The English Are Coming

Topped pool in RWC11 with a 100% record, followed by disappointing defeat in the quarter-finals, heralding a rebuild of a tired team. Sound familiar? It should – Stuart Lancaster’s quiet revolution in England is gathering pace, and the scale of the re-build makes bringing in a couple of young wingers look positively tame in comparison.

Its worth noting of course that the Old Farts tried to entice a big name coach, and gave Lancaster a temporary contract through to the end of last season. Given the upturn in results (if not always performances), the meeja clamour became deafening, and Lancaster was duly handed the reigns through to RWC15. We should bear in mind what Napoleon said about lucky generals, for if Charlie Hodgson’s fingertips were an inch shorter, England could have lost to Scotland and Italy, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But they aren’t, and we are – and it’s Lancaster’s team.

The transformation from 15 short months ago is almost total – just three players started both the World Cup quarter-final and the opening game of the 2013 Six Nations (Ben Youngs, Chris Ashton and Dan Cole), although if Manu was fit, he would have made it a fourth. Also, and we are open to correction here, we don’t think one of the starting XV at the weekend had signed a professional contract when England memorably lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in 2003 – this is the first full generation switch since that win, and it’s a very important one. No-one who played with Johnno, Lawrence Bruno Nero and Wilko at their peak is on the team – and the influence of those greats has retreated. This generation does not feel constrained by a gameplan or identity they cannot relate to, and are comfortable playing a heads-up, adventurous style of rugger. We caught glimpses of this potential in the squad before, notably against Australia in November 2010, but it’s the dominant philosophy now.

We’re sure we aren’t alone when we say we had scoffed at the idea of Chris Robshaw as Lions captain as an evil Blighty construct up until very recently, but Robshaw has emerged as a worthy contender, and possibly favourite. His club, Quins, are reigning Premiership champions, are well-placed in the HEC (albeit partly down to using dastardly methods, such as “maximising their chances of winning” by choosing to play their home quarter-final… at home) and play a fresh and exciting brand of football. He has presided over this England side moving up from a confidence-shy, callow bunch of kids to a team with real prospects, and rode out the storm surrounding his tactical folly against the Boks admirably, showing real leadership. Robshaw might lack top-end pace, but he is a seriously hardworking player, and has yet to be “found out” as many predicted.  We still have a personal preference for a more specialised skillset in the Lions’ No.7 shirt, and hold on to our view of him as the ideal midweek captain, but he’s in the shake up for the big gig, no mistake.

How they make up the rest of their backrow will be intriguing.  Their No.8 Ben Morgan has been their best carrier, but looks to be out injured.  Tom Wood, one of the sport’s nice guys (despite playing for the Saints), is a highly effective ironclad blindside and lineout catcher, but word on the street is he’ll be pressed into action at No.8 where, as far as we can tell, he has little experience.  James Haskell would take the No.6 shirt.  Haskell is a player with ‘good face’ and speaks in English Rugby Voice, but he’s been in and out of the England setup down the years; he’ll produce a decent highlights reel but lacks real work ethic.  It’s a somewhat samey back row, made up of three six-and-a-halves.  The alternative is to bring in Wasps’ exciting and dynamic but inexperienced Billy Vunipola at No.8 and retain a better balance, but it seems Vunipola will be held in reserve.  Nick Easter – playing as well as ever – continues to be an unwanted man. Maybe he knows Wilkinson too well.

The second row is better balanced, with Leicester’s Geoff Parling running the lineout, and young Joe Launchbury – a massive find – offering an athletic, but physical presence in the herd of the pack. We especially enjoyed how Stephen Jones was scathing of his selection, campaigning for a raft of 34 year old scrappers in his place.  No English front-row is going to get beaten up, and there is plenty of bang-wallop on the bench, with the Vunipolas Mako and Billy, Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes on the bench.  And David Wilson!  What on earth is he still doing in the England team?!

England have two potential Lions scrum-halves in Ben Youngs and Danny Care, and it appears the competition is driving both to higher standards, with growing maturity being noted – and no matter who starts, there is a game-changer on the bench. Owen Farrell is a dead-eyed kicker (except in Thomond Park on wintery Saturday evenings obviously, when even the most mentally-strong of players metamorphasise into gibbering wrecks at the very sight of the tears of Irish print journalists) and improving at bringing his outside backs into play. Floody offers a bench alternative, and Freddy Burns is another talented youngster pushing for selection.

