Andy Farrell feels a “top drawer” defence is fuelling Ireland’s pursuit of successive Grand Slam titles as he turns his attention to nullifying England’s new blitz approach.

The reigning Guinness Six Nations champions limited Wales to a penalty try during Saturday’s 31-7 success in Dublin after nilling Italy 36-0 in round two on the back of beating France 38-17.

Ireland, who have scored 15 tries across the three bonus-points wins, travel to Twickenham on March 9 seeking to keep their championship clean sweep quest on track before hosting Scotland on the final weekend.

Head coach Farrell expects England to “go harder” as they get to grips with adopting an aggressive defensive strategy orchestrated by coach Felix Jones, who joined Steve Borthwick’s staff after helping South Africa retain the Rugby World Cup in the autumn.

“It’s the South African defence and I know that Felix will constantly try and put his stamp on implementing that,” said Farrell.

“There’s always going to be teething problems at the start but they’ll go harder because that’s their philosophy.

“Our defence is top drawer, there’s no doubt about that.

“It has been for quite some time now.

“It was unbelievably fitting that we kept them (Wales) out because of the fight and want to be able to do that.

“I thought our defensive shape wasn’t very nice at times but our intent certainly on the line said a lot about how much they love defending for one another.”

Following two Twickenham defeats in the first year of the Farrell era, Ireland have beaten England four times in a row.

Borthwick’s men were minutes away from reaching the World Cup final in October but have made an unconvincing start to the championship with narrow wins over Italy and Wales followed by Saturday’s 30-21 Calcutta Cup loss in Scotland.

While Ireland will be favourites in south-west London, Farrell is aware matches can quickly change course after seeing Wales briefly gain the upper hand at the Aviva Stadium having trailed 17-0 at the break.

“Going to Twickenham, everyone knows how difficult a task that is,” he said.

“It’s not just as simple as saying we need to be better to win.

“Of course we always want to play better but the game is what it is, from minute one.

“For example, we’re winning the penalty count hands down at half-time (against Wales) and then all of a sudden within minutes of the second half, it has evened up.

“That could happen in two weeks’ time, role reversal. The game takes its own shape but there’s parts of our game we obviously need to improve.”

Paolo Garbisi apologised for missing the injury-time penalty that denied Italy a slice of Guinness Six Nations history in France.

The scores were level at 13-13 when Garbisi stepped up from 38 metres, with Italy a successful kick away from their first Six Nations Championship away win against Les Bleus.

There was added drama as the ball toppled off its tee and, with just a few seconds left on the shot clock after it had been replaced, Garbisi rushed his kick and struck the right-hand post.

“I was thinking about trusting my process really, it’s part of my job to put the kick over,” said Toulon fly-half Garbisi.

“I take full responsibility for that and I’m sorry for the team because I thought they were amazing.

“Also for all the Italian supporters, that’s my bad, and I will work on it.”

Italy had lost 45 of their previous 48 games against France with their only victory on French soil coming in 1997, three years before joining the Championship.

The Azzurri had also won only once in 44 Championship attempts, away to Wales in 2022.

Italy were forced to defend for long periods in the first half but only trailed 10-0 when France centre Jonathan Danty was dismissed for making head-to-head contact in tackling Ignacio Brex.

Danty’s yellow card on the stroke of half-time was upgraded to red during the interval by the bunker review system.

In the second half, Garbisi cut a 13-3 deficit with a penalty before his touchline conversion levelled matters after full-back Ange Capuozzo ended a fine Azzurri move.

Garbisi said: “The performance was good overall. If you get to 13-13 in the last minute with France, I think you’ve done pretty well.

“The extra man helped us in the second half. First half we spent too much time in our half, because with the possession we were not that great.

“Second half with one more man we could attack more and find space, but it all comes down to the last kick really.”

While Italy remain bottom of the table, level on three points with Wales but with an inferior points difference, France stay fourth, nine points behind runaway leaders Ireland.

France’s underwhelming championship has seen them routed at home by Ireland and claiming a narrow victory over Scotland after a controversial decision not to award the hosts a try in the last action of the match.

“We were probably overplaying a little bit at the end of the game and took one too many risks and gave a penalty away,” France defence coach Shaun Edwards told ITV.

“Fortunately he missed the kick but we’re disappointed with the draw. We expected to beat Italy here.

“We had all the ball in the first half, total domination of territory and possession.

“The second half was almost the total opposite. To concede 13 points with 14 players is not too bad, but we’re disappointed we didn’t get the win.”

Ireland and Scotland savoured victories in the third round of the Guinness Six Nations and Italy claimed an historic 13-13 draw against France, the first time the Azzurri have avoided Championship defeat away to Les Bleus.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five things we learned from the weekend’s action.

