ENGLAND coach Stuart Lancaster is pleased to still be in the fight for the RBS Six Nations title after his side claimed a 29-18 win over Wales at Twickenham.
Ireland are likely only to need to beat France to secure the Six Nations title next weekend due to their impressive points difference, but if they slip up and England beat Italy in Rome, then Lancaster’s side would instead claim the title.
Speaking after the Wales win, Lancaster said: “I am really proud. We set out with attacking intent from the start. We didn’t get it right in the first half and Leigh Halfpenny punished us but overall I think we were deserving winners. We have got a big game next week. We’re in the [title] fight. We have a big game against Italy to come.
“They [Wales] got one over on us last year and that was in the back of our minds as well, but today is our day.”
Wales’ misery was compounded by injuries to Halfpenny and Rhys Webb, with head coach Warren Gatland confirming Halfpenny’s shoulder injury has ruled him out for the rest of the campaign. “Leigh’s dislocated his shoulder so I think that’s him gone for the rest of the season,” Gatland said. “I’m not too sure about Rhys [ankle] but definitely that’ll be Leigh’s season over, which is disappointing for him.”
Gatland admitted fatigue may have been a factor in his side’s performance, with a number of his Wales players having turned out for the Lions last summer in their tour of Australia.
“It’s been tough on these players in retrospect – a Grand Slam, a championship, a Lions tour – it’s been a long 18 months for those players,” he said. “But this is professional sport and you’ve got to get yourselves up and unfortunately we weren’t as good as we can be today and that’s disappointing.
“Teams are pretty close in this competition. I think the four top teams are all capable of beating each other on their day if they get their performance right – and England got their performance right today.”
Captain Sam Warburton admitted the hosts deserved their victory, but refused to be drawn on which of England, France or Ireland will take the Six Nations off Wales for the first time since 2011.
“That game, the 30-3 last year, was just one of those games where everything clicks for you. That happens once in a blue moon,” he said. “That happened for us last year, but this year England deserved the win.
“It can go either way. I think that’s what the great thing about this year’s championship is. We’ve gone into the fourth game and nobody really knows who’s going to win. Ireland are probably favourites, but I still think it’s between three teams – which is great for the championship.”