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6 Nations

England’s Six Nations campaign in review: Just a big anticlimax?

What happened, best and worst moments, and who stood out for England at the 2019 Six Nations.

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Photo by David Rogers - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images

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.

What happened?

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.

England 57-14

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.”

Best Moment

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).

Worst Moment

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.

Best player

Tom Curry

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.

What next?

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.

6 Nations

Two Uncapped Players In Ireland Squad For Italy Match

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There are two uncapped players included in the Ireland match day squad for the opening game of the Guinness Series against Italy on Saturday.

Munster’s Jean Kleyn will make his Ireland debut in the second row alongside Devin Toner in a new look Ireland side captained by Rhys Ruddock.

Ruddock is joined in the back row by Jordi Murphy and Tommy O’Donnell, who won the last of his 12 caps against Scotland in 2016.

Jack McGrath, Rob Herring and Andrew Porter are named in the front row.

Luke McGrath and Joey Carbery fill the half back positions with Chris Farrell and Garry Ringrose named in the centre.

Jordan Larmour is at fullback with Andrew Conway and David Kearney on the wings.

The uncapped Mike Haley is included in the replacements. He is joined by Niall Scannell, Cian Healy, John Ryan, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Beirne, Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty.

The match will be live on RTE and Channel 4.

Ireland Team & Replacements (v Italy, Guinness Series 2019, Saturday, August 10, Aviva Stadium, 2pm)

Player/Club/Province/Caps
15. Jordan Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 13 caps
14. Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 12 caps caps
13. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 20 caps
12. Chris Farrell (Young Munster/Munster) 5 caps
11. Dave Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster) 17
10. Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Munster) 18 caps
9. Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) 10 caps

1. Jack McGrath (St Marys College/Leinster) 54 caps
2. Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 7 caps
3. Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 14 caps
4. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 64 caps
5. Jean Kleyn (Munster) 0 caps
6. Rhys Ruddock (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 21 caps Captain
7. Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster) 12 caps
8. Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Ulster) 27 caps

Replacements
16. Niall Scannell (Dolphin/Munster) 14 caps
17. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 88 caps
18. John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster) 18 caps
19. Iain Henderson (Queens University/Ulster) 44 caps
20. Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster) 5 caps
21. Kieran Marmion (Galwegians/Connacht) 25 caps
22. Jack Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht) 3 caps
23. Mike Haley (Munster) 0 caps

The post Two Uncapped Players In Ireland Squad For Italy Match appeared first on Irish Rugby.

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6 Nations

Alun Wyn Jones Announces Future Plans

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones has confirmed his long-awaited decision for the future

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(Photo credit PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Image)

Alun Wyn Jones has announced that he has signed a contract extension with both the Welsh Rugby Union and the Ospreys until June 2021.

The second-row, who had been rumoured to be heading overseas come the end of the season has committed his future to his hometown region and confirmed the news on social media.

“I have some news I would like to share with you. I’m happy to announce that I have signed a contract extension to June 2021 with the Welsh Rugby Union and the Ospreys and will be playing at the Liberty Stadium for the foreseeable future,” he said.

The Welsh captain who has gone on to make 134 caps at test level (125 with Wales and 9 for the British & Irish Lions), admitted he considered all options available to him but decided to stay put.

“After serious consideration and taking stock of all options, it is the right decision for my career at this point in time, along with my personal ambitions on and off the field, my welfare, and needs of my family. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to tell you directly, in particular to the Ospreys supporters and all those who have supported me during my career to date. Thanks, Alun Wyn,” he added.

Jones is set to head to Switzerland this week for Wales’ first overseas training camp ahead of the Rugby World Cup, and WRU CEO Martyn Phillips is delighted that Jones will be remaining in the country after the tournament in Japan.

“This announcement is a huge boost for Welsh rugby. Alun Wyn is hugely respected across the game and I’m delighted he has committed his future here in Wales and that he will be continuing to play for his hometown region. It is a boost for the game both on and off the field and I’m sure the news will delight both Wales and Ospreys supporters alike as he continues to inspire the next generation. The extension allows the WRU and the Ospreys to continue working together with Alun Wyn to ensure he has the very best of environments to thrive in,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke is also excited to have the clubs most capped player (238 caps) still in his squad and believes it is brilliant news for everyone in the region.

“Today’s announcement is fantastic news for us as a club and all Ospreys and Wales supporters. Alun Wyn is a man I have the upmost respect for; he is greatly admired not just because of what he has achieved and what he represents as a local boy playing for his home region and country but importantly because of the ambition and level of performance he consistently displays. He’s a tremendous individual and a winner with a deep hunger for the Ospreys to be successful on and off the field. Alun Wyn has spent his entire career with the Ospreys and I expect him to continue his legacy as a player and well beyond his playing days,” he said.

Jones’ announcement will be a massive boost for all Welsh Rugby supporters and will also be a motivation for the national team heading into the World Cup later this year as they look to add more silverware to their Six Nations Grand Slam from earlier in the year.

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6 Nations

Ireland Add Final Piece to Backroom Puzzle

Ireland have confirmed their final addition to Andy Farrell’s coaching staff

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Former England coach Mike Catt has been announced as Ireland’s new attack coach come the end of the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

Catt is currently coaching the Italian national side however; he will leave his post following the conclusion of the World Cup and take up the role of Ireland’s attack coach until 2023.

He is the last of the coaches to be named as a part of Andy Farrell’s backroom staff, with Farrell set to take over from Joe Schmidt once the tournament in Japan is completed.

Catt is delighted to be moving on to work with the Irish side but insists that he is solely focused on his current task with Italy.

“I am looking forward to the Rugby World Cup in Japan and seeing the group of players we have here in Italy fulfil their potential and achieve the objectives we have set for ourselves. Obviously, it is an honour to be given this future opportunity with Ireland, but I will focus on that challenge only after I have given my all for Italy and this group of players,” he said.

Farrell and Catt previously worked together while part of England’s coaching set-up for the 2015 Rugby World Cup and has plenty of experience which is appealing to IRFU performance director David Nucifora.

“Mike brings a wealth of experience to the coaching group and has been operating at the highest level of the international game for some time. He was a smart and innovative player, and he brings those attributes and much more besides in his approach to coaching and player development. We feel that we have secured a talented practitioner who will add significant value to the group and to the wider Irish system,” he said.

Along with Catt, Farrell has added John Fogarty as the side’s new scrum coach, while Simon Easterby and Richie Murphy will continue on as forwards specialist and kicking and skills coaches respectively.

Farrell will be hoping that he will take over the reigns following a successful World Cup campaign and will want to hit the ground running having put together a top-quality backroom set-up.

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