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6 Nations

Wales v England: Player Ratings & Match Review

Wales go top of Six Nations table with record-breaking win over England

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

Wales ended England’s Grand Slam hopes with a record-breaking 12th consecutive test win.

Warren Gatland’s side produced a dogged second-half display to turn around a 10-3 deficit at the interval, and run out 21-13 winners.

Tom Curry’s first international try had given England the advantage at the break.

But despite spells of English pressure, Wales’ defence stood firm, and with 13 minutes they got their reward; second row Cory Hill powered his way over the line after strong work from the Welsh pack.

The Principality Stadium was then sent into pandemonium with just over two minutes left on the clock.

Replacement fly-half Dan Biggar kicked cross-field, and winger Josh Adams climbed above Elliot Daly to claim the ball and bundle over in the corner.

Wales are now in pole position to win the championship, and have the chance to secure their first Grand Slam since 2012.

How it happened

The game started in true ‘Wales vs England’ fashion – Kyle Sinckler’s thumping tackles to the soundtrack of 74,000 bellowing rugby fans typified the rivalry between these two international giants.

Both sides conceded penalties during a bruising first 20 minutes, with Gareth Anscombe and Owen Farrell slotting from the tee.

Neither team was able to gain the upper hand as the early stages were dominated by poor kicking and chasing.

But it was flanker Curry who eventually penetrated the stubborn Welsh defence. The Sale Shark’s man exploited a gap at the fringes of a ruck with a pick and go and touched down for the games first try.

Welsh fans will blame Justin Tipuric’s off-the-ball altercation with England scrum-half Ben Youngs for the gaping hole in their defence.

In fairness, it was an uncharacteristic lapse in an almost flawless defensive display from Wales.

There were few defining moments in the 13 minutes that followed. England were evidently growing in confidence, but came away with nothing to show for a strong finish to the half.

England didn’t begin the second half with the same swagger, and as a result the game continued to unfold in the same gritty style.

Head coach Eddie Jones was left frustrated as England conceded two penalties in 5 minutes, which were duly converted by Anscombe, reducing the deficit to one point.

The confidence then seemed to drain from England’s players, but Farrell extended their narrow lead yet again following a trademark carry from centre Manu Tuilagi.

It Wales though who were in the ascendancy. They were dominating possession, and Biggar was beginning to pull the strings from the number ten position following his introduction.

England were resilient though, and it took a colossal 34 phases for the Welsh to break that resilience. Hill eventually found a gap and crashed over the line to send the Welsh support into raptures.

Biggar’s conversion dissected the posts to leave the score 16-13 with just over 10 minutes to go.

There was little suggestion England would repeat the late heroics of their last visit to Wales, and their fate was all but sealed when Adams gathered Biggar’s kick to score in the corner with minutes to go.

Wales now have the opportunity to secure the championship and a first Grand Slam in seven years. Victory over Scotland at Murrayfield would offer Wales the chance to seal the Grand Slam in front of their own fans in three weeks’ time.

Meanwhile England host an Italy side who have been no walkover so far, followed by Scotland at Twickenham on the sixth and final matchday.

How they rated

Wales

Liam Williams (Full-back) – 9

A constant threat with his strong running, and was almost flawless under the high ball despite a first-half bombardment. Was reliable defensively too.

George North (Winger) – 7

To England’s credit he was kept relatively quiet, aside from the odd 10m burst that got the Welsh fans on their feet. Made no notable errors.

Jonathan Davies (Centre) – 7.5

Davies was as solid as ever in defence, and was a nuisance at the breakdown too. Showed his experience as Wales took control in a nervy second-half.

Hadleigh Parkes (Centre) – 8

Another robust Welsh centre who stepped up to the physical test of Manu Tuilagi. Made more metres than anyone else on the pitch (79).

Josh Adams (Winger) – 7.5

Struggled to get involved in a game that was dominated by the big men up front as his side kept things narrow. His leap above Daly was however a crowning moment on brilliant day for Welsh rugby, and he did well to finish it off.

Gareth Anscombe (Fly-half) – 6.5

Attempted a number of kicks in the first half that came to very little. Improved in the second half, but was withdrawn for Biggar after an hour who outshone him.

Gareth Davies (Scrum-half) – 7

Was surprisingly effective in defensive with his pressure on Farrell, but made a few errors with the ball in hand that have littered his appearances this championship.

Rob Evans (Prop) – 7.5

Hit double figures in terms of tackles (10) and was effective at the ruck. No surprise he was subbed after a lung-busting hour.

Ken Owens (Hooker) – 8

Another experienced Welsh player who stepped up to the occasion, tackling everything that moved. Was pretty secure with his lineout throws as well

Tomas Francis (Prop) – 7

Was effective in the scrums, particularly towards the end of the first half. Solid in defence.

Alun Wyn Jones (Second-row) – 9

Yet another majestic performance from the captain, lead his side into battle and was rampant throughout the 80 minutes.

