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England are Six Nations runners-up again after topping Italy

The Canadian Press

3/15/2014 7:25:33 PM

ROME -- England cheered for France, to no avail. France couldn't do itself or England a favour by beating Ireland in the Six Nations finale, as Ireland won 22-20 to take the title and leave England runner-up for a third straight year on Saturday.

England did its bit with a 52-11 win over Italy at Stadio Olimpico hours earlier, putting added pressure on Ireland to win in bogey Paris. Ireland pipped England on points difference by 10.

The English underlined their game-by-game improvement, rebounding from an opening loss to France with four straight statement wins over Scotland, Ireland, defending champion Wales, and Italy, which conceded 50 points at home to the English for the first time in a decade.

Italy, which wound up with the wooden spoon and winless, also hadn't shipped 50 to a Six Nations team in five years.

"Credit to Ireland - they are deserved winners and it's a fitting finale and send-off for Brian O'Driscoll, a legend of the game whom everyone in this squad respects massively," England coach Stuart Lancaster said in a statement. "We always knew this was going to be one of the tightest Six Nations and go down to the wire."

England scored seven tries to one in perfect spring conditions in front of a sell-out crowd. Owen Farrell scored a try and converted all seven to finish with 22 points. He made all eight of his goalkicks. Man-of-the-match fullback Mike Brown crossed twice.

"We scored some great tries and we've come here and scored 50, and not many teams have done that," Lancaster said. "There were some errors in the first half, but I'm just proud of the boys. It's a great squad we've got developing and the bigger picture is important."

Lancaster emptied his bench in the second half, and centre Manu Tuilagi, on for Luther Burrell, made his first England appearance in a year, and six month after a chest surgery, and scored the team's sixth try.

Then England conceded an intercept try to winger Leonardo Sarto, which hurt England's hopes of making a bigger impact through points differential.

It was little comfort for Italy.

"We started this tournament well and we finished negatively," Italy coach Jacques Brunel said, referring to a narrow opening loss at Wales. "We're behind in terms of what our goals were."