At centre, team fulcrum Tuilagi utterly destroyed the standout inside back line of this era (Caddah, Nonu, Smuth) last year with his physicality, pace and offloading skills. In Tuilagi’s absence, Billy 36 stepped in to give a man of the match performance inside old-fashioned bosh merchant Brad Barritt-Ooooooooooh – 36 could potentially drop out of the 23 for Dublin if Manu returns, which is an acknowledgment of England’s strength and depth. We suspect Lancaster would love the idea of a 36-Manu midfield, but the unheralded Barritt is the man who leads defensive alignment, and Manu, for all his strengths, is not the man to take over this duty, and the role may be considered too great a responsibility for Twelvetrees on his second cap.  Next on the depth chart is the much-hyped Jonathan Joseph; Guscott seems to think he is the best English centre since himself, and the second best ever, after himself.

Ben Foden is in most people’s Lions squads, yet Alex Goode and Mike Brown are the squad fullbacks right now – Foden has just returned from injury, and Lancaster has surprised us by leaving him out of the squad entirely.  Personally, we’d prefer to see Ireland face Goode than the classy Foden, but Lancaster is rewarding form, which is working well for him.  At wing, they’re going with another full-back, Mike Brown – which leaves them in a strong position to contend high balls -alongside Loathsome Chris Ashton (let us be fair and acknowledge at this point that most of the England squad seem like fine young chaps, and Ashton is an outlier, along with C-bomb Clark). Although not at his best by any means, Ashton will offer Ireland’s mini wings a different threat to the Welsh monsters – he plays off his 9 and 10, and if he is not tracked inside, he will be gone through the gap before you can say ‘Ian Humphreys defence’. Dave Strettle, Charlie Sharples, Christian Wade and Johnny May are just a few of the exciting alternatives.

So, to put that all together, England have a talented team, impressive depth, a clear vision and are well-coached and selected, with a question mark over the make-up of the backrow. There’s a humility and likeability around them that – let’s face it – not many previous vintages have had (except for Shawsy, Wilko and Josh Lewsey, who were gents, of course).  That’s good news for them with a home RWC in prospect, especially with the opportunity to knock a rival out at the group stages.  They might be feeling a little too plummy about themselves right now, given their rave reviews in the media, which would be no bad thing, but so far they haven’t given Ireland any ammunition.

For now, it’s vital Ireland pile the pressure on them with intensity and aggression the like of which they have yet to see. Amid the hallooing of their win over an infection-crippled New Zealand team, it has been largely forgotten that they lost at home to Australia and South Africa.  For Ireland to win, they will need to win the physical stakes, for this England side will cut you to shreds with a platform. Hassling the scrum halves is a necessity.  Both Youngs and Care are quick and lethally dangerous if given front-foot ball and a gap to run into, but we’ve seen that they can become flustered under pressure.  Ireland will be happy to have Conor Murray, a terrific defender, to patrol the fringes and, assuming O’Brien is picked at 7 again, he can expect to have another high tackle-count next to his name.  It’s a very different challenge to winning in Wales, and one we welcome for this Ireland side – England are going to be contenders at RWC15, and we should consider them a developmental benchmark at this stage of the game.

Johnny Sexton is (again) Ireland’s key man, alongside, of course, Mike Ross.  Sexton has the experience and poise to pilot Ireland through this game, and the reward for doing so is a cut at only a third Grand Slam in our history. But it won’t be easy, not at all.

Advertisements

71 Comments

  1. mikebrad

     /  February 7, 2013

    any idea if Dorce is fit? I think we could miss his tackling ability against Manu, Baritt or Billy Douze Arbre. Earls was unfortunate for the Cuthbert try that he had only just come on the field but I still wouldn’t fancy him against any of those three.

    • Word is he took a full part in training yesterday. I expect he’ll be named in the team at this stage. Would be a big loss for sure.

