Ireland continue to dream of the Grand Slam, England win in Wales

Ireland was not flamboyant, was even jostled, but is still in the race to achieve the grand slam in this 2023 edition of the Six Nations Tournament. The XV of Clover ended up winning on Saturday February 25 on the lawn of the Olympic Stadium in Rome, against an Italian team (20-34) which continues to surprise.

If the passion of the Transaplins was not enough against the world numbers one, huge favorites before this meeting, there was a match. Even if the very first moments of the meeting suggested the opposite. The Irish scored a first try (2ᵉ) by James Lowe – which will ultimately be canceled. A few seconds later, the same Lowe launched his captain, James Ryan, for a try this time validated (3ᵉ).

The duo was part of the holders aligned, on February 11, during the slap inflicted on the XV of France (32-19) in Dublin. This afternoon, they were still in the game, despite the seven changes made by the coach in his starting team – some having been forced: captain Jonathan Sexton was, for example, injured.

By rotating his squad against Italy, considered the weakest opponent in the competition, Andy Farrell wanted above all to gauge his replacements for the next World Cup (from September 8 to October 28 in France), which the Ireland are aiming to win.

Fifteen points out of fifteen possible

The boss of the XV of Clover could see that some of his players still lack benchmarks. Because after their first try, his troops suffered for ten big minutes the pressure of an Italy determined to prove that it is neither the stooge nor the scapegoat of the other selections in this Tournament. La Nazionale reacted quickly thanks to a fine try from Stephen Varney (7ᵉ), which allowed them to temporarily take the lead.

Enthusiastic offensively and daring – like Pierre Bruno’s recovery and test before the break (40 + 1) –, however, the Italians were clumsy. The Irish took advantage of this in the first period to score three tries by Hugo Keenan (13ᵉ), Bundee Aki (20ᵉ) and Mack Hansen (35ᵉ). Enough to get a third offensive bonus in three games for Ireland, even before returning to the locker room.

In the second period, the XV of Clover broke their teeth for a long time on a valiant Italian defense and scored only one more try, thanks to Hansen’s double (71ᵉ). Italy’s defeat was sealed, even if they can boast of having remained in contact with the score for a good part of the match.

Ireland, for its part, will not have realized “the full eighty minutes” researched by James Lowe. But the XV of Clover continues its way to victory in this Six Nations Tournament and has taken, after three games, fifteen points out of a possible fifteen. He has two games left to achieve his third grand slam after 2009 and 2018. He will have to win in Scotland, the only other undefeated team before his match against France on Sunday, March 12, then at home against England, March 18.

A constant fight in Cardiff

The other match of the day, at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, was much less spectacular. At the end of a meeting with little rhythm, England won in Wales (10-20). It must be said that the XV of the Rose and that of Leek are far from their best level.

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After a week of tension, the Welsh did not really have the head for rugby. The players, at the heart of a project to modify their contract desired by their federation, in turmoil due to a scandal of sexual harassment, skipped training on Wednesday and had threatened not to play the meeting of this SATURDAY. A first agreement was finally found between the two parties.

The aging team led by Warren Gatland, who returned to the post of coach at the start of the year, suffered in the first period the domination of the English, who took the lead thanks to the test of Anthony Watson (19e). The second period, just as choppy as the first, will still have been a little more hectic. In particular thanks to Louis Rees-Zammit, back from injury and who allowed Wales to lead by two points thanks to a try scored after returning from the locker room (41e). It did not last long: the XV of the Rose took the lead thanks to the pillar Kyle Sinckler (45e), before confirming his success with Ollie Lawrence’s try at the end of the match (75e).

Ollie Lawrence celebrates England's third and final try at the Millennial Stadium in Cardiff on February 25, 2023.

After losing to Ireland (10-34) and Scotland (7-35), the Welsh conceded their third defeat in as many games. Unheard of since the 2003 edition of the Tournament, during which they finished last in the standings.

Like its evening opponents, the XV de la Rose is in the trough of the wave and is currently going through a major restructuring. In December 2022, Steve Borthwick took over from Eddie Jones, who had headed the selection for seven years, and is looking for the new formula. The ex-international seems to have found part of the recipe with this second victory after that won against Italy on February 12 (31-14). Despite this success in Cardiff, England are still third in the tournament, behind Ireland and Scotland, pending Sunday’s match between XV du Thistle and the France team.

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