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England did what they do best during the 2011 RBS 6 Nations – they dominated the Championships in a World Cup year.
Just as they had done ahead of the 1991, 1995 and 2003 World Cups – England finished top of the pile – only missing out on a Grand Slam after losing to Ireland in Dublin on the final weekend of the Championship.
England, who won Grand Slams in the Under-20 and women's tournaments in 2011, were worthy champions, even if they slowed down as they neared the line.
The 2011 tournament was notable for several reasons – Ireland moving into their new Aviva Stadium in Dublin, the tournament opening for the first time with a Friday night fixture and struggling Italy defeating a powerful French side.
England dominated the statistics with Toby Flood finishing as the competition’s top point’s scorer with 50 and then-Northampton wing Chris Ashton topping the try charts with six touchdowns, including four against Italy at Twickenham.
Italy's Andrea Masi was named as the Six Nations Player of the Championship, becoming the first Italian player to win the award, the runners up were Fabio Semenzato in second, Sean O'Brien in third and Flood in fourth.
Despite the absence of injured England skipper Lewis Moody and the appointment of interim captain Mike Tindall – Martin Johnson’s men opened with a somewhat surprising 26-19 win against Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Friday night.
Two-try Ashton stole the headlines, with Flood contributing two conversions and three penalties for a faultless kicking display and veteran World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson knocking over a late drop goal to make the game safe.
In the early kick-off on the opening Saturday of the Championships, Ireland survived a major wobble on the road as they sneaked a 13-11 win against Italy, with Brian O’Driscoll scoring his side’s only try of the game.
Italy’s Luke McLean set-up a nervous finale as he went over for a 75th-minute try in Rome but the Irish defence held form in the final minutes.
Despite a spirited performance in Paris – France scored four tries as they opened up their campaign with a 34-21 win against Scotland – Maxime Medard, Imanol Harinordoquy, Damien Traille and a penalty try securing the win.
In week two, Ashton’s try performance, as England hammered Italy 59-13, saw him become the first player of any nation to score four touchdowns in an RBS 6 Nations match since the competition took its current form in 2000.
He also became the first England player to score four tries in a Six Nations, Five Nations, or Home Nations match since Ronald Poulton in 1914, with his six tries to this point in the competition, which proved to be his final total, equalling the single-season record in the Six Nations era, shared by Will Greenwood and Shane Williams.
It was a familiar story for Scotland against Wales, as they crashed to a 24-6 loss at Murrayfield, with Williams’ scoring two tries, while France edged a 25-22 thriller against Ireland despite being out-scored three tries to one in Dublin.
Wales continued their RBS 6 Nations recovery as they crept past Italy 24-16 in Rome – Sam Warburton and Morgan Stoddart with the scores.
England remained unbeaten in the Championships, as they defeated France 17-9 at Twickenham in round three; Northampton’s Ben Foden scored the only try of the game, while Flood was deadly with the boot.
And Scotland once again lost a narrow fixture – this time they lost by three points 21-18 against Ireland in Edinburgh – Jamie Heaslip, Eoin Reddan and Ronan O’Gara all going over for the Irish.
Week four of the RBS 6 Nations saw Italy beat France 22-21 in Rome – it was the first time they had ever beaten France at home, and the first time they had won the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy.
Wales recorded their third straight win in the Championships as they defeated Ireland 19-13.
However, the game will be remembered for the try-scoring exploits of O’Driscoll, as his score in Cardiff gave him 24 career tries in the Championship, equalling the all-time record of Ian Smith of Scotland amassed in the Five Nations and Home Nations between 1924 and 1933.
Ronan O'Gara also became the fifth player in rugby history with 1,000 career Test points, reaching the mark with his conversion of O'Driscoll's try.
Meanwhile, in the final game of week four, England didn’t have it all their own way as they recorded a 22-16 win against Scotland at Twickenham, with Tom Croft scoring the home side’s only try – it left the Scots still without a win in the competition.
The final week of the 2011 tournament saw Scotland record their first win of the 2011 RBS 6 Nations at the last attempt – they defeated Italy 21-8 in Edinburgh to avoid the Wooden Spoon on point’s difference. Nick De Luca's try was the first for Scotland at Murrayfield for nearly two years.
England missed out on the Grand Slam as they were comfortably beaten 24-8 in Dublin, O'Driscoll's try against Johnson’s men took his all-time championship tally up to 25, breaking the record held by Smith since 1933.
In the final game of the Championships, Wales needed to beat France by 27 to clinch the title but they succumbed to a 28-9 loss Paris.
Despite the glum faces as stand-in England skipper Nick Easter lifted the trophy in Dublin – it was a job well done for Johnson and his men.