After Sunday’s victory over Wales, all of the England team, management and fans were buzzing at Twickenham. Nearly a decade has passed since England can be truly considered challengers for the Rugby World Cup. In defeating Wales, the home side were rewarded with the Triple Crown (TC).
TC is a deserved trophy. Wales and Ireland were strong challengers to the Grand Slam title, the young England overcame both admirably. Physical proof of the upwards journey since the debacle in Auckland losing to France in the RWC semi-final back in ‘11. Even if ex-Lions and England hooker Brian Moore believes the TC “…does not mean anything”. Robshaw certainly does, “Lifting the Triple Crown was one of the most special moments of my career”, he told The Telegraph. Every passing match, Stuart Lancaster’s side are improving. Their greatest assets include adapting, learning and trust.
Stuart Lancaster’s England adapt appropriately to the conditions. For example, when England beat Ireland 12-6 in Dublin in the 2013 Six Nations in torrential conditions, or grinded a draw against South Africa in Port Elizabeth, in the searing heat. Also adapting to the conditions of the match by changing tactics or style.
Secondly, learning during and after matches from the mistakes in a high intensity rugby test, decisions may have or did cost them defeat. Captain Chris Robshaw’s decision to opt for the posts instead of a line-out against Australia in the dying minutes, ultimately cost England the game in 2012. His role as captain was lambasted by members of the media. Since his decision making has been precise. Individual and collective mistakes are analysed and corrected.
Each player, whether he has 20 caps or two, trusts the team-mate standing next to them in attack and defence. Players have excelled under the environment imposed by the head coach. Trust transpires a confidence within the squad to remain calm under pressure. A year ago, none of Sunday’s squad were stars of international rugby. Mike Brown, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes and others are fast becoming household names. For still such an internationally youthful side, these are impressive attributes, they have truly matured from novices of the international stage.
The self-proclaimed home of rugby, Twickenham Stadium close to attaining a fortress mentality. The Southern Hemisphere should, probably will, consider Lancaster’s men a threat and cautiously visit in the Autumn. 4 victories will be the minimum requirement to establish their home influence, also providing a psychological edge come 2015.
England head into the 3 test Summer tour of New Zealand in great shape. One victory would be excellent, the most important aspect is performance. The first test will be hindered by the lack of some of England’s stars as the Premiership Final is the week before. Saracens and Northampton appear the likeliest to feature, Owen Farrell could be missing. It would be unfair to throw George Ford a debut starting place against the All Blacks. The one starting line-up for Italy change would be Ford for Farrell. Allow him sometime in the jersey and discover if he is an international fly-half.
Since the start of Lancaster’s reign, his management has made England into the most consistent team in the Northern Hemisphere. They finished with 8 points in 2012 and ’13, and extremely likely to on the forthcoming, ‘Super Saturday’. Ireland may win the title (unless a resurgent France arrive at Paris) and dominate the newspapers. This England side are tomorrow’s back-page headliners.
Pundit Arena, Dominic Evans.
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