  2. Great piece guys. A really balanced view of the England team & the threat they pose. For my part, one of Lancaster’s biggest achievement has been his transformation of the attitude of the England team from a massively low post world cup ebb.

    They played like a team who didn’t like themselves or each other much and were being absolutely savaged by their own media, for exploits both on & off the pitch. For all his innumerable talents, Martin Johnson was totally out of his depth here & bizarrely, seemed to have a problem with disciplining his own players, which is not something that came across as captain.

    Lancaster has dealt well with behavioural issues (see Danny Care). He’s been savvy rather than ruling with a rod of iron & seems to have created a much happier atmosphere in camp. I’d say part of this is, as you said, the move away from older players with set mindsets.

    Picking nice guy Robshaw as his captain has helped this, as is the fact Lancaster comes across as someone you’d love to have a scoop with. I did feel somewhat sorry for the England team post-RWC as their won media seemed intent on tearing them apart but their own behaviour didn’t help, even if it was blown out of proportion. Lancaster’s every man persona (if persona is the right word when it seems genuine) has been a huge help in getting the media onside as well as the element of luck you mentioned. But they’ve built something onto that platform & kudos to them for it.

    Now if they proceed to lie down for us on Sunday I’ll like them even more! And swine might be airborne. It’s going to be a cracker this weekend & a massive competition. I’m torn between being incredibly excited & physically nauseous. Sometimes a bit of both. Can’t wait. Oh God

  3. Robshaw always strikes me as being, kind of, spectacularly ordinary. He does everything really, really well and he obviously works on his game really, really hard but he never quite tips over into the exceptional. The vagueries of leadership and class are difficult to get into but you would never have seen BOD or Paul O’Connell or Parisse or Martin Johnson being questioned by their flyhalf as Robshaw was by Farrell in the South Africa game.

    Having said all that I quite like the guy.

    Wouldn’t be unhappy if England went with Haskell/Robshaw/Wood. Wood is solid operator but doesn’t have anything like Morgan’s carrying threat. Haskell did okay against the Scots but I watched him for the Highlanders a few times last season and he struggled to make an impact in games.

    • Great description of Robshaw, very fitting. He’s a generalist more than a specialist, isn’t he? Most leading flankers excel in one area or another, whether it’s mounting huge tackle counts, great lineout catching, superb linking and continuity, breakdown work or ball-carrying. Robshaw is pretty good at everything but not outstanding in any facet.

    • Anonymous

       /  February 7, 2013

      I recall Rog and Poc “discussing” what to do in the final play of the 2008 h-cup final.They ended up with a tap and go, with Leamy very much against the idea and while pointing towards the post. I think any team player with a pair will and should question a captains decision when it’s clearly dubious and game losing decision

  4. TJ Hooker

     /  February 7, 2013

    C-bomb Clark?

  5. Word is Manu is on the bench, with Strettle dropping out. Brand in for Morgan, and Hartley and Youngs is close…

    I’d be quite happy to see what 36-Barritt can do versus Dorce and Drico… And again a lack of out and out pace could be England’s downfall. Brown, Goode, Barritt and 36 aren’t known for their pace!

    • zdm

       /  February 7, 2013

      The England centre set up will tell a lot about their approach to the game.

      I’d guess that a Twelvetrees/Barritt combo will mean they will look to take first phase ball to ground through Barritt and their flankers before spinning wide to try and run over the top of our wings.

      If they go for any combination involving Bambam Tuilangi then our centres better have their tackling boots with them and 2nd/3rd phase ball is going to the rafters to test Gilroy/Zebo under the high ball.

  6. Parling is Leicester, innit?

  7. RDS Curva Nord

     /  February 7, 2013

    Some fine young gents in that English team, tis true, but Ashton and C-Bomb Clark are not the only c-bombs. Hartley is also a horrible character (he sees eye sockets the way we see gloves) and Lawes is a thug. And to be fair Tuilagi is an idiot and Care is a lager lout. It helps to demonize the enemy!

    • Len

       /  February 7, 2013

      If your going that route then Rob Andrew is the Devil (a view I’m sure some ex English coaches and players would share).

