Great to hear from my old England Backs Coach, Brian Ashton. He is very qualified to talk about the key three-quarters in the 1st round of the Six Nations being one of the best the Northern Hemisphere has ever had.
Absolutely everyone is rebuilding either their squad, their confidence or their coaching, in some cases all three. It was a perfect storm for England and the only way was up. Stuart Lancaster has reminded the current group of players of some standards and values which 99% of all England Internationals believe anyway. That was how far they had lost sight of reality. In the light of that, any win would do.
The Scots created enough chances to win easily, but approach work is meaningless and England scrambled well. The selection of Dan Parks has always been a mystery to me, although a couple of basic passes from the Scottish forwards would have been enough. What do they practice with all the time they have, clearly not 2 on 1’s!
England were no better, but had no ball so there are some excuses. I like the initial look of Barritt, but i hope he can keep grounded, as the media would have you think he is the next great England centre. I don’t yet know whether he can pass, or link some back play but we shall soon find out. Farrell to me will have to bide his time, a cool young customer for sure, but his best position is probably 10. Strettle played really strongly after a few years of bad luck and some bad hair days (literally), while Foden was classy and Ashton was anonymous – but got no ball so hardly surprising. The back row looked inexperienced but of course it is, tell me something new, lets see how they develop. I won’t judge England yet as its not fair -Wales at Twickenham and Le Crunch in Paris , then we shall know more.
For the meantime, a win in Murrayfield is just right – I won three times up there and each one was memorable for the quiet satisfaction you feel drinking the night away in Edinburgh with a big smile on your face! Lastly, isn’t it great that the Media is having a love affair (ex Stephen Jones) with the England squad and Coaches. They had hidden away those positive sporting adjectives for a constant stream of invective . lets hope they all remember this is a five year journey and there will be major bumps on the way .
Wales/Ireland was a superlative game of cut and thrust rugby notable for some soft hands by the backs (Priestland, D’Arcy especially) and some “Lomu-esque” running by North. The great form of the Irish provinces never quite translates into the National side does it. The word back here is they cannot survive without O’Driscoll, well they had better sharpen up, because he is almost gone! Lets remember the Welsh have at least 6 players out with injury so there’s lot of strength in depth – perhaps they can do the Grand Slam this year (whisper it).
I always like the French in full flow, Saint Andre is smart and they will be very tough to beat. I think Wales can do it in Cardiff but that’s it. Fofana looks a find – thank God no more Jauzion please, its all over no! But the half backs look flaky to me…
Italy looked quite creative and its no disgrace to go down by 20 in Paris – they will fancy their chances in the Eternal City, but so do the English who have two attacking performances to deliver. We must win more ball surely this time, and now we shall see who can pass.
Lastly, Hi to all you World Cup Winners, hope you are still basking in some long lasting glory and some kiwi sunshine .
And to all my kiwi friends who flew round the world to support us by playing in the Help for Heroes Fundraiser, thank you once again !!!…P.S i hope this doesn’t find its way to the media as did Graham Henrys last piece here!!