the trophy on the forefront of their minds when they face Scotland at Twickenham next week.

Post-match reaction

Eddie Jones said; “It was a good response after Wales. We left a bit out there, there’s a bit disappointment with certain aspects but we are looking forward to Scotland.

“We used the whole 23, we could have used the finishers better against Wales, and that was my fault, but they all made a contribution.

“Ben Te’o and Manu Tuilagi are good players, and Joe Cokanasiga is only going to improve. We are so blessed to have Brad Shields and Mark Wilson who can play six, there is great competition for places for next week.

“Next week will be like a grand final, it’ll be exciting. We cannot control what happens in the other game, but we can control what happens against Scotland. We’ll have a couple of days off, but then get into it on Monday.”

Italy head coach Conor O’Shea said; “It was difficult. That was an incredibly powerful England performance. We tried to play and we created a lot when we had the opportunity, but there was too much power out there.

“I’m immensely proud of all of these boys because they never stopped trying. We’ll reset easily before France. We’ll see what we’ve got in terms of players upright.

“What you saw out there was a lot of people who played until the end. I wouldn’t get too carried away with the scoreline against us.

“It was straight one-on-one tackles that cost us dearly but there were some individuals who put in an incredible shift for us.”

Jones calls for Six Nations relegation

The England head-coach said that relegation should be considered following his sides demolition of an Italian side that hasn’t won a game in the competition since 2015.

“They should always consider rewarding merit,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme.

“It doesn’t matter what competition you’re in.”

Tournament chief Ben Morel stated in February that relegation is not being considered, and there are no plans to add any other teams.

Georgia, who are currently placed above Italy in the International rankings, are keen to be included.

Jones added: “The organisers talk about the Six Nations being the best rugby competition in the world, and it probably is close to it.

“But to improve it you’ve got to find a way of making sure you’ve got the six best teams in Europe always playing in it. “If that involves relegation then it’s something that should be looked at very closely.”

Match Highlights:

6 Nations

British & Irish Lions issue Tour Update

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Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

The British & Irish Lions and SA Rugby have confirmed they are aligned on delivering the Castle Lager Lions Series in South Africa in the scheduled playing window.

The Lions Board confirmed its preference to SA Rugby on Monday evening, prior to follow-up meetings earlier today (Tuesday).

“After reviewing information relating to the various contingency scenarios being considered, I can confirm that the Board’s intended position is for the Tour to go ahead as scheduled in South Africa in 2021,” said Jason Leonard, chairman of The British & Irish Lions.

“We acknowledge that there is a significant amount of work still to be undertaken to deliver a robust COVID-19 countermeasure plan to ensure a successful, safe and uninterrupted Tour. SA Rugby will have our full support to help implement this plan.”

Mark Alexander, president of the SA Rugby, said he would inform the Executive Council of the South African Rugby Union of the alignment.

“We appreciate the Lions’ faith and share their desire to see a safe and successful tour,” said Alexander.

“We have been in regular contact with our government to make that a reality against the backdrop of the pandemic and its predicted progression over the coming months.

“There are serious financial implications for SA Rugby, should the event take place without any supporters in attendance, and we cannot ignore that in our considerations. But we are determined that the eventual outcome will deliver the best occasion and experience for players, supporters and our commercial partners.”

Alexander said the original tour schedule was subject to review because of those considerations. Should any changes be required they will be communicated as soon as possible.

Leonard added: “Every British and Irish player dreams of wearing the famous red jersey, and players from the southern hemisphere aspire to be part of a Lions series. We owe it to the current players vying for a place in both squads to ensure they can become part of Lions history.

“We are very much looking forward to taking on South Africa for what promises to be a highly-competitive Series against the reigning World Champions.”

Alexander thanked the Castle Lager Lions Series’ commercial partners as well as the British & Irish Lions and ticket holders for their patience during the extended period of uncertainty.

“As hosts and ‘owners’ of the Castle Lager Lions Series no one has been more affected or more challenged by the current circumstances than SA Rugby,” said Alexander. “However, with the support of our government and good planning we can navigate the pandemic to nonetheless create a most memorable event for players, fans and partners.”

It is not yet known whether international or cross-border travel for supporters will be possible into the country in July. Supporters who have purchased ticket-inclusive packages through Lions Rugby Travel will be notified directly via email with information on the options available.

The Lions remind supporters that all packages purchased through Lions Rugby Travel are protected by the Covid-19 guarantee*. Supporters who have booked packages with official sub agents should contact them directly. For the latest guidance on travelling to South Africa please visit the UK Foreign Office website: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/south-africa or the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs website: https://www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/a-z-list-of-countries/south-africa/

At this time, it also remains unclear whether spectators will be permitted into stadia in July and August. SA Rugby and the Lions continue to work with relevant South African Government departments to ascertain the latest guidance on COVID-19 countermeasure planning for major sporting events and will communicate any updates as soon as it is possible to do so.

In the event that spectators are not permitted to gain access to the Test matches, Lions supporters who had successfully purchased Test match tickets via the Lions ticket ballot will be refunded.