    • Leinsterlion

       /  February 7, 2013

      Ah Hartley is a loveable thug, Id love to have him watching my back in a fight. Ireland only have faux hardmen in the mold of “hold me back” O’Mahony . Healy seems to be the only Irish player willing to dish it out. Case in point Heaslip surrounded by kiwis after his red and Healy was the only Irish player who had his back.

      • I wouldn’t class any player with Hartley’s disciplinary record as a “loveable thug”. Also, what’s with all this “having his back stuff”? Are we auditioning for West Side story or something?

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 7, 2013

        No, its just very disheartening to see one green shirt on the floor surrounded by black shirts and only one of his teammates comes to his aid. Watch SA, NZ and the Island teams especially. If any thing kicks off they are instantly beside their teammates backing them up.
        You have to have your teammates back in rugby, you dont just stand there and wait for peace to break out.Take a look at the recent Georgia-Belgium all out brawl.Neither team gave an inch and they all had each others back. Thats the essence of teamwork, leaving your mate to get thumped by a bunch of angry kiwis is not. Its no wonder we constantly get hammered by them

      • West Side Story. Amazing. Best Comment ever.

        Agree, it’s nonsense. They’re professional sportsmen not 12 year olds in the playground.

        Heaslip was kneeing a man on the ground, why would you ‘have his back’ over that? It was indefensible.

      • Best Comment Ever? Hey Whiff of Cordite can I have a mug or a T-shirt or something?

        Leinster Lion, I see where you’re coming from but I’d still be more on the side of Ro Murphy. There’s nothing wrong with not taking a backwards step but I don’t think many would argue that spectacle between Georgia & Belgium was a hugely noble moment for the sport. Also Ronan raises a good point about your particular example

      • Scrumdog

         /  February 7, 2013

        I disagree entirely with you view of the Irish pack!
        Hartley should be kept the furthest possible distance from a rugby pitch. If he plays on Sunday he should be targeted for provocation and the reduction of England to 14 players. He was a known thug on the rugby field even at schools level in NZ.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 7, 2013

        Rugby is a physical confrontational game at its most basic level. Why SA,Eng, and NZ are constantly successful is that they understand this and select players we label “thugs” to be enforcers. Look at all successful teams at intentional level. South Africa had a pack containing Bismark DuPlessis, Bakkies,Smith, Roussouw to be physical and bully the opposition. England could call upon a number of confrontational players, Julian White, Mark Regan, Joe Worsley, Martin Johnson and Grewcock to name a few.
        NZ’s entire team buys into that philosophy and when one of their players is being targeted they go at it as a team. Look up Brad thorn dumping John Smit, or the aftermath of Hartley attempt to butt McCaw. Look at Mealamu and Umaga dumping Drico or Mealamu headbutting Moody last year. Or Andrew Hore in the Wales game. Even further back look at Richard Loe,Sean Fitzpatrick from the 90’s
        You need to have that nasty brutal spine in your team to be successful. Leinster gained it with Hines/Thorn, Healy and until this season Cullen and Jenno were part of that. Its no surprise that just as Cullen and Jennos bodies start packing up Leinsters performance suffers. Munster had that spine for years in the likes of Quinny etc and thats why they were successful.
        Ireland wont be successful until we stop being nice guys and add a nasty streak to our team

      • To look upon Mealamu and Umaga’s spearing O’Driscoll or Hore smashing Davies in the head from behind with any kind of admiration is beyond ridiculous. Neither has any part in any sport and to even mention those as positives is sickening.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 7, 2013

        Im not saying its positive, its just an observation that thuggery seems to follow successful teams. I challenge you find one successful team(in the modern era) without a flinty spine.

      • Anonymous

         /  February 7, 2013

        Reckon Donnacha and McCarthy would get stuck in. Rory has been known to but usually far too unflappable.

      • @Leinsterlion. You’re careening from one idea to another. Being a thug and being tough and flinty are not the same thing.

        Example, Jamie Cudmore vs Paul O’Connell, 2008. When Cudmore throws punches, O’Connell doesn’t just get stuck into him. First he makes sure the officials saw it, then he gets his digs back. Red card for Cudmore, only yellow for O’Connell. One of those is a thug, the other is just smart.