Mouthguards concern

New technology surrounding mouthguards are concerning Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend. Scotland temporarily lost a second player in successive Six Nations matches for a head injury assessment triggered by the new technology. This championship is the first time elite male players have worn ‘instrumented’ mouthguards that send alerts whenever a ‘head acceleration event’ with G-force that exceeds 70g and 4,000 radians per second squared is detected. But Townsend said after Calcutta Cup success: “There’s a bit more work to do before this technology is correct.”

Ireland appear unstoppable

No side has managed back-to-back Grand Slams in the Six Nations era, but Ireland are within two games of doing so and it would take a brave punter to bet against them. Ireland recorded an 18th straight home win with a routine 31-7 success over Wales, equalling England’s Six Nations record of 11 consecutive victories. Andy Farrell’s side did not even have to produce their best to claim a third bonus-point win from three games – and now only England at Twickenham and Scotland in Dublin can stop Ireland holding another Grand Slam party.

Scotland have England’s number

The last time Scotland won four Calcutta Cups in a row Queen Victoria was on the throne and Lord Salisbury was Prime Minister. The year was 1896 and England failed to get on the board in a 11-0 Glasgow defeat. Over a century on, England slid to a 30-21 loss as Duhan Van Der Merwe supplied the Murrayfield magic in front of Harry Potter author JK Rowling. Van Der Merwe became the first Scotland player to score a Calcutta Cup hat-trick in moving to within one of the country’s all-time record try-scorer Stuart Hogg.

Feyi-Waboso hits right notes

New England wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso is known to tickle the ivories and apparently impressed head coach Steve Borthwick with his piano-playing at the team hotel. Borthwick would also have admired the way Feyi-Waboso sped through for his first Test try after coming on as a Murrayfield replacement. The powerful 21-year-old, who was born in Cardiff to Nigerian parents, spotted space and cut a delicious line to score. It was a touch of class to a predictable attacking performance from England, and calls for a starting spot are now set to be deafening.

Winnett is a winner

Full-back was potentially a problem position for Wales heading into the Six Nations, with Liam Williams unavailable due to club commitments in Japan, Leigh Halfpenny having retired from Test rugby and the versatile Louis Rees-Zammit quitting rugby union to try and forge an American football career. But step forward Cameron Winnett, who looks to the manner born just three games into his Test career. The 21-year-old has excelled in all areas and he was arguably Wales’ best player against Ireland. Nothing seems to fluster him.

Italy were within the width of a post of the biggest upset in Six Nations history as they drew 13-13 against 14-man France in Lille.

Paolo Garbisi had a last-gasp penalty attempt from 38 metres to register Italy’s first-ever Championship win in France.

But the ball toppled off its tee and, with just a few seconds left on the shot clock after it had been replaced, Garbisi rushed his kick and struck the right-hand post.

France – who had won 45 of their previous 48 Test matches against Italy, including the past 14 in a row – had lost Jonathan Danty to a red card on the stroke of half-time for a high shot on opposite centre Ignacio Brex.

Les Bleus thrashed Italy 60-7 at last year’s World Cup but a repeat of that one-sided encounter did not materialise as the Azzurri underlined their improvement under new head coach Gonzalo Quesada.

Italy remain bottom of the Guinness Six Nations, level on points with Wales, while France stay in fourth place, with their title dream over.

France started at breakneck pace and were rewarded with a seventh-minute try.

Italy were unable to stop a series of pick-and-go’s through the middle of their defence and skipper Charles Ollivon got the ball down under a pile of Azzurri bodies.

Thomas Ramos dispatched a simple conversion and swiftly added a penalty as France suggested the game could be effectively over by half-time.

Italy spent most of the first half hanging on by their fingernails, and were not helped by a risky strategy of trying to escape their 22 with ball in hand.

Fly-half Matthieu Jalibert was stopped near to the line and 19-year-old lock Posolo Tuilagi almost celebrated his first Test start with a try.

But Tuilagi was held up over the line and the contest took a dramatic turn in the final play of the first half as Italy launched a rare attack.

There was clear head-on-head contact between Danty and Brex, and English referee Christophe Ridley reduced France to 14 men with a yellow card.

Martin Page-Relo provided further punishment to France from long range, and Ridley confirmed after the interval that the bunker review system had upgraded Danty’s yellow to red.

France made light of their numerical disadvantage as their forwards rallied for Ramos to land his second penalty.

Tommaso Menoncello went close to an Azzurri try, kicking ahead before running out of ground, but Garbisi cut the gap to seven points again with a straightforward penalty.

