Section: England

Six Nations: Ireland win title from England & Wales

Champions Ireland retained their Six Nations title on points difference after an extraordinary final day.

The last round of games concluded with England falling agonisingly short of the 26-point winning margin they needed as they beat France 55-35 in an epic.

The day had started with Wales annihilating Italy 61-20 in Rome.

Ireland needed a huge win and their 40-10 demolition of Scotland was enough to both pass Wales and set a target just beyond England.

With three teams on three wins apiece going into the final round of games the stage was set, and what followed was one of the most incredible days in the tournament since it was first played in 1883, with 221 points scored in the three matches.

England started Saturday as leaders – just – from Ireland on points difference with Wales some way further back, and they would play in reverse order to decide who would become champions.

In the opener, Wales only led Italy by a point at half-time in Rome but cut loose in the second half, with George North’s hat-trick ensuring Ireland needed to beat Scotland by 21 points to take the lead on points difference.

The champions duly hammered Scotland by 30 points in Edinburgh, meaning Wales were out of contention and that England needed to beat France by 26 points to take the title.

In a see-saw encounter at Twickenham, England pulled steadily clear but never managed to get into a lead that would have denied Ireland the title.

However, Jack Nowell’s try with five minutes remaining put them 20 points ahead and meant a converted try would have given them the Championship.

They spent the closing moments hammering away at the French line in search of the winning points, and came within a foot of scoring, but in their desperation they infringed and the final whistle meant that although they had won handsomely, it was Ireland who are 2015 Six Nations champions.

Read more at BBC Sport

Six Nations: England 25-13 Scotland

England set up a climatic final day to the 2015 Six Nations but only after toiling to a 25-13 victory over Scotland.

Two weeks after succumbing to champions Ireland, Stuart Lancaster’s men were forced to draw on their reserves of character to see off opponents searching for a maiden win of the Championship and a first triumph at Twickenham for 32 years.

Only George Ford’s 44th-minute try separated the rivals for most of a second half controlled by England but also containing moments of high anxiety as Scotland, sensing a special result was theirs for the taking, ran with intent and ingenuity.

They deservedly led 13-10 at half-time after Mark Bennett crossed to help overhaul Jonathan Joseph’s early try, the outside centres exchanging scores, but they lacked the firepower to finish the job.

The 12-point win against the Six Nations’ bottom team, combined with Wales’ 23-16 victory over previously unbeaten Ireland earlier in the day, has created a three-way shoot-out for the title.

England, Wales and Ireland can each be crowned champions next Saturday, but the 2015 World Cup hosts know they squandered a glorious chance to place themselves in the driving seat.

As many as five try-scoring opportunities were left on the Twickenham turf, most of them in a dominant opening quarter, and it took Jack Nowell’s try with five minutes left to place them at the summit of the table with one round remaining.

France visit London in the final match of Saturday’s triple-header and with the outcome of the title likely to be decided by points difference, England’s four-point advantage over Ireland is a poor return from an afternoon that began with such promise.

The dismal starts that had blighted their Six Nations appeared to be a distant memory as Ben Youngs and Ford combined to set Luther Burrell free, and although the inside centre butchered the chance, the Scots’ line soon cracked.

Hard yards from Billy Vunipola and James Haskell softened up the visitors and Joseph needed no second invitation to jink over from 10 yards out after being given a sniff of the whitewash by Youngs’ distribution.

Scotland were being over-run, with a one-booted Mike Brown unable to outstrip Stuart Hogg in a race to the line, obviously impeded by having to run with only a sock on his left foot.

Finn Russell was flattened by Courtney Lawes behind his own line and Nowell dashed into space as the pressure continued, but chances were being wasted at a worrying rate.

Any thoughts of a cricket score quickly evaporated as Scotland ran in a try launched from a line-out but born out of the vision of Greig Laidlaw, whose rapid miss pass enabled Mark Bennett to step inside and dive over.

Ford and Laidlaw exchanged penalties, the Scots’ three points coming after they were held up just short of the line, before Anthony Watson correctly had a try disallowed following a forward pass from Ford to Burrell.

