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Five things we learned from Championship round three

Five things we learned from Championship round three

With three rounds and nine matches in the bag there’s a lot to be learned from the Championship, with players from all four home nations turning on the style.

With three rounds and nine matches in the bag there’s a lot to be learned from the Championship, with players from all four home nations turning on the style.

England are the only unbeaten team left after seeing off Ireland at Twickenham, while Wales are just a point behind having seen off France on Friday night.

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And Scotland ensured they had something to celebrate as they beat Italy in Rome for their first Championship success in ten attempts.

Here are five things we learned from this weekend’s action:
 
No.8 family battle heating up

Billy Vunipola collected his second man-of-the-match award of the Championship as England made it three wins from three.

He seems to be on a one-man mission to walk away with the player of the tournament gong, taking over as captain from Dylan Hartley with nine minutes remaining, with the hooker describing the No.8 as ‘a freak’ in the nicest possible way.

But he has competition from a rival No.8 with Wales’ Taulupe Faletau once again shining on Friday night as France’s unbeaten start came to an end. In Wales’ first three games Faletau’s tackle count has now ticked over to 53, having missed none.

The pair – who are also cousins – will go head-to-head in a fortnight’s time, with all eyes set to be on their No.8 battle.

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Itoje is made for international stage

He writes poetry in his spare time and Maro Itoje was poetry in motion on his full England debut. He was the Red Rose’s top tackler with 16, and didn’t shirk his responsibilities in an England lineout that won six of seven from their own throw.

All eyes were on him and he didn’t disappoint, meaning Eddie Jones now has a tough decisions as to whether stick or twist for the visit of Wales.
 
McCloskey offers something different

Stuart McCloskey took some time to warm up on his international debut, but soon showed that he is not merely making up the numbers for Ireland in this year’s Championship.

The centre was outstanding on both sides of the ball, dominated collisions and forcing turnovers with choke tackles, while his tackle on Dylan Hartley stopped a certain try with the help of Conor Murray.

As we all know, centres are something Ireland do well and Joe Schmidt looks to have uncovered another star in the making here.
 
Wait is over for Scotland
Sunday night saw Leonardo DiCaprio finally get his hands on an Oscar, but 24 hours earlier there was an equally large sigh of relief emanating from Scotland as they ended their Championship hoodoo with victory over Italy in Rome.

And the star of this particular show was Greig Laidlaw, the scrum-half amassing 21 points from the kicking tee while keeping Vern Cotter’s men ticking over for their first Championship win since February 2014.

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In this together

Dylan Hartley and Rory Best captain England and Ireland respectively at Twickenham, with neither man nor side giving an inch in a bid for victory.

In the end Hartley was the happier hooker as England saw the game out, but the England man wasn’t about to forget the fight the Irish had put up.

The two embraced after the final whistle with 80 minutes of intense rugby making way for recollection and mutual respect.
 

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