You could barely have asked for a tougher start.
Away to Ireland, who did the Grand Slam to lift the 2018 Six Nations title. The side tipped to retain their crown having seen off world champions New Zealand during an unbeaten autumn.
Yet England pulled off perhaps their finest success under Eddie Jones by running in four tries to triumph 32-20 and inflict the hosts’ first Dublin defeat in the competition for six years.
The men in white had been written off long before the kick-off in the Irish capital – not helped by their poor record in the Emerald Isle on top of, at times, a troubled 2018.
Yet it mattered little once their first fixture of this year’s showcase tournament got under way as Jones’ troops blew away the highly-rated home side with a powerful display.
If it was a statement of intent, it couldn’t have been more emphatic.
The visitors’ defence was red-hot on a cold winter’s day that did plenty to warm the hearts of England supporters in a World Cup year.
The Irish lost by 12 points, and it could have been more, despite having 60 per cent of the possession.
However, they struggled to break down a brick wall rearguard action that made 186 tackles to their own 115.
If it’s a display and win that set the benchmark, it’s a pretty high one for England to reach again.
But it’s exactly what they need to do – or at least get very close to it – if they’re going to get their hands on silverware that is becoming increasingly difficult to grasp.
France, stung by a home loss themselves against Wales, need to realistically get off the mark at Twickenham to stand any chance of finishing top of the pile. If those wearing the red rose want to be taken seriously, they need to back up the weekend’s morale-boosting start by making it two wins from two.
It might not be as impressive as their joyful away day to remember. Still it’s equally important. Head coach Jones and defence coach John Mitchell say the best is yet to come. If that’s the case that’s an ominous warning and a half.
Jones and Mitchell just need to say; ‘Ireland game? Try to beat that!’ If they do, it’ll be two from two for sure.
The Six Nations, Weekend results:
France 19 Wales 24
Scotland 33 Italy 20
Ireland 20 England 32
This weekend’s fixtures – Tomorrow:
Scotland v Ireland, 2.15pm
Italy v Wales, 4.45pm
England v France, 3pm
- This week’s poll…
Who will win the
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Knockout night of boxing
If boxing is your thing then make sure you get yourself up the A47 next month.
You usually have to go a long way out of West Norfolk to watch such an amazing card in
person. But that’s not the case on March 2 because Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom team are bringing the mouth-watering NXTGen event to Peterborough’s East of England Arena.
Headlining the bill is 24-year-old Commonwealth featherweight champion Jordan Gill. The Chatteris star will lock horns with Mexico’s Emmanuel Dominguez for the WBA International Featherweight title.
It’ll be a special night for many in the crowd, including myself who reported on Gill as a young amateur, watched him as a teenager and broke the story he was turning pro.
I haven’t seen him in the flesh since 2011 and will be there cheering him on. I urge you to do the same by contacting Gill on social media or visiting his website to buy tickets.
Life’s a pitch for Linnets
You can try and dress it up any way you want.
‘We thought the pitch would thaw out’. ‘We wanted to save you a midweek trip’. Yet King’s Lynn Town got it horribly wrong on Saturday.
While non-League games were being called off everywhere because of snow and frozen pitches, Lynn somehow thought they’d get their match on – only to call it off at 2pm.
Alvechurch, having received assurances the game would be played, had travelled from the Midlands and were rightly furious with Lynn when the ref deemed the pitch to be unfit.
Their decision then to train on it was spiteful and ill-informed, and sparked a heated exchange. But as Lynn press officer Mark Hearle admitted on Twitter, the “whole shambles” “was a bad advert for the club” – and as usual he’s spot on.
LAST WEEK – WE ASKed…
What are you most looking forward to this cricketing summer?
ICC World Cup