Ben Youngs, George Ford, Ellis Genge and Jaco Taute have all signed new contracts with Leicester Tigers.

The Premiership club confirmed the new deals for England internationals Youngs and Ford at Welford Road were "long-term".

Along with England team-mate Genge, who has reportedly extended his contract by a year, scrum-half Youngs and fly-half Ford had each signed previous terms in January.

South Africa centre Taute, who joined from Munster last year, has also committed his future to the Tigers.

It means 17 Leicester players have now signed fresh terms despite reports of disputes during talks due to the reduction of the salary cap for the 2021-22 season, with Manu Tuilagi and Telusa Veainu among those to depart.

Director of rugby Geordan Murphy said seeing the likes of Ford "showing a belief in what we are building here and the vision we have for Leicester Tigers is exciting".

He added of Youngs: "Ben loves Leicester Tigers and, like all of us at this club, wants to see it get back to where it belongs.

"He knows there is a tough journey ahead which will take a lot of hard work, on and off the pitch, and has expressed throughout this process that he is committed to whatever it takes."

Leicester were 11th in the table, with four wins from 13 matches, when the Premiership season was suspended in April due to the coronavirus pandemic, with only Saracens keeping off them bottom as they were deducted 105 points for breaching salary cap regulations.

The competition is due to resume from August 15.

England put themselves firmly in the hunt for the Six Nations title and ended Ireland's Grand Slam dream with a 24-12 victory at Twickenham.

Coach Eddie Jones had thrown a curveball with his team selection, in particular the decision to deploy Jonathan Joseph on the wing, but few were left questioning his wisdom at full-time.

With France having beaten reigning champions Wales on Saturday to pile the pressure on both of these teams, it was the hosts – winners over Scotland in atrocious conditions last time out – who responded in style on Sunday to fuel their ambitions.

Ireland coach Andy Farrell will have had his sights set on a clean sweep of victories in the championship after wins over Scotland and Wales, but those hopes were dashed by a team starring his son Owen.

George Ford's early try, facilitated by a Johnny Sexton error that characterised a rare off day for the fly-half, set the tone, with Elliot Daly touching down in not dissimilar circumstances before the break.

Robbie Henshaw darted over in the second half but any prospect of an Ireland comeback was ended when Luke Cowan-Dickie's converted try restored England's advantage, rendering Andrew Porter's stoppage-time score a mere consolation.

England, whose only Six Nations loss at Twickenham in the last 19 matches came against Ireland in 2018, started with remarkable intensity and soon got their reward.

Sexton, who later badly fluffed his lines from a penalty, fumbled from Ben Youngs' grubber kick and Ford was on hand to gather the loose ball and touch down.

Daly was similarly alert to get on the end of Ford's searching kick as Jacob Stockdale was caught off guard, while Owen Farrell added six first-half points with the boot to leave Ireland with a mountain to climb as, in 21 matches between the nations in this competition, no side had ever overcome a half-time deficit to win.

Ireland did prove far more determined after the break and Henshaw broke through the line to cap a prolonged spell of pressure, but Sexton's kick was again wayward.

Sensing the job was not yet done, England attacked with renewed vigour and Cowan-Dickie was the beneficiary of some excellent forward play as he crossed the line and Owen Farrell added the extras, with John Cooney doing likewise after Porter's last-gasp try.

Flying start sets the tone for England

It was a painfully slow start that cost England so badly in the opening defeat to France, but there was no sign of any such complacency on this occasion.

England were up and at Ireland from the first whistle and, after their initial momentum was halted by a fumble from the otherwise outstanding Courtney Lawes, the hosts were quickly on the front foot again, opening the scoring via a combination of the quick-thinking Youngs ​– making his 100th Test appearance – the ever-alert Ford, and the unusually flustered Sexton.

Sorry Sexton human after all

He is one of the very best in world rugby, but that does not mean Sexton is immune to error. He demonstrated that twice in the opening quarter of an hour, which proved a microcosm of the whole contest.

First he treated Youngs' kick through the middle like a hot potato, eventually palming it to the grateful Ford, then he shanked a three-pointer from the tee in a manner quite unbecoming. Another miscue followed in the second half to compound Sexton's woes.

What's next?

England welcome Wales to west London in round four on March 7, while Ireland return to Dublin to host whipping boys Italy on the same day. 

George Furbank will make his England debut in their Six Nations opener against France at full-back following an injury to Anthony Watson.

Watson was not considered for selection due to a calf issue he entered England's training camp with and Eddie Jones has given Northampton Saints back Furbank the nod.

