Wales replace rivals England in third spot in latest set of World Rugby rankings

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Wales have landed another blow on England by replacing their rivals in third spot in the latest set of global rankings.

Warren Gatland’s men are the only team still capable of winning the Grand Slam after a stunning 21-13 victory in Cardiff on Saturday propelled them to the summit of the Six Nations table.

England, who were labelled chokers by Gatland in the wake of their second-half implosion at the Principality Stadium, drop to fourth in the rankings compiled by World Rugby.

Wales have fixtures with Scotland and Ireland to come, but with Italy and Scotland due at Twickenham it is England who remain favourites to win the 2019 Six Nations.

France are also on the move after their 27-10 victory over Scotland in Paris lifted them two places up the standings above Argentina and Fiji. However, they remain one spot below their victims in Paris.

Ireland remain in second place behind leaders New Zealand following their edgy 26-16 win against Italy in Rome.

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Six Nations 2019: Alun Wyn Jones leads our star players from round three

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Wales lit up the third weekend of the Six Nations with a blistering win against England.

Elsewhere, Ireland and France secured victories against Italy and Scotland.

Here, we pick out the top performers from the weekend’s action.

ALUN WYN JONES

The Wales captain led from the front and his teammates followed him along the way. The Ospreys man made 16 tackles and 14 carries in a dominant display, covering every blade of grass along the way. At 33, he is far from a fading force and was trojan-like at the breakdown, causing a nuisance for the England forwards. If Wales are to go on and secure a first Grand Slam since 2012, then the towering Jones is going to be central to their ambitions.

TOM CURRY

Absolute class act and was unfortunate to finish on the losing team. The Sale man has been consistently superb over the three Six Nations matches to date. He was sublime against Wales on Saturday, making 24 tackles and seven carries. One of the stand-out features of his performance was his tireless work at the breakdown, where he made a glorious turnover on Hadleigh Parkes midway through the second half. Capped off a fine performance with a try too. Hard to believe he is only 20.

ROMAIN NTAMACK

The 19-year-old controlled the pace of the game excellently and combined well with elusive scrum-half Antoine Dupont. The Toulouse man finished well for the first try, taking a pop pass from Dupont to touch down. For the second, he teed up Mathieu Bastareaud to send a cleverly weighed chip that led to Yoann Huget crossing the line. Despite limited game time at out-half for his club, his sizzling performance against Scotland proves his future lies in that position at international level.

PETER O’MAHONY

Third man-of-the-match display for the Ireland captain in his last four international matches (New Zealand, Scotland and Italy). At 29, O’Mahony continues to step up and show his class both as an influential leader and sensational player. His voracious work at the breakdown was sublime, making three poaches and 14 successful tackles. Got through his usual high volume of work, producing some line-out excellence on both Irish and Italian throws.

BLAIR KINGHORN

The Edinburgh man stepped in for Stuart Hogg and ran hard but it was a thankless task as France attacked in waves. The 22-year-old showed his pace and power with ball in hand, running 122 metres for 16 carries and beating three defenders. He kicked well and his restarts were sharp but unfortunately Scotland did not take full advantage. The decision making – especially in defence – may not be there yet, but more game time at full-back will only improve him further at this level.

JAYDEN HAYWARD

Although it might be harsh not to select scrum-half Tito Tebaldi, it was Hayward who also created countless problems from full-back and put Ireland under serious pressure. The 32-year-old made 148 metres from 11 carries, beating five defenders and making two clean break. It was his surging run that set the platform for Edoardo Padovani to cross for a try just before the breaks. And he earlier prevented a certain score when successfully chasing back to deny winger Andrew Conway.

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Six Nations 2019: Breaking down the good and bad from round three

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Wales lit up the third weekend of the Six Nations with a blistering win against England.

Elsewhere, Ireland and France secured victories against Italy and Scotland.

Here, we break down the good and bad points from the weekend’s action.