        Neither Munster nor Leinster had thugs in their HCup winning teams. They were tough outfits but not violent.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 8, 2013

        Alan Quinlan was not a thug? I must have imagined that Shane Jennings incident. Quinlan wasnt in the Munster team for being an outstanding linkman,tackler or ball carrier.
        Being tough, hardman, flinty, streetwise, an enforcer, a thug, hard, pugnacious, scrappy, hotheaded, violent are all the same thing.
        Those adjectives apply to people going outside the rules of the game occasionally as well as egregiously( eg:Bakkies headbutt on Cowan). Just because you believe Cudmore overstepped some invisible mark that separates him from being “smart/streetwise” and being a “thug” does not make it so.
        Why was Scott Gibbs brought on the Lions in 97? Why did Andre Venter earn so many Bok caps? Why was JP Nel a mainstay in the successful Heyeneke Meyer Bulls team? Your splitting hairs by claiming the successful Irish provinces were tough not violent. Look up Stan Wright scrapping with the Munster pack, the off the ball stuff against Contepomi, Elsom elbowing Keatley in the head to cite a few examples.
        At its heart rugby is a violent game and as much as the PC marketing types try to turn it into ballet, its still a battle. The Lions lost the SA tour because they couldnt live with the physicality of the Saffas, thats the bottom line. Even Peter Devilliers understood that.

    • toro toro

       /  February 7, 2013

      Lawes is a thug in the good sense, though, a legitimate hard man, who keeps the opposition honest. The proverbial “enforcer”. What he isn’t is a dirty or nfair player. He’s a Hines, not a Hartley.

      Actually, good as Parling and Launchbury have been, it’s the one thing I think England are missing…

      • RDS Curva Nord

         /  February 7, 2013

        Lawes is dirty, proper filthy like French small local rivalry dirty. Not like Hines at all – Hines is a gent and a Leinster hero, even when he’s playing brilliantly for the Jaundards!

      • Scrumdog

         /  February 8, 2013

        Alan Quinlan was not a thug, that’s an unfair statement, he was a bloody good player and being offside and agitating was his job. A thug would be classified as a serial offender like Bakkies Botha or Hartley. Hoare is not a repeat offender, he’s a hard physical player at the highest level and the All Blacks are not a dirty team any more than Ireland is. Brad Thorn was not a dirty player just a very hard physical player who stood his ground… and sorted out a few thugs in his day!.

        Before rugby became professional, and I suppose even now, throughout the senior and junior club teams you had enforcers and punches flew and you got raked and sometimes kicked, an accepted part of the game.. rugby is, as someone once said, ‘violent chess’ but players didn’t go around biting or gouging, that was expected from the likes of Argentina and France at test level who’d step over the line. Being an enforcer does not make a player a thug, just someone who will not be intimidated and who the team can rally around in the event of serious foul play, they are needed on every team. The Willie John McBride- Colin Meads type….. good clean wholesome stuff!

        How many times during a maul have you felt your hand on someone’s face, sometimes it is unavoidable and a finger can accidentally enter the eye in the moving melee of players.There was an incident in the USA recently where a player’s eye was ripped out in a maul and that was a complete accident! The player it happened to is a Doctor and is now blind in one eye. These are the risks you take playing rugby, though uncommon, they do occur.

        Looking back to the NZ v Barbarians in1973..no stiff arm /collar tackles were penalised in the entire match..nor did a brawl erupt because of them! If someone had been gouged or bitten there would have been a massive brawl, because that is thuggery!

        The so called ‘red mist’ players are dangerous players and need therapy like Hartley has received….and be kept from the rugby field if not ‘cured’! I doubt if Hartley is man enough to go toe to toe with someone like OConnell or Cudmore or maybe even our Leinsterlion!

  8. Owen Farrell is a dead-eyed kicker (except in Thomond Park on wintery Saturday evenings obviously, when even the most mentally-strong of players metamorphasise into gibbering wrecks at the very sight of the tears of Irish print journalists)… Think it’s the silence before kicks that got to him, that night!

    • Even before the game in Thomond Farrell was having a shocker, missed nearly all the kicks in his warm-up.

