UPDATE: France top Six Nations ladder after beating Italy; England, Ireland notch wins

International
AFP
by AFP

France are on top of the Six Nations ladder after round two following their win over a persistent Italy.

Earlier, England got their first win in the competition and Ireland looked slick in downing the reigning champions Wales.

France take on Italy on Monday morning (AEDT).

FRANCE 35 ITALY 22

France coach Fabien Galthie stressed the need for consistency after watching his team go top of the Six Nations table with a 35-22 victory over Italy on Sunday.

France opened up a 23-10 half-time lead in the second game of the 2020 tournament at the Stade de France, but were forced into seeing off a stubborn Italian comeback to notch up a bonus-point win.

Former Les Bleus scrum-half Galthie admitted that the Italy match had been "tough".

"The first half was almost perfect, we made two errors," he said.

"In the second half, we were less consistent and the team was battered by the Italians."

The French were indeed guilty of taking their foot off the pedal and lost some of the shape of their defensive line honed by respected ex-Wales coach Shaun Edwards that worked so well in last week's opening win over England.

They also conceded 10 penalties, coming on top of seven given away against the English.

"We were less consistent than against England in our defensive strategy," Galthie said, adding that he had nothing negative to say about Irish referee Andrew Brace's interpretations of the law: "Well refereed".

While acknowledging that it was "difficult to sum up things after two matches", Galthie added: "We have two wins and our goal was to win the two matches."

 

France's South African-born lock Paul Willemse admitted the match had been "frustrating at the end".

"We got the bonus point so are happy with that but there were a lot of errors especially discipline which we need to fix as quickly as possible," Willemse said.

Willemse's compatriot Franco Smith, the Italy coach, said he had been heartened by his team's performance following the opening week's 42-0 drubbing by Wales.

"We're not angry with the performance," the ex-Springbok said.

"We made some mistakes in the first 15-20 minutes, but then we played much better than last week. Obviously, there's still work to do."

Smith, who was named interim head coach after the departure of Conor O'Shea, added: "I'm too proud a person to say I'm happy with the scoreline.

"Last week we played a very good Welsh team... and even tonight we left some points out there. We'd like to be as competitive as possible."

ENGLAND 13 SCOTLAND 6

Prop Ellis Genge has driven through for the only try of the game as England eventually found a way past Scotland in an error-strewn 13-6 Six Nations win in foul Edinburgh conditions.

The teams were locked at 3-3 with 10 minutes remaining of a chaotic match on Sunday when Genge was shoved over by his teammates following a good scrum to give England a much-needed victory after last week's opening defeat in France.

It was just about the only memorable moment of a game where the conditions made handling and kicking a huge challenge but England will not care about that, having drawn with the Scots at Twickenham last year and lost on their last visit to Murrayfield in 2018.

"We are happy with the performance," said their captain Owen Farrell.

"To come up here with the conditions and the atmosphere, we knew it would be tough. The wind was unpredictable and it made the ball go out on the full a few times but the most pleasing thing was our attitude. We grew as the game went on."

England coach Eddie Jones was upbeat.

"Apart from one 15-minute period we dominated the game and dominated field position," he said.

"We had a few poor kicks but we dominated possession and we finished it off, which we didn't do last week."

 

England next face Ireland in two weeks, with Andy Farrell's team top of the standings after their victory over Wales in Dublin earlier on Saturday.

Scotland travel to Italy next in desperate need of victory after back-to-back defeats, not that coach Gregor Townsend was sounding downhearted.

"I thought the way we played in the second half was excellent, given the conditions," he said.

"To show what we did for the first 15 minutes, to force errors and penalties was good. It was just that five-minute period that England got into our 22 that we have to remedy."

IRELAND 24 WALES 14

Ireland fullback Jordan Larmour has scored a fine solo try as they claimed a deserved 24-14 bonus-point victory over defending champions Wales in a bruising encounter that lifted the hosts to the top of the Six Nations.

Prop Tadhg Furlong, flanker Josh van der Flier and winger Andrew Conway also crossed on Saturday for the home side, who used their forward power to gain territory and set-piece dominance and outscored their visitors four tries to two.


"Our physicality was brought to the next level and in all fairness to Wales, they came and they pushed us hard so it was just great to get the win," Ireland winger Jacob Stockdale told ITV.

"They came and they fired a few shots early on and we know how good we can be when we're all over our carrying and our break down and it just had to come throughout the game.

"Once were started to do that the tries came and it was a really fun game to play in."

Scrumhalf Tomos Williams and flank Justin Tipuric scored for Wales, who suffered their first Six Nations defeat in nine matches having completed the grand slam in 2019.

Wales Captain Alun Wyn Jones admitted it was tough to take positives from a game which ended in defeat.

"Ultimately Test rugby is about winning isn't it?" Jones told ITV.

"You can have all the enterprise and all the beauty you like but ultimately it's about the result."

It is also a first loss for new Wales coach Wayne Pivac, while Ireland counterpart Andy Farrell now has back-to-back wins heading into a meeting with England at Twickenham on February 22.

Ireland dominated the opening 20 minutes and eventually Larmour was put into space out wide and saw off four defenders to power over the line.

The visitors were dealt another blow when in-form wing Josh Adams was forced off injured after 25 minutes, but shortly afterwards they grabbed the lead.

Jones provided a sumptuous offload in the tackle for Dan Biggar and the five-eighth fed the ball inside for Williams to score.

The halfback, however, then dropped a routine pass five metres from his own goal-line.

From the resultant scrum, Ireland took the ball through the phases for Furlong to barge his way over and give the home side a 12-7 halftime lead.

Ireland kept up their territorial advantage in the second period and were rewarded with a try from a driving lineout as Van der Flier rose from the melee with the ball in hand.

Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes then lost control of the ball as he stretched to dot it down over the line, before Conway produced the final score, crossing in the corner to claim the bonus point for the home side.

The Welsh will seek to get their campaign back on track when they host France in Cardiff in a fortnight.