International wrap: England thrash Ireland, Scotland edge France

by AFP

A shocked Joe Schmidt said there was a malaise about his Ireland team that was routed 57-15 by England in their Rugby World Cup warm-up Test on Saturday.

The 53-year-old New Zealander had been hoping to be celebrating the Irish getting to number one in the world rankings for the first time if they had beaten the English.

However, instead he looked on in horror as his side - who were almost at full-strength - conceded eight tries with the hosts recording both their highest points total and the largest winning margin against them.

He said his side - who last year won the Six Nations Grand Slam and beat world champions New Zealand - had looked "dishevelled".

"There's a malaise about the team, but you can't blame individuals," he said.

Schmidt who will step down after the World Cup said he had expected the players to be a bit "heavy-legged".

"It hurts right now," he said.

Joe Cokanasiga scored twice as England ran in eight tries in all -- man of the match Manu Tuilagi getting one of them -- as they recorded both their highest score and largest winning margin over their opponents.

For Ireland, who won the Six Nations Grand Slam and beat New Zealand last year, it was a bitter reality check in a game they had hopes of becoming world number one.

"That is not up to the standard that we set ourselves. It is hard to describe it without using a lot of profanity," Ireland captain Rory Best told broadcasters Sky Sports.

"We are nowhere near where we need to be, the only upside is that it is the middle of August and not the middle of September."

England skipper Owen Farrell laid down a marker for his side to improve even further after the record victory.

"It was definitely fun. I love it every time I put this jersey on. We are building," Farrell said.

"The most exciting thing is that we have our best rugby ahead of us."

Both sides came roaring out of the blocks in the baking heat with Farrell landing the first blow with a penalty in the seventh minute.

The visitors struck back as Rob Kearney's superb long pass found Jacob Stockdale as the Ulster winger touched down for his fifth Test try.

Ross Byrne, making his maiden start at fly-half, showed no nerves as he converted from wide out on the left for 7-3.

For all Jordan Larmour's style in attack, his Achilles heel is his defence and he was left grasping at air as he tried to tackle Cokanasiga, who brushed him aside to touch down in the 13th minute -- Tuilagi's decoy run having sucked in the Irish defence.

Farrell failed to convert but England had their noses in front at 8-7.

Byrne, who is vying to be on the plane to Japan to back up the injured Joey Carbery and number one Johnny Sexton, slotted over an excellent penalty to give the Irish a 10-8 lead.

Tuilagi once again caused panic in the Irish defence and Stockdale repeated an error from the first try in coming on off his wing and Tom Curry fed Elliot Daly who ran in to touch down.

Tuilagi did not bother setting anyone up for the third try going on his own paying little notice to Stockdale's effort at a tackle as Farrell added the extras.

Ireland's problems deepened shortly before half-time as veteran prop Cian Healy limped off.

The Irish began the second-half also without Conor Murray who had taken a knock to the head in the first-half from Jonny May's shoulder and had briefly returned after passing a Head Injury Assessment.

Five minutes after the break Ireland lost a line-out and ended with Maro Itoje bursting through the middle, to score under the posts.

Tuilagi caused more havoc in the Irish defence setting up George Kruis to go over for a try which Farrell converted for 36-10.

The hosts crossed the 50-point mark with a quarter of an hour to play.

Flanker Curry crossed before Cokanasiga added his second after 66 minutes with Farrell adding the two points.

Bundee Aki had a rough day defending Tuilagi but once the latter had gone off he gained a little consolation in breaking through from outside the 22, fending off Daly to touch down.

Luke Cowan-Dickie rounded off Irish misery with another try -- George Ford converting.


England 57

Tries: Cokanasiga 2, Daly, Tuilagi, Itoje, Kruis, Curry, Cowan-Dickie

Cons: Farrell 6, Ford

Pens: Farrell

Ireland 15

Tries: Larmour, Aki

Cons: Byrne

Pens: Byrne


Stuart Hogg celebrates Scotland's win over France. Photo: Getty imagesChris Harris's converted second-half try gave Scotland their first win in six Tests as they beat France 17-14 in a Rugby World Cup warm-up Test at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Harris's effort and one from Sean Maitland at the end of the first-half -- also converted by Greig Laidlaw -- helped the hosts win from behind and bounce back from the humiliating 32-3 thrashing by Les Bleus last weekend.

Pleasing for head coach Gregor Townsend -- who made 14 changes to the starting XV from the first match -- was they held the French scoreless in the second-half.  Worryingly he lost three players to injuries in Tommy Seymour, Sam Skinner and Blade Thomson on his debut.

France, like last weekend, scored early on with Clermont winger Damian Penaud dotting down after 110 seconds, repeating club team-mate, Alivereti Raka's feat in Nice.

"It was a great opportunity for us after last weekend and winning makes it all the sweeter," Scotland captain Laidlaw said.

"We never started well but we dug in deep and had trust in the group. Our defence went a long way to winning the game - and international rugby is all about winning," he added.

The visitors' captain Guilhem Guirado praised his side's impressive start but complained about their failure to cross the Scottish line during the final 40 minutes.

"We started very well, we put a lot of pressure on them with our defence.

It's a pity we lacked accuracy," Guirado told France TV.

"What we lacked was keeping the ball well, as to be more dangerous. We also scored zero points in the second-half which is a shame," he added.

Things looked ominous for the Scots early on as Penaud intercepted and ran half the length of the pitch to touch down in the second minute. Thomas Ramos converted.

Laidlaw reduced the deficit shortly afterwards with a penalty.

The Scots showed much more enterprise than in the previous clash, Sean Maitland making a great solo break deep into French territory but his good work was spoiled as the home side conceded a penalty allowing the visitors to relieve the pressure.

An error by Finn Russell cost the Scots dearly a few minutes later.

The flyhalf failed to gather a high ball giving the French possession.

When it came to Gael Fickou he burst through midfield, leaving Maitland and Ryan Wilson trailing, then passed to Penaud who ran it in.

Russell tried to redeem himself with a beautiful chip over the French backline but Maitland could only flick it back inside on the touchline and Stuart Hogg was unable to gather the ball.

Maitland had more joy at the end of the first-half as he went over for his 12th Test try after Russell found him out wide.

Laidlaw knocked over an excellent touchline conversion to send the hosts in at half-time trailing by just four points, 14-10.

The Scots went ahead for the first time in the match on the hour mark as Laidlaw fed Harris, who crashed over. Laidlaw added the extras to lead 17-14.

After that, the Scots closed the French down, extinguishing any hopes the visitors had of just their fourth away win since the last World Cup.


Scotland 17

Tries: Maitland,  Harris

Cons: Laidlaw 2

Pens: Laidlaw

France 14

Tries: Penaud 2

Cons: Ramos 2