England 23-19 Wales
England took the lead from a well struck penalty, but Wales were celebrating a try shortly afterwards, following a well worked move. The hosts responded with a try of their own from close range after Shaw helped wheel the scrum and create some space. England then landed a drop-goal, to go into the break with a 13-7 lead.
The pre-match build up focused heavily on Tuilagi and he didn’t disappoint. The youngster showed great power, skill and vision throughout and capped his debut with a fine try, powering his way past two Welsh defenders and over the try-line to put England well and truly in command.
But Wales’ leading scorer Shane Williams had other ideas as the lightning-fast winger reduced the deficit with his 54th try in 80 games before England landed another drop-goal to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Wales poured men forward and added another fantastic try to ensure a nervy finish, but England held firm to seal an impressive victory.
The match gave both coaches plenty of food for thought and we fully expect Tuilagi, Mears, Shaw, James and Williams to be selected for New Zealand, however the dream is over for rising star Stoddard, who was sadly stretchered off with a broken leg.
Scotland 10 – 6 Ireland
Graeme Morrison and Jim Hamilton both turned in big performances for Scotland as they defeated an experimental Irish side packed with firepower featuring Luke Fitzgerald, Tomas O’Leary and John Hayes.
After initial pressure Scotland struggled to convert territory into points and Ireland took the lead from a penalty to lead 3-0 at half-time. But the Scots were able to draw level after 49 minutes courtesy of a penalty from an offside, although Ireland regained their lead with another three points after poor discipline by the Scottish forwards.
After a raft of substitutions, Scotland were awarded a penalty with only minutes remaining - and kicked for touch to keep the pressure on the visitors. After a sustained period of possession, Scotland grabbed the breakthrough they were looking for following a scintillating training ground move. The hosts kicked the conversion to seal victory, but Fitzgerald, O’Leary and Hayes will take heart from their performance and have surely done enough to book their place in the final squad.
Who are your players to watch in September?