Italy drew level 10 minutes from time after building through the phases for Leonardo Marin to find Ange Capuozzo with a superb offload.

Garbisi converted but then failed to top it as Italy, with only two Six Nations wins over France since joining the Championship in 2000, fell agonisingly short of a second success in 45 matches.

Italy were within the width of a post of the biggest upset in Six Nations history as they drew 13-13 against 14-man France in Lille.

Paolo Garbisi had a last-gasp penalty attempt from 38 metres to register Italy’s first-ever Championship win in France.

But the ball toppled off its tee and, with just a few seconds left on the shot clock after it had been replaced, Garbisi rushed his kick and struck the right-hand post.

France – who had won 45 of their previous 48 Test matches against Italy, including the past 14 in a row – had lost Jonathan Danty to a red card on the stroke of half-time for a high shot on opposite centre Ignacio Brex.

Les Bleus thrashed Italy 60-7 at last year’s World Cup but a repeat of that one-sided encounter did not materialise as the Azzurri underlined their improvement under new head coach Gonzalo Quesada.

Italy remain bottom of the Guinness Six Nations, level on points with Wales, while France stay in fourth place, with their title dream over.

France started at breakneck pace and were rewarded with a seventh-minute try.

Italy were unable to stop a series of pick-and-go’s through the middle of their defence and skipper Charles Ollivon got the ball down under a pile of Azzurri bodies.

Thomas Ramos dispatched a simple conversion and swiftly added a penalty as France suggested the game could be effectively over by half-time.

Italy spent most of the first half hanging on by their fingernails, and were not helped by a risky strategy of trying to escape their 22 with ball in hand.

Fly-half Matthieu Jalibert was stopped near to the line and 19-year-old lock Posolo Tuilagi almost celebrated his first Test start with a try.

But Tuilagi was held up over the line and the contest took a dramatic turn in the final play of the first half as Italy launched a rare attack.

There was clear head-on-head contact between Danty and Brex, and English referee Christophe Ridley reduced France to 14 men with a yellow card.

Martin Page-Relo provided further punishment to France from long range, and Ridley confirmed after the interval that the bunker review system had upgraded Danty’s yellow to red.

France made light of their numerical disadvantage as their forwards rallied for Ramos to land his second penalty.

Tommaso Menoncello went close to an Azzurri try, kicking ahead before running out of ground, but Garbisi cut the gap to seven points again with a straightforward penalty.

Italy drew level 10 minutes from time after building through the phases for Leonardo Marin to find Ange Capuozzo with a superb offload.

Garbisi converted but then failed to top it as Italy, with only two Six Nations wins over France since joining the Championship in 2000, fell agonisingly short of a second success in 45 matches.

Cam Redpath has challenged Scotland to win their last two Guinness Six Nations matches and give themselves a chance of championship glory for the first time in 25 years.

The Scots made it two victories out of three on Saturday as they defeated England 30-21 to claim the Calcutta Cup for a fourth year in succession – a feat they had not previously achieved since the 1890s.

Gregor Townsend’s side conclude their campaign with away matches against Italy and on-song tournament favourites Ireland next month and victories in both matches might be enough to secure them a first championship triumph since 1999, depending what happens in the next round of fixtures.

Even if the Six Nations title proves beyond them, though, Scotland can still land a first Triple Crown since 1990 and achieve four victories in a championship for the first time in the Six Nations era.

“We’ve just got to keep pushing on, we want to win the next two games,” said centre Redpath.

“We’ve got to push again to get a good performance in Rome and then go to Dublin in the last weekend.

“We’ve definitely still got plenty to play for. If we win the next two games, we’ve got a great shot at winning this tournament, there’s no doubt about that.”

Redpath entered the fray seconds into the second half as a replacement for Sione Tuipulotu, who limped off with a knee injury that could place his involvement in the closing two matches in jeopardy.

If the Glasgow centre is unable to recover in time for Rome and Dublin, Redpath would be the likeliest candidate to step into the starting XV after delivering what head coach Gregor Townsend described as an “outstanding” second-half performance.

A little over four minutes after coming on, the on-form Bath centre produced a magnificent pirouette on the half-way line to eliminate most of the England defence and create an opening that led to Duhan Van Der Merwe completing his historic, match-definining hat-trick.

“I didn’t really think about it, I could feel someone getting close to me and I just kind of spun and found myself in a little bit of space,” said Redpath. “It happens in rugby, there’s always a bit of space, and luckily I found it.”

Redpath, 24, won his 12th cap on Saturday – three years after his debut in an 11-6 away win over England – but he has started only three matches for his country to date.

Injuries in addition to the form of established starters Tuipulotu and Huw Jones have restricted his opportunities in the past few seasons but he has big ambitions at international level.

