4th Mar 2016 2:27pm | By Joe Beard
England’s new regime head into March still on-course for a 6-Nations ‘grand slam’ after defeating Ireland, but with Wales and France still to play, the hardest obstacles are yet to come.
A turgid 15-9 Calcutta Cup win in Edinburgh for the new England boss Eddie Jones and Captain Dylan Hartley set them up for a terrific battle in Rome where they overcome Italy with 3 Jonathan Joseph tries in a resounding second half performance to win it 40-9.
Since Stuart Lancaster’s departure as coach, following the dismal 2015 world cup campaign, the former Australian Jones has made a number of changes both on-field and tactically to the side which struggled at times to find consistency in past 6 Nations championships.
Having taken the captaincy from Chris Robshaw and installed new charge Hartley, Robshaw has been given a new lease of life in the side as blindside flanker. He was effective in giving England a third success against Ireland 21-10.
“"It's always a great place to play with a special atmosphere so I'd like to thank all the fans who came and now it's onwards and upwards to two weeks' time," said the Harlequins man.
For Jones, it was a case of banishing recent results to the past, as this was the first England performance at Twickenham since the ill-fated world cup defeats to Wales and Australia.
"The memories here haven't been good of late, obviously coming here and getting a good win like that helps," he said.
For Wales, the 6-Nations ‘grand slam’ is over for the season. But 2nd in the table and a point behind England, they know another great performance at England’s headquarters could see them steal another championship title.
A 16-16 draw in Dublin against Ireland, was followed by back-to-back wins against Scotland 27-23 and France 19-10, to set Warren Gatland’s men up for the key match this month.
"It's a great stadium and we love going to play there. They're a quality team so it's going to be a really tough test match again in a couple of weeks’ time," Gatland added.
The New-Zealander knows that having won at Twickenham 3 times in the past 6 visits is instrumental in the forthcoming battle. "We've been there on a few occasions and won there so we must have that confidence and belief that we're able to do it.”
Wales’ Captain – Sam Warburton is equally ebullient about the match, especially after his team pulled off an incredible 28-25 win in the world cup, which ended up knocking England out at the group stages last year.
"We're undefeated in three games and it sets it up Twickenham. Everyone knows what's on that match. It's a match the fans want to see."
March 12 – England v Wales; Ireland v Italy; March 13 – Scotland v France.