Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
Sports | By Jonathan Ford

Ireland leapfrog England in world rankings ahead of Twickenham showdown

In a world full of worrisome woes - from Brexit to North Korea, and the obesity crisis to what on earth Meghan Markle will wear for the wedding - English rugby supporters thought they had everything ginger-peachy.

With the Championship already sealed Ireland can put that to one side as well as taking confidence from it, using it as a springboard.

England were penalised 16 times, often at the breakdown, where the French also won several turnovers.

After a frustrating start to the Six Nations, France claimed a rare victory over England that boosted the morale of Jacques Brunel's men who now believe they are a force to be reckoned with again.

Joe Schmidt's side's 11-game winning streak, coupled with England's pair of shock defeats, has seen Ireland leapfrog Eddie Jones' team by 0.35 ranking points.

Jones cut an unusually restrained figure in the Stade de France post-match discourse, as a jarringly inapt, chilled-out remix of Bob Marley's "Sun is Shining" played in the background. "Our players tend to sit back and not go with the ball-carrier", he explained.

Are we witnessing a changing of the guard? "But good as we've been, it won't be good enough against England. We defended well and we always went forward".

France's ecstatic reaction at the final whistle told how much they valued the victory.

New Zealand remain well clear at top of the rankings.

Farrell was captaining the side for the first time following an injury to Dylan Hartley, and congratulated France on their performance.

Things then got worse for England when France was awarded a penalty try and Watson was yellow-carded for a high tackle that prevented Fall from a certain score in the left corner.

Cian Healy will train fully this week, despite suffering a shoulder injury during the weekend's Six Nations title winning game against Scotland.

"It's special because we won it at home", Schmidt said. "We'll have to look at how we can be more clinical".

And therein lies the rub. It is not quite the experience red of tooth and claw that sportsmen crave, in the moment and on the field, but to complete the grand slam by beating England next weekend would be.

The Wasps back convinced Jones that he was ready to play and was immediately drafted into other starting line-up in place of Mike Brown. But is the domestic league on the wrong track?

An important part of the winning streak has been how effectively the younger players have adapted to worldwide level and slotted into positions as players have fallen away injured. It is a position they have not reached since 2011.

Number two in the world.

. George Ford is a lovely fly-half with front-foot ball, but muted when he is going backwards.

"We understand what the problem is and we understand how to fix it".

Daly laid on a try for fellow wing May with six minutes remaining, but it was too little, too late for England, whose day was summed up by the concession of yet another penalty late on, kicked by replacement Lionel Beauxis. Most worldwide teams have one huge centre or wing.

"We can't expect club teams to play global rugby, just as we can't expect to play club rugby".

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