Ben Earl on a high as ‘worst England team ever’ beat Ireland in thriller

By Sports Desk March 09, 2024

Ben Earl hit back at England’s critics after they produced their best display since the 2019 World Cup by dispatching Ireland 23-22 at Twickenham.

Marcus Smith’s match-winning drop goal in the last act of a spellbinding match denied Ireland the chance to complete back-to-back Grand Slams and ensured the Guinness Six Nations title will be decided on the final weekend.

England will be contesting the crown when they face France and they will head to Lyon lifted by an inspired afternoon against the current champions, a fortnight after they blundered their way to defeat by Scotland.

Steve Borthwick’s men were given little chance of beating Ireland – bookmakers rated them 4-1 underdogs – yet they delivered their most complete performance since the 2019 World Cup victory over New Zealand.

“Unbelievable really. I’m a bit emotional,” player of the match Earl said.

“Some of the crap that has been thrown at the team over this last week, apparently we are the worst England team ever. We have done pretty well for that accolade.

“We knew from the beginning of the game if we played our best stuff we would have a chance. Amazing stadium, amazing fans, amazing team-mates. Credit to the fans. What a great day.

“We train like that every day. We all know sometimes that doesn’t translate onto the pitch but people don’t see half the stuff we do. I’m just so pleased.”

England were headed for defeat when James Lowe crossed in the 72nd minute to nudge Ireland in front until a late do-or-die surge ended with Smith landing his decisive drop-goal.

Jamie George, the team’s captain who watched the nerve-jangling final moments from the sidelines, joked that the result was “never in doubt”.

“I don’t like watching but I was in awe of the boys on the field – the composure they showed but also going out there to attack the game and win the game,” George said.

“We didn’t panic at any stage and I have to admit it was a bit emotional at the end because of everything that’s gone on.

“I was just so proud of the players on the field. They applied themselves. It was never in doubt!”

Borthwick revealed that there are injury concerns over Chandler Cunningham-South and Henry Slade ahead of the final match against France and played down an exchange of words with Ireland boss Andy Farrell shortly before half-time.

“It’s between Andy and (me). I know people want to read things into that but Andy and I have a good relationship,” Borthwick said.

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