England regained the Six Nations title after Ireland failed to beat France on Saturday.
England ticked the boxes in beating Italy 34-5 with a four-try bonus point in Rome, then had to wait for about three hours to see if it was enough as the France-Ireland match played out in Paris.
Ireland ended up having to win by six to win the championship. France had to win by 31. Ireland lost, and France won by eight, 35-27.
“It was an enjoyable game to watch,” England captain Owen Farrell said.
England finished level on points with France but won the trophy courtesy of a much better points difference, 44 to 21. Ireland was third.
England’s third Six Nations crown in Eddie Jones’ five-season tenure was welcomed by the coach as a tonic for a country which will go into a second national lockdown next week.
“We know how difficult things are for everyone at home at the moment and we’ve been saying all through our training camps how we want to do our bit to make people smile,” Jones said. “Hopefully, we’ve done that today and we’ll do more of the same throughout the autumn.”
Fresh off reaching the Rugby World Cup final in Japan, England started the championship terribly in Paris and fell to France 24-17. But France lost its Grand Slam bid in Scotland just before the coronavirus pandemic forced a seven-month shutdown.
England missed out on a warmup match for the Six Nations’ restart when the scheduled match against the Barbarians last weekend was canceled because Baa-baas players breached the health rules. England was heavily favored against Italy but Ireland had the trophy’s destiny in its own hands.
“It’s a massive achievement for us as a group to win the Six Nations in the strangest year and circumstances,” Farrell said.
“It feels like we are just getting started. We have four new caps today, someone who has 100 caps in Ben (Youngs), and another who has his 50th in Jamie (George). We feel we have a brilliant blend of youth and experience to drive us forward. We are looking forward to what’s in front of us.”
On a balmy evening at Stadio Olimpico, England dominated but wasted the first half by overkicking and kept a spirited Italy hopeful by leading only 10-5 at halftime. England was much more intense and accurate after the break in scoring four tries. Farrell landed four of his six goalkicks, hitting the post twice.
Scrumhalf Youngs marked his 100th appearance with two tries and hooker George celebrated his 50th match with one of his own. Flanker Tom Curry got the all-important fourth with 13 minutes to go, and center Henry Slade added the last.
Italy was outgunned in the end, and finished a fifth consecutive tournament without a win. Italy has lost a record 27 straight matches since its last win in 2015.
Things appeared to be going to plan when England scored the first try in the fifth minute. Farrell benefited from a decoy run to slice open the Italy defense and send Youngs to the posts.
When prop Kyle Sinckler spilled the ball, Italy’s Carlo Canna pounced, and No. 8 Jake Polledri raced into the left corner.
England flanker Jonny Hill, on debut, then went to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle on Edoardo Padovani but Italy couldn’t take advantage.
Polledri was issued a yellow card for a professional foul just before halftime, and England returned from the break with much-needed greater intent.
Youngs scored again after a Hill chargedown, and even though Polledri came back to even up the forwards, England’s pack blew through Italy’s to carry George over in a maul.
The all-important fourth try was delivered after England earned a scrum penalty and went for an attacking lineout. Curry went blind from a ruck and untouched into the left corner. Relieved, Jones left the sideline to return to the coaches’ box.
Slade finished the scoring with a try from a Farrell grubber.
“This is a great group of players, we really think we can continue to get better and achieve more for England,” Farrell said. “We’re turning our attentions now to the Autumn Nations Cup, we want consistent success.”
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