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England pair unscathed ahead of Six Nations opener as Saracens beat London Irish

By PA
Maro Itoje /PA

England forwards Maro Itoje and Jamie George came through unscathed from their final matches before the Six Nations as Saracens kept alive hopes of reaching the Challenge Cup knockout phase.

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London Irish were toppled 45-24 in the Pool C clash as Saracens emerged from their penultimate group match at StoneX Stadium with the bonus-point win needed to keep them in contention.

The game had been earmarked as Owen Farrell’s comeback after two months out because of ankle surgery but the England captain suffered a new injury to the other ankle in training last week and was ruled out.

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Itoje and George, who stepped off the bench in the second half, join up with Eddie Jones’ squad at their Brighton training camp on Monday with solid performances in the bank.

Billy and Mako Vunipola and Elliot Daly have been overlooked by Jones as part of his team-rebuilding project and the trio were influential as the Exiles were swept aside.

The Vunipola brothers were heavily involved as Saracens set up early camp on the Irish line, using a series of line-out drive to apply pressure, but when they moved the ball wide full-back James Stokes was able to pick up a loose pass.

Inside his own 22 and with Daly in hot pursuit, the visiting full-back had the gas to win the foot race with clear daylight between him and his opposite number at Saracens.

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A quick exchange of tries between Sean Maitland and Cillian Redmond followed before the home side surged into the lead when a side-stepping break from Itoje enabled Alex Lewington to go over in the corner.

Saracens were in full stride now as Lewington added a brilliant second that was the result or precise attacking play started by Andy Christie’s midfield break before Maitland and Daly combined for the versatile England back to touch down.

A comprehensive 24-14 lead had now opened up but all season Irish have shown an ability to play their way back into games and early in the second half they crossed through Juan Martin Gonzalez.

But in the 54th minute man of the match Vincent Koch forced his way over from close range and, when replacement prop Harvey Beaton crossed with five minutes to go, the door had been slammed shut on the group leaders.

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Shaylen 1 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 7 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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