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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

British & Irish Lions issue Tour Update

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Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

The British & Irish Lions and SA Rugby have confirmed they are aligned on delivering the Castle Lager Lions Series in South Africa in the scheduled playing window.

The Lions Board confirmed its preference to SA Rugby on Monday evening, prior to follow-up meetings earlier today (Tuesday).

“After reviewing information relating to the various contingency scenarios being considered, I can confirm that the Board’s intended position is for the Tour to go ahead as scheduled in South Africa in 2021,” said Jason Leonard, chairman of The British & Irish Lions.

“We acknowledge that there is a significant amount of work still to be undertaken to deliver a robust COVID-19 countermeasure plan to ensure a successful, safe and uninterrupted Tour. SA Rugby will have our full support to help implement this plan.”

Mark Alexander, president of the SA Rugby, said he would inform the Executive Council of the South African Rugby Union of the alignment.

“We appreciate the Lions’ faith and share their desire to see a safe and successful tour,” said Alexander.

“We have been in regular contact with our government to make that a reality against the backdrop of the pandemic and its predicted progression over the coming months.

“There are serious financial implications for SA Rugby, should the event take place without any supporters in attendance, and we cannot ignore that in our considerations. But we are determined that the eventual outcome will deliver the best occasion and experience for players, supporters and our commercial partners.”

Alexander said the original tour schedule was subject to review because of those considerations. Should any changes be required they will be communicated as soon as possible.

Leonard added: “Every British and Irish player dreams of wearing the famous red jersey, and players from the southern hemisphere aspire to be part of a Lions series. We owe it to the current players vying for a place in both squads to ensure they can become part of Lions history.

“We are very much looking forward to taking on South Africa for what promises to be a highly-competitive Series against the reigning World Champions.”

Alexander thanked the Castle Lager Lions Series’ commercial partners as well as the British & Irish Lions and ticket holders for their patience during the extended period of uncertainty.

“As hosts and ‘owners’ of the Castle Lager Lions Series no one has been more affected or more challenged by the current circumstances than SA Rugby,” said Alexander. “However, with the support of our government and good planning we can navigate the pandemic to nonetheless create a most memorable event for players, fans and partners.”

It is not yet known whether international or cross-border travel for supporters will be possible into the country in July. Supporters who have purchased ticket-inclusive packages through Lions Rugby Travel will be notified directly via email with information on the options available.

The Lions remind supporters that all packages purchased through Lions Rugby Travel are protected by the Covid-19 guarantee*. Supporters who have booked packages with official sub agents should contact them directly. For the latest guidance on travelling to South Africa please visit the UK Foreign Office website: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/south-africa or the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs website: https://www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/a-z-list-of-countries/south-africa/

At this time, it also remains unclear whether spectators will be permitted into stadia in July and August. SA Rugby and the Lions continue to work with relevant South African Government departments to ascertain the latest guidance on COVID-19 countermeasure planning for major sporting events and will communicate any updates as soon as it is possible to do so.

In the event that spectators are not permitted to gain access to the Test matches, Lions supporters who had successfully purchased Test match tickets via the Lions ticket ballot will be refunded.

The British & Irish Lions Test match against Japan at BT Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday 26 June 2021 for the Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup will continue as scheduled. However, a decision on crowd size will be made nearer the time of the event and in line with the latest UK Government guidance. For more information, including ticketing enquiries, please visit:
https://www.lionsrugby.com/1888-cup-faqs/

The British & Irish Lions have toured South Africa on 13 previous occasions, with the first Tour taking place in 1891. In that time, the Lions have won four Test series, lost eight with one drawn. Their overall record against the Springboks is played 46, won 17, lost 23 and drawn six.

*For more information please visit www.lionstour.com

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6 Nations

Ireland make multiple changes for England

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

The Ireland coaching group have named their final match day squad of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championships ahead of the Round 5 clash with England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

There are a number of changes to the team that started against Scotland last Sunday starting in the half-backs where Captain Johnny Sexton is joined in by Conor Murray.

Garry Ringrose is ruled out of the side through injury so Bundee Aki slots in at inside centre with Robbie Henshaw shifting to the No.13 jersey.

Jacob Stockdale returns to the team for the first time since the Autumn Nations Cup win over Scotland back in December and is named on the left wing with Keith Earls on and Hugo Keenan completing the back three.