      He also threw the intercepted pass in the return leg so he didn’t have a good time against Munster in December.

      • Stevo

         /  February 7, 2013

        Farrell’s performance in Thomond that night was fairly typical of the poor season he’d been having up until then. He only started the game against the All Blacks the week before because Flood was injured.

      • He’s an odd one alright. He has really impressed for England but has had some poor outings for Sarries this year…and Hodgson is definitely giving him more than a run for his money at 10.

  9. Leinsterlion

     /  February 7, 2013

    We have the edge over England at hooker/backrow/10/15 and Drico. The English backrow are a bunch of hard grafting interchangeable 6’s with Lancaster favoring the Jake White approach to selecting a back row by the looks of it. SOB is streets ahead of Robshaw as a 7. Heaslip is ahead of any english 8, Anonymous O’Mahoney needs a big game to justify his continued selection.
    Reliable “nice guy” Farrell has nothing on Sexton, Drico would get the better of either Manu or Barrit. If Dorce isnt fit it’ll be a long day for Earls and the people hiding him in the backline.
    Care and Youngs can pass quickly, instantly giving them the edge on Murrays geriatric pass.
    At scrum time England proved what a threat they are and if we dont bring our A game we are sunk. Irelands lineout has not reached the same levels it did with POC, its more solid then dominant atm.
    I’m worried about Gilroy and Zebo, both are naive defensively and Gilroys kicking game is dire, hopefully hes instructed to run or hand it to RK.
    Why is Chris Ashton loathsome? Hes no MBW or Quade Cooper or Martin Johnson.
    If the high intensity that Ireland displayed for a good portion of the Wales match is replicated I think we can shade them, if it isnt we’ll get hosed. Im predicting a Boom/Bust scenario where we get on top early and win narrowly or get dominated early and lose convincingly(with a late futile fightback).

    *pedant alert* Its Christian Wade not Elliot.

    • Chris Ashton; Swan Dive. Loathsome

    • Seko

       /  February 7, 2013

      Couldnt agree more…we should just play the leinster starting 15, everyone else will surely get found out except maybe Rory Best cause if we didnt play him we’d be forced to start Cronin and sure he’s from Munster originally!

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 7, 2013

        Your insinuation that im biased would be correct If I was calling for Toner,McFadden,Conway,McLaughlin,Bent,Kearney jnr to be involved.
        Im not, Leinster and Ulster are the best provinces in the country, the starting 15 should reflect that.
        Front row:Ross, Best, Healy. Any better then those?
        Second row is a weakness. After Ryan and McCarthy(neither of whom are elite) there is no one fit.
        Back row:SOB,Heaslip, Henry. If Ferris was fit he’d be the only only change there.
        9:Boss or Marshall. Boss has all of Murrays best attributes but a quicker delivery.
        10:Sexton. no ones even close
        Center: 12:Marshall/Dorce/McFadden/Downey/Fitzgerald 13: Drico. Earls/Danny Barnes/Tom Gleeson and whoever else you want, are third rate.
        Wing:As Tommy Bowe is out it’d be Gilroy and Fitz, Zebo is good going forward less so in defence.Zebo as cover for 15/wing.
        15.Rob K, who else is there, Ian Dowling?
        Just because the national media and Irish coach have a love affair with all things red does not mean they deserve a quota of players selected every week. Look at the hype surrounding Archer for example. Hes in the international squads(even though he doesnt start for his province). Hes shown himself to be a limited player yet hes hyped from all quarters and continually selected,just like Earls. I mean Kilcoyne is being lined up to nab Healys spot and a place on the Lions!

      • If the Irish locks are so non-elite why have Leinster put in offers for both and signed one over the last few years?

        I’m not sure where you’ve seen the ‘hype’ surrounding Archer (unless it was Frankie of course). He was called into one Ireland squad for a week last October, hardly the next big thing. If he’s so beloved why didn’t he go to NZ last summer?

        Kilcoyne has had an impressive breakthrough season but again I haven’t seen any mention of him putting pressure on Healy’s spot (cos he isn’t at the moment) and Lions talk is nonsense.

