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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

‘It’s A Great Appointment’ – Farrell On Murphy’s Move To Ulster

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With Dan McFarland stepping down as Ulster head coach this week, it has been confirmed that Murphy will take over the role on an interim basis following the conclusion of the Under-20 Six Nations Championship.

The Ireland Under-20s are in title contention again thanks to two opening wins, with Murphy having overseen back-to-back U-20 Grand Slam successes and a World Rugby U-20 Championship final appearance in the last two seasons.

Farrell first worked alongside Murphy when they were defence coach and skills and kicking coach respectively, during Joe Schmidt’s coaching reign with Ireland.

The pair have kept up a strong connection with Murphy continuing for a short while as a specialist kicking resource for the senior squad, and the Under-20s often training with Farrell’s men during the Six Nations window.

“I think it’s a great appointment. I think Richie will do a fantastic job (at Ulster), his rugby knowledge is second to none,” commented Farrell.

“He is a very experienced guy that has been an assistant for quite some time and I know that he worked with us for a short period before we went to the Under-20s, but that was his next step to take that type of mantle on and do it his way.

He has certainly done a fantastic job. I mean, coaching the Under-20s is coaching in its purest form, it’s bloody difficult because of the swapping and changing the whole time each year.

“It shows exactly the quality that he’s got and his knowledge of the whole game. I think the players up at Ulster there will love him.

“His attitude is great but first and foremost I think they will respect his knowledge, definitely.”

McFarland was in charge of Ulster since 2018 and guided them to the PRO14 final two years later. They looked to be finding form again with a trio of wins over Racing 92, Connacht, and Leinster, coming into the New Year.

However, last Sunday’s poor 19-17 defeat at the Ospreys was their third loss in a row, leaving them eighth in the BKT United Rugby Championship, and came just a few weeks after failing to reach the last 16 of the Investec Champions Cup.

Assistant coach Dan Soper will take the reins for their next URC fixture at home to the Dragons on Saturday week, before Murphy comes on board for their two-match tour to South Africa where they will play the Hollywoodbets Sharks and the DHL Stormers.

The Bray man will have to quickly get up to the speed as the Ulstermen then travel to Montpellier in the EPCR Challenge Cup’s round of 16, just after Easter. Given the people involved, Farrell is confident they can turn things around at Kingspan Stadium.

“Look, it’s obvious that we want all the provinces playing at the top of their game. If that happens, it’s a special place to be but it doesn’t tend to happen that often, does it?

“One thing I know for sure is that Ulster have got a fantastic squad and good people up there. The lads that we have within our squad are exemplary to the province, as far as their attitudes are concerned whether they’re playing or not.”

A dislocated toe, suffered during that loss to the Ospreys, means Iain Henderson is unavailable for Ireland’s clash with Wales on Saturday. His Ulster colleague, Stuart McCloskey, is one of only two backs on the hosts’ bench as they opt to return to a six-two split.

New-look Wales, who lost their first two games to Scotland and England by a combined three points, come to Dublin with a squad that has accumulated 662 caps, compared to Ireland’s 1012.

119 of those caps are provided by George North alone, while 21-year-old Exeter Chiefs lock Dafydd Jenkins continues as captain, and Cardiff back rower Mackenzie Martin could make his debut off the bench.

Asked what he is expecting from Wales this weekend, Farrell replied: “Playing against Wales, you know it’s always going to be a scrap.

“You know that every single time Wales play against Ireland, it means probably a little bit more to them, I’ve been told (that) over the years.

“So we’re aware of that, and we also know as well that Wales historically have got better throughout the competition.

“We’re five weeks into it come the weekend, from when we first started training. We know that they’ll be better and hopefully we’ve used our time wisely as well.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

Wales team to face Ireland in Dublin named

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Senior men’s head coach Warren Gatland has named the Wales side to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in the third round of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 24 February (KO 2.15pm live on ITV and S4C).

There is one change to the starting XV that played England at Twickenham on 10 February, with Sam Costelow returning for Wales at fly half.

Among the replacements back-row Mackenzie Martin is in line to win his first senior cap this weekend and would become the 1,200th Wales men’s international.

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Tight-head prop Dillon Lewis would be making his first appearance of this Championship if called on from the bench.

Gatland said: “We are excited to go out to Dublin and test ourselves against one of the leading sides in world rugby. It’s a challenge we are relishing.

“We’ve made steps in the last couple of games and now it’s about building on that, learning from those experiences and taking that into this weekend.

“It’s about continuing to work hard, looking for accuracy in our performance across 80 minutes and also keeping our discipline.”

Wales senior men’s team to play Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in the Guinness Six Nations, Saturday 24 February KO 2.15pm GMT. Live on ITV and S4C.
15. Cameron Winnett (Cardiff Rugby – 2 caps)
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 56 caps)
13. George North (Ospreys – 119 caps)
12. Nick Tompkins (Saracens – 34 caps)
11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 16 caps)
10. Sam Costelow (Scarlets – 9 caps)
9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 55 caps)
1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 27 caps)
2. Elliot Dee (Dragons – 48 caps)
3. Keiron Assiratti (Cardiff Rugby – 4 caps)
4. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 14 caps) Captain / Capten
5. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 53 caps)
6. Alex Mann (Cardiff Rugby – 2 caps)
7. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 15 caps)
8. Aaron Wainwright (Dragons – 45 caps)

Replacements

16. Ryan Elias (Scarlets – 40 caps)
17. Corey Domachowski (Cardiff Rugby – 8 caps)
18. Dillon Lewis (Harlequins – 54 caps)
19. Will Rowlands (Racing 92 – 30 caps)
20. Mackenzie Martin (Cardiff Rugby – uncapped)
21. Kieran Hardy (Scarlets – 19 caps)
22. Ioan Lloyd (Scarlets – 4 caps)
23. Mason Grady (Cardiff Rugby – 8 caps)

Images & Content – Wales Rugby


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6 Nations

Jager and Ahern Join Ireland Squad Ahead Of Wales

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The Ireland squad re-assembled in Dublin on Sunday evening ahead of this weekend’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations Round 3 clash against Wales at Aviva Stadium (Kick-off 2.15pm).

Prop Oli Jager has joined the squad and Thomas Ahern has also linked up with Andy Farrell‘s side at the IRFU High Performance Centre this week.

Iain Henderson picked up a foot injury during Ulster’s URC game away to Ospreys on Sunday and there will be a further update later in the week.

The Ireland Match Day Squad to face Wales at Aviva Stadium will be named on Thursday at 2pm.

Ireland Squad – Wales Week: 

Backs (15):

Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht)
Harry Byrne (UCD/Leinster)
Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster)
Jack Crowley (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Ciaran Frawley (UCD/Leinster)
Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster)
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Jordan Larmour (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
James Lowe (Leinster)
Stuart McCloskey (Bangor/Ulster)
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)
Calvin Nash (Young Munster/Munster)
Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster)
Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster)

Forwards (21):

Thomas Ahern (Shannon/Munster)*
Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster)
Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster)
Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster)
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster)
Oli Jager (Munster)*
Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Jeremy Loughman (Garryowen/Munster)
Joe McCarthy (Dublin University/Leinster)
Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster)(captain)
Tom O’Toole (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster)
James Ryan (UCD/Leinster)
Dan Sheehan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Tom Stewart (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Nick Timoney (Banbridge/Ulster)
Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster)

*Denotes uncapped player

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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