The British & Irish Lions Test match against Japan at BT Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday 26 June 2021 for the Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup will continue as scheduled. However, a decision on crowd size will be made nearer the time of the event and in line with the latest UK Government guidance. For more information, including ticketing enquiries, please visit:
https://www.lionsrugby.com/1888-cup-faqs/

The British & Irish Lions have toured South Africa on 13 previous occasions, with the first Tour taking place in 1891. In that time, the Lions have won four Test series, lost eight with one drawn. Their overall record against the Springboks is played 46, won 17, lost 23 and drawn six.

*For more information please visit www.lionstour.com

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6 Nations

Ireland make multiple changes for England

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

The Ireland coaching group have named their final match day squad of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championships ahead of the Round 5 clash with England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

There are a number of changes to the team that started against Scotland last Sunday starting in the half-backs where Captain Johnny Sexton is joined in by Conor Murray.

Garry Ringrose is ruled out of the side through injury so Bundee Aki slots in at inside centre with Robbie Henshaw shifting to the No.13 jersey.

Jacob Stockdale returns to the team for the first time since the Autumn Nations Cup win over Scotland back in December and is named on the left wing with Keith Earls on and Hugo Keenan completing the back three.

In the front row Dave Kilcoyne starts at loosehead alongside Rob Herring at hooker and Tadhg Furlong at tighthead. 

Tadhg Beirne moves into lock to partner Iain Henderson in the absence of the injured James Ryan.

Will Connors was ruled out yesterday with a knee injury in training so Josh van der Flier comes in at openside. CJ Stander moves to 6 for his final Ireland game in Aviva Stadium and Jack Conan is named at No.8.

Speaking this week about Stander, Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton commented,

“He’s done things for the right reason. His wife and daughter are back in South Africa at the moment. They’ve been there for a few months and they went back for the last lockdown as well.

“It takes its toll, doesn’t it? He’s just taken the decision based on family reasons and we respect him for that, but he’s a big loss to Munster and Irish Rugby.

“He’s been huge for both teams over the last five, six years. Very shocked, but we wish him well and we hope that his last game in green will be one to remember.”

The replacements are Ronan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, Peter O’Mahony, Jamison Gibson Park, Billy Burns and Jordan Larmour.

The game is being televised by VIRGIN (ROI) and ITV (NI) and kicks off at 4.45pm on Saturday afternoon.

IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Engalnd, 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship, Aviva Stadium, Saturday, March 20, kick-off 4:45pm):

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 10 caps
14. Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 92 caps
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 51 caps
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 30 caps
11. Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 33 caps
10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 98 caps CAPTAIN
9. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 88 caps
1. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 42 caps
2. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 20 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 48 caps
4. Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 62 caps
5. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 21 caps
6. CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 50 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 30 caps
8. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 19 caps

Replacements
16. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 10 caps
17. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 108 caps
18. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 36 caps
19. Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 2 caps
20. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 74 caps
21. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 9 caps
22. Billy Burns (Ulster) 6 caps
23. Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 28 caps

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6 Nations

Wales name Grand Slam chasing team to face France

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Photo by John Berry/Getty Images

Wales have made one change to their side for their Guinness Six Nations finale against France on Saturday (KO 21.00 Local BBC & S4C), with Adam Beard returning to the starting line-up.

Wales are four from four in the Championship and top the table heading to Paris. Beard, who started the first three matches for Wales, comes back into the starting side alongside captain Alun Wyn Jones. Jones, who is the world test record holder with 156 international caps to his name (including nine British & Irish Lion appearances), will make his 148th Wales appearance on Saturday. His Wales caps alone are now equal to the second-highest capped player of all time, Richie McCaw.

Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis are named again in the front-row for Wales with Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau comprising the back-row.

Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar are named at half-back with Jonathan Davies and George North continuing their partnership in the midfield.

Josh Adams, Louis Rees-Zammit and Liam Williams make up the back-three.

“We are all looking forward to Saturday and to the finale of the Six Nations,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.

“We are four from four to date but know this weekend will be a great challenge against a very good French side, but we are looking forward to it.

“We know we need to step up from our previous performances and we want to end the tournament with a performance we know we are capable of.

“We have had great continuity in selection throughout the tournament and that is shown once again with the selection for Saturday.”

Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith and Leon Brown are named as the front-row replacements for Wales with Cory Hill and James Botham completing the forward contingent. Tomos Williams returns from injury to take his place on the bench alongside Callum Sheedy and Uilisi Halaholo.

WALES TEAM TO PLAY FRANCE (SATURDAY MARCH 22 KO 21.00 LOCAL, BBC & S4C)

1. Wyn Jones (34 Caps)
2. Ken Owens (81 Caps)
3. Tomas Francis (56 Caps)
4. Adam Beard (24 Caps)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (CAPT) (147 Caps)
6. Josh Navidi (27 Caps)
7. Justin Tipuric (84 Caps)
8. Taulupe Faletau (85 Caps)
9. Gareth Davies (61 Caps)
10. Dan Biggar (91 Caps)
11. Josh Adams (31 Caps)
12. Jonathan Davies (87 Caps)
13. George North (101 Caps)
14. Louis Rees-Zammit (8 Caps)
15. Liam Williams (70 Caps)

Replacements:

16. Elliot Dee (36 Caps)
17. Nicky Smith (38 Caps)
18. Leon Brown (16 Caps)
19. Cory Hill (31 Caps)
20. James Botham (5 Caps)
21. Tomos Williams (21 Caps)
22. Callum Sheedy (8 Caps)
23. Uilisi Halaholo (3 Caps)

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