What a comeback! Announced moribund for many months, England woke up at the best time, this Saturday, by bringing down – with enormous heart and self-sacrifice – Ireland (23-22), in a boiling Twickenham. From the start of the match, Steve Borthwick’s players set a frantic pace, showing their power in all contact zones. Problem, they were sorely lacking in realism and failed to realize their domination, they were even trailing at the break (8-12). But they showed enormous strength of character to overthrow the Irish, who were aiming for a second Grand Slam in a row in the Tournament. The “Crunch” next Saturday, in Lyon, against the Blues promises to be epic.

Definitely the man of the match. Ben Earl, the third row of the Xv de la Rose, delivered a titanic match this Saturday. Tough, omnipresent, whether with ball in hand or in defense, the Saracens player multiplied himself in all four corners of the pitch, causing enormous damage with each of his interventions. His stats are dizzying: 101 m gained with the ball in 19 ball catches, 8 defenders beaten, 12 tackles (only one missed) and only one ball loss. He totally eclipsed his opposite number, Caelan Doris, despite being quite a client. Earl was the main architect of England’s first victory over Ireland since 2020, after four defeats.

This is called a winning return. Returning from a calf injury, Marcus Smith played his first match in the 2024 Tournament this Saturday. Entering the game in the 59th minute, in full “money time”, he immediately attempted shots, like this breakthrough in the Irish 22 m spoiled by a useless follow-up kick from Danny Care (78th). But, above all, the Harlequins opener had the composure and the confidence to deliver – in an armchair – the drop of victory on the gong (even if the English had an advantage). “I had been practicing doing drops and I thought why not,” he admitted to the BBC. The Quins player lived up to the expectations placed on him. It remains to be seen whether this is enough to start next Saturday against the XV of France.


Ireland can blame itself. With Lowe’s second try, in the 73rd minute, she thought she had done the hardest part against these new-found Englishmen. In the end, the XV of Clover bowed to the wire and let slip a second Grand Slam in a row, which would have been a first in the Six Nations Tournament (the Blues had done it in 1997 and 1998). End, also, of its series of 11 victories in a row in the flagship competition of European rugby. This Saturday, the Irish were surprised by the speed and physical impact of Her Majesty’s subjects. The green machine did not have its usual serenity and efficiency. “We talked before the match about how dangerous they were,” admitted Peter O’Mahony. They disrupted our attack and defended very well.” All is not lost since the XV of Clover can still, in the event of success over Scotland, win this 2024 edition. “We are going to return to camp and continue working to try to win the competition,” continues the flanker and Irish captain.

Obviously, the comparison with the decisive entry of Marcus Smith is not to his advantage. George Ford was generally disappointing, he certainly tried to liven up the English game but the lack of efficiency of his team has long been problematic. More problematic, the Leicester flyhalf was extremely successful against the poles, leaving points en route which meant that the XV de la Rose raced behind Ireland. In the absence of Owen Farrell (present in the stands at Twickenham), who took a break from his international career by signing for Racing 92, the position of flyhalf in the England team is a project that remains wide open. But, like his decisive entry into play this Saturday, Marcus Smith will carry all the hopes of English supporters.