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Johnson finally has something to smile about

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Ben Dirs | 11:59 UK time, Saturday, 24 September 2011

Dunedin

With 20 minutes remaining at Otago Stadium, some poor unfortunate decided it would be a grand idea to stamp his authority on the game.

The pitch intruder in question may live to regret his moment in the sun - you can get three months' porridge in this part of the world for that kind of behaviour - but he did achieve the almost impossible and get a smile out of Martin Johnson.

A few minutes later, when Chris Ashton went over for his hat-trick, the England manager's shoulders were fairly rolling. "I always look pretty angry," said Johnson at Thursday's pre-match media conference, "even on a good day." So those rolling shoulders spoke volumes.

Chris Ashton and Mark Cueto celebrate after both scored hat-tricks against Romania. Picture: Getty

However, Johnson was not about to get too carried away.

"You get hyped up [by the press], you get knocked down," said Johnson after the game. "Things get sensationalised - but often the truth lies somewhere in the middle."

And so it was on Saturday: at the end of a week when many of international rugby's puffed-up minnows became deflated again, England ran in 10 tries and gave a much-improved display - albeit against a largely second-string Romania.

The most heartening aspect of England's victory was the fluency and the accuracy, especially from England's back-line.

Centre Manu Tuilagi did what he does best, running angles and barrelling through tackles, while Northampton wing Ashton, seemingly never at home on the right wing, snapped and crackled and was so pumped up he looked ready to pop.

Mark Cueto, meanwhile, scored more tries in 12 first-half minutes than he had in his previous 28 internationals - what you might call a rust-busting performance.

With Jonny Wilkinson getting his midfield playing on the gain line with some perfectly-pitched flat passes, much of England's back-play before the break was crisp and clinical. Support runners on shoulders, linking between backs and forwards, knowing when to take it to ground or when to offload, retention of the ball - realism allied with adventure.

The breakdown, an area of much concern in England's first two games against Argentina and Georgia, was also improved, creating a platform for attacking waves. Skipper Lewis Moody, England's man of glass, looked almost back to full fitness, while his fellow back-rowers, James Haskell and Tom Croft, also showed well in the loose.

If last week, against Georgia, England looked like a side still shrouded in scaffolding, perhaps this was the week when the scaffolding started to be removed. And not a moment too soon. "We tried to start next week at half-time," said Johnson. "That's when [this World Cup] really starts in a way, against Scotland. We'll see what happens on Sunday [when Scotland play Argentina in Wellington] - hopefully it's an incredibly physical game."

While Johnson declared himself happy with his side's improved discipline, England still managed to leak 12 penalties, and with a kicker of the quality of Chris Paterson in the Scotland line-up, that is a few too many. And against the Scots, a few too many penalties could condemn England to a quarter-final clash against New Zealand in Auckland.

As I wrote this blog, the All Blacks were demonstrating exactly how big the difference between finishing first or second in Pool B could prove. While England appear to be heading in the right direction, the gap in class between Johnson's men and the hosts looks to be an insurmountable one.

Against Marc Lievremont's flaky French, however, England would stand much more than a fighting chance of reaching the semi-finals.

So credit where credit is due - England needed to raise their game against Romania and they did so. And while not exactly giggling himself to sleep tonight, perhaps Johnson will lie back, reflect on a deeply frustrating few weeks and come over all Churchillian: now is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    The French media have not been so critical of the English team (one or two notable exceptions) as the English (British?) and were again fairly reasoned in their praise of an improved performance. Whilst I felt that Ben has been overly critical in the past I reckon this blog was just about right. Needed to do better and did do better. Same for the team really.
    Neck on block time for you Ben. Will Scotland beat Argentina? Not being one to shy away from a challenge I reckon they won't which could put the Scots out after their failure to get a bonus point against Georgia. Come on Ben, your answer please.

  • Comment number 2.

    Good to see some positivity from the players, the management, and folks like you Ben - the hoots of derision from the first blog after the Argentina are largely consigned to history now, which is a sign that England are steadily growing. Not nessecerily a criticism of yourself, although that first blog got a bit long-winded with discussion about verve and brio (not sure how a wooden train set would've helped them, but there you go), but it's good to see that the team have given you something nice to write about :)

    The game itself was a good step forwards, and finally, some of the potential that was hamstrung or hampered in previous games was unleashed. There were still moments of stupidity, and times where England thought they were a netball team rather than a rugby team, and times where a cool head needed to calm things down before they got too over-enthusiastic, but I suppose that in a way is a good thing - so far, the only cooling that's been needed to have done is to Johnno's blowing top after games.

