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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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Ireland’s ‘Green Slam’

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Campbell Burnes     19 Mar 2018     Getty Images

Ireland, the world’s No 2-ranked team, proved worthy unbeaten champions in the Six Nations, engineering a 24-15 victory over England at Twickenham as the snow flurries fell on the hallowed turf. The Irish led 21-5 at the break off some energised and accurate rugby. Halfback Conor Murray had said a win would mean the ‘greatest day of his life.’ He got his wish.

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Funnily enough, it was three tries apiece but the normally reliable Owen Farrell was astray off the tee. However, no one, least of all England coach Eddie Jones, who is getting shorter with the media, would begrudge Joe Schmidt’s charges, the men in emerald green having played the best rugby of the Championship after surviving an opening scare in Paris.

Ireland left wing Jacob Stockdale made Six Nations history with his record-breaking seventh try, a beauty from a chip and regather which highlighted England’s folly in extending the in-goal area for the clash.

England sprang to life far too late, playing with ambition and nailing two sweet tries but that only made the score flattering to them. In the end, it was their third straight defeat, first at Twickenham since Rugby World Cup and first at their HQ in the Six Nations since 2012.

Ireland now has 12 wins on the bounce and will be looking for 15 after they have finished their June tour of Australia.

Greig Laidlaw proved he is a cool customer with a late penalty goal to edge Scotland home 29-27 over Italy in Rome. Scotland finished the stronger after Italy started to lose discipline and composure. And yet the Azzurri had played with early freedom, Matteo Minozzi scoring his fourth try of the 2018 Six Nations and No 10 Tommaso Allan calling the shots with aplomb. Points were banked.
A Sean Maitland try, however, sparked the visitors’ comeback, leaving poor old Sergio Parisse shattered at his record 100th test defeat and Italy consigned to another wooden spoon.
Scotland placed third, but will feel they could have been slightly better.

Wales take second place after an unconvincing 14-13 win over France. Liam Williams scored an early opportunist try for Wales, and then France wing Gael Fickou finished a superb team try. Those were the match highlights.

In a dour struggle, France’s skill execution let them down badly, despite a surfeit of second spell possession. Francois Trinh-Duc, whose solo try against the 2009 All Blacks at Carisbrook must seem light years away, completed a nightmare outing by missing a very kickable late penalty goal.

In the final analysis, Wales will have to be content with second. They never hit the high notes after a splendid opening victory against Scotland. France played with more ambition but not enough accuracy.

England have gone backwards and will feel mortified at fifth position. Italy is a work in progress under Conor O’Shea but results are the only currency at this level.

There was high drama and tight contests throughout the Six Nations, but again the quality of rugby was not at a level which matched the growing ambition of most of the teams. Ireland had some of the best players in form, found a new weapon in Stockdale and just looked better organised tactically and at set-piece time.

Mullen would have approved. We know BOD does.
Form XV:
15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
14 Gael Fickou (France)
13 Mathieu Bastareaud (France)
12 Bundee Aki (Ireland)
11 Jacob Stockdale (Ireland)
10 Tommaso Allan (Italy)
9 Greig Laidlaw (Scotland)
8 Toby Faletau (Wales)
7 Dan Leavy (Ireland)
6 Sebastian Negri (Italy)
5 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
4 Jonny Gray (Scotland)
3 Tadgh Furlong (Ireland)
2 Rory Best (Ireland)
1 Mako Vunipola (England)