x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Rugby Six Nations: England off to perfect 3-0 start and Wales top Italy

Manu Tuilagi scored a fortunate try as Chris Robshaw provided some defence as England remained on course for a Six Nations Grand Slam with a 23-13 win over France.

England's centre Manu Tuilagi, centre, breaks through the French defence during a Six Nations international rugby union match on Saturday. Adrian Dennis / AFP
England's centre Manu Tuilagi, centre, breaks through the French defence during a Six Nations international rugby union match on Saturday. Adrian Dennis / AFP

Manu Tuilagi scored a fortunate try as England remained on course for a Six Nations Grand Slam with a 23-13 win over France at Twickenham on Saturday.

Owen Farrell kicked 12 points and replacement fly-half Toby Flood landed two late penalties as England inflicted a third straight defeat of the tournament on bottom-of-the-table France - their worst start to a Championship since they lost their opening three games in the 1982 Five Nations.

Much-improved France turned round 10-9 in front after Wesley Fofana's superb solo score provided the only try of the first half.

The game was still in the balance, with England leading 12-10, when recalled centre Tuilagi scored a try that might have been disallowed for a ruck offence in the build-up.

Owen Farrell and scrum-half Morgan Parra exchanged early penalties before the Englishman struck again to give the hosts the lead.

But France had a try thanks to a brilliant 30th-minute effort from Fofana, released after Vincent Clerc expertly gathered a high ball. Fofana evaded Courtney Lawes and sped past Chris Ashton before avoiding an attempted tap tackle by England captain Chris Robshaw.

Fofana handed off to scrum-half Ben Youngs and the recovering Chris Ashton's desperate dive could not derail a run of more than 60 metres to the line.

Parra converted and France were 10-6 in front.

Farrell's third penalty reduced France's lead to a point at half time and France were made to pay for penalty misses either side of half time when, after a drive off a lineout, Farrell made it four goal kicks from four to edge England 12-10 in front.

Tuilagi extended that lead to 17-10 as the hosts finally crossed France's line.

Yannick Nyanga dropped a high ball and in the ensuing ruck the ball was kicked forward by Tom Wood on to England replacement Mako Vunipola.

However, South African referee Craig Joubert let play continue and the ball squirted out to Tuilagi who powered his way over from 40 metres.

Farrell missed the conversion and France replacement fly-half Frederic Michalak landed a penalty but two late Toby Flood penalties saw England home.

Halfpenny kicks Wales to victory over Italy

Only a fortnight after looking buried, a revived Wales have impetus and a winning streak going in the defence of their Six Nations rugby title after beating Italy 26-9 in rainy Rome.

Wales wore down Italy with two second-half tries and 16 points from Leigh Halfpenny’s trusty boot for a second successive win in the championship.

Only two weeks ago, Wales went to France with last rites ringing their ears over their chances of defending the title. But they won in Paris to end an eight-Test losing streak, and won at the Stadio Olimpico to achieve a fourth successive win away from home for the first time since the tournament expanded in 2000.

Interim coach Rob Howley’s squad still were not close to dominating like they did last season en route to the Grand Slam, but wins by any margin on the continent were precious.

Italy at home have also given Wales fits for a decade, and despite missing suspended captain, Sergio Parisse, were back in the same stadium where they humbled France this month.

“We showed patience and composure and we took our opportunities,” Howley said. “Our scrum was very impressive and gave us the platform.

“International rugby is about fine margins, and it was testament to the attitude of the players today and their application in difficult conditions. The adaptability of the team is very good, and they were once again very well led by Ryan [Jones[.”

Parisse missed his first Six Nations rugby match in nine years without injury as an excuse after he was banned for 30 days by the French Top 14 for swearing at a referee last weekend after being sent off.

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