England gave themselves a chance at winning this year’s Six Nations with an emphatic 52-11 victory over Italy in Rome on Saturday, but will still need a favour from France if they are to claim the championship.
Level with Ireland at the top of the table coming into the match but trailing by 49 in their points difference tally, England looked to be chasing a big score from the start and led 24-6 at halftime after two Mike Brown tries and one for Owen Farrell, who again was faultless with eight out of eight kicks at goal.
Jack Nowell, with his first international try, Mako Vunipola and replacement centre Manu Tuilagi, in his first appearance for England in a year, crossed after the break as England looked on course for the huge win they needed to give them a chance of the title even in the case of an Irish victory in Paris.
However, an interception score by Italy's Leonardo Sarto after 68 minutes took the wind out of their sails, before captain Chris Robshaw finished on a high by claiming England's seventh at the death.
Having scraped three narrow wins on their last three visits to Rome, it was another hugely impressive performance by Stuart Lancaster's team, who have eight points from four wins following an opening-game defeat in Paris.
But they will now have to hope that France can beat Ireland, or claim a draw, in Paris (17.00GMT) to claim only their second title since 2003.
"We scored some great tries and came here and scored 50, not many teams do that," Lancaster told the BBC.
"I'm proud of the boys. We were not quite in our shape in the first half, there were some errors but we have a great squad developing and I am very proud.
"Overall we take the bigger picture - the Scotland, Ireland and Wales performances and I don't think many teams will come here and win like this."
'Sit and wait'
Robshaw added: "Plus-50 points is what we wanted to do, it's just a shame we conceded that try. Now we just have to sit and wait.
"We were focused, ready and came here with the objective of getting 50. We left a few opportunities out there but that's one for another day. Unfortunately we conceded. If we hadn't we'd have been in a good position."
Though France can mathematically still win this year’s tournament, they would have to beat Ireland by some 78 points to do so.
France though will still be looking to end their tournament on a high and their hopes of beating the Irish will be boosted by the fact that Ireland have managed just one win against Les Bleus in 42 years.
Nevertheless, Ireland will travel to Paris full of confidence after emphatic wins against Scotland, Wales and Italy in this year’s tournament and only a narrow defeat to England blemishing their record.
"We don't dwell on the past. It's something you're probably aware of but at the same time we've been playing some really good rugby," Ireland captain Paul O'Connell told a news conference earlier this week.
"We go there with a realistic amount of confidence knowing how good France are, but we're in a good place. It's a great position to be in. You want to go into the last game with your destiny in your own hands. It's a brilliant opportunity."
The game will also mark the last appearance of Irish legend Brian O'Driscoll, bringing his international career to an end at the same stadium where he made his debut 14 years ago – in Ireland’s last victory against France on French soil.
Wales play Scotland in Cardiff (14.45 GMT) in Saturday's other game.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-03-15