The dramatic draw against Scotland in the final game of the 2019 Six Nations rather summed up England’s campaign – loads of tries, a brilliant start, and then a disappointing second half.
When Eddie Jones’ side visited majority favorites Ireland back at the start of February, and departed with a bonus point victory, there was a confidence among England fans that no one could beat them.
Fast forward to the 75th minute of the Scotland game and those same English fans are watching their side hurtle towards a second defeat of the tournament, against a team second-bottom of the table.
It took a George Ford overtime try to prevent one of the most sensational slip-ups of recent times, and spared the blushes of England players, fans and head coach Jones.
Ireland 20-32 England
England’s Six Nations campaign got off to cracking start at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin – a venue where they had previously failed to win at in six years.
Last years Grand Slam champions were left stunned as England ran in four tries to claim a 32-20 victory.
Joe Schmidt’s side were dissected by England’s pacey and intelligent backline, with two-try hero Henry Slade starring at centre.
Jonny May and Elliot Daly both scored as Ireland capitulated under England’s relentless kicking game – Daly’s try came courtesy of Jacob Stockdale fumbling the fullbacks kick.
The only setback for England was the loss of the influential Maro Itoje to injury. Itoje wouldn’t feature again for England in the competition.
England 44-8 France
England’s attack carried it’s scintillating form back to Twickenham, as Jones’ men ripped a woeful France side to shreds.
May scored a hat-trick of tries in the same corner before the half hour mark, before Slade bagged his third score in two games before halftime.
A penalty try followed as France disintegrated after the break, before Owen Farrell crossed for England’s 10th try of the competition already.
The intensity dropped as Jones introduced his ‘finishers’, but the head coach will be happy his side were clinical enough to see the game out – but that would become an issue in weeks to come.
Wales 21-13 England
As England slumped to defeat in Cardiff, it seemed all the good work from the first two games had been undone.
As the game approached the interval, with England leading 10-3 thanks to Tom Curry’s first international try, there was a sense that Jones’ men would rumble on to a third consecutive victory.
But what happened just before the break typified the deep-lying mental issues this England side is plagued with.
A 12-man maul was threatening to reach the Welsh line, but the ball was slung out to Farrell, who opted for a cross-kick which was ultimately ineffective.
There was acres of space for the England backs outside Farrell, and it was a uncharacteristically reckless decision to go to the boot. Another try before halftime would’ve put Wales at arms length; instead, they were right in the game.
A Warren Gatland masterclass ensued in the second period, with Dan Biggar coming off the bench to orchestrate wave after wave of Welsh attack, as England were starved of possession.
Cory Hill and Josh Adams both went over for Wales as England’s defence finally succumbed to the endless pressure, completing a memorable turnaround.
This result abruptly ended English Grand Slam hopes, and reiterated their inability to retain leads in big games.
This result put half-hearted smiles back on English faces, but there was still a lingering hangover from the defeat at the Millenium Stadium.
There was an element of anger in Englands play, as they took the frustration of the Welsh loss out on a sorry Italian side.
Jones’ men ran in eight tries in a largely entertaining game, with Manu Tuilagi and Brad Shields both scoring braces.
Jonny May scored his fifth try of the competition, and was joined on the scoresheet by Jamie George, Dan Robson and George Kruis.
England 38-38 Scotland
With Wales’ victory over Ireland earlier in the day eliminating the prospect of England catching Gatland’s side, it seemed the Calcutta Cup match would be a forgotten game in the Six Nation archives.
However, it was anything but.
England flew out the blocks, scoring 30 points in as many minutes, looking to give Twickenham with something to cheer about despite the earlier result.
A fancy pass from Slade sending May over for his 6th try of the competition was the pick of five first half tries, as England set about proving the Wales result as an anomaly among their other brilliant attacking performances.
Their display over the next 40 minutes did nothing to prove that however.
Scotland ran in six unanswered tries, with Sam Johnson scoring five minutes from time to complete an astonishing comeback.
With Scotland now leading 38-31, an England side playing to save themselves from embarrassment managed to reach the Scottish five-metre line. Ford received the ball midfield, then threw a dummy to send himself under the posts, and send Twickenham into relieved pandemonium.
Where did it go wrong?
Eddie Jones heavily criticised his player’s mentality following the Wales defeat, as well as after the draw with Scotland in the final round of the Six Nations.
In both games, England were leading comfortably at half time – more so in the Scotland game admittedly – and ended up giving up their advantage before the end of the match.
He said: “It’s like we have some hand grenades in the back of a jeep and sometimes they go off when there’s a lot of pressure. We have a few of them and we’ve got to get rid of them.”
He revealed that he would seek expert help before the World Cup, to help tackle his sides mental weakness in big games.
Jones said: “Well, it’s a combination of personnel, but I’ve got one person that’s going to help us that’s a bit of an expert. I’m not sharing that name with you now. I haven’t used her before.