    To be fair, the pens we did give away, particularly in the 2nd, looked pretty marginal, and Poite was being rather picky with both sides (that's his style, no accusations of bias there), but it was never anything serious, and we seemed to get our act together again pretty quickly before it became too much of a problem - hey, we didn't get anyone sin-binned this time!

    There are a few bloggers already throwing out the 'it's only Romania, tougher games ahead' card - proof that you really can't win either way with these games. Against Georgia, we were 'dominated by lowly Georgia' and pilloried. This time, we thrashed 'a second-string Romania side that were never going to threaten anyway' sort of thing. I think you could tell though, from our play on the field, that there was a definite sense of practicing moves, techniques and generally making sure we got things right, and for the most part we did. The changing of various players from half time onwards gave it the feeling of a warm-up game, and while yes, he probably should have done this chopping and changing in the actual warm-up games themselves rather than three games into the tournament, at least we finally have a decent idea who the first XV will be. Both flys put their hands up today, and depending on the game, it'll be a hard pick between Wilko and Flood. At least the centres, with Tuilagi leading the charge and Hape/Tindall dictating more defensively, have a bit more solidarity and penetration about them, although Tindall still looks worryingly ponderous and short of handling skill at key moments. Also Haskell was workmanlike but often hair-brained and guilty of rash things. Again possibly guilty of over-complicating things in the heat of what was a fast-paced display from us.

    Overall then, this game marked a new start under Johnson I believe. Things had gotten stale, and perhaps the players and management had been costing off the back of those two amazing victories over Australia last year. The 6N Grand Slam decider should've been the kick up the arse we needed, but it wasn't heeded until now. I'm glad in a way it has been heeded and we now have a chance to rectify things just as we hit the sharp end of the tournament. Having said that, knowing this England team, it could all go bottoms-up again against Scotland - we shall have to wait to find out. Good blog, keep 'em up - especially the ones investigating grassroots/schools rugby etc in NZ, very enjoyable and insightful.

  • Comment number 3.

    Thanks Ben. Engalnd seem to be building a nice head of steam, and hopefully they can build on this even more against the Scots.

  • Comment number 4.

    Best possible outcome I think: solid and authoritative without cause for complacency. Johnson will make much of the 12 penalties in the post-mortem, but the lack of a sin-bin - or even the hint of one - has to be a huge plus.

    They still lack a bit of edge, but encouraging stuff going into a hard match with the Scots.

  • Comment number 5.

    Good performance from England - or at least job done - they seem to be gathering momentum.

    Was a bit taken back while watching the after NZ-FRA game chat on ITV - they were discussing the ENG-FRA matchup...not the possibility of it mind you. I know Scotland's ain't exactly a heavyweight but I had no idea we are regarded quite as poorly and seen as a formality walkover these days.

  • Comment number 6.

    Today showed that we do have some real world class players in our ranks - the likes of Tuilagi, Ashton, Croft, Youngs etc are extremely exciting. Is the whole team good enough to beat NZ? Unlikely.

    The lineout worked brilliantly though, as it has done all tournament, but still unconvinced by our scrums.
    Thought Tindall was pretty ineffective, and still am interested by the option of playing Flood/Wilkinson at inside, and getting the advantage of two kickers. Doubt it'll happen though.

    Would you go for Flood or Wilkinson Ben?

  • Comment number 7.

    I think we need to be realistic here. This was Romania's B team. USA would have beaten them by 50 points easy. Although England looked to have played well this was only because running through the Romanians defence ws like running through tape. There was such a huge gap in talent it wasn't even a contest.

    Great win for England but they have a long way to go b4 they can beat France.

  • Comment number 8.

    That put a fair wind to the sails, hopefully we can retain that amount of confidence against the scottish.Quick ball and a good all around distribution in all quarters added to today's win.when the forwards look to play we always look good.

    Just one moan which everyone will agree on is the penalty count..... Nothing worse than beating yourself and giving the opposition an easy day out.We got the players, let's hope when it really matters we will get it right.

    Great blog Ben, insightful as ever..... who's your money on after the kiwi's impressive
    mauling of the french.

  • Comment number 9.

    england turned the corner against romania? come on ben ur blogs imo are the best on the bbc site but england should be best judged on games against argentina and scotland.

    They could have played the worst game in their history and they still would have turned romania over, its going to boil down to the scotland game to whoever plays nz it looks like as we know the tournement really doesnt get going untill the qf's

  • Comment number 10.

