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England v Scotland. Game of the tournament? How it went down.

Match report and reaction from the final round of the Six Nations on Saturday

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Scotland produced a remarkable second-half display to turn around a 31-7 deficit in the final game of the 2019 Six Nations at Twickenham.

England, who were confirmed runners-up following Wales’ crushing victory over Ireland, needed a last-gasp George Ford try to save their blushes.

A Sam Johnson try five minutes from time look to have secured Scotland a memorable 38-31 victory, but Ford scored under the posts in overtime and converted, leaving the final score 38-38.

After a blistering first half an hour, tries from Jack Nowell, Tom Curry, Joe Launchbury and Jonny May had put England on course for a comfortable win.

A Stuart McInally breakaway try just before half-time looked to be a mere consolation.

But after the interval England capitulated – with Scotland running in five unanswered tries.

Darcy Graham scored twice either side of a Magnus Bradbury try, and Finn Russell crossed before Johnson put Gregor Townsend’s side ahead.

Although Wales’ victory earlier in the day had secured the title, Eddie Jones will be furious his England side were unable to end the campaign on a win.

For Scotland, there are mixed emotions – they may have retained the Calcutta Cup, and produced one of the most remarkable comebacks international rugby has seen – but players and fans alike will be left wondering: ‘what if?’.

How it happened

The 137th installment of a 145-year rivalry kicked off in front of a slightly subdued Twickenham, following the Welsh victory over Ireland earlier in the day – and after 66 seconds it had it’s first try.

Jack Nowell stepped in off the right-wing and eluded the Scottish cover to score the first of the games 11 tries.

A smart line-out routine five metres from the line then allowed flanker Tom Curry his second try of the competition.

Then, before the game was even 15 minutes old, a barn-storming run from Ellis Genge set the platform for Kyle Sinckler, before the ball was worked out to second-row Joe Launchbury who dived over for England’s third.

Jonny May, the championships top try scorer, bagged his 6th of the competition just before the half hour mark after an audacious backhanded pass by Henry Slade.

There was a swagger about Eddie Jones’ side in the early stages, with some slick handling and flowing rugby.

Hooker McInally’s try for Scotland just before halftime proved to be the start of a mistake-ridden 45-minutes for England.

The usually unflappable Owen Farrell’s kick was charged down by McInally, who ran from halfway to score – a weak tackle from May on the 22-metre line did little to slow his progress.

After the break, Scotland’s backline sprang to life and produced some scintillating rugby to carve through England’s panicking defence.

Winger Graham scored six minutes into the half, courtesy of some clever offloading and feeble English tackling.

Back-rower Bradbury collected Ali Price’s clever chip to score, before Graham crossed again in the corner to put Scotland within a converted try of England with 25 minutes to go.

As head coach Eddie Jones watched on in horror, England then conceded again.

Finn Russell picked off a Farrell pass and raced away to score a third Scottish try in 10 minutes, before Greig Laidlaw slotted the conversion to level the scores at 31-31.

A stunned England began to regain a foothold in the game, but an intelligent Russell pass fed Johnson, who bullied his way over the line.

It seemed that try would end Scotland’s 36-year wait for a win at Twickenham in the most dramatic fashion.

But the last and arguably best game of the 2019 Six Nations had one more twist – England reached the Scotland five metre line three minutes into overtime, before Ford dummied and went over under the posts.

Ford then converted, levelling the scores once again at 38-38, and bringing a breathless contest to an end.

For Townsend’s Scotland, this game accentuated how brilliant – and how poor – they have been in spells of this competition.

For Jones’ England, there is a growing concern that his current squad struggle to deal with the mental demands of competing at the peak of international rugby.

Either way, it was fitting final bow for a fascinating 2019 Six Nations.

What they said

Scotland fly-half Finn Russell was devastated at the final whistle, but was quick to praise his sides second-half performance.

“I’m gutted to be honest,” he said. “At half-time, everyone would have written Scotland off, it was 31-7 and for us to come out and have a second half like that was outstanding.

“It shows the character the boys have and I’m just so disappointed and gutted we didn’t managed to finish it off at the end after Sammy’s try with a couple of minutes to go and seven points up.”