The Australian reiterated that this wasn’t a freak occurrence, and is something that has prevented his side from reaching elite status for some time.
“It is a recurring thing. It is not a one off,” Jones told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“When you want to be the best side in the world you have to put sides like Scotland away. We had the opportunity to do it and we didn’t.”
Two in 10 minutes for Henry Slade vs Ireland
The best moment of England’s campaign would obviously come before the Wales defeat, as everything since that loss seemed slightly hollow.
Slade’s two scores in Dublin encapsulated English fans reason to be optimistic – they demonstrated a confidence and excitement to Jones’ side.
It also showed that England could compete with – and beat – the very best.
The first came from a scrum on halfway, with Ben Youngs slinging the ball to the right wing, where Jonny May found space and kicked forward.
Slade, on exactly the same wavelength, ran onto the loose ball to score and put England 12 points clear of the reigning champions with 15 minutes to go.
The second, scored with five minutes left to play, allowed England to properly celebrate. It was the icing on the cake.
Slade picked off a pass from World Player of the Year, Johnny Sexton, and kept hold of the ball superbly to score England’s fourth and final try.
Honorable mention: George Ford try vs Scotland. Was a terrific moment of relief for English support after an astonishing game of rugby, but England should never have been in the position in the first place. There was also nothing left to play for other than pride (and the Calcutta Cup).
Josh Adams try in 21-13 loss to Wales
When Josh Adams rose above Elliot Daly to claim Dan Biggar’s pinpoint cross-field kick, it epitomised the game itself.
Wales simply rose to the occasion – most notably in the second half – and England, like Daly, didn’t.
Not only did it end England’s Grand Slam hopes, it provided the Welsh with a springboard to go on and win the title, as well as handing them a record 12th consecutive Test win.
It was the final nail in the coffin on a hugely disappointing day for English rugby.
Honorable mention: Sam Johnson try to make it 38-31 to Scotland with five minutes to go. Had Ford not scored in overtime, this would be unquestionably the worst moment of the campaign – nothing could be more sickening for England than throwing away a 31-point lead, against Scotland of all teams.
It easy to forget this man is just 20 years of age. His sin-bin against Ireland perhaps highlighted his over-eagerness, but he will only learn from mistakes such as this.
Just watching the workload the flanker gets through makes you feel tired – he made a staggering 86 tackles across the five games, more than any other player.
In addition, the Sale Sharks man managed five turnovers across the course of the campaign, which is no mean feat at international level.
His try against Wales also showed an intelligent side to his game that not many players his age possess.
Honorable mention: Henry Slade. Re-earned his place in the squad after impressing in the Autumn internationals, and fully justified his inclusion with some big performances in big games. His brace against Ireland will be one to remember. England look a better side with the Sale man in the team.
England will play four Test Matches in the summer, as preparation for the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
In August, they will play Grand Slam winners Wales home and away, before Ireland visit Twickenham.
Then, at the start of September, they will host Italy at St. James’ Park.
The World Cup will then kick off mid-September. England have been drawn in pool C, along with France, USA, Argentina and Tonga.
Their first match will be against Tonga on September 22nd at the Sapporo Dome.
Ireland Squad Named For Autumn Nations Series
Andy Farrell has named a 38 strong squad for the upcoming Autumn Nations Series fixtures at the Aviva Stadium.
Ireland face Japan on Saturday 6th November before hosting New Zealand a week later on Saturday 13th.
The final game in the series sees Mario Ledesma’s Argentina line out at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday 21stNovember. The Aviva Stadium will be at full capacity for these three games.
Johnny Sexton who has been capped 99 times for his country will lead the squad during this international window.
Six of Ireland’s players who toured with the British and Irish Lions during the summer – Bundee Aki, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson and Conor Murray are included as is Ronan Kelleher who joined the squad in South Africa.
Six of the players who won their first caps during the Vodafone Summer Series in July have been included in the squad – Robert Baloucoune, Harry Byrne, Gavin Coombes, James Hume, Tom O’Toole and Nick Timoney.
There are two uncapped players named Leinster duo Dan Sheehan and Ciaran Frawley while Munster’s Simon Zebo is named in an Ireland squad for the first time since June 2017.
Robbie Henshaw will continue his rehabilitation programme under the supervision of the Ireland medical team.
Thomas Ahern (Munster) and Jamie Osborne (Leinster) will train with the squad as development players during this window.
Ireland Head Coach Andy Farrell, commented,
“It has been a short lead in to this international window but that is the challenge, to get back up to speed quickly and build on the performances from the Six Nations and the Summer Tests. This is the start of an exciting period for the group as we begin to build towards the Rugby World Cup in France.”
“In September we got together and mapped out what was coming up in this window, the exciting fixtures that lay ahead in the next 12 months and beyond that the opportunities to improve as a group over the next five windows we will have together.
