PARIS — Paul O’Connell, one of the active legends of international rugby union, reaches a significant personal milestone when Ireland next plays, but will be pursuing a much more important team objective.
The 35-year-old lock forward will play his 100th match — and his 50th in the Six Nations championship — for Ireland when he leads it out to play Wales in Cardiff on March 14. Fans of both teams will acclaim him, then settle to watch Ireland’s next step in its pursuit of championship, Triple Crown and Grand Slam.
Ireland took control of this year’s tournament Sunday, going 3-0 by beating England, also previously unbeaten, 19-9, in Dublin.
In equaling their all-time record of 10 consecutive victories, the Irish were superbly controlled for the first two-thirds of the match.
“Our first-half discipline was very good, and in the first 20 minutes of the second half we played very well,” O’Connell told BBC sport.
“We sat back a bit, which was disappointing,” he added, “but we have a hell of a lot of respect for this England team and we’re delighted to win.”
Ireland’s game plan is well known. “They’re clinical at what they do and do not make a lot of mistakes,” said the Wales head coach, Warren Gatland, as he looked forward.
Italy showed huge spirit in spite of trailing until those final seconds after conceding an early interception try to Scotland’s center, Mark Bennett.
Scotland remains winless despite scoring the first try in all three of its matches. It has looked better in attack than it has in years, but it still has found ways to lose this season.
“I’m obviously not getting the message across,” said Vern Cotter, in his first year as Scotland’s coach. “Obviously, I’m responsible for the defeat, so I’ll be having a good look at myself and how we can move forward.”
Italy deserved its victory, scoring three tries to Scotland’s one. It responded rapidly to Bennett’s try with the back-row forward Josh Furno crossing, and then winger Giovanbattista Venditti scored a try awarded after a video replay.
Scotland led, 16-15, at halftime, thanks to the accurate kicking of its captain, Greig Laidlaw, who added three more points in the second half. But Italy’s forwards created pressure in the final few minutes, sealing the result.
A version of this article appears in print on March 2, 2015, in The International New York Times. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe
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