On Saturday 21 March 2015 Twickenham Stadium experienced one of the most dramatic, intense and enthralling games of them all, from the opening minute to the final seconds it enraptured us and the drama was played out in an atmosphere beyond anything that I have ever experienced on home soil. Ultimately the Championship ended in Ireland's hands however in my eyes England finish their RBS 6 Nations campaign perfectly poised for the coming months even without a title to their name.
Prior to kick off Ireland had set the bar extremely high thanks to their clinical performance at the BT Sport Murrayfield Stadium, in the words of Stuart Lancaster it was a 'big ask' to win by 26 points against any International side let alone a French team that had finally decided that it wanted to play rugby to their full potential. From Scott Spedding to Noa Nakaiaci, excluding his moment of try grounding madness, the French found their velocity in attack, they played with positive freedom and looked like the side that we all expect them to be on paper. It was terrible timing for the English however ultimately job saving for Philippe Saint-André and something to delight a nation.
The question is where do you begin in terms of analysing England's performance? Ultimately right now, in the aftermath of such a match, words may not do them justice, however I will endeavour to. England showcased titanic mental strength to absorb the pressure of the task at hand, the ebbs and flows of the match and tremendous fortitude to continue banging on the door until the final seconds of the Test Match. In attack Lancaster's side played with purpose, precision and ignited Twickenham, Ben Youngs and Jonathan Joseph in particular flew across the turf, leaving the French defenders clutching at thin air and these are the defenders that had only conceded two tries to date in the competition. In the forwards Courtney Lawes' bone shuddering tackle on Plisson was a physical manifestation of how much this game and indeed this year means to this England side. From Marler to Vunipola and every forward in-between their physicality and proficiency was outstanding for eighty minutes.
The standards that we have set this England side are extremely high, the very fact that there is an air of disappointment that England were unable to score the 26 points required to hold the trophy aloft says a lot about the expectations placed upon them. They are an extremely talented group of rugby players and this match in particular highlighted exactly what they can deliver, even under the most intense pressure. Crumble they did not, instead they soared and rightly Stuart Lancaster was immensely proud following the final whistle;
'I said to the boys at the end of the game, I've never seen such a courageous performance from a group of players and I'm hugely proud of what that England team has shown out there today and throughout the Championship. Obviously we have come up short at the end but the mindset to play and the ability to go at a high quality French team and score the tries that we did is a testament to the spirit and character that we've got.'
Naturally lessons will be learned, the greatest lesson that this side will take out of the 2015 RBS 6 Nations Championship is that every single point counts. The ability to deliver flawless execution against every side is paramount. By their own admission England were guilty of lapses in concentration during this Championship however when they hit their stride, like they did so successfully in this final round, you cannot help but feel tremendously excited at the prospects of Stuart Lancaster's England in 2015.