Ireland captured their third Six Nations Grand Slam with a 24-15 victory over England at Twickenham. Here are five things we can take from the tournament and this afternoon’s clash.
Bombs Away for Sexton: Ireland fly-half Jonny Sexton controlled the game with his boot and his fast dynamic control of his back line. Ireland’s first try came from an inch perfect Garryowen from the Leinster 10. Sexton put an absolute bomb up for Ireland to chase onto the England goal line. Anthony Watson’s miscontrol and drop gifted a try to Garry Ringrose. Sexton won the battle of the world-class ten’s with Lions teammate Owen Farrell. The impact Sexton has on the 9-10 axis with Conor Murray is arguably the best pairing in world rugby at the moment.
Indisciplined Itoje: It was a roundly disappointing day for the former European Player of the Year. Itoje looked out of sorts and behind the pace of the game. He was ill disciplined at the lineout and breakdown giving away a number of penalties. His carrying too lacked any real go forward and struggled to pierce the Irish defence. Itoje’s performance really exemplified England’s Six Nations campaign. Much hype but no real end product.
Record Breaking Stockdale: What a debut Six Nations from the Ulster winger! Stockdale has impressed all tournament and is more than a shout for Player of the Tournament. The winger has been on fire, his reading of the game has been impeccable, and has lead to some great interception tries. With another this afternoon, Stockdale has broken the record for most tries in the competition with 7 tries. He has broken the record set by Chris Ashton, Shane Williams and Will Greenwood. An even bigger positive is his age, at 21 there is still so much growth and potential ahead of him and Ireland will be keen to see his development whilst still remaining calm on his exposure. They need to make sure he is focusing on his game first and foremost and to not get too carried away too soon as has been the case with some England players.
Grand Slam winners can hope for more: It took 61 years to get their second Grand Slam after their first. It only taken another 9 to get their third. Joe Schmidt’s side are becoming an unstoppable force, whether that be dominating teams they should be, or grinding out victories against sides like France away from home. This side know how to win. With the World Cup looming in 18 months, its a brilliant sign of where they can go and the sky could be the limit. With the likes of Stockdale, Jordan Larmour and Joey Carberry coming through, the future is very bright for the boys in green.
Reassessment needed for England and Jones: Two months ago England were being touted as World Cup winners, world beaters and that they were going to romp the competition. Jones’ attitude was much the same. Jones throughout the tournament has come across as arrogant and belittling opponents and the media. Jones’ comments on Wales and Ireland were unneeded and obtuse. Questions must be asked about Jones and his training methods. This England side look shot to bits and in need of a rest. When compared to the Irish players, who are centrally contracted and are allowed breaks from club games, the English side look exhausted.
England seem to lack a creative spark in attack, it may be time to look at freshening the coaching staff and adding a new voice into their attacking setup.