Cory Hill (Second-row) – 8

Proved to be the key to unlocking England’s defence. Another industrious display.

Josh Navidi (Flanker) – 8

Will be frustrated by some of his handling errors but put his body on the line for his country countless times.

Justin Tipuric (Flanker) – 8

A nice attempt to perform one of the dark arts of back-rowing by holding Youngs on the ground, but was punished by opposite number Curry. Was dominant in the lineout, and was all action in open play.

Ross Moriarty (Number eight) – 8

Took on the imposing figure of Billy Vunipola and came out on top, which very few can say they have done. Made 35m from his home at the base of the scrum.

Subs:

Elliot Dee (for Owens 77) N/A

Nicky Smith (for Evans 61) 6.5

Continued the work that was started by Evans.

Dillon Lewis (for Francis 61) 7

A busy cameo from the prop.

Adam Beard (for Hill 71) N/A

Aaron Wainwright (for Moriarty 77) N/A

Aled Davies (for Gareth Davies 77) N/A

Dan Biggar (for Anscombe 61) 8

Was much more dynamic than Anscombe and was arguably the difference. Will surely start against Scotland.

Owen Watkin (for Parkes 79) N/A

England

Elliot Daly (Full-back) – 5.5

Missed a penalty in the early stages. Struggled to make any yards when gathering Wales kicks, and was beaten by Adams in the air to cap a disappointing display.

Jack Nowell (Winger) – 6.5

Made yards whenever the ball eventually reached him, but Wales’ defence meant he was unable to produce anything spectacular.

Henry Slade (Centre) – 7

Wasn’t as influential as in the first two games, but made more metres that any other England player (63) thanks to his pace.

Manu Tuilagi (Centre) – 7

Still doesn’t look at his very, very best, but carried well as the game went on and made a cracking tackle on Parkes.

Jonny May (Winger) – 6

Was kept very quiet, and had little influence on the game. Had to leave the field with a head injury.

Owen Farrell (Fly-half) – 6

He started poorly compared to his own high standards, but was able to offer England hope with his kicking from hand and the tee.

Ben Youngs (Scrum-half) – 6

Box-kicks were decent, didn’t make too many errors but was unable to help his team unlock a sturdy Welsh defence.

Ben Moon (Prop) – 6

Grafted for 76 minutes, and did his best to keep Wales at bay. Battled well against Exeter team made Francis in the scrum.

Jamie George (Hooker) – 7.5

Has been a fantastic replacement for Dylan Hartley and was very effective again against Wales. One of England’s best performers.

Kyle Sinckler (Prop) – 7

Started the game terrifically, making some thunderous tackles and carries. Struggled to maintain his discipline after half time and was subbed off following a risky choke tackle.

Courtney Lawes (Second-row) – 7.5

A typically physical display from the big lock and set up Curry’s try with a brilliant steal in the lineout. England will hope the injury isn’t too serious.

George Kruis (Second-row) – 7.5

Made 17 tackles in just over an hour, hit some good lines, and was a nuisance in the lineout. Another England player who can hold his head up high in defeat.

Mark Wilson (Flanker) – 7

Making the blindside position his own with consistent performances. Has another level to reach though if he wants to come out on top of back rows as good as Wales’.

Tom Curry (Flanker) – 7.5

Worked hard, and looks like he will be a fantastic player for England over the coming years. Showed intelligence and took responsibility for his try.

Billy Vunipola (Number eight) – 6

Not his best day both with and without the ball. Will be disappointed to have been overshadowed by Moriarty. Perhaps still finding his best form after a long injury layoff.

Subs:

Ellis Genge (for Moon 77) N/A

Harry Williams (for Sinckler 58) 7

Picked up where Sinckler left off with his tackling.,

Joe Launchbury (for Kruis 64) 6

Not massively involved, not as good as Kruis.

Brad Shields (for Lawes 75) N/A

Joe Cokanasiga (for May 70) 5.5 Offered the same as May did to the game unfortunately; nothing

Full Match Highlights below:

6 Nations

Leinster Star Considering Options as IRFU Talks Continue

Leinster could be set to lose another club legend with the IRFU playing hardball on a new contract

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Rob Kearney is looking into all options with his current IRFU contract due to expire after this year’s World Cup

The Ireland and Leinster full-back was missing from Leo Cullen’s list of blues players that have signed new contracts ahead of next season.

Kearney’s manager Dave McHugh has confirmed that discussions are continuing with the IRFU and that the player would like to remain with Leinster.

“Discussions are ongoing with Leinster and the IRFU. We had hoped to have reached a conclusion by now. The discussion is live and open. But it has led us to check other options. We are still hopeful of reaching an agreement with the IRFU and Leinster,” he said.

It is believed that at least two French teams are weighing up the signature of Kearney, where he would earn a massive salary compared to his current contract with McHugh admitting that the money has a part to play.