Elliot Daly will consequently start on the left wing and Jonny May on the opposite side at the Stade de France on Sunday.

George Ford has been handed the fly-half berth with Owen Farrell named at inside centre, while Tom Curry gets the number eight spot in the absence of the injured Billy Vunipola.

Luke Cowan-Dickie was scheduled to re-join the squad in Paris on Friday after being granted leave for personal reasons and was among the replacements. Uncapped prop Will Stuart was also named on the bench.

Jones said: "It has been a massively exciting week for us. It is the start of the Six Nations, the best rugby tournament in the world. We have had a great preparation in Portugal with a quality training week this week.

"We have really worried about ourselves, getting ourselves right. We have picked a strong forward pack which is part of the England way and an exciting backline with young George Furbank playing his first Test at full-back.

"France can expect absolute brutality from England, we are going to go out there to make sure they understand what Test rugby is. It is about being brutal, it is about being physical and it is about dominating the set piece."

 

England: George Furbank, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Charlie Ewels, Courtney Lawes, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, George Kruis, Lewis Ludlam, Willi Heinz, Ollie Devoto, Jonathan Joseph.

George Ford cited England's first-half inaccuracy as a key factor in their Rugby World Cup final defeat to South Africa.

A week on from producing one of the great Test displays to beat defending champions New Zealand 19-7, Eddie Jones' men failed to hit anything like the same heights, with the Springboks' immense physicality proving decisive.

Fly-half Ford was replaced by Henry Slade early in the second half as England went down 32-12, late tries for Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe sealing a record-equalling third title for South Africa after Handre Pollard had kicked six penalties.

"We were massively inaccurate first half when we had the ball, [and] couldn't build any pressure," Ford told ITV Sport.

"South Africa got us into that game which they're very good at, so it's very, very disappointing from us and it's a hard one to take."

England's forwards struggled to match their South African counterparts, but Ford was keen to highlight his pack's efforts throughout the tournament.

"You always want to get on the front foot. I can't fault our lads up front - they've been unbelievable all tournament," he said. "South Africa just got one over us today and it's one we have to take on the chin.

"It's so tough when they get a bit of a lead like that. They keep kicking the threes and you have to chase the game.

"Congratulations to them - they executed their game plan brilliantly."

Rassie Erasmus has called on South Africa to revive the spirit of 1995 and 2007 and help bring about vital change in their country by landing the Rugby World Cup.

The Springboks coach sends his team out to tackle marginal favourites England in Saturday's final in Yokohama, with a black captain in Siya Kolisi leading the reigning kings of the Rugby Championship.

Erasmus admitted he was "naive" to think the appointment of Kolisi as South Africa's first black rugby union captain was not majorly significant.

But he is not blind to the fact a South African triumph in rugby's biggest match could lift the nation in the way their predecessors also achieved.

South Africa's 1995 World Cup win will always be remembered for Nelson Mandela, the political prisoner who became president in the early post-apartheid years, handing over the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar.

Should Kolisi lift the Webb Ellis Cup, it would be another landmark moment in South Africa's history.

Looking back to the 1995 triumph, Erasmus said: "We know what impact that had for our country.

"We do have some challenges in our country in different levels and different avenues, but rugby is one of the things that for a few minutes - and sometimes when we win for a few hours, days and months - people forget about their disagreements and stop disagreeing for a while and agree.

"I think what we experienced from 2007 and 1995 is that you can fix a lot of things in that time. In South Africa we need that. That is a maximum motivation for us on Saturday.

"We're trying to win for South Africa but not just because of our supporters but because our country has a lot of things we want to fix and we want to help fix that."

Kolisi emerged from a tough upbringing in a township close to Port Elizabeth to lead his country, yet Erasmus, who will step down as coach after the final, missed what appeared obvious to others when making the captaincy appointment.

"I was a bit naive in thinking this would be such a massive thing with him being captain," Erasmus said. "I picked Siya because he was the best-performing Super Rugby captain [for the Stormers]. It caught us both off guard and his game suffered a bit in the first few games."

Injuries have impeded Kolisi, who will win his 50th cap on Saturday, but Erasmus said: "I think he's fighting fit to have a good final."

England are not worrying about life at home as they seek a second World Cup triumph, after the 2003 final win over Australia in Sydney.

Coach Eddie Jones believes his team are showing a "steeliness" about them that bodes well, and despite admitting there is some nervousness in the camp, the former Japan boss says there is also "a nice relaxed feeling".

"We've spent four years getting ready for this occasion," Jones said on Thursday.

