Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 4 December 2020

England win coronavirus-hit Six Nations after France beat Ireland

After England's 34-5 win away to Italy, Ireland needed to beat France by seven points and/or win with a bonus point

England scrum half Ben Youngs makes a break to score his side's second try against Italy at Olimpico Stadium. Getty Images
England scrum half Ben Youngs makes a break to score his side's second try against Italy at Olimpico Stadium. Getty Images

England won their first Six Nations title for three years after Ireland lost to France as a coronavirus-delayed Championship finally came to an end on Saturday.

Almost a year to the day since they were beaten by South Africa in the World Cup final, England climbed to the summit of the northern hemisphere's showcase tournament with a 34-5 win away to Italy during the second of the day's three games.

Ireland, top of the standings heading into the final round, kicked off in Paris knowing they needed to beat fellow title contenders France by seven points and/or win with a bonus point, achieved by scoring four tries or more, to take the title.

But such calculations became irrelevant as France won 35-27 to hand England the title on points difference ahead of next month's Autumn Nations Cup.

England captain Owen Farrell is now set to receive the Six Nations trophy on Sunday after France put paid to the hopes of an Ireland side coached by his father, Andy.

"It got to a point like it seemed it was going our way and thankfully it did," Owen Farrell told the BBC after watching events in Paris from England's hotel in Rome.

The Covid-19 pandemic halted the tournament for more than seven months and England were especially rusty, after breaches of health protocols involving Barbarians players saw last week's warm-up fixture at Twickenham cancelled.

England coach Eddie Jones, in a Rugby Football Union statement, praised his side for reacting "superbly to the changing situations in the past couple of weeks" to remained focused on winning the title.

Jones also paid tribute to England's absent fans by saying: "It's strange not having fans in the stadium and we know it is a tough time for the country but we felt your support throughout the campaign and it does make a difference."

France players celebrate after their win over Ireland at Stade de France. AFP
France players celebrate after their win over Ireland at Stade de France. AFP

Ben Youngs marked his 100th England cap with tries at the start of either half but the visitors, who have yet to lose a Test against Italy, only led 10-5 at the break after Azzurri flanker Jake Polledri scored a try.

Scrum-half Youngs got England going again, with Jamie George, Tom Curry and Henry Slade adding three more tries.

France, required a seemingly improbable winning margin of more than 30 points to take their first Six Nations title in a decade.

Under new coach Fabien Galthie, they had been on course for a Grand Slam until a surprise fourth-round defeat by Scotland in which prop Mohamed Haouas was sent off.

France looked sharp in a 38-21 warm-up win over Wales last week and they maintained that form with four tries, including a penalty try, as Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack and Virimi Vakatawa all scored.

Scotland got the Six Nations' final round up and running with a 14-10 win over Wales. Getty Images
Scotland got the Six Nations' final round up and running with a 14-10 win over Wales. Getty Images

Ireland prop Cian Healy marked his 100th Test with a try, with late scores from Robbie Henshaw and Jacob Stockdale not enough to deny France.

Tournament chiefs may have billed this as 'Super Saturday', but there was a flat atmosphere at all three games, with no spectators allowed on health grounds.

Scotland launched Saturday's final round with a 14-10 win over Wales in Llanelli – their first victory on Welsh soil in 18 years – to take the shine off home captain Alun Wyn Jones' record-breaking appearance.

Success meant the Scots ended this tournament having won three successive Championship matches for the first time in 24 years.

By contrast, reigning Six Nations champions Wales suffered a fifth straight loss in all Tests under coach Wayne Pivac, with only Italy finishing below them in the table.

Updated: November 1, 2020 10:40 AM

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