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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

Wales team to face Ireland in Dublin named

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Senior men’s head coach Warren Gatland has named the Wales side to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in the third round of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 24 February (KO 2.15pm live on ITV and S4C).

There is one change to the starting XV that played England at Twickenham on 10 February, with Sam Costelow returning for Wales at fly half.

Among the replacements back-row Mackenzie Martin is in line to win his first senior cap this weekend and would become the 1,200th Wales men’s international.

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Tight-head prop Dillon Lewis would be making his first appearance of this Championship if called on from the bench.

Gatland said: “We are excited to go out to Dublin and test ourselves against one of the leading sides in world rugby. It’s a challenge we are relishing.

“We’ve made steps in the last couple of games and now it’s about building on that, learning from those experiences and taking that into this weekend.

“It’s about continuing to work hard, looking for accuracy in our performance across 80 minutes and also keeping our discipline.”

Wales senior men’s team to play Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in the Guinness Six Nations, Saturday 24 February KO 2.15pm GMT. Live on ITV and S4C.
15. Cameron Winnett (Cardiff Rugby – 2 caps)
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 56 caps)
13. George North (Ospreys – 119 caps)
12. Nick Tompkins (Saracens – 34 caps)
11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 16 caps)
10. Sam Costelow (Scarlets – 9 caps)
9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 55 caps)
1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 27 caps)
2. Elliot Dee (Dragons – 48 caps)
3. Keiron Assiratti (Cardiff Rugby – 4 caps)
4. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 14 caps) Captain / Capten
5. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 53 caps)
6. Alex Mann (Cardiff Rugby – 2 caps)
7. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 15 caps)
8. Aaron Wainwright (Dragons – 45 caps)

Replacements

16. Ryan Elias (Scarlets – 40 caps)
17. Corey Domachowski (Cardiff Rugby – 8 caps)
18. Dillon Lewis (Harlequins – 54 caps)
19. Will Rowlands (Racing 92 – 30 caps)
20. Mackenzie Martin (Cardiff Rugby – uncapped)
21. Kieran Hardy (Scarlets – 19 caps)
22. Ioan Lloyd (Scarlets – 4 caps)
23. Mason Grady (Cardiff Rugby – 8 caps)

Images & Content – Wales Rugby


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6 Nations

Jager and Ahern Join Ireland Squad Ahead Of Wales

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The Ireland squad re-assembled in Dublin on Sunday evening ahead of this weekend’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations Round 3 clash against Wales at Aviva Stadium (Kick-off 2.15pm).

Prop Oli Jager has joined the squad and Thomas Ahern has also linked up with Andy Farrell‘s side at the IRFU High Performance Centre this week.

Iain Henderson picked up a foot injury during Ulster’s URC game away to Ospreys on Sunday and there will be a further update later in the week.

The Ireland Match Day Squad to face Wales at Aviva Stadium will be named on Thursday at 2pm.

Ireland Squad – Wales Week: 

Backs (15):

Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht)
Harry Byrne (UCD/Leinster)
Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster)
Jack Crowley (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Ciaran Frawley (UCD/Leinster)
Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster)
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Jordan Larmour (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
James Lowe (Leinster)
Stuart McCloskey (Bangor/Ulster)
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)
Calvin Nash (Young Munster/Munster)
Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster)
Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster)

Forwards (21):

Thomas Ahern (Shannon/Munster)*
Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster)
Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster)
Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster)
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster)
Oli Jager (Munster)*
Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Jeremy Loughman (Garryowen/Munster)
Joe McCarthy (Dublin University/Leinster)
Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster)(captain)
Tom O’Toole (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster)
James Ryan (UCD/Leinster)
Dan Sheehan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Tom Stewart (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Nick Timoney (Banbridge/Ulster)
Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster)

*Denotes uncapped player

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

O’Connell Gives Update On Keenan As Ireland Return To Training

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Hugo Keenan is Ireland’s main injury concern ahead of Saturday week’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations clash with Wales. The ever-influential full-back took a blow to his left knee during the win over Italy.

Keenan sustained the injury when falling awkwardly in a 52nd-minute tackle from Italian replacement Giosuè Zilocchi. He was replaced shortly afterwards by Harry Byrne, with Jack Crowley switching to the full-back position.

The 27-year-old Dubliner has become central to Andy Farrell’s plans in a short space of time, with his 15s international debut coming just over three years ago. He has accumulated more match minutes than any other player so far during Farrell’s coaching reign.

He has started 38 of Ireland’s last 42 Test matches, and Jimmy O’Brien and Michael Lowry are the only other players who have worn the number 15 jersey during that time.

Asked about Keenan’s likely availability for the third round of the Six Nations, Ireland forwards coach Paul O’Connell said: “Hugo didn’t train today, but he hasn’t been ruled out for the Welsh game yet.

“He’s progressing with his rehabilitation, he was there at training today and took part in the organisational bits, but I have no full update. He’s still available for selection for Wales, but I’m not sure what will happen in the next few days.

“He plays a big role, he’s obviously been injury-free for a long time. He’s an excellent player and in full-back, covering the back-field defensively, he has a lot of work to do in attack as well, recreating our attack by moving side to side.

“There’s a lot of IP (intellectual property) there that we might miss out on if he wasn’t playing. He also plays a big leadership role for us, he’s a very smart guy.

“He’s a problem-solver within the group and highly regarded within the group. Whether he’s there or not, he’ll continue to play that role.”

Keenan has had a strong start to the tournament, with his individual highlights including his try-saving tackles on Damian Penaud, including one which drove the French dangerman back a few feet, and an electric break against Italy from Craig Casey’s kick over the top.

He has an 85.7% tackle success rate, including two dominant hits and a turnover tackle. In attack, he has had gain-line success with two-thirds of his carries in the Championship, and has the team’s best tackle evasion rate of 47.1%.

If the Leinster star is ruled out when Ireland resume their campaign next week, the versatile Ciaran Frawley, Jordan Larmour, Jacob Stockdale, Calvin Nash, or indeed Crowley, could be options to fill the full-back berth.

Larmour, who returned to international action last Sunday for the first time since 2021, made nine starts at full-back between 2018 and 2020. Farrell handed him the number 15 shirt for his first game in charge of Ireland four years ago.

Last August against Italy, Frawley made his debut as a half-time replacement for O’Brien at full-back. He has started six times in the position for Leinster this season, with Stockdale, Nash and Crowley also having provincial experience in the back-field.

As O’Brien and Mack Hansen are also injury-enforced absentees, O’Connell admits that it could provide an opportunity to build more depth in that area if Keenan is unable to recover in time.

“It’s good for us in some ways because it makes us play someone else there if he doesn’t make it,” commented the Limerick man, who is in his fourth Men’s Six Nations campaign as part of the Ireland coaching group.

“I’m not sure yet, I don’t pay as much attention to the backs, but I’m not sure yet where  Hugo is at. As I said, he was around training today, so we’d be hopeful.”

Meanwhile, Garry Ringrose is on track to play some part against Wales at the Aviva Stadium having returned to training. He missed the opening two rounds due to a shoulder injury.

“Yeah it looks like it, he trained today,” O’Connell said of Ringrose. “We didn’t do a massive session today but he trained today and was in good shape.

“No one else sat out training, no, so they’re all good to go, I believe.”

That includes captain Peter O’Mahony (calf), Tadhg Furlong (calf), and Bundee Aki (knee), who all sat out the 36-0 bonus point victory over Italy as they recovered from their respective knocks.

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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