England will win a first rugby union Grand Slam since Martin Johnson’s glory boys of 2003 if they beat France in Paris next Saturday night, after edging out Wales 25-21 in a thrilling Six Nations’ Championship match at Twickenham.
Owen Farrell kicked six penalty goals and converted Anthony Watson’s first-half try as England wreaked some revenge for last year’s World Cup loss to Wales, but they had to survive a late Welsh comeback as George North and Taulupe Faletau grabbed tries.
England’s captain, Dylan Hartley, was able to lift the Triple Crown trophy after the earlier victories over Scotland and Ireland, sandwiching a win in Italy, but it is the long-awaited Slam his team and their Australian coach, Eddie Jones, who took over after the World Cup débâcle, want now.
“We know France will be passionate and full of pride,” said Jones. “But if we prepare well we play well, and if we play well we’ll win the game and the Six Nations.”
Jones’s Wales counterpart, Warren Gatland, described his team’s first-half display, which left them trailing 16-0, as “unacceptable”, adding: “I have told the players to be honest and look at that, as only the players can answer the question of why they were so lethargic.”
England’s man of the match, Maro Itoje, said: “It’s going to be massive against France. We will be watching them play Scotland [today], studying how they go about things.”
Jones added: “After England played Wales in September, if you would have said five months later we’d be 25-7 up on them, you’d have been pretty happy. When we attacked Wales they really struggled to stay with us. If we’d played with the same intent in the last 20 minutes we’d have won by a lot more.”
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