“The IRFU has made Rob an offer. But if I am honest, it is well below where it needs to be – well below. It has been a little protracted. We are struggling to get it to a point where it makes sense for him,” he added.

At 33, Kearney is nearing the twilight of his glittering career but both he and McHugh want him to continue playing while he is still well able.

“It is Rob’s goal to continue playing rugby while he is fit and healthy and well. He is a starter both for his country and for his province. We need it to make sense for him. We appreciate there is an end point to his rugby playing career. But it isn’t yet,” he said.

With 21 contracts being announced yesterday McHugh explained that Kearney was absent as there isn’t the same urgency in his talks as there has been with other players.

“Rob is contracted to the end of the World Cup, so I guess we’re not in the same rush that Leinster were to announce their 21 new contracts for the start of next season. He wouldn’t return to the province until after the World Cup, so there isn’t the same urgency from our perspective,” he concluded.

Kearney’s future has been under much speculation for some time now and there was fuel added to the fire when teammate Sean O’Brien posted a possible farewell message on his Instagram.

O’Brien himself leaves for London Irish come the end of the season and unless the IRFU budge in Kearney’s discussions it appears as though Leinster could lose yet another one of their most decorated players.

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6 Nations

Leinster and Ireland Star Signs New Contract

One of Ireland’s key men has signed a new two-year deal with the IRFU

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Cian Healy has signed a new two-year deal with the IRFU to remain with Leinster and Ireland until the summer of 2021.

The prop is one of the country’s most consistent performers and is delighted to have the opportunity to continue representing both province and country.

“Pulling on a Leinster or an Ireland jersey is something that I have always taken a huge amount of pride in and I am thankful for every opportunity I get. I am delighted therefore to have extended my IRFU contract and to continue to line out for Leinster. I believe that we have built something special at Leinster and with the national team and I want to contribute as best I can to both teams in what will be a hugely exciting few months and years ahead,” he said.

Healy has faced a number of serious injuries over the years but has thanked everyone at club and national level for their support and looks forward to the future with both.

“There has been some difficult times over the last few years for me personally with injury but the support within the Leinster and the Irish rugby family was very humbling from fellow players, coaches and supporters and it’s something that I won’t forget. It made this decision all the easier knowing that I was part of something bigger than just a rugby team. I hope to play my part in helping Leinster and Ireland achieve further success over the next few years and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in that journey,” he added.

Having been capped by Ireland 88 times since his debut in 2009 and holding 207 Leinster caps to his name already Healy is almost ever-present and IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora paid tribute to his consistency.

“Cian is performing at a very high level week in and week out. He works incredibly hard in ensuring that he is physically in the best condition to perform and has bounced back from adversity to return to the top of the international and club game. He will continue to be a leading performer for Ireland and Leinster over the coming years,” he said.

Healy has represented Ireland at two World Cups (2011 and 2015) and will be hoping to be heading to a third in Japan later this year, he also represented the British and Irish Lions in 2013.

As well as that Healy has a host of winner’s medals to his name with three Six Nations Championships in the bag for Ireland, while with Leinster he has won four European Cups, three Guinness Pro titles and a Challenge Cup.

Healy will be hoping to end the week on a high when he has the chance to add a fourth league title to his name as Leinster head to Celtic Park to face Glasgow Warriors in the Pro 14 final.

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6 Nations

O’Shea to be Replaced as Italy Head Coach

Conor O’Shea is set to pass on the reins following the Rugby World Cup in Japan

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(Photo by Emmanuele Ciancaglini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Cheetahs Rugby appear to have confirmed that head coach Franco Smith will replace Conor O’Shea as Italy’s head coach after the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

The Italian Rugby Federation are yet to comment on the matter. However, the South African side have made the announcement and wished their current head coach the best of luck in a deal that is set to run until 2023.

“Franco was offered the opportunity to coach the Italian national side from 1 January 2020. The Board of Directors see this as a great opportunity for Franco and is proud of the fact that so many top coaches have been developed by the Free State Cheetahs. The Board of Directors is proud of and wishes Franco the best of luck with the opportunity to coach on an international level until the next world cup in 2023,” they said in a statement.

The statement also confirmed that Smith will remain with the Cheetahs for the Currie Cup to provide a smooth take-over in management, with the new head coach to come in for the start of the Pro 14 season.

Former Ireland international O’Shea has been in charge of the Italians since 2016 but has led them on a run of 22 Six Nations defeats in a row.

However, it remains to be seen whether O’Shea who has earned praise from the likes of Italy captain and legend Sergio Parisse for his work behind the scenes, will be offered a different role with the men in blue.

In his current role he is more of a director of rugby overseeing more than just the men’s national side and there has been huge development on the club scene with Benetton reaching the Pro 14 play-offs for the first time ever this season.

Having performed in a directing role at both London Irish and Harlequins before it would allow O’Shea to focus on one task and may even benefit the country’s development. Either way he will hope to finish on a high when his side head to Japan later in the year.

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