Man-of-the-match Russell also revealed that there was an “argument” between himself and head coach Gregor Townsend during the half time break, as Scotland trailed 31-7.

“I actually had an argument with Gregor [at half-time],” Russell told ITV.

“I said to him ‘you’re telling us to kick and when we kick, they just run it back and cut us open, and when we run it, they’re just hitting us behind the gain line and winning the ball back’.

“Second half, we just came out with nothing to lose, played our rugby, kicked out of our half and scored some great tries. We played good Scottish rugby.”

His teammate Darcy Graham, who scored two tries in the incredible second-half display, was also keen to praise his sides fightback.

“We had a good look at ourselves at half-time,” Graham told BBC Scotland.

“We just said, ‘let’s see what we can get out this game’. We spoke about putting pride back into our badge because it was an embarrassing first half.

“I think we’ve shown that, we’ve put pride into that Scotland badge and it’s just outstanding from the boys.”

England head coach Eddie Jones bemoaned his teams inability to see out games, and called for his players to “put teams like Scotland away”.

“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.”

Jones also pointed to ill-discipline as an explanation for England slipping up against a side that finished second-bottom of the Six Nations.

“We just lacked discipline to keep doing the simple things well,” he added.

“We failed to get control and discipline back into the game when it gets loose, and we think we are on top and get a bit ‘free-wheely’.

“It’s 100% mental – there was no physical difference. It’s going to take some digging deep into the team psyche.”

Match Highlights:

6 Nations

Official. Eddie Jones signs new England Deal.

Official.

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England men’s head coach Eddie Jones and the RFU have agreed a contract extension which will see him continue his role until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
 
Jones joined England Rugby at the end of 2015 and has coached the men’s national side on 54 occasions winning 42, drawing one and losing 11 – giving him a win ratio of 78%, the highest in the history of England coaches.
 
Under Jones, England has won two Six Nations titles including a Grand Slam in 2016, a 3-0 away Test series win against Australia in the same year, an unbeaten run of 18 matches equalling New Zealand’s record and were finalists at last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan. 
 
Jones said: “The extension is a great honour for me, but in the current environment, it is only right to acknowledge what a difficult time the world is facing.  We are all looking forward to a time when we can get back to playing rugby and use the sport as a force for good in bringing people back together. I never thought coming here four years ago I would be doing a second four years but the circumstances are right. Obviously it is important for the team that we keep improving and my focus will be solely on that.
 
“I am excited about raising the standards again. We have a great team. We set out four years ago to be the best team in the world and unfortunately we missed that by 80 minutes. Now we want to be the team that is remembered as being the greatest team the game has ever seen. It’s a big ambition but I believe we are capable of doing it. We have players with an enhanced reputation, we have a team that is expected to do well, so it’s a great opportunity for us to keep moving forward.”
 
Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO said: “My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU are with everyone impacted by COVID-19, both across the country at large but also within our own rugby union community. In exceptionally difficult times, we are pleased to be sharing some good news.  We are delighted that Eddie will continue as head coach to run England’s campaign to take us to the 2023 Rugby World Cup. His record since joining speaks for itself and he has proven why he is one of the best coaches in world rugby. The progress shown by England since 2015 has been indisputable and having fielded the youngest-ever team to play in a World Cup final, we know even more growth is possible. We are all excited by what this squad can do and having Eddie leading the team is very important to us. 
 
“We reached an understanding soon after returning from Japan but there were some things that we wanted to make sure worked for both sides. We have announced Eddie’s contract extension a few weeks later than planned as our focus was diverted to support the English rugby community during this difficult time, we are now turning our attention to developing plans to support the rebooting of rugby and a winning England team will provide a vital role in that.”
 
Ahead of the Guinness Six Nations Jones confirmed Simon Amor and Matt Proudfoot would join Steve Borthwick and John Mitchell as his assistant coaches. Jason Ryles will join later in the year as skills coach following Borthwick’s departure towards the end of the season.

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6 Nations

RFU CEO gives COVID-19 planning & support update

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(Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Bill Sweeney – RFU, CEO

My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU continue to be with everyone impacted by the difficult and exceptional situation we are all facing, both across the country and within our own rugby union community.