“I want to play in big games and show people I can do it on this stage,” he said. “I know a lot of the England boys, I play against a lot of them and I play with some of them, so it (the Calcutta Cup) is always a big game for me.

“It’s a goal of mine to be starting more for Scotland but we’ve got some brilliant centres at the minute, who are right up there, so it’s always going to be tough.

“They’ve proved it time and time again, and they did again for the first try when Sione put Huw through for the first try and Duhan finished it off. It’s good competition to have.”

Jamie George conceded England were “not good enough” in their Calcutta Cup defeat to Scotland but the captain remained adamant they were heading in the right direction overall under Steve Borthwick.

The Red Rose lost 30-21 at Murrayfield on Saturday, bringing to an end their unbeaten start to this year’s Guinness Six Nations campaign after narrow wins away to Italy and at home to Wales.

England had arrived in Edinburgh having won eight of their previous nine matches, with their only setback in that run being the agonising World Cup semi-final defeat by eventual winners South Africa in October.

George understood the negative reaction to losing the Calcutta Cup match for a fourth year in succession – the first time that had happened since 1896. However, the 33-year-old rejected the suggestion that talk of English progress since last summer had been overblown.

“If you look at our run of form over the last nine/10 games, we’ve won a lot of them,” George pointed out.

“If you look at the more global picture of where we are as a team and how we are progressing as a team, if you take a step back and look at it as a whole, there are a lot of positive signs.

“Do we need to get better? Absolutely. Are we doing everything we can to do that? Yes.”

George felt England gave a snapshot of their potential in the opening quarter at Murrayfield, when George Furbank’s try helped them open up a 10-0 lead and knock the Scots out of their stride.

However, he knows they fell out of the game all too easily thereafter as Duhan Van Der Merwe scored a hat-trick to turn the game heavily in the hosts’ favour before a 67th minute score from England substitute Immanuel Feyi-Waboso reduced the deficit to nine points.

“The foundations are good but as players we need to execute the gameplan better,” said George. “We knew it would be difficult coming up here, with the history that goes into the game, but we weren’t good enough.

“One thing that hopefully the fans saw in the first 20 minutes of the game is a blueprint for how we want to play as a team. Now it’s about our ability to do it for 80 minutes.

“There will be things that we look back on and go, ‘that’s what English rugby needs to be about, that’s what this team needs to be about going forward’.

“I think we saw a lot of that in the first 20 minutes but I didn’t see it in the second 20 and the contrast will be pretty clear when we look back at it.

“It’s a huge learning for us. We’re a young team excited to learn and we need to learn fast going ahead to the Ireland game.”

George courageously led England into the Murrayfield showdown just over a week after losing his mother Jane following a short battle with lung cancer.

Asked if it was important for him to get a couple of days off to take stock before returning to camp to prepare for the home match against Ireland a week on Saturday, the hooker said: “Yes, I guess so.

“We’re assembling again on Wednesday. It’s important for everyone to get some time off in these breaks. Test rugby can be pretty cruel at times and we saw that today.

“I think it’s important for everyone to spend some time with their families.”

Despite Saturday’s setback, George was already looking forward to hosting Grand Slam-chasing Ireland.

“The fact we are back at Twickenham is very exciting to me,” he said. “We’ve spoken a lot about the record we want to create at Twickenham and how hard a place it needs to be for opposition to come to.

“That’s very much going to be our focus. Ireland are a great team, we know that, but we’re going to be a very tough team to beat at Twickenham.”

Warren Gatland is convinced Wales are on course to become “an excellent team” despite a third successive defeat in another gloomy Guinness Six Nations campaign.

Gatland’s inexperienced side are battling to avoid the ignominy of the wooden spoon following Saturday’s 31-7 loss to title favourites Ireland.

Defeat in Dublin followed narrow losses to Scotland and England in this year’s tournament and was a 10th in 11 championship matches overall.

New Zealander Gatland, whose team host France in round four before Italy visit Cardiff on the final weekend, remains upbeat and offered an example from his playing days to demonstrate how fortunes can improve.

“I look back on my own career as a player, playing for Waikato against Auckland after the 1987 World Cup,” he said.

“They had a number of All Blacks and they probably put 40 points on us.

“We were starting to become a good team and coming off that experience, I wanted to play them next week.

“Because that’s what I learned from as a player and hopefully these guys are getting the same experience from that.

“A couple of years later, we ended up turning the tables on them.

“I have no doubt where we’re going, this team is going to be an excellent team going forward, when we get some more experience.”