He knows South Africa well - his Japan side stunned them at the 2015 World Cup - and says the Springboks are just as clued up on England's strengths and weaknesses.

"The way the game is at the moment and the amount of games international teams play, you know each other pretty well," Jones said.

"They'll know our players, we know their players. We've got a pretty good idea of how they'll play and they'll have a pretty good idea of how we play.

"So it's more about the fact you've got to be at your best on the day rather than familiarity now."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

England - George Ford

Percy Montgomery kicked South Africa to glory in the 2007 final, slotting over four penalties, and there is a suspicion it could come down to precision from the tee again on Saturday. Ford booted four successful penalties against New Zealand in the semi-finals, and England cannot afford to leave points out on the pitch with the trophy in their sights. Ford, and Owen Farrell if called upon, have the big-game credentials to get the job done.

South Africa - Cheslin Kolbe

Flying wing Kolbe missed the semi-final against Wales with an ankle injury, but the Toulouse flyer is back for the big one. He poses a serious threat to England, bringing pace and panache to the party, and in a game that might be effectively settled by one flash of genius, Kolbe would feature high on any list of potential match-winners. As Farrell said on Thursday: "I think it's clear for everyone to see what kind of a threat he is."

KEY OPTA FACTS

- If England win, they will become the first side to beat Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the same edition of the Rugby World Cup. Only Argentina have previously faced each of the traditional southern hemisphere giants at an edition of the World Cup, losing all three such matches in 2015.

- Both of South Africa's previous Rugby World Cup finals have been try-less affairs (15-12 v New Zealand in 1995, 15-6 v England in 2007).

- South Africa have the best lineout success rate (98 per cent) of any side in the tournament. They had a 100 per cent rate before losing one in their semi-final clash with Wales.

- Owen Farrell needs 11 points to become the second player to reach 100 Rugby World Cup points for England after Jonny Wilkinson (277 points). He averages 10.3 points per game against South Africa (103 in 10 games).

- Manu Tuilagi has scored six tries this year, and no other player in Test rugby has scored as many in 2019 while playing at centre. He has never scored in four previous matches against South Africa, however.

- Makazole Mapimpi already has 13 tries in 13 caps for South Africa, including nine in his last seven appearances.

England have named an unchanged team for the Rugby World Cup final against South Africa in Yokohama on Saturday.

Eddie Jones will deploy the same starting XV that beat two-time defending champions New Zealand in last week's semi-final.

That means captain Owen Farrell, Jonny May and Kyle Sinckler have been declared fit to face the Springboks, having picked up knocks against the All Blacks.

Ben Spencer is among the replacements for England after travelling to Japan to replace the injured Willi Heinz.

"It has been a good week, the players have been together a while now so it's less about the volume of training this week, it's more about sharpening the sword," said Jones, who will oversee his 50th Test in charge of England.

"South Africa are a difficult opponent and we are going to have to fight really hard to win. We know the physical part of the game is going to be important and the players will go into this game well prepared knowing how we want to play. We will go and play with no fear.

"South Africa will probably play a similar type of game they have played all tournament so we need be good in the arm wrestle and when we have the opportunities to break the game up, we are then confident and composed enough to take them."

England are looking to win their second World Cup, having triumphed over Australia in 2003 and finished runners-up to South Africa in 2007.

 

England: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, George Kruis, Mark Wilson, Ben Spencer, Henry Slade, Jonathan Joseph.

Manu Tuilagi's early try set the tone as England shattered New Zealand's hopes of winning an unprecedented third consecutive Rugby World Cup and moved into the final with a famous 19-7 victory.

England dominated the out-of-sorts All Blacks at International Stadium Yokohama on Saturday to set up a showdown with South Africa or Wales at the same venue next weekend.

Tuilagi touched down for a try that Owen Farrell converted inside two minutes and George Ford's penalty just before the break put Eddie Jones' inspired side 10-0 up at half-time.

The defending champions never really got going in an error-strewn display and although Ardie Savea's try gave them hope, another three penalties from the excellent Ford kept England in command.

England – who also had tries from Sam Underhill and Ben Youngs ruled out – were lively in attack and outstanding in defence, sealing a first win over New Zealand for seven years and a maiden World Cup triumph over the holders to replace them at the top of the rankings.

New Zealand's first World Cup loss since 2007 ensured there will be no dream swansong for head coach Steve Hansen, while captain Kieran Read will end his stellar Test career with a third-place play-off.

George Ford has returned to England's starting line-up for the blockbuster Rugby World Cup semi-final showdown with New Zealand on Saturday.

