After beating Scotland 15-9 and dismantling Italy 40-9 Eddie Jones’ England team were sitting pretty at the top of the Six Nations standings, and after their comprehensive 21-10 win over Ireland that position has only been solidified.
But England are just 1 point ahead of Wales and 2 points in front of France as they begin preparations for their last two 2016 RBS Six Nations encounters. With a home fixture against the Welsh scheduled for the 12 March and their final test coming against France on 19 March, England have their fate in their own hands.
England were resolute yet expansive in the victory over Ireland as a mixture of young and experience players took responsibility and lead from the front. 21-year-old Maro Itoje produced an explosive performance on his full debut, the amount of carries made by the Saracens man really contributed to getting England up field and in to attacking territory. Itoje also proved to be immensely useful around the loose balls and in the lineout, where he was instrumental in regaining possession.
Significant, skillful and timely tries came from Anthony Watson and Mike Brown in the second half as Owen Farrell held his nerve on the kicking front throughout, in challenging gusty conditions. Billy Vunipola was the outstanding performer though and rightly claimed the man of the match award, the No.8 consistently catapulted England forward and was a menacing factor for the whole 80 minutes.
England are well placed to lift the Six Nations trophy on 19 March, but they will have to negotiate two yearning teams in Wales and France if they are to achieve their ambitions.
TNT Sport Billy Rooney