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6 Nations

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

Schmidt applauds Irish Support.

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

He may have led his side out for the final time at the Aviva Stadium today, but for Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, the importance of the Rugby World Cup in Japan meant he could not get too wrapped up in the occasion.

A well-earned victory over Wales for the second weekend running provides Ireland with considerable momentum heading into their Pool A opener against Scotland on Sunday, September 22. Speaking afterwards, Schmidt’s post-match thoughts were already on that Yokohama clash.

“The focus of the World Cup is huge, so you’re immediately starting to think in terms of our next game,” he explained. “Obviously Scotland have had a couple of big wins against Georgia and a good win against France after doing similar to what we did against England, in not really being ready to go from the very start.

“That’s the nature of these pre-World Cup Test matches, where people are trialling combinations and people are at various stages of preparation. For me, it’s been good to take the emotion out of it, as emotionally connected as I am to the team and the performance to the Aviva Stadium and what it’s meant over the last 10 years.

“I was here at the first game of rugby with my kids watching an Under-20 game with the four provinces mixed into two teams. Ever since then I’ve had some really special experiences just being here and absorbing the atmosphere.

“It’s phenomenal for such an open stadium the volume of noise that gets created. We are incredibly lucky with the support that we have and that was very evident with the reception that Rory (Best) got coming off the pitch today.”

Indeed, the emotion Schmidt did allow himself in the minutes that followed this afternoon’s encounter was that of relief. Given how close the start of the Rugby World Cup is, he was pleased to see the majority of his troops coming through the game unscathed.

Cian Healy was withdrawn at half-time for a head injury assessment, and Keith Earls came off with a quad injury, but the Ireland boss was otherwise able to report a clean bill of health.

“After a game, relief is probably the primary emotion. Just because hopefully we’ve negotiated that. The boys who came off seemed in really good spirits. We’ve hopefully gotten through that unscathed. That’s always the most important thing. Then we’ve got a performance that we can be proud of, I think. The first quarter of the game we couldn’t hang onto the ball.

“I think we made 40 tackles as opposed to them having made six tackles in that early part of the game. I thought we did a really good job defensively and then we built our way into the game. I felt we dominated the last quarter. It wasn’t necessarily pretty to watch, but it was nice to get that result.”

On just his third appearance in an Ireland jersey, Schmidt felt that Jean Kleyn was ‘solid, not spectacular’. Nonetheless, he believes the Munster lock has the tools to become a key figure for Ireland in Japan, with the other second rows, including man-of-the-match James Ryan, adding their own unique flavours to the Irish pack.

“Jean’s a good man for us in the engine room. He can carry okay as well. He’s a big man. I think across the board there was a real work ethic out there today. It wasn’t flash, but it was functional. Sometimes when you’re building towards something you want functional. I think James Ryan is James Ryan really.

“He just keeps setting a bar for himself and then looking to jump a little bit higher. I thought Iain Henderson added some value and we’ve Tadhg Beirne too, so it’s going to be a good contest for those spots. They are four quite different profiles of second row. So it allows us a little flexibility in how we change up the game, during a game or from game-to-game.”

Schmidt also has a number of options in midfield as Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose and Chris Farrell are vying for the two starting berths. The old Connacht centre partnership of Aki and Henshaw received the nod on this occasion and repaid Schmidt’s faith with a pair of powerhouse performances.

“Those two know each other inside-out. They are good friends, they are good players together. I thought Robbie’s first carry, when he gets that ball in behind the line, Bundee knows exactly where to be and punches onto that ball really well. Instead of us just having a ruck on the edge of our 22, suddenly we’re going forward to the next ruck.

“Defensively they got to space. I do think that our midfield defence with those two was really strong as well. We’d have real confidence in all four midfielders we have, especially that they are very good defenders. They are going to compete for spots.

“Some of it is about the combinations, and the fact that Bundee and Robbie know each other well. Then Robbie and Garry Ringrose have been playing together for Leinster and they know each other well. Chris Farrell has never let us down, so there’s a mix there.”

A number of firsts have been achieved by this Ireland squad over the course of Schmidt’s coaching reign. Victories against the southern Hemisphere giants of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa spring to mind, while 2015 saw them retain the Six Nations title for the first time in 66 years.

Another milestone was ticked off the list today with Ireland’s return to form propelling them to the number one position in the World Rugby Rankings. Although he sees it a notable feat for Ireland, Schmidt still believes his native New Zealand will be the team to beat at the tournament in Japan.

“I didn’t even realise that we were (number one in the rankings) until I did an interview after the game. That’s how far away from our thoughts it’s been. It’s a label, it’s a nice label to get and it’s a nice…first time that we’ve been in that position.

“We have been lucky enough to tick a few firsts off with this group in the last six years. But that label is not going to be relevant to anyone. We all know who the favourites are for the Rugby World Cup, and it’s not us.”

The post Schmidt: We’re Incredibly Lucky With The Support We Have appeared first on Irish Rugby.

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6 Nations

Two Uncapped Players In Ireland Squad For Italy Match

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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.

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

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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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