A clinical Ireland side toppled Italy 36-0 yesterday in the final match of the second round of the Six Nations to stamp their authority as tournament favourites.
Dan Sheehan crossed for a brace while Jack Crowley, Jack Conan, James Lowe and Calvin Nash contributed to the whitewashing of the Azzurri, in round one only lost to England by three points.
It sends Ireland top of the Six Nations table with a maximum of 10 points from their opening two games.
After this weekend’s fallow weekend Ireland will host Wales before matches against England in London and Scotland in Dublin.
They are bidding to become the first side to win back-to-back Grand Slams in the Six Nations era.
Six Nations hopes for England?
England remained the only other unbeaten side after their 16-14 victory over Wales at Twickenham.
The close affair saw man of the match Ben Earl and Northampton Saints’ Fraser Dingwall cancel out a penalty try and a score from Alex Mann to keep their 100 per cent winning record alive. Their match against Ireland in round four could be key in deciding whether the eventual winners pick up the trophy with a Grand Slam.
Wales’ three table points ensures that they are not bottom of the Six Nations table despite being without a win. They next face Ireland before matches against France and Italy.
But there was a controversial finish in the final phase of France’s 20-16 win over Scotland at Murrayfield with the home team looking to have scored only for the officiating team to talk themselves out of giving what would have been a winning score.
It means Scotland were unable to match their 2023 feat of winning their opening two matches of a Six Nations while France recovered from their humiliation at the hands of Ireland in round one to earn their first win of the tournament.
“I don’t know why he changed his decision,” Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend said. “We were celebrating in the coaching box, having seen the pictures of the ball being placed on the try line after it was on the player’s foot.
“It’s TMO driven. If the referee’s seeing the pictures that we’re all seeing, maybe it’s on his shoulders as well.
“The TMO was the one that changed his mind, so I don’t understand the rationale. When you see the pictures and hear the conversation – they have already said between them the ball was on the try line.”
The tournament takes a weekend off before round three.