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"The Irish didn't pose much of a threat to England"
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Double try-scorer Ben Cohen
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Monday, 7 February, 2000, 11:49 GMT
England off to record start

Lawrence Dallaglio leads another England attack
England 50-18 Ireland

England answered their critics in emphatic fashion to get their Six Nations campaign off to a record-breaking start at Twickenham.

Six Nations Championship
Clive Woodward's team proved that reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated, with an excellent performance of running rugby that erased memories of their disappointing World Cup.

The England pack has always been rated as one of the best in the world - but this time it was the turn of a new-look back line to turn on the style in a six-try win.

New-boys Ben Cohen, twice, and Mike Tindall celebrated their debuts with eye-catching tries and Jonny Wilkinson landed 20 points with the boot as they posted their largest ever score against the Irish.

Garath Archer claims a high ball under pressure
The visitors, however, face a tough Championship on this display.

They were bereft of ideas going forward and woeful in defence, as England's fleet-footed attackers time and again exploited missed tackles to claim a host of tries.

Kevin Maggs and Mick Galwey claimed second half tries for Ireland - but Brian O'Driscoll was one of the few stars on show in a green shirt.

Ireland may have dominated the early stages of the second half, after being over-run before the break, but England were always in command and never looked in trouble.

England had been accused of being stagnant after the World Cup - but they showed they have the potential to win the first ever Six Nations crown.

The enigmatic Mike Catt showed inside centre could be his best position, frequently launching English assaults, and Austin Healey was a livewire presence throughout - claiming two tries in a virtuoso display.

The versatile Healey was all over the pitch, switching at will from his starting position of wing to scrum-half or fly-half, to give the home side an extra attacking dimension.

But there were stars all over the field for England, with Lawrence Dallaglio, captain Matt Dawson and try-scorer Neil Back all at the top of their games.

Cohen starts rout

Cohen shrugged off his nervous start to open his international account after 18 minutes. There was still much to do when the big Northampton wing collected the ball on the right after a flowing backs move - but he cut inside and sprinted through the Irish ranks.

Garath Archer claims a high ball under pressure
And Cohen played a major role in England's second try, bursting through after good work from Catt and Jason Leonard, before the impressive Healey skipped over the line.

It took Ireland 33 minutes to force themselves onto the scoreboard, David Humphreys slotting a penalty on one of their rare forays into England territory.

It mattered little for the English, though, as Healey claimed a second try - this time after Catt's burst had set up the score - to make it 25-3 at half-time.

Back cashes in

The break did little to revive flagging Ireland, the English starting the second half in equally dominant mode, with Back crashing over following a trademark Dawson break-away.

Ireland were in disarray and their only chance to pressurise England was with pieces of individual brilliance.

Mike Tindall capped his debut with a flamboyant try
And promising young wing O'Driscoll produced just such a moment of sublime skill, chipping over the top of the defence before sprinting clear and sending Maggs over for Ireland's first try.

Humphreys converted and added another penalty as Ireland enjoyed an unprecedented period of ascendancy, Dwyer touching over with help from his fellow forwards.

Tindall claimed a debut try in the closing stages - with an outrageous dive in the corner after more good work from Catt.

And Cohen rounded off victory with a try under the posts to make it a record-breaking day.

The real test for England, though, comes against France in Paris in a fortnight.


England: M Perry (Bath); A Healey (Leicester), M Tindall (Bath), M Catt (Bath), B Cohen (Northampton); J Wilkinson (Newcastle), M Dawson (Northampton, capt); J Leonard (Harlequins), P Greening (Sale), P Vickery (Gloucester), G Archer (Bristol), S Shaw (Wasps), R Hill (Saracens), N Back (Leicester), L Dallaglio (Wasps).

Replacements: I Balshaw (Bath), A King (Wasps), A Gomarsall (Bedford), M Corry (Leicester), J Worsley (Wasps), T Woodman (Gloucester), N McCarthy (Gloucester).

Ireland: C O'Shea (London Irish); J Bishop (London Irish), B O'Driscoll (Blackrock College), M Mullins (Young Munster), K Maggs (Bath); D Humphreys (Dungannon), T Tierney (Garryowen); P Clohessy (Young Munster), K Wood (Garryowen, capt), P Wallace (Saracens), R Casey (Blackrock College), M O'Kelly (St Mary's College), D O'Cuinneagain (Ballymena), K Dawson (London Irish), A Foley (Shannon).

Replacements: G Dempsey (Terenure College), E Elwood (Galwegians), P Stringer (Shannon), T Brennan (St Mary's College), M Galwey (Shannon), J Fitzpatrick (Dungannon), F Sheahan (Cork Constitution).

Referee: Steve Walsh (New Zealand).

Touch judges: Derek Bevan (Wales) and Rob Dickson (Scotland).

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See also:

04 Feb 00 | Six Nations
England have point to prove
01 Feb 00 | Six Nations
Ireland resist wholesale changes
01 Feb 00 | Six Nations
England name two new caps
31 Jan 00 | Six Nations
England: player profiles
31 Jan 00 | Six Nations
Ireland: player profiles