Wales' Alun Wyn Jones with the trophy after the winning the triple crown in Wales February 27, 2021. — Reuters pic
Wales’ Alun Wyn Jones with the trophy after the winning the triple crown in Wales February 27, 2021. — Reuters pic

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LONDON, Feb 28 — Wales claimed the Triple Crown with a 40-24 win over England and Ireland secured their first win of this year’s Six Nations yesterday beating Italy 48-10.

AFP Sport picks out three noteworthy things from the two games: 

Hardy Welsh boys

There could well be a changing of the guard at half-back with fly-half Callum Sheedy and scrum-half Kieran Hardy the coming men.

Both had sparked Wales into a comeback against Scotland when they came on a fortnight ago and they caught the eye again yesterday.

Dan Biggar may have started and showed quick thinking with his kick to set up Josh Adams for the first try but Sheedy shone when he came on for him early in the second-half.

His strength is seen to be being more creative than Biggar and he showed that with a delightful grubber kick which almost put Wales in for a try.

His interception and kick ahead late on ultimately resulted in Wales scoring their fourth and final try through Cory Hill. 

His place-kicking is seen to be his weaker side but the 25-year-old Bristol playmaker did not let his side down.

Hardy was as impressive — he ran with ball in hand for 50 metres in the first-half — until he limped off in the second-half. Not least was his quick thinking in taking a tap penalty to score their third try.

The 25-year-old scrum-half has followed an unconventional route to the top having had a spell with Jersey to improve his game but he looks a natural at Test level.

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Farrell landmark turns sour

The Six Nations up till yesterday has not been kind to the Farrell family, Ireland head coach Andy and his son England skipper Owen. 

Andy at least could grin with relief after beating hapless Italy and Owen could be credited in keeping his cool with referee Pascal Gauzere after the two controversial tries Wales scored in the first-half.

The 29-year-old did bring up 1000 points in Test rugby which is a fine landmark but to the ultra-competitive Farrell it will be a bitter taste given the manner and size of the defeat.   

It will also add to the pressure on the England captain who has shown that whilst class is permanent it is not sufficient at Test level when you have had no club rugby.

His rustiness is due to Saracens having no league rugby to play with the second tier Championship being suspended.

On the plus side he channnelled his frustration with Gauzere into leading the fightback, nothing flash in his play but his reaction to winning penalties and scoring — yelling with pleasure and exchanging high fives with team-mates — said it all.

Eddie Jones is not shy in taking bold decisions but despite Farrell’s under-par performances it may be a step too far to drop him for the game with France.

Irish backs front up

The Irish backs appeared to have listened to the pleas by head coach Andy Farrell and attack boss Mike Catt to convert their chances after Ireland scored just two tries in the opening two games.

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Johnny Sexton pulled the strings against Italy in masterful fashion and the all-Leinster backline in the first-half — the first time that has been the case since 1931 — reacted as the hard taskmaster would have wished.

Garry Ringrose and Hugo Keenan may have been the backs who scored the tries in the first-half but most encouraging was the mixing up of their play and more creativity as shown by twinkle-toed winger Jordan Larmour.

There was much more cut and thrust and purpose to the Irish attack with Robbie Henshaw, winning his 50th cap, to the fore.

“Henshaw, Ringrose and the back three all looked hungry to get their hands on the ball, it was a dominant performance,” said former Ireland captain Rory Best.

A far tougher task awaits in Edinburgh in a fortnight against Scotland but the confidence gained in the dress rehearsal could prove invaluable. — AFP



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