Paul O’ Connell
Ireland have been crowned Six Nations champions for the second successive year despite valiant efforts from England and Wales.
The three sides went into the final round of fixtures on Saturday locked on six points and all recorded big wins in a thrilling finale to the tournament.
Wales set the tone with a stunning 61-20 victory in Italy, a result which left Ireland needing to beat Scotland at Murrayfield by a margin of 21 points and England requiring a 17 point win over France.
Ireland eased past Scotland and to the top of the standings with a 40-10 win at Murrayfield, leaving England needing to beat France by 26 or more in the final game of the 2015 Six Nations.
England started strongly as Ben Youngs grabbed a try after just two minutes, but France responded with a penalty and two tries, one of which was converted, to take the lead.
Anthony Watson and Youngs added further tries for the hosts at Twickenham before the interval, while the boot of George Ford ensured England held a 27-15 lead at the break.
Maxime Mermoz crossed the line for the French almost immediately after the restart but Ford responded quickly for England.
A Billy Vunipola try and two from Jack Nowell gave England hope but Vincent Debaty and Benjamin Kayser scored for the visitors as Stuart Lancaster’s men fell agonisingly short of their target with a 55-35 victory over France.