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Campbell Burnes

Campbell Burnes has written on rugby since 2000 for a wide variety of publications, both in print and online, whilst also contributing to television and radio shows. His major gigs have seen him at Rugby News magazine (2005-12), in which he covered 50 Test matches, and the New Zealand Herald (2014-17). Burnes is one of the few in rugby media to have played international rugby, having appeared for Manu Samoa in 1995 and 2000 (seven games) as a No 10.

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Six Nations Wrap: Round 3

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Campbell Burnes     26 Feb 2018     Getty Images

That may be three weeks away and the fourth round is yet to play out but, all things being equal, Joe Schmidt’s charges could be seeking another Grand Slam on March 17.

This follows a compelling third round of the Six Nations in which Eddie Jones’ England suffered just its second defeat under his aegis, and surrendered the Calcutta Cup in the process. The 25-13 margin at Murrayfield was as convincing as it sounds. 

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Wales fell 37-27 to Ireland at the Aviva for its second straight defeat. The slickness of the opening victory against Scotland seems light years away now for Warren Gatland’s men.

France dispatched Italy 34-17 in Paris on Friday night to snap an eight game losing streak and lighten the load on new coach Jacques Brunel.

What it all means is that Ireland is in the box seat with 14 competition points, five clear of England, which is one ahead of Scotland. Wales and France lie fourth and fifth respectively, while the Azzurri look set to claim another wooden spoon.

France had a tumultuous week in which Brunel dropped eight of his stars, including wing Teddy Thomas and Louis Picamoles, for off-field issues. Naturally, they lacked clinical finishing, and some of the passing was a far cry from the slick era of Didier Cordoniou, Denis Charvet and Philippe Sella, but at least they adopted more attacking intent. That was helped by the return of centre Mathieu Bastareaud, who gave his best bowling ball impersonation, skittling the Italian defence on several occasions.

Italy was again slightly off the pace, though it did score two nice tries and pressured France.
Wales welcomed back Dan Biggar, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny to its backline, but then spent much of the first half tackling. That tends to make you tired. Were it not for Johnny Sexton missing a clutch of shots at goal, the Irish might have pulled clear. Sexton otherwise played very well and his cutout pass for Jacob Stockdale’s first try was sheer poetry.

Irish defensive errors allowed Wales to pull it back to 30-27 with time almost up until Stockdale’s final flourish from an intercept.

So to Murryfield, where feelings were, as ever, running high, and included a pre-match scuffle. It was not quite 1990 when David Sole walked his men in solemn fashion onto Murrayfield, but the result was the same. Scotland’s pack, unheralded in some circles and with a dearth of Lions, just hoed into its English counterparts, soaking up their energy and rendering their attack impotent.

The crowd belted out Flower of Scotland well before the first half had set, and there was little respite in the second stanza. Centre Huw Jones scored two tries – one opportunist and the other solo – though No 10 Finn Russell conducted the orchestra with aplomb.

England rallied in the second spell, but the Calcutta Cup was gone for the first time in a decade and England’s Grand Slam dreams were in ruins.

Scotland, conversely, so listless on opening weekend, have now racked up two wins and will head to Dublin in a fortnight thirsting for another upset. On the compelling evidence of this rousing victory over England, Gregor Townsend’s men are more than capable of it.

Form XV:
15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
14 Jacob Stockdale (Ireland)
13 Huw Jones (Scotland)
12 Bundee Aki (Ireland)
11 Sean Maitland (Scotland)
10 Finn Russell (Scotland)
9 Maxime Machenaud (France)
8 CJ Stander (Ireland)
7 Yacouba Camara (France)
6 John Barclay (Scotland)
5 Maro Itoje (England)
4 Jonny Gray (Scotland)
3 Simon Berghan (Scotland)
2 Dylan Hartley (England)
1 Cian Healy (Ireland)