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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

Ireland Make Seven Changes For Italy

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(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

The Ireland coaching group have made seven changes to the side that started against France in round 2 of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship. There are two uncapped players in the replacements.

Craig Casey, who was on the bench for the game against France, and Ryan Baird are in line for their first international caps in Stadio Olimpico on Saturday afternoon.

Johnny Sexton returns to captain the side and partners Jamison Gibson Park in the halfbacks.

This weekend has come too soon for Conor Murray who is continuing his hamstring rehab.

Robbie Henshaw, who earns his 50th cap for Ireland, will again partner Garry Ringrose in the midfield. Henshaw made his Ireland debut against USA on the 2013 Summer Tour, a few days before his 20th birthday.

Hugo Keenan retains the No.15 jersey with James Lowe on the left wing and Jordan Larmour coming in on the right hand side.

A new front row combination of Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher and Tadgh Furlong is set to start.

James Ryan returns to the second row to partner  Iain Henderson.

Tadgh Beirne shifts to the backrow filling the blindside role with Will Connors at openside and CJ Stander at No.8.

The replacements for the weekend are Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Jack Conan, Billy Burns, Keith Earls and the uncapped duo of Baird and Casey

IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Italy, 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship, Stadio Olimpico , Saturday, February 27, kick-off 2:15pm):

Player/Club/Province/Caps –

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 8 caps
14. Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 26 caps
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 32 caps
12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 49 caps
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 4 caps
10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 96 caps CAPTAIN
9.
 Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 7 caps
1. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 40 caps
2. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 8 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 46 caps
4. Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 60 caps
5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 33 caps
6. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 19 caps
7. Will Connors (Leinster/UCD) 7 caps
8. CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 48 caps

Replacements

16. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 18 caps
17. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 106 caps
18. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 34 caps
19. Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) uncapped
20. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 17 caps
21. Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) uncapped
22. Billy Burns (Ulster) 5 caps
23. Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 90 caps

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6 Nations

England name team for Round 3 v Wales

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(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Eddie Jones has named his side for this weekend’s key Guinness Six Nations match against Wales.

England will travel to Cardiff to take on Wales at the Principality Stadium on Saturday 27 February (4.45pm KO).

Elliot Daly is set to make his 50th appearance for England, at full back.  Daly made his England debut in February 2016 in a 21-10 victory over Ireland.

Captain Owen Farrell is at inside centre, Henry Slade at outside centre and George Ford stays at fly half.  Ben Youngs continues at scrum half, with Jonny May (left) and Anthony Watson (right) on the wings.

Jamie George returns at hooker, with Mako Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler as props alongside in the front row.  Maro Itoje and Jonny Hill stay in the second row.

Mark Wilson starts as blind-side flanker, Tom Curry is open-side flanker and Billy Vunipola continues at No. 8.

George Martin could make his England debut after being named as finisher.  Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Ben Earl, Dan Robson and Max Malins make up the finishers.

Eddie Jones said: “Wales is a really special fixture and rivalry.  There is a long history between the two nations and the game means a lot to both countries.

“We know we’ll be up against a strong Welsh challenge on Saturday, but we’ve worked really hard in training this week and have got a very good team to face it.

“We want to show people what we are capable of, keep building our performances and the best is yet to come from this England team.”

In their remaining championship fixtures, England will then play France at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday 13 March (4.45pm KO) before travelling to Dublin to take on Ireland on Saturday 20 March (4.45pm KO).

Wales v England is live on BBC One and BBC Radio 5 Live.

England XV Starters
15. Elliot Daly (Saracens, 49 caps)
14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 48 caps)
13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 36 caps)
12. Owen Farrell (Saracens, 90 caps)
11. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 63 caps)
10. George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 74 caps)
9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 106 caps)
1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 64 caps)
2. Jamie George (Saracens, 56 caps)
3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 41 caps)
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 45 caps)
5. Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, 6 caps)
6. Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, 20 caps)
7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 30 caps)
8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 58 caps)
 
Finishers
16. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 28 caps)
17. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 25 caps)
18. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 10 caps)
19. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 18 caps)
20. George Martin (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
21. Ben Earl (Bristol Bears, 10 caps)
22. Dan Robson (Wasps, 9 caps)
23. Max Malins (Bristol Bears, 5 caps)
ENDS

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6 Nations

Huge boost for Ulster & Ireland as Henderson signs new deal

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ulster captain, Iain Henderson, who has represented the province on 116 occasions, has secured his future with the club for the next two years.

Craigavon-born Henderson, who took up the role of Ulster captain in 2019, has progressed through the Ulster development system. Starting with mini rugby at Academy RFC, his early playing career saw him reach the final of the Danske Bank Schools Cup in 2010 with Belfast Royal Academy, represent Queen’s University Belfast as well as Ireland at Age-Grade level, before quickly rising through the ranks of senior professional rugby in the province.

Iain, who captained Ireland for the first time against France in this year’s Guinness Six Nations, made his international debut against South Africa in November 2012 and has won 60 caps to date for his country. 

A Lions tourist in 2017, Iain succeeded Rory Best as Ulster captain in 2019.  

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented,

“Over the past few seasons Iain has really developed into a leader within both the Ireland and Ulster squads. He is part of the national leadership group, captaining Ireland recently for the first time and we are delighted to have ensured that he continues his career in Ireland.”

Iain Henderson, commented,

“It has been a great honour to captain both Ulster and Ireland in recent times. Irish rugby is in a good place despite the disruption the sport has experienced during the pandemic. As professionals, we have been in a privileged position to be able to continue playing and I know we all hope to see supporters back in the Aviva and Kingspan in the near future.”

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