As Clint Eastwood’s iconic character Dirty Harry once said “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?” Well do ya punk?
Were England lucky against Ireland? Was it a one off like the All Blacks performance of 2012? Joe Schmidt the kiwi born Irish coach said it best “We got beaten up” he also sensed a lack of energy emanating from his squad in the lead up during the week. Which was in stark contrast to the energy levels he noted leading up to the All Blacks Test in 2018.
England were not lucky, it was their sheer brutal physical dominance and determination which heralded their convincing win over the Irish, and not just at the coal face, it was laden across the park from 1 to 15, especially on defense, which John Mitchell deserves immense credit for. English rugby scribes have hailed the victory as England setting a marker down for their World Cup glory. A marker was put down to an extent, however as the Irish know all too well, you don’t need any extra motivation for the “big Test matches.”
England’s credentials for a World Cup glory this year should be scrutinized far more introspectively this weekend when they take on France at Twickenham. The French have been on the decline now for a number of years (the Top 14 I believe to be the sole cause for this, but that is a debate for another time.) The vaunted French flair is nothing but a distant memory, and over the weekend they utterly conspired against themselves to lose to Wales, whilst many pundits and fans alike feel that victory for England this weekend is a foregone conclusion and perhaps it is. However if England want to be considered legitimate World Cup contenders, they will back up last weekend’s performance with a similarly authoritative execution this weekend.
The French players should be filthy with themselves and I expect them to turn up at their old enemies ground with a healthy appetite for confrontation and sense of purpose. France might have had the heaviest pack in Rugby history over the weekend, but that counts for nothing when you see the final scoreboard and Frances outright calamity in blowing a 16 point lead after halftime.
Head coach for France Jacques Brunel needs to derive as much creativity and desire from his squad for them to have any chance of upsetting the English. France are directionless in game management at the moment and Brunel has to find a way of creating a winning mentality if France are to get back to their halcyon days, ultimately however it is the responsibility of the players to evoke their own sense of self belief. Beating England this weekend would go an extensive way to getting the foundations of a winning mentality.
What should be an English victory by all presumptions, a deeper sense of introspection in their performance will highlight whether the Roses mean real business in Tokyo later this year. Like Dirty Harry, he was lucky, due to the fact he created his own opportunity for luck, as England did last weekend, let’s see if luck or legitimacy is founded on Saturday.
Written by Brandon Going