Six Nations: Ireland's Simon Zebo faces 10 weeks on the sidelines with broken foot

Zebo injured during defeat to England

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The Independent Online

The Six Nations thrives on its tradition and England will hope that history continues to repeat itself. The last time they won in Dublin they went on to complete the Grand Slam and then lift the World Cup.

The latter might have to wait a couple of years but a Grand Slam shifted significantly in the direction of Stuart Lancaster after they emerged victorious in a tryless war of attrition.

Should England repeat their 2003 World Cup success, Lancaster will probably reflect on this one as a game which helped shape their mental strength. They overcame the wet ball and soft, greasy pitch with commendable endeavour but probably should have seen off a woeful Irish side much more comprehensively.

But England were deserving winners of a game which was billed as a championship decider but which never produced any flair to quicken the pulse on a foul Dublin afternoon.

Ireland, after the high of their win in Wales, were abject and home supporters probably feared the worst when Simon Zebo, whose audacious flick crowned the Cardiff success, limped off with a broken bone in his foot after just 11 minutes.

"He is going for surgery in the morning and will be out for about 10 weeks," confirmed the Ireland coach, Declan Kidney. The groans could be heard in Munster, who will now probably have to face Harlequins in the Heineken Cup quarter-final without their leading player.

It is hard to know if Zebo would have made an impact yesterday had he stayed on. The wingers were starved of possession as both sides kept it tight to minimise the errors. England won that battle as well.

"I don't know what caused our high error count," said the Ireland captain, Jamie Heaslip. "They contested our rucks very well."

The England captain, Chris Robshaw gave the visitors the hard edge they have sometimes lacked in Dublin. With both sides putting boot to ball, turnovers became crucial and when England won penalties, Farrell stroked them over. It wasn't a perfect show but, crucially, he landed the first two in the first half-hour to settle England and unnerve Ireland. "You can start to do things when you are six-up in a tight game," said Ireland full-back Rob Kearney.

Farrell put his four kicks – none of them gimmes – down to his endless practising. "I kick thousands of them. Conditions weren't great but we rolled our sleeves up and got stuck in. We did the little things really well," he said.

Ireland, with Zebo gone, little ball going to the other winger Craig Gilroy and Brian O'Driscoll a marked man, never looked like creating the try they needed, and losing the segment 6-3 with James Haskell in the bin showed up why England deserved to win.

"We tightened the game up, ran down the clock and had to be smart. It's a great day," Robshaw said.

England now face France, but Ireland have an increasing injury list, with Jonathan Sexton very doubtful for the trip to Murrayfield in two weeks. "We can't control injuries so we will just deal with them," Kidney said. "We had a few unforced errors and England were able to gain that six-point lead by half-time. Today it went against us."

Kidney refused to be drawn on a possible citing for Cian Healy, who faces a spell on the sideline. "There is a process for dealing with that and that is the way it should be dealt with, rather than publicly," he said.

Only England can now win a Grand Slam and history shows they usually push on from rare Dublin victories.