    The most important statement in the blog has to be...."albeit against a largely second-string Romania". There should be absolutely no hype associated with this result. A good performance? Definitely but one again littered with penalties. 3 games and 32 penalties is a serious fault with this team. With Ireland's improvement at the breakdown and France's ability with the ball in hand the "easy" side of the draw is going to challenge England if, as United_Kaz points out, they beat the Scottish.

  • Comment number 11.

    I thought the England game was great. I then waited for the NZ France game. What a dissapointment that was. What on earth was going on. The game of the week was an awful flop. Mistakes everywhere. France playing like second place in the group is all they wanted. NZ would have had 2 yellow cards had they been England.
    I do not see NZ or France making the final on todays performance. Still good news for England and Scotland. Come on Scotland beat Argentina.

  • Comment number 12.

    England won....but against who?
    It's only when they play the likes of the All Blacks, France, South Africa or Australia will we be able to see what skills they really have.
    It's a win...good...but don't lets get carried away just yet.

  • Comment number 13.

    Overall a much improved performance from England and good to see the backs running with some pace on the ball - still worries me how seem to struggle to get quick ball at times, watched the AB's afterwards and their clearing out at the breakdown is a different class - is that a coaching or ability issue?

    Also have to agree with no5 about the post match analysis - we seem to think the match against Scotland is a done deal and whilst I think most people will concede we are favourites this is a Scotland v England match -they're rarely easy!!

  • Comment number 14.

    Trainee Anarchhist. Oh why bother

  • Comment number 15.

    We did all we could against the opposition, they were weaker than against Scotland but some of the running and link up play would have been dangerous against anyone so it's definitely positive. Here's my take on it (and a look at how Wilkinson/Michael Owen are remarkably similar)...

    http://samhopwood.blogspot.com/2011/09/so-we-are-at-world-cup-after-all.html

  • Comment number 16.

    Surely a true hat trick is three consecutive tries?

  • Comment number 17.

    #7 Great win for England but they have a long way to go b4 they can beat France.

    Sorry where were you during the six nations?

    England would have walked over the France that turned up today.

  • Comment number 18.

    Some of your blog posts are truly amazing. A victory against Georgia and the walls are falling in and now a win vs Romania and suddenly the light shineth upon thee.

    Do you have any conception what tournament play is all about ?

  • Comment number 19.

    Good result and decent performance - England can only beat what's put in front of them and Romania essentially said we're giving you this game so we can try and win our next one - not exactly what I thought the world cup was about but there you are....Tougher tests to come but unless there's at least one further upset you're going to get questions on the sustainability of 20 team RW....

  • Comment number 20.

    #6 I believe you raise an interesting idea, Wilko 10 Flood 12 would certainly give us more creativity and potentially a better base from which to direct our outside backs.

    However, let us not forget that the need to shift a 10 out to 12 in order to have a precision is brought about by Martin Johnson not selecting a single creative centre. Secondly it's probably a bit late for introducing a potential defensive frailty; perhaps sometime in the last year MJ might have noticed that Tindall and Hape offer next to nothing going wide?

    As far as today's performance is concerned; we were indeed better, and it was indeed Romania. Yet, given Scotland's ability to drag any side into a grimy, laborious slug-fest (to their credit, in fact) I think that making judgements about England's future in this tournament will have to wait until the quarter final.

  • Comment number 21.

    England haven't really been tested in this world cup yet and probably wont be until they get to the quarters. England have a good knack of playing good when they need to. I don't think people should read too much into a victory against Romania. Hard times to come for the England XV if people believe they've 'turned a corner' by beating Romania.
    In my eyes 'turning a corner' would be what Ireland did to Australia after a poor pre world cup warm up.

  • Comment number 22.

    What a load of rubbish....beating Romania's second string suddenly means England have "turned the corner"? The fact is England will not win this world cup by running in tries anyway, they will win it by sticking it up their jumper, defending like mad, putting pressure on opposition set pieces, and letting JW knock over the three pointers. I suppose you had to write something, though, Ben.

  • Comment number 23.

    I don't think today provided the ultimate test for England but they played well against what was fielded before them.

    A decent display with fewer errors highlights an improvement on the opening two games but there is a long way to go yet! The likes of Youngs, Tuilagi and Ashton were in much better nick today as a result of the forwards providing a lot quicker ball to release the back line. Tuilagi in particular shone with his great support running off of Wilkinson and Flood, England need to keep producing quicker service for the backs. To read more: http://jackhayward1989.wordpress.com/2011/09/24/has-the-penny-finally-dropped-for-england-the-rwc/

  • Comment number 24.

