LONDON: Wales swept to their third Six Nations grand slam in eight seasons Saturday and their 11th overall in the European championship with a 16-9 win over France in Cardiff.Flanker Dan Lydiate, the outstanding Welsh player of the tournament, was named man-of-the-match for a series of thunderous tackles, one of which forced the turnover which led to the only try of the match.
Lydiate jolted the ball out of France captain Thierry Dusautoir’s hands midway through the first half. Wales quickly recycled and rightwing Alex Cuthbert brought the capacity 72,000 crowd at the Millennium Stadium to their feet by cutting inside to score.
England’s revival under caretaker coach Stuart Lancaster after their embarrassments on and off the field at the World Cup in New Zealand last year continued with an emphatic 30-9 win over Ireland at Twickenham to secure second place.
Lancaster’s chances of succeeding Martin Johnson as the permanent England coach were further boosted by another vibrant display by his young side who dominated the second half at a rain-drenched Twickenham.
At the other end of the table, Scotland lost the battle to avoid the wooden spoon when Italy won 13-6 in Rome.
Cardiff was awash with Welsh fans anticipating another triumph for a young team fulfilling the promise they showed at the World Cup.
France had won seven of their last eight games against the Welsh, including a one-point victory in the World Cup semifinal after captain Sam Warburton was sent off.
Warburton left the field with a shoulder injury at halftime Saturday but his replacement, former skipper Ryan Jones, underlined the depth of talent available for coach Warren Gatland with a storming performance.
“We knew we were pretty fit and there’s no real fear factor,” Gatland said. “These guys have been a real credit to themselves, Wales and Welsh rugby.”
Defending champions England overwhelmed a tough and experienced Ireland forward pack in the scrums, further evidence of the improvements Lancaster and his coaching team have made in their brief time together.
After leading by three points at halftime, the England eight won a penalty try after pouring on the pressure near the Irish line and replacement scrumhalf Ben Youngs raced through a gap to score from a quick tap and run after yet another scrum penalty.
“We were outstanding in every department,” Lancaster said. “At the outset there was a long-term plan, it was around giving some young players some experience but they showed great belief.”
Lancaster would not be drawn into speculating on his chances of securing the full-time England job. “That’s for others to decide,” he said.