With the victory England have now put themselves into the perfect position to welcome Wales back to Twickenham Stadium
By Emma Thurston #OutOnTheFull
“In terms of where we’ve come from the start of the 6 Nations to today I think that today was a pretty decent set up.”
Those were the words of a fairly content Eddie Jones following England’s 21-10 victory over Ireland and he is right. Over the opening three RBS 6 Nations matches we’ve seen England grow in stature each time that they’ve taken to the field and on home soil they moved up another notch on the performance ladder.
That said England didn’t make life easy for themselves, however their moments of adversity, yellow cards and missed opportunities should deliver the lessons required to improve further.
Statistically England dominated the opening half hour, they had 66% possession and 78% territory and spent most of the opening forty minutes banging hard on Ireland’s door. Despite that they gained little reward from their efforts, just two solitary penalties from Owen Farrell, and to compound matters after the break they went behind on the scoreboard.
In years gone by we would have seen England crumble at this point, but on Saturday afternoon they took it all in their stride and flatly refused to be de-railed. That level of composure bodes well for the immediate challenge that lies ahead of them, Wales, and beyond.
Indeed this composure was the first manifestation of the influence that Eddie Jones is having on his side’s mentality. Last week Matt Giteau was quoted as saying that under Eddie Jones he never once thought that the opposition were better than them. So getting this talented England squad to play with an un-relenting self belief will be a vital part of their future development.
Saturday afternoon’s victory was built on some outstanding individual efforts, none more so than Billy Vunipola. The Number 8 was super-human in his output as he made 96 metres and 18 carries over the course of the 80 minutes. The statistics alone are highly impressive but crucially they were high quality metres and carries. Billy was there whenever England needed him and without question will be the first name on the team sheet to face Wales.
Others shone too, Jack Nowell’s try-saving tackle was one of the best that you’ll see and he coupled that with great work going forward. Maro Itoje certainly didn’t look like he was making his first start for England and Canterbury Ambassador Dylan Hartley led by example with his work rate and handled his capacity duties with assurance and authority.
So what of Ireland? If will and desire were to gain points then it would have been a much closer game as they worked tirelessly. However they lacked the spark to really penetrate England’s defence and didn’t quite have the firepower off the bench to refresh tired bodies. Joe Schmidt knows that he is operating in ‘unique circumstances’ given the number of injuries that they have and I’m sure that he’ll look to bring in a few younger faces for their final two matches.
With the victory England have now put themselves into the perfect position to welcome Wales back to Twickenham Stadium. The rivalry between the two sides is the most intense in the 6 Nations competition and after what happened back in October you can expect Twickenham to rock and England to raise their game to new heights in two weeks time.