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England 13 Ireland 10: ‘The character we’ve shown was an unbelievable effort’, says match-winner Danny Care

England win gripping contest to set up Triple Crown chance

England’s scrum-half, Danny Care, hailed the character of his team at Twickenham as they ended Ireland’s Grand Slam hopes with a gripping 13-10 win and kept the Six Nations’ Championship wide open. Four teams,  including Wales and France, have two wins with two rounds of matches still to play next month.

Care applied the finish to a scintillating team try with a 30-metre run-in from a pass by his Harlequins club-mate Mike Brown as England overhauled a narrow Irish lead in the third quarter and held on to win with grit and determination. England can now win the Triple Crown for the first time since 2003 if they beat Wales at Twickenham on Sunday week, while Ireland will host Italy looking to build on their current leadership of the table on points difference in the race for the overall title.

“I’m playing as well as I’ve ever done in an England shirt,” said Care, who was dropped over off-the-field issues in the early days of head coach Stuart Lancaster’s tenure in 2012. “I’m really proud of the way I’ve come back. You’ve got to enjoy tries at Twickenham, they don’t come round very often, it was a great team score and I was lucky to get on the end of it. The great thing for us is we left a few chances out there, so we could have had a bigger victory. The character we showed was an unbelievable effort to the finish, and a tribute to the coaches and the players, considering Ireland have a wealth of experience running through the team.”

Asked if Wales’s huge win over England in Cardiff last year would be a motivating factor, Care said: “A lot will be said about that but it’s all about this team and this tournament and we want to win the Championship. We’ve learnt a lot of lessons already in this tournament.”

Ireland’s points difference of plus 42 is double that of England’s, who finish away to Italy on 22 March, while the Irish go to France (+1) and Wales (+6) will be at home to Scotland. “The Championship is up for grabs for everyone and it’s fantastic this year,” said Lancaster. “This was a proper Test match, two sides wrestling throughout, and we showed great maturity in closing out the game. Given the experience of the Ireland team, the form they were in and the quality of their coaching, I am just so proud of the boys. It was character, spirit and playing for the shirt. Once we got that lead we just clung in there.”

Lancaster’s coach Andy Farrell smilingly apologised for his language as he described England as possessing “massive balls”, adding: “It was a different type of game from Ireland for us to handle. They really took it to us in the scrum and maul.”

The Ireland head coach, Joe Schmidt, predicted Italy would respond positively from yesterday’s agonising defeat by Scotland to a late Duncan Weir dropped goal in Rome, and said: “We’ve tripped up today and we’ve got to make sure our next step is as secure as it can be.”