Earlier today we held a virtual board meeting and I am writing to advise you of the actions that have been agreed to offer a support package directly funded from the RFU worth £7m to provide support for community clubs in England.  

IMPACT

To support clubs we are today announcing that the RFU will be providing a £7m relief package for community clubs. The package includes monies ring fenced and diverted for the community game as well as additional funding. These measures include:

•       An early release of £800,000 cash due to clubs through the ticketing fund.  

•       Early release of final funding payments (£600,000) to Constituent Bodies and suspension of the activity plans against which this was allocated, enabling them to utilise this to provide “immediate support grants” to clubs most in need. In addition £400,000 will be made available to Constituent Bodies who elect to match fund from their own reserves.

•       A suspension of the Quarterly loan repayments for clubs with outstanding loans due in March (£335,000).  

•       The creation of a £5m support loans programme, offering loans of between circa £2k and circa £10k to clubs, with deferred re-payments for six months and repayable over three years. 

We will be providing more details on this financial package in the coming week. We will also be issuing regular club recovery updates with practical advice on how government grants can be accessed as well as other business management advice. 

We welcome government interventions which will provide business rate holidays and grants for clubs.

The RFU will continue to provide a free helpline to assist clubs with legal and tax related matters: https://www.englandrugby.com/participation/running-your-club/legal-and-administration

Significant progress has been made on the process for considering the implications of ending the season early. We will ensure a fair and balanced outcome for the game and are now committed to update on this by the middle of April.

No one can predict every possible outcome of the COVID-19 outbreak particularly with regard to the duration of this crisis and we are managing in the unknown. We have modelled three potential scenarios and are working on an assumption based on a medium term impact with a view to a return to rugby in the autumn. We will continue to monitor against this assumption and review and revise planning where necessary.

The RFU had budgeted for a loss making year within a four year cycle due to the costs of the 2019 RWC campaign and hosting only two home Six Nations games. The loss will now be considerably more as we face challenges similar to businesses across the country. 

The RFU’s biggest asset is also a major cost and the closure of Twickenham Stadium has a significant impact on the revenues we can generate to re-invest back into the game. In that sense we are like every other club in the Union, when we do not stage matches and events we do not generate revenue.

Based on our planning assumption we estimate RFU revenue losses over the next 18 months to be approximately £45-£50 million and have a firm plan in place to mitigate this. The RFU Executive Team will be taking a cut in remuneration in excess of 25%. In addition, combined Board fees will be reduced by 75%.

WELFARE  

We are continuing our support to ensure colleagues and communities are given help to follow government advice and are providing recommendations on how to stay fit and healthy and a range of new content will be made available to players and fans across our social media channels. 

We are discussing with government and the NHS the role the RFU and Twickenham Stadium can play in providing volunteers as well as support for the NHS including accommodation, parking and meal provisioning.

I am confident that rugby will play a big role in energising communities across England after this difficult period. In the meantime, we are working hard with the wider rugby community to take the necessary measures to safeguard a financially resilient Union so that we can.

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6 Nations

Rodney Parade to help in fight against coronavirus

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Rodney Parade has become the latest sporting venue to open its doors to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The Newport stadium has been provided free of charge as a base for front-line NHS staff to check if they have the virus and are able to continue working. At this stage only NHS staff are eligible to be tested at Rodney Parade to see if they have COVID-19. Dragons managing director Mark Jones said: “The health service and care workers are doing an incredible job in such difficult circumstances so we are happy to offer our help and support in any way we can.

“Playing our part in the local community is at the heart of what we’re about at the Dragons and in times of crisis people stick together. We would urge everyone to follow the latest NHS advice on protecting themselves from the virus, particularly to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel.”

A statement from Aneurin Bevan Health Board read: “The health and wellbeing of our staff is essential for delivering services for the people of Gwent. It is fundamental during this time when the most vulnerable people need us most.

“We have set up a drive-through facility to test staff for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and help us get our teams back in to work on the front line. The testing site is located at Rodney Parade in Newport and we ask that everyone practises the stay-at-home guidance and does not visit the site.

“Everyone at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board would like to thank the team at Rodney Parade for their community-focused approach and accommodating us during these difficult times.”

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