Wales emerged as the only unbeaten team in the Six Nations championship today after England repeated their World Cup semi-final victory over defending champions France.
The Welsh romped to a 47-8 home victory over Italy, Ireland defeated Scotland 34-13 in Dublin and England out-muscled France 24-13 in Paris in the final match of the day.
Wales ran Italy ragged in the second half at the Millennium Stadium with man-of-the-match Lee Byrne picking up his second try and wing Shane Williams also scoring twice.
Coach Warren Gatland would not speculate on a possible reprise of the wonderful 2005 grand slam season but did say he had been confident his team could put 40 points on the board.
“This championship could come down to points difference and we were very conscious of that today. We wanted to keep them under pressure in the last 10 minutes,” Gatland said.
France took the field at the Stade de France committed to running the ball from all parts of the field and minus a specialist goalkicker.
Their only try, though, came from lock and captain Lionel Nallet after a succession of forward drives and centre Damien Traille missed two kickable first-half penalties.
England picked up an early try through wing Paul Sackey and flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson, one of a number of senior players whose continued selection has been questioned, kicked 14 points including a world Test record 29th drop goal.
The France scrum was under constant pressure throughout and a late try to England scrumhalf Richard Wigglesworth, making his first international start, put the result beyond doubt.
Ireland, who beat Italy and lost to France in the opening two rounds, at last showed something of the determination and fluency that had given them three triple crowns in the previous four championships.
Geordon Murphy, recalled at fullback on Friday after injury to Girvan Dempsey, was named as the man-of-the-match and winger Tommy Bowe scored twice.
Ireland will host Wales in the penultimate round on March 8 while Scotland, still without a victory in the tournament, are at home to England.
Italy, the other team yet to record a win, play France in Paris on the following day.