Wales registered a third scoreless half in as many games as tries from Dan Sheehan and James Lowe helped the Grand Slam-chasing hosts lead 17-0 at the break.

A positive response brought a penalty try early in the second period but the visitors failed to capitalise on further chances in Ireland’s 22 before scores from Ciaran Frawley and Tadhg Beirne killed off the contest.

More than a third of Wales’ match-day 23 arrived at the Aviva Stadium with cap totals in single figures, and Gatland is keen to keep things in perspective.

“I think that we’ve said all along that it’s about the development of this team and learning,” said the 60-year-old, who returned for a second spell in charge ahead of last year’s Six Nations.

“They’ve played against one of the best teams in the world.

“Eight or nine of their team are over 30 and have been around for a while.

“It’s just making sure we keep working hard, doing what we’re doing and looking forward to the next game.

“It’s all about talking to players individually about how they found it out there, what did they learn from it, how they’ll be better next time as an individual.”

Wales captain Dafydd Jenkins hopes to help his country reach the same level as reigning champions Ireland.

“That’s where we want to be as a team,” said the 21-year-old Exeter lock, who is 13 years younger than Irish skipper Peter O’Mahony.

“Personally, I’ve seen where I want to get to as a player. I’m sure the rest of the team has as well.

“We’re going to push and work hard every day to make sure we get to that level.”

Robbie Henshaw insists Grand Slam-chasing Ireland must improve on a “scrappy” win over Wales in order to topple England at “cauldron” Twickenham.

Andy Farrell’s men kept themselves on course for successive Guinness Six Nations clean sweeps by registering a third consecutive bonus-point victory with Saturday’s 31-7 triumph in Dublin.

Ireland raced into a 17-0 half-time lead but then endured some nervy moments against Warren Gatland’s unfancied visitors before running out resounding victors.

The reigning champions have a fortnight’s break for fine tuning ahead of taking on Steve Borthwick’s side in south-west London on March 9.

“We knew Wales had nothing to lose and they threw the kitchen sink at us,” said Henshaw, who came off the bench in a 32-15 win away to England in the 2022 championship.

“The game itself was quite scrappy and we got momentum and it then stalled a bit.

“The fact we finished strong was a positive for us and it sets us up nicely for the next few weeks.

“Twickenham’s always a tricky place to go. It’s always that kind of cauldron environment.

“The last time we played there we had a good result but it’s going to be a tough game. We’ll have to get better again.”

Tries from Dan Sheehan, James Lowe, Ciaran Frawley and Tadhg Beirne, plus 11 points from the boot of Jack Crowley, were sufficient to comfortably dispatch Wales.

Ireland are now the only team yet to lose in this year’s tournament after England were beaten 30-21 in their Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland on Saturday evening.

The Scots are due to visit the Aviva Stadium on the final weekend.

Henshaw says Grand Slam talk will remain muted for the time being.

“It (back-to-back Grand Slams) is out there but we’re literally taking it game to game and training session to training session,” he said.

“Our next focus will be England and putting in a huge performance there.

“That (the Grand Slam) is in the background. We need to be looking at England and probably no further.”

Henshaw has played all-but 17 minutes of Ireland’s campaign so far on the back of a frustrating World Cup, severely hampered by injury.

The 30-year-old, who has partnered both Bundee Aki and Stuart McCloskey amid the injury absence of Garry Ringrose, is pleased to be back on track at Test level and feels midfield competition is fierce.

“Form comes with minutes you play and the more games you play, probably the better you will get,” he said.

“For me, the positive thing is just getting that run of games with Leinster and then into this campaign. It’s great to have back-to-back games and just building on it.

“Everyone who’s been playing this season has been on fire for their club.

“We’re blessed that we have such talent in the country that Stuart McCloskey last week stepped in and did an unbelievable job and Bundee’s been bringing his World Cup form through to this season.

“We’re in a great place with the talent we have and it’s great to see the performances being put on the pitch.”

On this day in 2009, Jason Robinson was appointed head coach of Premiership club Sale.

The former England back spent seven years as a player with the Sharks, captaining them to the Premiership title in 2006, before hanging up his boots after the 2007 World Cup final.

Prior to that, Robinson played nine years of rugby league before switching codes in 2000, where he played a key role in England’s 2003 World Cup victory.

The former Great Britain rugby league international joined Sale on a two-year deal and the club announced he would work beneath director of rugby Kingsley Jones, who described Robinson as a “proven 100 per cent winner”.

“It’s fantastic news for the club that Jason has agreed to join the coaching staff,” Jones said.

“It’s no coincidence that the three years that Jason was captain was the most successful in the club’s history.

“Jason has been a professional since the age of 16 and everything he has done in both codes he has been successful at.