England invited pressure on themselves when Joe Marler was penalised at the scrum for a second time and the visitors were now the dominant force, running the ball with intent.

Wide open space greeted revitalised Scotland, who were denied a try when wing Tommy Seymour was brought down by Brown before failing to create a clear overlap, but they at least finished the passage of play with a Laidlaw penalty.

England started the second half with purpose and were rewarded when Ford dummied his way over from close range, but it had been the hard running of wing Nowell that made the real yards.

Holes continued to appear in the blue wall as England wrestled back control, Ford underlining their growing authority with a penalty. England’s ability to self-destruct remained intact, however, as substitute hooker Tom Youngs flung out a wild pass having charged through a gap.

It became Brown’s turn to see a try chalked off for a forward pass – Haskell’s ball was at least a metre in the wrong direction – but the reward for their late superiority came in the 75th minute when Nowell darted over in the left corner.

The try had a hint of good fortune about it as a penalty by Ford struck the left upright and fell for England to launch an attack that has placed them at the summit of the table.

Read more at ESPN

Six Nations: Ireland 19-9 England

Ireland march on towards a possible Grand Slam after inflicting a thumping defeat on a misfiring England.

Four penalties from Jonathan Sexton and a second-half try from centre Robbie Henshaw opened up an unbridgeable gap which accurately reflected the one-sided nature of what was expected to be a tight contest.

England were outplayed in all departments, starting slowly, consistently second-best at the breakdown and all too fallible under the high ball until a late rally.

After all the optimism engendered from their unbeaten start to the Six Nations this will go down as one of the most chastening defeats of Stuart Lancaster’s regime.

With trips to Wales and Scotland still to come, Ireland face a testing March if they are to win a second consecutive Six Nations title, let alone a second Grand Slam in six years.

But after this record-equalling 10th successive Test victory, Joe Schmidt’s men will travel with optimism, their status as the northern hemisphere’s most effective team underlined in some style.

Ireland had begun at pace, turning over a sleepy England at the first breakdown and winning two quick penalties to allow Sexton to kick them into an early six-point lead.

George Ford replied with a drop-goal on England’s first foray into the Irish half but his side twice wasted fine territory through lost line-outs and, after Luther Burrell was overrun by green shirts on his own 22, Sexton’s third simple penalty made it 9-3.

Ireland were dominating the breakdown, England twice penalised for offside as they struggled to cope with the ferocity of the Irish attacks.

Sexton was relishing his battle with the young apprentice Ford, smashing him backwards in the tackle and orchestrating a more expansive handling game for the hosts than in their victories over Italy and France.

The sole comfort for England at the break was to be just six points behind, having been starved of possession and conceded a remarkable 10 turnovers in that first period.

England were being pinned back by Sexton’s probing kicking from hand, unable to exert the control they had hoped for at the set-piece and poor under the predictable hailstorm of garryowens.

And when the impressive Conor Murray’s box kick into the corner was claimed by Henshaw above the backpedalling Alex Goode, a steep slope became a mountain.

Sexton’s conversion from out wide made it 19-3 and seemed likely to trigger an avalanche.

Two penalties from Ford halted the advance before England’s replacements made the contest – if not the scoreboard – a more even affair in the final 20 minutes.

But although Ireland tired as the match wore on, the damage had already been done, and the capacity crowd in Dublin celebrated a win that was never in doubt.

Read more at BBC Sport

Six Nations: England 47-17 Italy

Flying England turn on the jets against Italy

Jonathan Joseph scored twice to cement his reputation as England’s X-factor as Stuart Lancaster’s side routed Italy with a six-try performance.

It was Italy who struck first, Sergio Parisse barrelling over for a try in the fourth minute which silenced Twickenham. It was not until the 23rd minute that England took the lead, Billy Vunipola controversially being awarded a try after video review, despite no conclusive proof of a clear grounding being evident.

It seemed as though England had weathered the storm entirely when Jonathan Joseph burst clear for a scintillating try from halfway. However, Luca Morisi’s score at the start of the second half applied the pressure again, only for Ben Youngs to convert a quick-thinking tap penalty from close range.