“In a few weeks’ time we will face an exciting and well coached Japan team who showed in July what a dangerous team they are. New Zealand dominated the Rugby Championship losing just one game while Argentina are battle hardened from playing the southern hemisphere’s Big 3 week in week out over the past two months.
“It would be fantastic to play in front of a full-house at the Aviva Stadium. We had small crowds back in for the games in July and even that made a huge difference to the team and the atmosphere in the stadium.”
Ireland’s Autumn Nations Series fixtures at the Aviva Stadium will be televised on RTE (ROI) and Channel 4 (NI).
IRELAND Autumn Nations Series Squad 2021
Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 31 caps
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) 1 cap
Harry Byrne (Leinster/Lansdowne) 1 cap
Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 24 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 3 caps
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 25 caps
Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 93 caps
Ciaran Frawley (Leinster/UCD)*
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 10 caps
James Hume (Ulster/Banbridge) 1 cap
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 13 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 30 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 6 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 5 caps
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 89 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 34 caps
Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 99 caps CAPTAIN
Simon Zebo (Munster/Cork Constitution) 35 caps
Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 5 caps
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 16 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 22 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 20 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) 2 caps
Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians) 19 caps
Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 9 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 49 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 109 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 63 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 22 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 13 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 45 caps
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 76 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 1 cap
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 37 caps
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 37 caps
Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne)*
Nick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) 1 cap
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 32 caps
*denotes uncapped player
Thomas Ahern (Munster/Shannon)
Jamie Osborne (Leinster/Naas)
Autumn Nations Series Fixtures 2021
IRELAND v Japan
Aviva Stadium , Saturday 6th November, 2021
IRELAND v New Zealand
Aviva Stadium , Saturday 13th November, 2021
IRELAND v Argentina
Aviva Stadium , Sunday 21st November, 2021
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
Wales & Cardiff star to retire at 27
Cardiff Rugby fullback Hallam Amos will retire at the end of the season to focus on a career in medicine.
The 27-year-old joined Cardiff ahead of the 2019-20 season having previously come through the ranks at the Dragons, where he spent nine years.
He recently completed his clinical medical exams and has informed the club and Welsh Rugby Union of his intention to hang up his boots in June.
Amos said: “After a decade of professional rugby, the 2021/22 season will be my last. I’ve experienced a lot in rugby and have been fortunate to go to two Rugby World Cups, a Commonwealth Games, several Six Nations and I’ve had a lot of great times in the regional game.
“I’m very grateful for the incredible experiences I’ve had but the time has almost come to face a new challenge. I am happy with what I have achieved and telling Dai and Cardiff, and Wayne (Pivac) and Wales, early so they can plan for the future sat a lot easier with me.
“It’s always been my intention to finish when I complete my degree and this season aligns nicely with the final year of my medical studies, so a perfect time to transition from pitch to hospital.
“Throughout my years combining university with a rugby career I’ve had plenty of support – from the WRU, from the Dragons for the first few years of my career, from Cardiff Rugby more recently, and from Cardiff University itself – and I’ll always be thankful for their willingness to accommodate both aspects of my life.
“Particular thanks go to Dai and Wayne who have been understanding over the last couple of weeks as I’ve talked to them about the thought process behind my decision.
“Retiring at 27 will definitely be strange but I’m fully committed to Cardiff Rugby for the rest of the season and hopefully I can finish on a high over the next few months.”
The full-back has made 32 appearances since joining the Blue and Blacks and has taken his tally of international caps to 25.
Cardiff Director of Rugby, Dai Young has led the tributes to the Cardiff medical student and commended his decision to retire on his own terms and with a clear education and plan for the future.
Young said: “Obviously it will be disappointing to lose a player of Hallam’s quality and he has plenty of rugby left in him but you can only admire his decision.
“Not many players get to go out on their own terms and to switch from rugby to a full-time career in medicine sets him up for a long and fruitful career.
“Hallam has worked incredibly hard to juggle rugby and his studies up until now and has achieved a huge amount in the game both at regional and international level.
“He will remain an important figure for us for the remainder of the season and can play without the pressure of the decision hanging over him. For now, the focus is on Cardiff and enjoying his rugby and next summer we will wish him all the very best for the future.”
Connacht Sign Samoan International Tuimauga
The 28-year old joins from New Zealand side Manawatu and won his first two caps with the Samoan national team during the summer, playing twice against Tonga.
Tuimauga will link up with the Connacht squad in the coming weeks with a view to being available for selection later in 2021.
Commenting on the signing, the province’s head coach Andy Friend said: “It’s no secret we’ve been exploring further options at loosehead following Denis Buckley’s long-term injury, so we are really pleased to welcome Tietie to Connacht.
“We now have strong cover across all of our front row, which is a good place to be, and with Tietie’s experience he’ll offer us something different.
“We now have a pro squad of 44 plus a number of integrated Academy players, so I’m really pleased with the group we have assembled.
“Our sole focus now is on building on last week’s win when we face the Dragons on Saturday.”
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