“He is renowned for his enthusiasm and drive and is a proven 100 per cent winner.

“He also has great mentoring skills which will prove invaluable in his work with the senior and academy players at the club.”

Robinson spent just over a year in the role as head coach before he was replaced by ex-New Zealand All Blacks forward Mike Brewer.

Frustrated Steve Borthwick felt his work-in-progress England team were taught “a real painful lesson” by a Duhan Van Der Merwe-inspired Scotland after the Red Rose crashed to a fourth consecutive Calcutta Cup defeat at Murrayfield.

The visitors arrived in Edinburgh hoping to make it three Guinness Six Nations victories in a row, but after a bright start in which a George Furbank try helped them carve a 10-0 lead in the opening quarter of an hour.

However, they lost their way and were put to the sword by their clinical hosts who ran out 30-21 winners.

Van Der Merwe – who scored a double in the Scots’ win at Twickenham last year – was again England’s tormentor-in-chief as he became the first man in a dark blue jersey to score a Calcutta Cup hat-trick.

“After a defeat and performance when you don’t think you’ve maximised your potential, it’s always disappointment,” said head coach Borthwick.

“I don’t think the team maximised their potential today.

“When you make that number of handling errors at this level, it’s very difficult to win, especially against a team of Scotland’s quality.

“Ultimately we made it too easy for Scotland to score, but they were very clinical.

“It’s a huge lesson for our team as we develop. The number of turnovers made it very difficult to win.”

England arrived in Edinburgh on the back of one defeat in nine matches, but they received something of a reality check at the hands of a Scotland side who are more established as a team under Gregor Townsend.

“We’d all love progression to be a nice linear path but ultimately it’s not, especially when you are trying to do it at this level,” said Borthwick.

“What you saw is a team that is trying to develop, a team that is trying to add layers to their game.

“We made errors today and got punished – sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don’t. Against a team like Scotland, you don’t.

“It’s a big learning experience, it’s a real painful lesson against a Scotland team that’s been together a long time. They had a lot of experience.

“I think that’s the first time our 10, 12 and 13 had started together and it looked like that, didn’t it? There was a lack of cohesion and too many fundamental errors.”

Van Der Merwe’s match-winning treble – including a stunning burst from his own half to edge the Scots ahead – took him to 26 tries for Scotland, within one of the national team’s all-time record try-scorer Stuart Hogg.

Co-captain Rory Darge admitted it was a huge advantage to his side to have a powerful, jet-heeled outlet like the Edinburgh wing to get them up the pitch in such barnstorming fashion.

“It’s game-changing when he has a half-opportunity, takes it and scores,” said the back-rower. “That (second try while trailing 10-7) is a massive momentum-swinger.

“As a forward, it’s definitely nice when you’re working hard in the rucks and you see Duhan run the length. It’s such a good feeling.”

A fortnight after their agonising home defeat by France, Darge was delighted that Scotland got their championship back on track as they made it two wins from three, with trips to Italy and Ireland to come next month.

“It’s a very different feeling in the changing room compared to two weeks ago,” he said. “Even though there were bits we didn’t do well, to win with a nine-point margin, we’re delighted.

“It was scrappy to start with for sure, but we weathered that. We made a few mistakes and part of that was the pressure England put us under.

“But Finn (Russell) and Benny (White) controlled the game and put us in the right places, and the forwards went to work on the back of that.

“We had spoken about momentum through the week and when it was with us, we really leaned into it.”

Scotland have lost only one of their last seven meetings with England, although this was Darge’s first taste of the fixture.

The 23-year-old dismissed any notion that victories over the Auld Enemy can now be taken for granted by the Scots.

“We’re definitely delighted to get the win – it’s the Calcutta Cup,” he said. “It’s my first one so I’m delighted personally.

“I thought the atmosphere was outstanding and I’m going to enjoy it. You have to enjoy it then put it to bed so we can come back and really get after the Italy game.”

Magnificent Duhan Van Der Merwe became the first player to score a Calcutta Cup hat-trick for Scotland as they soared to their fourth consecutive victory over England in an intoxicating Guinness Six Nations showdown in Edinburgh.

The jet-heeled wing – who scored a stunning double at Twickenham just over 12 months ago – had the home crowd in raptures as he produced a Murrayfield masterclass to inspire his team to a 30-21 victory and move to within one of Scotland’s all-time record try-scorer Stuart Hogg.

England started brightly and opened up an early 10-0 lead, with George Furbank scoring his first international try, but Steve Borthwick’s men offered little thereafter as their unbeaten start to the championship shuddered to a halt.

Remarkably, the Red Rose have now won only one of the last seven meetings with Scotland.

