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England win battle at the breakdown: The weekend in numbers

England win battle at the breakdown: The weekend in numbers

England win battle at the breakdown: The weekend in numbers

The third instalment of the Autumn Nations Cup delivered yet another feast of thrills and spills, with the final fixtures in Groups A and B paving the way for a hotly-anticipated Finals Weekend.

England and France – who incidentally finished first and second in this year’s Guinness Six Nations respectively – will do battle for the competition’s inaugural title after maintaining their 100 per cent records on their latest outings.

A hard-fought 24-13 win over old rivals Wales earned the Red Rose top spot in Group A, while a much-changed France team swept aside Italy 36-5 in Paris to finish above Scotland in Group B.

The Scots – whose scheduled weekend clash against Fiji was cancelled due to Covid-19 – will play Ireland with third place at stake, with Andy Farrell’s men in green getting the better of a stubborn Georgia side 23-10.

Meanwhile Wales will host Italy in the fifth-place play-off and the Georgians will prepare to go head-to-head with Fiji – who are yet to play a game in the series – in the seventh-place play-off at BT Murrayfield.

As the dust continues to settle on Round 3, what better time to reflect on some of the key statistics from the three games, with a feast of numbers catching the eye in the wake of the all the drama…

5 – Breakdown steals by England against Wales 

Guinness Six Nations champions England arrived in Llanelli on the back of impressive 40-0 and 18-7 wins over Georgia and Ireland respectively, and were favourites to record a comfortable win over a Wales side with six defeats in eight.

In fact, the hosts opened the scoring with a runaway try from centre Johnny Williams, although England’s dominance eventually told as Henry Slade and Mako Vunipola scores inspired them to victory.

While Wales struggled at the set-piece, England’s strength at the breakdown played a pivotal role in their second successive win over Wayne Pivac’s men, with five steals and six turnovers earning them possession at vital moments.

Lock Joe Launchbury won two turnovers while Sam Underhill was one of four players to contribute one, the Bath flanker constantly harrying and pressurising Wales into errors throughout an all-action Player of the Match display.

2 – Try assists by Baptiste Serin for France 

Quotas on the number of autumn international appearances France players are permitted forced Fabien Galthie into making 13 changes for France’s clash against Italy, but a three-try blitz in eight second-half minutes helped the hosts convincingly beat the Azzurri.

France took a slender 10-5 lead into half-time after Carlo Canna’s try had put the visitors in front, but Les Bleus eventually clicked into gear and booked their place in the tournament showpiece with five tries in tow.

Skipper Baptiste Serin notched his team’s third try close to the hour mark, but the scrum-half – a veteran of 39 Test caps – also twice turned provider to ease the 2010 Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam champions to victory.

Indeed, Serin spread the ball out to Jonathan Danty – making his first France appearance in four years – to go over in the first half, but the 26-year-old won’t be in the XV for next weekend’s Autumn Nations Cup finale against England as he has now reached his limit of three international appearances this autumn.

3 – Turnovers won by Iain Henderson for Ireland 

Following their Round 2 defeat at the hands of England, Ireland returned to winning ways with a hard-earned victory over Georgia, who got their first Autumn Nations Cup points on the board at the Aviva Stadium.

All but three of the home side’s points came in the first half, and while their display was somewhat underwhelming, a solid opening 40 minutes – at the end of which they led 20-7 – proved enough to get over the line.

Centre Stuart McCloskey made 171 metres and No.8 CJ Stander made 24 carries as several members of Ireland’s squad made eye-catching contributions to the statistics charts.

But experienced lock Iain Henderson helped prevent Georgia ever getting into a real rhythm during the match, winning three turnovers and contributing eight tackles in a tireless 80-minute performance that earned him the Player of the Match nod.

22 – Tackles made by Merab Sharikadze for Georgia

While ultimately falling short in their quest to earn a first Autumn Nations Cup win, Georgia delivered a powerful and relentless display against Ireland that yielded a scintillating first-half try by Giorgi Kveseladze.

Levan Maisashvili’s men battled hard all afternoon and attempted a huge 219 tackles – missing only 15 – as they proved a tough nut to crack for the 2018 Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam winners.

Merab Sharikadze was the greatest sole contributor to that tally having made 22 tackles, with a hugely impressive success rate of 100 per cent.

Having followed up stubborn performances against England and Wales with another encouraging display in Round 3, Georgia will undoubtedly be full of confidence that they can topple Fiji in the race for seventh.

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