It’s safe to say I will be on a high going into next weeks contest against the Pumas at Twickenham, as I’m sure many England fans will be. An inspirational example of trust, work rate, commitment and cohesion gave England a much deserved 20-13 win over the Wallabies a matter of days after the 10 year celebration of England’s famous RWC victory. Stuart Lancaster seems to have created a winning chemistry within the side. Successful work ethic and a driving passion has given the team a hard core, fight to the last attitude that some England teams of the past have been severely lacking. What tactically and emotionally has given England that edge and allowed them to be one of the world’s best, when realistically the team is still bonding and developing?!
You sometimes forget the youthfulness of Lancaster’s squad. An average age of 24 in the match day team, England’s highest capped player was Tigers Captain Toby Flood who started the day on the subs bench. Not only was youth flowing throughout the squad, but it was evident that the players were all willing to work for one another, outlined by Tom Wood’s support for Captain Robshaw, who had been given the armband once again after fantastic leadership throughout 2012.
With all the media and talk before hand surrounding England’s potential new caps and starters plus the Aussies recent run of clinical, promising performances, it was very much 50-50 going into this historical encounter. With the selection of debutant Joel Tomkins, first test start for Billy Vunipola and first game at Twickenham for London Irish speedster Marland Yarde, it would be easy for them to be fazed by the big occasion.
Perhaps the celebration of England’s 2003 RWC victory motivated the side, however it was obvious Daddy Faz and Rowntree had earned their wage packet. Never have I seen such a dogged defence from such an inexperienced side. The sharp line speed put the likes of Genia and Cooper under immense pressure, and even though on occasion it seemed that the likes of Yarde were too narrow in the line, each and every player was willing to make the hit or cover the outside man. Folau only really managed one arcing run that really worried the England flanks. Australia continually played in the tight channels with Genia supplying ball to big runners like Mowen, Fardy and Moore, yet, the plaudits go to England again who covered the guard and bodyguard positions around the ruck very effectively. Even more overwhelming was the positional play of Mike Brown who was the Red Roses stand-out performer of the afternoon. It’s not easy to execute play on a World Class degree consistently when you have the likes of; Foden, Goode, Watson, Tait and Pennell all pushing for International duty in the 15 jersey. Harlequins Brown was the catalyst and spark for England’s comeback with his terrific efforts leading to the first try for the ‘All Whites’.
Another part of England’s game that has come on leaps and bounds since the Six Nations was the ability to retain quick ball and moreover, challenge at the breakdown. We have been accustom to regular indiscipline and loss of possession at ruck time, however, all of the pack and backs looked confident and able at clearing out. The regular long post presentation and clinical rucking by England gave Dickson and Youngs a platform to mount an attack at the tiring Australian defence.
Finally, the scrum. It wasn’t the best day for the officials, however I thought Clancy’s judgement at the Scrum was spot on. It was a worry for Rowntree and co. when Corbisiero, who’d impressed for the Lions in the summer, had been ruled out for the game with a minor knee injury. Yet, Vunipola stepped up to the plate and alongside Cole, who also needed to pull out a superior performance, battered and roughed up a typically average Australian Front Row. It was also heart warming to see much more solid scrums and a battle of technique and power.
A young team rallying together gives me hope for the future and the RWC 2015. Improvements must be and will be made. England need to get some more dynamism in attack and there is room for improvement in the Lineout, yet, as long as each player does there job, I don’t see why we can’t at least push New Zealand close. At least we have the Cook Cup already this Autumn.
Ratings from todays game-
1. Mako Vunipola- 8
2. Tom Youngs- 7
3. Dan Cole- 7
4. Joe Launchbury- 8
5. Courtney Lawes- 8
6. Tom Wood- 9
7. Chris Robshaw- 9
8. Billy Vunipola- 8
9. Lee Dickson- 6
10. Owen Farrell- 7
11. Marland Yarde- 7
12. Billy Twelvetrees- 5
13. Joel Tomkins- 7
14. Chris Ashton- 7
15. Mike Brown- 10
16. Dylan Hartley- 8
17. Joe Marler- 7
18. David Wilson- 8
19. Dave Attwood- 7
20. Ben Morgan- 7
21. Ben Youngs- 8
22. Toby Flood- No time
23. Ben Foden (N/A)
Team for Argentina encounter-
1. Alex Corbisiero- Vunipola elder had another solid carrying game, now up to Corbs to see what he can add to the team.
2. Dylan Hartley- It was evident that Tom Youngs still hasn’t got this throwing nailed. Hartley added impetus and accuracy at the Lineout.
3. David Wilson- The Bath man is on wonderful form and Cole needs competition to get back to his best. Wilson can be that aggressive Tight head that England need.
4. Joe Launchbury- Still outstanding in defence and brings a tremendous offloading game. Could be one of England’s greatest if he keeps developing.
5. Courtney Lawes- Courtney is back! Big hits, big effort. We need his size and aggression in the scrum and in the loose.
6. Tom Wood- Wondrous and is slowly becoming a rounded Back Rower, can’t applaud him enough.
7. Chris Robshaw- Rightfully Captain. He is the definition of great. He may not be the best 7 or 6, but his leadership puts him above the rest!
8. Billy Vunipola- Unfazed by today. He gets England on the front foot.
9. Ben Youngs- He is a Lion for a reason. He gets the backline firing, adds pace and is dangerous around the rucks.
10. Owen Farrell- New pair of boots needed for Baby Faz. Beginning to stand flatter and getting England over the Gain line regularly.
11. Marland Yarde- Showed his pace and strength early in the Second Half, only stopped by a covering Ashley-Cooper.
12. Luther Burrell- Twelvetrees had a shocker. We are against a weaker side, why not see what Luther can do. Turn that club form into International excellence.
13. Joel Tomkins- Needs time to settle. Did demonstrate his physicality and was superior in the tackle.
14. Christian Wade- If we are looking ahead to 2015, give him a go. He’s scored two scorchers for Wasps. Rest Ashton, see if Wade offers an added edge.
15. Mike Brown- Unbeatable. World Class. Move over Israel’s.
16. Tom Youngs
17. Mako Vunipola
18. Dan Cole
19. Dave Attwood
20. Matt Kvesic
21. Lee Dickson
22. Toby Flood
23. Ben Foden