        Ian Dowling was a winger not a fullback 😉

    • Stevo

       /  February 7, 2013

      O’Mahoney is anonymous. Earls has people hiding him in the backline. Murray’s pass is geriatric. Zebo and Gilroy are naive defensively. Even Paul O’Connell’s arm is only solid rather than dominant in the lineout. I say this as a Leinster fan, but do you not think your opinion of Irish players is slightly blue-tinted, Leinsterlion?

      • Does a lion s**t in the (Munster) Woods?

      • Donbot

         /  February 7, 2013

        I’m out and out Leinster and Murray is the best SH in the country by about 15%. POM did ok the last day too, but why he was selected to start with was dicey. McCarthy is a solid international on current form and would make any of the home nations bar england

    • Anonymous

       /  February 7, 2013

      Gilroy played FB for Ulster recently and kicked beautifully. I’m not suggesting he’s Bob, Hugo Patrick or Stuart Hogg but one off day doesn’t make him dire. And what’s the alternative?

  10. Len

     /  February 7, 2013

    Last I heard KE was still doubtful and was having a scan of his shoulder. Does anyone know how that went? Leinsterlion Ashton is a C Bomb because of the stupid glory hound swan dives. Would love to see him drop a ball doing that.

  11. Xyz

     /  February 7, 2013

    Bravo on acknowledging that there isn’t much to dislike about this England side*. Lancaster has done a fine job in putting together a team rather than a bus load of louts.

    The English won the game against the BNZ at the breakdown – they just blew them away and played at an incredible pace. Their pack are mobile and fast and once they hit their stride the team is very hard to defend against. You saw that against the Scots as well. Much as, man for man, I’d rate our backrow over theirs the way they are playing is more than the sum of the parts.

    * Apart from how emminently, and unfairly, punchable some of their faces are (Ashton, Care, Youngs…)

  12. Seko

     /  February 7, 2013

    Love the fact that within a piece about the England national team you guys managed to throw in two sarcastic anecdotes about Munster. Keep up the good work!

    • Let us clarify, in no uncertain terms – those digs were aimed at our good friends in the print meeja, not Munster! I’d hate for a dig to go misunderstood, especially by the intended recipients

      • Seko

         /  February 7, 2013

        Meeja another one…brilliant…cause they never learnt how to pronounce a D south of Kilkenny. Love it – keep it up. Provincialism!

      • Anonymous

         /  February 7, 2013

        Aren’t you in the meeja now? 😉

      • Spikes

         /  February 7, 2013

        Seko, you’ve maybe not spent enough time in Dublin to know that Meeja would be the normal pronunciation there (and despite living abroad, I’m guilty too).
        On Provincialism – friendly rivalry, sure, but nobody who remembers the wasteland of the 1990s underestimates Munster’s contribution to Irish rugby.

      • Oh come on Seko, take it from us that spelling it ‘meeja’ is not an anti-Munster thing.

      • toro toro

         /  February 7, 2013

        Private Eye magazine have been conducting a 40-year anti-everyone-south-of-Kilkenny campaign. The things you learn on the internet…

  13. Don

     /  February 7, 2013

    Why all the hate for Danny Care? Hes a young lad that did some stupid things while pissed.
    Hands up here whos never done that?
    *silence*
    I rest my case. Only difference between you and him is has that horrible media on his shoulder all the time (and I think thats a major reason why most people dont like the English team. Well, that, Ashton and swing low sweet f**king chariot)
    Care is a fantastic scum half playing with confidence and class. Id watch him all day long, I think hes super.

    England to win by 15 and possibly sink Kidneys chances of a new contract. Their bench is so so so much better than ours and SL seems like the smart kind of guy to, oh I dont know…. use it properly?

    • Its Egg here – I’d have Care in my Lions team – he brings the X factor, and he gives up nothing in stature to Amazing Will Genia. He’s been excellent for Quins this season

      • Paddy Logan

         /  February 7, 2013

        Although Murray is improving fast, I think Care is the standout 9. Would love to see him playing with J10.

    • I think Care’s a great player. He made his mistakes off the pitch which were well dealt with by his club & country. Plus the most serious allegation, that of sexual assault was dropped. He seems to have really turned this around for himself. here’s hoping Zac Guilford can do the same.