Led into battle by courageous captain Jamie George just over a week after he lost his mother to cancer, England made a strong start.

Having forced the Scots back from the outset, the Red Rose got themselves ahead in the fifth minute when Northampton full-back Furbank – making his first start in almost two years – bounded over gleefully from close range after being played in by Elliot Daly at the end of a brilliant move.

Scotland suffered a further setback moments later when Zander Fagerson had to go off for an HIA, although the influential prop was able to return to the fray in the 18th minute.

By that point, England had opened up a 10-0 lead, with Ford kicking a penalty in the 15th minute.

Scotland had been in a state of disarray for most of the opening quarter, but they suddenly sparked into life and got themselves back into the game in the 20th minute.

Huw Jones made a dash for the line on the right and after being dragged to the ground, the centre flipped the ball up into the path of Van Der Merwe, who produced a superb piece of skill to find a gap and bolt over.

The early wind had been removed from England’s sails and Van Der Merwe edged the Scots in front on the half-hour mark with a breathtaking score from his own half.

As the visitors mounted an attack, Ford’s heavy pass bounced off the face of Furbank and into the hands of Jones, who instantly offloaded to Van der Merwe 60 metres out.

The wing put on the after-burners and raced clear up the left, leaving a trail of white jerseys in his slipstream. Finn Russell added the extras before stretching the hosts’ advantage to 17-10 with a penalty shortly afterwards.

England were wobbling, but Ford kept his cool to reduce their interval deficit to four points with an opportunist drop goal from 35 yards out.

Scotland suffered what appeared to be a blow within seconds of the second half kicking off when Sione Tuipulotu limped off to be replaced by Cam Redpath.

However, the substitute centre was instrumental in the hosts going further ahead in the 45th minute when he burst through a gap on the halfway line.

A ruck ensued as Redpath was halted in his tracks, and Russell produced one of his trademark cross-field kicks out to the left for Van Der Merwe, who burst over for his hat-trick and his 26th try for Scotland.

Ford reduced the deficit to 24-16 with a penalty in the 50th minute, but Russell put the home side firmly back in command with a couple of penalties either side of the hour mark.

England – having offered little since the opening quarter – gave themselves a glimmer of hope in the 67th minute when replacement wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso bolted over on the left.

Fin Smith – with the chance to bring his side within a converted try of victory – hit the post with the conversion, leaving the Scots nine points ahead and able to see out the remainder of the match in relatively comfortable fashion.

Not even a yellow card in the closing moments for a tip tackle could take the shine off Van Der Merwe’s day.

Wales boss Warren Gatland backed Ireland to clinch back-to-back Grand Slam titles after his side suffered a 31-7 Guinness Six Nations defeat in Dublin.

Tries from Dan Sheehan, James Lowe, Ciaran Frawley and Tadhg Beirne kept Andy Farrell’s reigning champions on course to become the first team to achieve the feat in the Six Nations era.

Ireland travel to Twickenham to take on England on March 9 before hosting Scotland on the final weekend of the tournament.

Gatland, who led Wales to three Grand Slams during his first spell in charge, believes Ireland’s ominous march towards another clean sweep will be difficult to stop.

“I think they’re definitely capable of doing it,” he said. “They’ve got the experience and the composure and players who can carry and get them on the front foot.

“I think they will be a hard team to knock over.”

Wales finished the opening period scoreless for the third match on the bounce at 17-0 down.

An improved second-half showing, which brought the consolation of a penalty try followed by a yellow card for Ireland lock Beirne, sparked brief hope of a fightback before the visitors slipped to a third successive loss following narrow defeats to Scotland and England.

Gatland felt his inexperienced team showed “huge heart and character” at the Aviva Stadium and thought the margin of victory flattered the hosts.

“The scoreline at the end probably didn’t reflect the effort we put in,” he said.

“At 17-7, attacking their 22, we didn’t come away with anything.

“We just didn’t get a foothold in the game in the first half. I thought there were a couple of tough calls against us so it was difficult to get momentum.

“I can’t question the effort of the players and how hard they worked.

“We showed some huge heart and character today.

“The scoreline’s probably not right. But it does reflect the difference between the two sides at the moment, where we are and where they are in terms of experience.”

Ireland kept their quest for successive Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam titles on track by brushing aside spirited Wales with a dominant 31-7 victory in Dublin.

Andy Farrell’s men backed up crushing wins over France and Italy with a third consecutive bonus-point triumph to keep themselves in pole position for further championship glory.

First-half tries from Dan Sheehan and James Lowe paved the way for the reigning champions to equal England’s tournament record of 11 wins in a row.

