Ireland still alive in Six Nations

Johnny Sexton 1582053876

After four rounds, on 16 points and leading the pack is Wales, undefeated after an inconsistent 18-11 win over Scotland at Murrayfield, but now confident of a third Grand Slam under Warren Gatland. Victory at the Principality Stadium will be enough.


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Gatland’s men will welcome Ireland, which gave its best display of the Championship in dispatching France 26-14, a bonus point scoreline that flattered the French. Ireland is on 14 points.

In second position, on 15 points, is England, which hammered hapless Italy 57-14. England hosts Scotland in the Calcutta Cup in the final game and will know at kickoff what it must do to clinch the title, or indeed if there is any hope. Eddie Jones’ charges have, in fact, played the best rugby of the Six Nations, but will rue that second half against Wales.

Wales retained the Doddie Weir Cup with a gritty second half defensive effort after leading 15-6 at the break. Kiwi Hadleigh Parkes, who was bruised and bloody, led the way, as did the pack. But it was two first stanza strikes, by left wing Josh Adams, continuing his fine form, and centre Jonathan Davies, that sealed it for the visitors.

Scotland hacked away and never gave up, finishing with a decimated backline, but the try to left wing Darcy Graham, from a superb scrum move, was all it could tangibly show for the endeavour.

Wales now has 13 straight wins and is poised to emulate the feats of the 2008 and 2012 Grand Slammers under Gatland.

England’s power and pace game was in full evidence as it thrashed the Azzurri, whose porous defence belies the fact they are such a difficult customer at home.

Right wing Joe Cokanasiga impressed with his pace and aerial skill, while centre Manu Tuilagi, who scored a brace, was nigh on unstoppable. Brad Shields notched a double, too, and was full value in the No 6 jersey. Jones was able to empty his bench a long way out from no-side.

Despite having Sergio Parisse back in harness, Italy looked toothless, but did score two nice tries. All to no avail.

The return to form of Johnny Sexton was the most telling feature of Ireland’s shutout of France in Dublin. The No 10, reigning World Rugby player of the year, scored a sweet try from a set-piece move, aided and abetted by centre Garry Ringrose, also in top form. Sexton also kicked three conversions and controlled play to good effect.

Ireland was in the ascendant from the kickoff thanks to a second minute Rory Best from a lineout drove. But Joe Schmidt’s men were frustrated at not being able to convert their scrum dominance into more points. CJ Stander was outstanding at No 8, as were lock James Ryan and prop Tadgh Furlong.

France took too many poor options on attack, but did score two late consolation tries. However, there will be little more than pride riding on its final clash against Italy in Rome this weekend.

Edinburgh: Wales 18 (Josh Adams, Jonathan Davies tries; Gareth Anscombe con, 2 pen) Scotland 11 (Darcy Graham try; Finn Russell 2 pen) HT: 15-6 Wales

London: England 57 (Manu Tuilagi 2, Brad Shields 2, Jamie George, Jonny May, George Kruis, Dan Robson tries; Owen Farrell 4 con, pen), George Ford 3 con) Italy 14 (Tommaso Allan, Luca Morisi tries; Allan 2 con) HT: 31-7 England

Dublin: Ireland 26 (Rory Best, Johnny Sexton, Jack Conan, Keith Earls tries; Sexton 3 con) France 14 (Yoann Huget, Camille Chat tries; Baptiste Serin 2 con) HT: 19-0 Ireland

Form XV:
15 Elliot Daly (England)
14 Joe Cokanasiga (England)
13 Manu Tuilagi (England)
12 Hadleigh Parkes (Wales)
11 Darcy Graham (Scotland)
10 Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
9 Conor Murray (Ireland)
8 CJ Stander (Ireland)
7 Jamie Ritchie (Scotland)
6 Brad Shields (England)
5 James Ryan (Ireland)
4 George Kruis (England)
3 Tadgh Furlong (Ireland)
2 Jamie George (England)
1 Allan Dell (Scotland)

Round five (NZT)
March 17: Italy v France, Rome, Sunday 1.30am
March 17: Wales v Ireland, Cardiff, Sunday, 3.45am
March 17: England v Scotland, London, Sunday, 6am

Johnny Sexton 1582053876

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Campbell Burnes

Campbell Burnes has written on rugby since 2000 for a wide variety of publications, both in print and online, whilst also contributing to television and radio shows. His major gigs have seen him at Rugby News magazine (2005-12), in which he covered 50 Test matches, and the New Zealand Herald (2014-17). Burnes is one of the few in rugby media to have played international rugby, having appeared for Manu Samoa in 1995 and 2000 (seven games) as a No 10. He is now the editor of Rugby News magazine and co-editor of the Rugby Almanack.

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