    • Am surprised at the confidence from an Irish perspective going into this one. The bookies have it at scratch but I would have England as favourites – not by 15 points mind.

      If we allow them the same amount of possession we allowed Wales in the final 30 minutes, they will punish us. We will not be able to make 200 tackles 2 weeks in a row and England are better placed to put us away. Combine that with our very weak bench (which you point out) and we are in a very precarious situation.

      If we win, it will be a classic Kidney-era intensity-based win IMO. We were so incredibly reliant on the front 5 last weekend. DOC can come on and do a job but if any of the front row gets injured, it will be tough for us to win this. Ditto if either Darce or BOD gets injured.

      • Don

         /  February 7, 2013

        Im standing by the 15 points. If anything I think we are under estimating the English here. This is a very very good side with some smashing players (egg agrees with me; that gave me an unnatural thrill :D) playing with confidence and they butched us last year.
        They are going to go after Ross, I think they will win the scrum and if we take our foot off the gas like I think we did last week (watching online from India perhaps didnt give me the clearest of pictures TBH) they wont think twice about making us pay.
        Make no mistake, this isnt a Welsh team playing like a drain with no confidence and living off one excellent world cup (thought they were lucky last year).

        Also I agree with connachtexile below. Guscott must be the mist vomit inducing pundit in world rugby.
        Prince if centers my arse!

      • toro toro

         /  February 7, 2013

        I make it, without any particular confidence, about a +3 advantage to Ireland, based on being in Dub-town and the lack of experience in the England side (we called them callow last year, but the XV that started the first game had 43 more caps than this time around). But I can tell you this; in Rugby Country, down here in the south-west of England, nobody is making them 15-point favourites…

    • RDS Curva Nord

       /  February 7, 2013

      Fair point re Care…he suits an anti-English argument but he does seem alright, reformed, and he is a damned exciting player…& I’d love to go for a few pints with him this Saturday 😉…

  14. Connachtexile

     /  February 7, 2013

    Love the Guscott comments almost as much as Guscott loves himself.

  15. Pretty sure Jimmy Haskell was a pro when Johno’s boys lifted the Webb Ellis…albeit a fledgling one. Wasps was his club, right?

    • It says on Wiki that his first Wasps stint ran from 2002-07, but presumably that includes some time in the academy so maybe that doesn’t count. He was born in April 2005, so he’d have been 18 when the Webb Ellis was proudly hoisted by the English yoemen.

      • Maybe he just seems like he’s been around forever – he certainly started his career at the right time in Wasps. Just at the beginning of their period of dominance.

      • Yes, I remember he had a terrific impact coming off the bench in their run to the H-Cup final, where they beat Leicester. He was fantastic. I’ve never seen him hit that form since, not on a consecutive game basis anyway.

      • toro toro

         /  February 7, 2013

        “He was born in April 2005, so he’d have been 18 when the Webb Ellis was proudly hoisted by the English yoemen.”

        Typo, or one hell of a scoop for 2023?

  16. Brllliiant writing. Love the Thomond tribute – burst out laughing!

  17. Seiko

     /  February 8, 2013

    “I’m not sure where you’ve seen the ‘hype’ surrounding Archer (unless it was Frankie of course).”

    Hate to tell you Ronan, but Penney was hyping him the other day.
    “You only need to talk to the hookers to know how good he [Archer] is,” said Penney. “I don’t want to put too much expectation on the lad but there’s no reason why he can’t go all the way.”

    • Seko

       /  February 8, 2013

      His coach was asked a direct question about a player….that is not ‘hype’….I suppose Joe Schmidt would point out that Jamie Hagan is Rabo12 at best if he was asked the same question? Archeeris a decent player, relatively young for a prop and is Irish qualified all very rare in this country…the only reason people are even talking about him-its not hype!

      • Seko, about that chip on your shoulder: get it seen to man. You shouldn’t let those things linger, what with modern medicine and all.

      • Indeed, what is any coach supposed to say about one of the players he’s trying to develop especially a relatively young one?

        And a sentence that begins with “I don’t want to put too much expectation on the lad” is about the worst example of ‘hype’ I’ve seen.

%d bloggers like this: