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Rugby England 57 Ireland 15
Ireland look so far off being on top of the world it seems incredible they were 80 minutes away from going to the top of the world rankings. They returned to Dublin last night having dropped from third to fourth place, but that’s the least of Joe Schmidt’s worries after his team slumped to the heaviest defeat of his era.
They have less than a month’s worth of training and 160 minutes against Wales to fix the myriad of problems exposed by a powerful, quick England side.
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Ireland made a very poor start and England looked to make them pay for their repeated errors and exploit their lack of match practice by playing at huge pace from the word go. They went ahead through Owen Farrell’s boot when Cian Healy was punished for collapsing a scrum. The break appeared to settle Ireland and clever hands from Rob Kearney got the team on the front-foot.
Jean Kleyn brilliantly stole the ball from an English maul, Bundee Aki carried hard and then they moved the ball wide through Ross Byrne and Kearney for Jacob Stockdale. His trade-mark chip evaded his own chase and several others, but it bounced up nicely for Jordan Larmour to score.
Byrne settled his nerves with a superb touch-line conversion but England hit back almost instantly, cashing in on a Kearney knock-on by sucking in Aki and moving the ball wide to Joe Cokanasiga who beat Larmour on the outside to score. The home side’s second try came at a cost for Ireland as Conor Murray picked up a head injury as he caught Jonny May’s shoulder as the winger stepped inside him.
As the scrum-half received attention, the defence scrambled to no avail as again England found space on the wing for Elliot Daly to saunter over unopposed.
Ireland then nearly forced a poach through Peter O’Mahony, but a knock-on handed England a 5-meter scrum and Manu Tuilagi exploited shocking Irish defending to score.
Cian Healy was then lost to an ankle injury and England went for the jugular before half-time, attacking off their lineout but Josh van der Flier snuffed them out with a brilliant ruck poach and the visitors trailed by 12 points at the break.
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Having returned him to the fray for the last two minutes of the half
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