In the front row Dave Kilcoyne starts at loosehead alongside Rob Herring at hooker and Tadhg Furlong at tighthead. 

Tadhg Beirne moves into lock to partner Iain Henderson in the absence of the injured James Ryan.

Will Connors was ruled out yesterday with a knee injury in training so Josh van der Flier comes in at openside. CJ Stander moves to 6 for his final Ireland game in Aviva Stadium and Jack Conan is named at No.8.

Speaking this week about Stander, Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton commented,

“He’s done things for the right reason. His wife and daughter are back in South Africa at the moment. They’ve been there for a few months and they went back for the last lockdown as well.

“It takes its toll, doesn’t it? He’s just taken the decision based on family reasons and we respect him for that, but he’s a big loss to Munster and Irish Rugby.

“He’s been huge for both teams over the last five, six years. Very shocked, but we wish him well and we hope that his last game in green will be one to remember.”

The replacements are Ronan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, Peter O’Mahony, Jamison Gibson Park, Billy Burns and Jordan Larmour.

The game is being televised by VIRGIN (ROI) and ITV (NI) and kicks off at 4.45pm on Saturday afternoon.

IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Engalnd, 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship, Aviva Stadium, Saturday, March 20, kick-off 4:45pm):

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 10 caps
14. Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 92 caps
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 51 caps
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 30 caps
11. Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 33 caps
10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 98 caps CAPTAIN
9. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 88 caps
1. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 42 caps
2. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 20 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 48 caps
4. Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 62 caps
5. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 21 caps
6. CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 50 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 30 caps
8. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 19 caps

Replacements
16. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 10 caps
17. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 108 caps
18. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 36 caps
19. Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 2 caps
20. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 74 caps
21. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 9 caps
22. Billy Burns (Ulster) 6 caps
23. Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 28 caps

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6 Nations

Wales name Grand Slam chasing team to face France

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Photo by John Berry/Getty Images

Wales have made one change to their side for their Guinness Six Nations finale against France on Saturday (KO 21.00 Local BBC & S4C), with Adam Beard returning to the starting line-up.

Wales are four from four in the Championship and top the table heading to Paris. Beard, who started the first three matches for Wales, comes back into the starting side alongside captain Alun Wyn Jones. Jones, who is the world test record holder with 156 international caps to his name (including nine British & Irish Lion appearances), will make his 148th Wales appearance on Saturday. His Wales caps alone are now equal to the second-highest capped player of all time, Richie McCaw.

Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis are named again in the front-row for Wales with Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau comprising the back-row.

Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar are named at half-back with Jonathan Davies and George North continuing their partnership in the midfield.

Josh Adams, Louis Rees-Zammit and Liam Williams make up the back-three.

“We are all looking forward to Saturday and to the finale of the Six Nations,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.

“We are four from four to date but know this weekend will be a great challenge against a very good French side, but we are looking forward to it.

“We know we need to step up from our previous performances and we want to end the tournament with a performance we know we are capable of.

“We have had great continuity in selection throughout the tournament and that is shown once again with the selection for Saturday.”

Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith and Leon Brown are named as the front-row replacements for Wales with Cory Hill and James Botham completing the forward contingent. Tomos Williams returns from injury to take his place on the bench alongside Callum Sheedy and Uilisi Halaholo.

WALES TEAM TO PLAY FRANCE (SATURDAY MARCH 22 KO 21.00 LOCAL, BBC & S4C)

1. Wyn Jones (34 Caps)
2. Ken Owens (81 Caps)
3. Tomas Francis (56 Caps)
4. Adam Beard (24 Caps)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (CAPT) (147 Caps)
6. Josh Navidi (27 Caps)
7. Justin Tipuric (84 Caps)
8. Taulupe Faletau (85 Caps)
9. Gareth Davies (61 Caps)
10. Dan Biggar (91 Caps)
11. Josh Adams (31 Caps)
12. Jonathan Davies (87 Caps)
13. George North (101 Caps)
14. Louis Rees-Zammit (8 Caps)
15. Liam Williams (70 Caps)

Replacements:

16. Elliot Dee (36 Caps)
17. Nicky Smith (38 Caps)
18. Leon Brown (16 Caps)
19. Cory Hill (31 Caps)
20. James Botham (5 Caps)
21. Tomos Williams (21 Caps)
22. Callum Sheedy (8 Caps)
23. Uilisi Halaholo (3 Caps)

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