Then England began to run riot. Joseph scored a second superb try from deep, while a Jonny May break was finished off by Danny Cipriani, who scored with his second touch after coming on as a substitute.

Nick Easter burrowed over from a rolling maul as the Italian defence crumbled completely. Italy did manage to score late on, with Morisi somehow scrambling down the line past May.

Read more ESPN

Six Nations: Wales 16-21 England

England clinched a memorable, come-from-behind victory over Wales in Cardiff as the Six Nations Championship began in spectacular fashion.

Wales leapt out to a 10-0 lead as Rhys Webb’s try added to an early Leigh Halfpenny penalty, conceded by England within a minute of kick-off.

However, England progressively found their footing in the game and Anthony Watson scored his first Test try by latching on to Mike Brown’s grubber kick.

Dan Biggar’s superb drop goal on the stroke of half-time gave Wales a 16-8 lead, but 10 unanswered points – a Jonathan Joseph try and a conversion and penalty from George Ford – put England ahead against 14-man Wales, who had Alex Cuthbert sin-binned.

An obstruction saw a Dave Attwood try disallowed after review by the TMO, but a penalty with two minutes remaining allowed Ford to seal an incredible England victory.

The roof was open as both sides had to agree to close it and England had declined to do so, and Wales immediately looked as if they had been angered by the decision.

Wales won their own kick-off and when the ball was switched back to the right they won a penalty which the ever-reliable Leigh Halfpenny landed from 40 metres.

There was even better to come for Wales after eight minutes when Dan Biggar’s cross-field kick found Halfpenny on the touch-line and the full-back chipped on to cause panic on the England line after Anthony Watson had gathered.

Wales were given the scrum and, even though it was going backwards, Toby Faletau picked up and shrugged off the tackle of James Haskell to slip in Rhys Webb at the corner.

Halfpenny converted for a 10-0 lead but England hit back after 15 minutes when pressure at the scrum set up territory and Mike Brown chipped through for the alert Watson to collect his first Test try, George Ford striking the upright with his conversion attempt.

Wales were keen to test Ford’s defensive abilities at every opportunity and send powerhouses Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert down his channel but England were not giving an inch despite having come into the game as underdogs.

But Halfpenny landed another 40-metre penalty after England prop Dan Cole was penalised for going off his feet at a ruck.

Ford replied with a penalty of his own after Roberts was penalised for an early tackle on Jonny May and Wales lost George North in the same passage of play as the winger was caught by the flying boot of Dave Attwood.

North was back on the field just before the break and Biggar’s 35-metre drop goal extended Wales’ lead with the final kick of the first half.

England started the second half on the front foot and they were rewarded for their patience inside four minutes as they went through 20 phases before Joseph slipped Biggar and North to burst over, Ford’s conversion making it a one-point game at 16-15.

Wales were struggling to combat England’s positive approach but Ford spurned the opportunity to give the visitors the lead when his penalty attempt missed the target from 45 metres.

Roberts on the crash ball tried to give Wales some momentum and lift a home crowd who had been expecting an easier evening against injury-ravaged opponents.

But England managed to turn the ball over in their own ’22 and lift the pressure as the tempo paused for breath as Halfpenny required treatment following a bang on the head.

England were making the most of their advantage in the scrum to enjoy good territory and Ford’s penalty put the visitors ahead at 18-16 with Cuthbert yellow carded to reduce Wales to 14 men on the hour mark.

Wales did not concede when Cuthbert was off the field but England might have put the game to bed when centre Luther Burrell broke clear in open play.

Brown had clear grass to run into but Burrell’s pass was slightly high and behind him and the full-back was unable to hold on.

England were denied a third try when Attwood’s effort was disallowed for replacement Nick Easter blocking Biggar but Ford’s 45-metre penalty two minutes from time settled matters.

Read more at ESPN

Six Nations: Wales v England

Wales winger George North returns to the starting XV for the Six Nations opener against England.

Richard Hibbard is back at hooker in the only other change to the side that beat South Africa in November.

England coach Stuart Lancaster, who has battled a lengthy injury list in his squad, has selected Luther Burrell and Jonathan Joseph to play as centres.

Prop Dan Cole returns after nearly a year out, while Danny Cipriani and Nick Easter are recalled to the bench.

Wales:

15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-Alex Cuthbert, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Jamie Roberts, 11-George North, 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Rhys Webb; 1-Gethin Jenkins, 2-Richard Hibbard, 3-Sampson Lee, 4-Jake Ball, 5-Alun-Wyn Jones, 6-Dan Lydiate, 7-Sam Warburton, 8-Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: 16-Scott Baldwin, 17-Paul James, 18-Aaron Jarvis, 19-Luke Charteris, 20-Justin Tipuric, 21-Mike Phillips, 22-Rhys Priestland, 23-Liam Williams.

England :

15-Mike Brown, 14-Anthony Watson, 13-Jonathan Joseph, 12-Luther Burrell, 11-Jonny May, 10-George Ford, 9-Ben Youngs-; 1-Joe Marler, 2-Dylan Hartley, 3-Dan Cole, 4-Dave Attwood, 5-George Kruis, 6-James Haskell, 7-Chris Robshaw (captain), 8-Billy Vunipola

Replacements: 16-Tom Youngs, 17-Mako Vunipola, 18-Kieran Brookes, 19-Tom Croft, 20-Nick Easter, 21-Richard Wigglesworth, 22-Danny Cipriani, 23-Billy Twelvetrees

Match Preview

Hostile, intimidating, unforgiving – there are few more daunting sporting citadels than the one England will walk into on Friday night.

No fixture fires up the inner Welsh dragon more than the arrival of the Red Rose across the Severn Bridge, and Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium will be rocking. It’s a baptism of fire for a youthful and injury-hit England team.

Five of the back division have 11 caps or fewer and the popular opinion is that another new centre partnership of Jonathan Joseph and Luther Burrell, plus fly-half George Ford, will be targeted by the Welsh in a return to their ruthlessly effective ‘Warrenball’ style of play.

Read more at BBC Sport

Six Nations: Danny Cipriani & Nick Easter in England squad v Wales

Sale Sharks fly-half Danny Cipriani has been named in the England squad for the Six Nations opener against Wales.

The 27-year-old, who has not featured since last summer’s tour of New Zealand, is set to start on the bench.

Harlequins number eight Nick Easter, 36, returns for the first time since the 2011 World Cup.

Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff 
Date: Friday, 6 February 
Kick-off:20:05 GMT

Leicester Tigers trio Dan Cole, Tom Croft and Tom Youngs and Saracens prop Mako Vunipola are also named in Stuart Lancaster’s 25-man party.

Bath centre Jonathan Joseph returns to the squad for the first time since the 2013 tour to Argentina.

The starting XV is due to be confirmed on Wednesday morning and the two players expected to miss out on the matchday squad of 23 are Bath prop Henry Thomas and Exeter’s Jack Nowell.

England have lost six players to injury ahead of Friday’s match. with Owen Farrell, David Wilson, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and Ben Morgan all unavailable, but head coach Lancaster is happy with the quality of the players he has brought in.

“Everyone named is fit and ready to go and we are looking forward to finalising our preparations over the next few days,” he said.

“While we have certain players unavailable through injury, it’s great to be able to welcome back guys who missed the autumn internationals, such as Dan Cole, Mako Vunipola and Tom Youngs.

“Their experience, alongside that of players like Tom Croft and Nick Easter, will be invaluable against a strong Welsh team.”

England, who beat Wales 29-18 at Twickenham in last year’s Six Nations, finished second in the table behind Ireland on points difference.

England squad to face Wales:

Forwards: Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby), Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Nick Easter (Harlequins), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), James Haskell (Wasps), George Kruis (Saracens), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, captain), Henry Thomas (Bath Rugby) Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

Backs: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints), Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks), George Ford (Bath Rugby), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby), Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

Read more at BBC Sport

Six Nations: England fly-half Owen Farrell ruled out of entire series

England fly-half Owen Farrell has been ruled out of the entire Six Nations with a knee injury.

