Mar 21, 2016
Six Nations: Saracens celebrate England Grand Slam
It took 13 years to happen but last Saturday night in Paris England secured their first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2003.
Having already secured the title the week previous England’s fate was in their own hands as they travelled to the French capital hoping to secure the unbeaten Six Nations run which had eluded them for so long.
On the night five Saracens were in action for England as they defeated France 33-21 to clinch the Grand Slam. In the second row George Kruis and Maro Itoje formed a stunning partnership that was made even more impressive by the fact the pair have only 19 caps between them. Thoroughly effective at the lineout and one of England’s top tacklers, George Kruis was one of England’s star men in the tournament while Maro Itoje has captured the imagination of the rugby world with his sheer ability at the age of only 21. Their second row dominance was illustrated over the tournament as England totalled the most lineout steals of any team, making 12 steals over their five games.
In the backs Owen Farrell also enjoyed a strong outing in Paris, kicking 16 points from the tee including two penalties towards the close of the game to pull England clear of a chasing French side. Farrell was also effective in defence, making 13 tackles in the game, joint second of all the England players.
Man of the match on the night was Saracens Billy Vunipola, who claimed the award for the third time in the tournament. It was a stunning tournament for Vunipola in the end whose intensity and power were unrivalled. Over the 400 minutes he spent on the pitch Billy totalled 325 metres made, 72 carries, 8 offloads and 24 defenders beaten.
Overall it was a strong tournament for all the Saracens in England colours. Jamie George, who impressed regularly off the bench in the early stages of the tournament, was unlucky to be ruled out of the last two fixtures with a bicep injury while Mako Vunipola played his role in an England scrum which was much improved from the autumn’s World Cup. Alex Goode, who featured off the bench in the early stages of the tournament, was perhaps unfortunate not to feature more in the match day 23s given his recent form for Sarries.
While the headlines of the tournament have largely belonged to England, the tournament was also a positive one for Scotland who built on their excellent World Cup performance by mounting a real challenge for a top three finish in this year’s competition. In the end it was a fourth place finish for the Scots, following a 35-25 defeat to Ireland last weekend in Dublin. One of the stand out players for Scotland this Six Nations was without a doubt Saracens centre Duncan Taylor. Before the tournament Taylor had often found himself on the fringes of the Scotland squad but this year’s Six Nations saw him cement his position in the Scotland midfield and earn a nomination for the player of the tournament following a string of impressive performances, featuring two particularly stunning tries and a memorable try saving tackle.
At the same time as the senior tournament has been taking place the U20s have also been in action with Saracens very own Max Malins, George Perkins and Dom Morris lining up alongside each other against France last weekend. The U20s have had a more difficult tournament than their seniors with a 41-17 defeat away to France last Saturday their fourth of the tournament. Despite the result there were some encouraging performances from the side, in particular from full back Max Mallins who showed off his finishing skills as he scored England’s first try of the game.
In the Women’s Six Nations tournament England fell agonisingly short of the title as they were defeated 17-12 in a tight encounter against France for whom the victory sealed their Six Nations triumph. Named in the match day starting 15 were Saracens centre Lauren Cattell and winger Lotte Clapp while forward Poppy Cleall was named on the bench. Despite the disappointment the tournament was a huge improvement for England’s women young side after last season’s fourth place finish.
Saracens international stars will now return to Allianz Park to finish the 2015/16 season before England Women embark on their own summer tour while the men head to Australia for three tests and Scotland head to Japan for two matches in June.