Coach Eddie Jones went with Owen Farrell at fly-half for the last-eight win against Australia but has brought Ford back to face the All Blacks in Yokohama. It means captain Farrell will again be shifted to outside centre at the expense of Henry Slade.

Billy Vunipola will win his 50th Test cap, while fellow back-row forward Mark Wilson is named in the 23 for just the second time in the tournament. He takes Lewis Ludlam's spot among the replacements.

"Preparation has been good this week after a solid win against Australia," said Jones. "When you get to this stage of the World Cup it is all about focusing on being in the moment and getting yourself physically right.

"The squad has approached the game well, with real maturity. It has helped having players here who have been on the [British and Irish] Lions tour and played against New Zealand. They have been involved in some of the biggest games in world rugby so this semi-final won't faze them.

"New Zealand are a great team, they have an impressive winning record since the last World Cup. Like any good team, you have got to take away time and space from them; you have to find areas you can pressure them. We believe we have identified a number of areas where we can do that."

Jones added: "It is a great achievement for Billy to reach 50 Test matches for England and something that is very special for the team. I know his family will be very proud of him and even more so to play the game alongside his brother Mako."

Like Jones, New Zealand coach Steve Hansen also made just one change to his starting XV, with Scott Barrett replacing Sam Cane.

 

England: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, George Kruis, Mark Wilson, Willi Heinz, Henry Slade, Jonathan Joseph.

Matt Toomua has an insight into opponents England from his time with Leicester Tigers, but his assessment of their "weaknesses" will be of little use in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final on Saturday.

Toomua spent three years in the Premiership with Leicester and is set to come face-to-face with a number of former Tigers team-mates in Oita this weekend. 

The versatile 29-year-old is among the Australia replacements to take on an England side including the likes of Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs and Jonny May, with George Ford and Dan Cole on the bench.

Asked for his thoughts on his ex-colleagues, Toomua told a news conference: "I know all their weaknesses. I can list them now for you if you want.

"Manu is a terrible snooker player, George Ford never pays for a beer, Ben Youngs isn't even the best rugby player in his family, let alone his country.

"The chicken, Jonny May, is very weird, and Dan Cole doesn't have a personality. I've just been telling everybody about that."

Shifting to a more serious tone, he added: "No, we had a great relationship with them and one thing we do know is they're all quality players. We were fortunate for the last couple of years when Manu came back from injury, we just saw him grow in stature.

"He probably grows the bigger the game as well. He probably plays his best rugby in Tests, and that's the sign of a true champion player.

"Obviously Manu is a name that sticks out for a lot of reasons - he is a strong carrier and makes a lot of big plays. But it is probably about trying to shut down his time and space.

"He is at 12 now so he is a bit closer to the play, so it might be a little easier in that sense. I'm sure they're working out ways to give him some ball one-on-one at full steam."

While Tuilagi is a very real threat to Australia from the outset, Ford lost the number 10 shirt to Owen Farrell despite an impressive tournament to date.

Captain Farrell said: "I've played fly-half plenty of times before, I'm fine with playing fly-half. It's more about how I can fit in the team and hopefully put us in a place to perform well at the weekend."

Billy Vunipola has been declared fit to start Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final with Australia in Oita, as Eddie Jones makes three changes to the team which defeated Argentina 39-10.

Vunipola has recovered from an ankle injury suffered against Los Pumas a fortnight ago and will take his place alongside brother Mako, who replaces Joe Marler at loose-head prop.

Courtney Lawes is preferred to George Kruis in the second-row, while in-form George Ford has been dropped to the bench in favour of Exeter Chiefs' back Henry Slade.

It means captain Owen Farrell will switch from inside centre to fly-half with Slade playing alongside Manu Tulagi, as the pair that started four of England's five Six Nations matches reunite in midfield.

In the only other change to the 23-man squad that faced Argentina, Jack Nowell is out with a hamstring injury having not trained this week, with Jonathan Joseph earning a recall.

"We feel Mako (Vunipola) is ready to play a significant part in this game with his ability to scrummage and be effective in general play," said England coach Eddie Jones.

"George Ford will finish the game and will have a significant role for us. We just feel at the start of the game it's going to be brutal and having Owen at 10 will serve the team in the best interests.

"The game of rugby is pretty simple. You've got to win the ball, control the ball and score points when you've got it.

"The Australians are a clever team who will have some specific attacking strategies against us, so we will need to have a greater situational awareness, to defend with brutality and play on top of them"

England: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, George Kruis, Lewis Ludlam, Willie Heinz, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph.
 

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