Specialists have confirmed Farrell, 23, has suffered a high-grade medial ligament strain.

The Saracens player hurt his left knee in a European Champions Cup defeat by Clermont on Sunday.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster said: “It’s a real shame for Owen that he sustained this injury and we wish him the best for his recovery.”

Farrell is the latest addition to a list of absentees in England’s squad as they prepare for their opening Six Nations match against Wales in Cardiff on 6 February.

In the absence of Farrell, Bath’s George Ford – who started the final two autumn Tests – is likely to retain the number 10 jersey, with Sale’s Danny Cipriani and Northampton’s Stephen Myler also competing for a place in the match-day squad against Wales.

“We are fortunate to have three other number 10s in the squad in what is a very competitive position,” Lancaster added.

Leicester lock Geoff Parling and Saracens centre Brad Barritt are continuing to receive treatment for knee medial ligament strains.

Northampton Saints flanker Tom Wood also has an ankle injury, while Bath centre Kyle Eastmond has a shoulder strain.

Read more at BBC Sport

Six Nations: Danny Cipriani to make England training squad

Danny Cipriani and Nick Easter are set to be included in an England training squad for the Six Nations opener against Wales.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster will name a party of approximately 34 players at 11:00 GMT on Wednesday ahead of a camp next week.

Sale’s Cipriani is understood to be one of four fly-halves in the group, along with George Ford, Owen Farrell and Stephen Myler.

England will play Wales on 6 February.

Barring injury, Ford and Farrell are likely to be the two stand-offs involved against Wales in Cardiff, but both Myler and Cipriani have a chance to impress in training.

Meanwhile the England management are set include 36-year-old number eight Easter, who won the last of his 47 caps in the 2011 World Cup.

Easter has been in outstanding form for his club Harlequins and earlier this month told BBC 5 live that he was “desperate” to play for England again and was “100%” confident he could still perform at international level.

A host of British and Irish Lions who missed the Autumn internationals through injury are set for recalls, with forwards Alex Corbisiero, Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs and Geoff Parling among those expected to be included – although centre Manu Tuilagi is likely to miss the whole championship because of his groin injury.

Jonathan Joseph will be rewarded for a string of impressive performances for Bath with a place in the senior training squad, while his club team-mate Sam Burgess will be named in the England Saxons squad for the game against the Irish Wolfhounds in Cork on 30 January.

Gloucester number eight Ben Morgan is definitely out of the Six Nations with a leg injury, while Northampton Saints full-back Ben Foden misses out for the second successive year because of a knee injury.

On the Monday or Tuesday before the Wales game, the training squad will be cut to the matchday 23, with the rest released back to their clubs.

Read more at BBC Sport

Rugby Union: Ben Foden: Knee injury rules out full-back for rest of season

Northampton Saints full-back Ben Foden will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, putting his World Cup hopes in serious doubt.

He went off in Sunday’s European Champions Cup win over Ospreys, and will require surgery after rupturing his left anterior cruciate ligament.

The 29-year-old, who has won 34 caps, has not featured for England since the 2013 autumn internationals.

“Thanks for the support, it’s a hard pill to swallow,” he tweeted.

He added: “Not gonna lie its a hard pill to swallow. I guess it’s the nature of the beast #gutted #shouldhavekickedit #onwards.”

Foden, who has seven international tries, played in England’s five matches at the 2011 World Cup but with this year’s tournament starting in September, he faces a race against time to be fit.

It is the latest in a series of injury blows for Foden, who missed last year’s Six Nations with a knee problem, and sat out the 2012 autumn internationals after damaging his ankle.

With Mike Brown impressing at full-back, he had been used on the wing in a win against Argentina and a defeat by New Zealand in November 2013, and travelled with the squad for last summer’s tour of New Zealand, but did not play in a Test.

And even although he was overlooked by Stuart Lancaster for last year’s autumn internationals, his form for Saints this season had put him in the reckoning for a Six Nations place.

Premiership champions Saints will turn to James Wilson to provide cover at full-back.

Read more at BBC Sport