Wales avoided embarrassment at the Aviva Stadium and briefly threatened an improbable fightback thanks to a second-half spell which brought a penalty try and a yellow card for Tadhg Beirne.

But a first Test try for stand-in Ireland full-back Ciaran Frawley broke their resolve before Beirne atoned for his earlier error by securing the bonus point at the death on an afternoon when flawless fly-half Jack Crowley kicked 11 points.

Ireland’s ominous march towards another clean sweep continues next month against England and Scotland, while winless Wales host France in round four ahead of a possible wooden spoon shoot-out with Italy.

A largely inexperienced Wales team crossed the Irish Sea as overwhelming underdogs on the back of narrow defeats to the Scots and Steve Borthwick’s side.

Visiting head coach Warren Gatland insisted he travelled with belief rather than hope and urged his players to make “everything uncomfortable” for the fancied hosts.

Wales’ bid to disrupt began with some colossal defending as the home team’s early dominance was initially rewarded only by a long-range Crowley penalty.

Yet Ireland’s well-oiled machine persisted with wave after wave of attack to break down the staunch resistance and take control of the scoreboard.

Hooker Sheehan powered over at the end of a line-out maul in the 21st minute to claim his fourth try of the tournament before Calvin Nash later teed up Lowe to touch down in the left corner.

Wales finally enjoyed some forays into Ireland’s 22 just before the break.

But Sam Costelow’s decision to kick a penalty to the corner failed to pay off, while a couple of costly fumbles ensured they went into half-time scoreless for a third match on the bounce, at 17-0 down.

Any potential fears Wales had of joining Italy in being nilled in Dublin were extinguished within three minutes of the restart as Tomos Williams’ quick tap penalty led to a momentum shift.

Italian referee Andrea Piardi awarded a penalty try at the end of a lengthy review of a collapsed maul on Ireland’s line, with Beirne sent to the sin bin for illegally changing his bind.

Fired-up Wales were well and truly in the ascendancy at that stage but failed to make further inroads on the scoreboard in Beirne’s absence before Ireland restored order.

After the bulldozing Bundee Aki was denied a try on review for Robbie Henshaw’s knock on, Frawley, deputising for the injured Hugo Keenan, gleefully dived under the posts to celebrate his first Test start in style.

Wales came close to a consolation score in the closing minutes, during which Ireland replacement James Ryan was sent to the sin bin.

Yet, with Beirne’s late finish compounding their misery, they ultimately slipped to a 10th defeat from their last 11 Six Nations fixtures as their wait for a first championship win in Dublin since 2012 goes on.

Nick Tompkins says that Wales are excited and not daunted by the challenge that awaits them against Guinness Six Nations title favourites Ireland on Saturday.

The odds are stacked against Wales, having not won a Six Nations game in Dublin since 2012 and facing a team marching ominously towards achieving back-to-back Grand Slams.

More than a third of Wales’ match-day 23 have cap totals in single figures, while a vastly-experienced Ireland team last suffered a Six Nations defeat two years ago.

Asked if there was a more daunting test in world rugby than tackling Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Wales centre Tompkins said: “I don’t know about daunting.

“Daunting makes it sounds like we are scared. We are not. We are excited.

“Realistically, we have got nothing to lose. It is a big challenge, but you need those big ones.

“There is no point in playing a mediocre side, and it is going to be good to see where we are at.”

Wales lost their opening two Six Nations encounters against Scotland and England by a combined margin of three points and could easily have arrived in Dublin with an unbeaten record.

Scotland held on for a 27-26 victory in Cardiff after Wales scored 26 unanswered points, while it took a late George Ford penalty to overhaul Wales’ nine-point interval advantage at Twickenham.

Ireland, though, have proved themselves time and time again as northern hemisphere rugby’s current dominant force, with Wales facing easily their sternest test since Warren Gatland returned for a second stint as head coach prior to last season’s Six Nations.

Tompkins added: “If we are off on any one thing, any one aspect of play, they are going to pounce on it.

“We have been talking this week about the need to give everything, in every area of the game, all the time. It needs to be (for) 80 minutes as well.

“We have bigged this up enough for ourselves, we are focusing on ourselves, but the boys know what lies ahead.

“I am not saying you can’t make any mistakes, but in those moments when you have got them under pressure, you cannot let them off.

“It is nice when you have got some of those younger lads. They don’t have that fear, that naivety.

“It’s quite nice, so you try and install that and go out and play and have a bit of enjoyment about it. When you do that against Scotland and you come back and you should have won it, or nearly won it, it just shows where we can take it.

“I don’t want them to go there and worry about outside aspects or we can’t beat them or we can’t do this, I want them to go and just be them and be confident with it and enjoy it.”

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