WALES

Good: A sensational win for the home side. Substitute Dan Biggar brought a level of composure and played a central role in both tries. Overall, Wales took their chances at the right time and made better use of their possession (65 per cent) and territorial advantage (63 per cent). Their discipline was also flawless, conceding only three penalties in comparison to England’s nine.

Bad: Gatland’s side need to tighten up at the line-out where they enjoyed a meager 76-per-cent success rate. Although it may seem harsh to point out only three steals from 13 throws,  it was the errors that resulted from the creaking set-piece that caused concern. On one occasion Ken Owens’ throw was knocked on for an England scrum and just before the hour mark, the Dragons lost possession from Owens throw. Small errors, but an area for improvement before the short journey to Murrayfield to take on Scotland.

ENGLAND

Good: Starting the game at warp speed, the Red Rose were physical, fluent and brought boundless energy in the opening 40 minutes. The displays of Tom Curry, Courtney Lawes and George Kruis were all excellent. And despite the grand slam dream being over, the championship remains open with England having a smoother run-in against Italy and Scotland at home, in contrast to Wales away trip to Scotland before facing Ireland on March 16.

Bad: Eddie Jones’ side failed to gain a foothold in the contest after the break and made little impact on the possession (35 per cent) and territorial front (37 per cent) over the 80 minutes. To show the pressure England were under, they were forced to make 110 more tackles than Wales (223 in contrast to the hosts 103) and were rudderless going forward in the second period, kicking only three points through the boot of Owen Farrell.

IRELAND

Good: A win is a win, but many would have expected Ireland to stick 50 points plus on the Azzurri. They conceded single-digit penalties which is a positive and won 99 per cent of rucks (128 out of 129). With the championship still to play for, the Men in Green will go back to the drawing board at Carton House later this week, rectify the errors and aim for a strong display against France in two weeks’ time.

Bad: Where to start. There was a lack of cohesion in attack, with Ireland not executing their plays as well as normal. Passes fell to ground (15 handling errors) and there was no fluency going forward. In defence, there was some ill-discipline that gave Italy the chance to apply pressure. The visitors struggled at the line-out – with just 15 successful throws out of 20 – and hooker Sean Cronin was subsequently replaced after 48 minutes. The form of Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray is also a concern.

 ITALY

Good: Running a poor Ireland side to within ten points represents a boost for Conor O’Shea’s team. In fact, on the stats board, they showed a vast improvement from their defeats to Scotland and Wales, especially in terms of defenders beaten, clean breaks and rucks and mauls won. Tito Tebaldi, Jayden Hayward and Tommaso Allan were all immense.

Bad: It was Italy’s 20th-successive Six Nations defeat and they really need to record a victory against either England or France to show some form of progress this campaign. O’Shea is doing incredible work behind the scenes, but if there are no wins to show for their efforts, then it hard to pinpoint much improvement.

FRANCE

Good: Jacques Brunel will be pleased to finally secure his first win of the campaign following two disappointing defeats. Aside from Les Bleus’ 100-per-cent success rate at both line-out and scrum time, the performances of Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack will surely add confidence ahead of remaining fixtures against Ireland and France. Two exciting youngsters who look key to France’s game plan for years to come.

Bad: Their discipline was a disgrace, conceding three early penalties (10 overall) for playing the ball on the floor. Discipline is key in professional rugby and France need to tighten up in this area if they are to have any chance of recording another victory this tournament.

SCOTLAND

Good: Hard to find many positives, especially for a side who were expected to step up after a solid 2018 campaign. Full-back Blair Kinghorn ran well, but Les Bleus attacked in waves to prevent the Scots from creating scoring opportunities.

Bad: The loss of key men Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell has certainly made the Scots look low on creativity going forward. They lacked composure and detail in attack and defence, conceding 16 penalties and missing 35 of their 156 tackles in total. They also failed to make use of the numerical advantage when Yoann Huget was sin-binned. Gregor Townsend’s side need to tighten up or they’ll risk losing three matches in a row against Wales in two weeks.

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