    Good blog as usual Ben thank you. Congratulations to England on a solid win and improved performance. To temper the elation however, it WAS a Rumanian B-side, and it was error strewn which more comparable teams will penalise you heavily for. Talking of penalising, it dumbfounds me, that so many repeated misdemeanors (and they were MANY) did not result in a deserved yellow card for England and the misplaced praise of "England's discipline" is the most dangerous of messages - you will lose against a comparable team with that penalty rate.
    Good luck for the rest of the tournament, Tuilagi was your shining beacon, but beware the hype as deep-rooted doubts remain.
    Be honest, and you can progress.

  • Comment number 25.

    I was critical of your first blog as well, but this was thoughtful and reasoned. Liked the closing line a lot too.

  • Comment number 26.

    If this was the Premiership (Aviva or Barclays) pundits and commentators would be spouting 'a great team is one that can win scrappy' or 'a great team can play badly, but still win'. England have been scrappy but winning. This is a World Cup, not showcase rugby like the autumn internationals, who cares how any team plays, a win is a win in a World Cup or any tournament. Autumn is there to get punters through the door and ideally play entertaining rugby, as there is nothin significant at stake.
    Everyone should give the lads a break. 3 out of 3 with 2 bonus points. Job to date, done.
    I am still disappointed by Johnno's squad selection. Haskell today proved he is not a number 8, his control of the ball at the base of the scrum was shocking. Why take Waldrom (one of, if not the best English 8 in the league [and I'm a Quins supporter]) away from Leicester, fly him around the world and not get him officially in the squad when there is a gap from Sheridan leaving - we can wait on Easter if they want. I appreciate he is not laden with international caps, but surely a game against Romania would be perfect to give him a run out. Haskell is a great player, but not a number 8.
    I would like to say well done to Ben Youngs, not long back from injury and an excellent perfomance.
    Finally, good luck Scotland tomorrow and all British teams. Really looking forward to next week for England vs Scotland - particularly as my girlfriend is Scottish! England are doing what needs to be done and are improving as they go on.

  • Comment number 27.

    well done england on destroying romania. now do the same to NZ!

  • Comment number 28.

    james matthew

    Mate you don't half talk a load of rubbish. I've seen several of your comments on recent rugby blogs and it's mostly inane babble designed to wind England fans up. How many points did Scotland put on Romania? Also have England beaten France recently? I think you may find they have. France generally do not like playing England and believe they will not relish it during this competition, should it happen.

    Kevin post 21. Ireland must have turned the corner during the six nations too mate as they managed one decent performance during the entire competition. So far they have done the same in this competition so don't get too carried away with their prospects.

  • Comment number 29.

    Let's be sensible. A win against a second string Romania team doesn't tell us whether or not this England team has progressed. It tells us that against a less experienced and well drilled team we can be more clinical. England did what they had to and scored some well worked tries. Glad to see Cueto back, not the fastest but always tidy and reliable.

    However, there are still lots of issues that aren't addressed. Youngs had a poor first half and threw reckless passes - rare for him. Too many stupid penalties again and frequent indecision at the break down losing the quick ball we so desperately need to release the quality in our backs.

    The true test is against Scotland. How will we perform against a good quality opposition with a stronger defence?

  • Comment number 30.

    Danny Care on the ITV sofa this morning - Tuilagi "He has the best of both worlds, a great Samoan physique & a great brain cos he was schooled in England"

  • Comment number 31.

    After this simply sensational win, only New Zealand have the remotest chance of putting up any resistance to our rampaging boys, and the All Blacks will be quaking in their boots when they watch the highlights of our latest rout, this time over Romania. This has to be the greatest English side since 2004 and I, for one, can't wait for the final. Romania have to be up there with Scotland, so watch this space. Martin Johnson is proving to be the best manager since the great Sir Edward Woodward.

  • Comment number 32.

    Come on chaps aren't you grabbing at straws a bit.
    This is Roumania we are talking about,who unfortunately are in the Georgia,Russia stable.
    If Roumania played Fiji they would be beaten fairly comfortably.
    Boks played Fiji and beat them comprehensively by 30 odd points.
    Don't want to be a killjoy but let's keep our feet on the ground.

  • Comment number 33.

    A good result for England. However IF they were to play France in the quarter- finals and France came out the way they did against the All Blacks in the first ten minutes this morning, they would more than likely have been demolished. France lost because their mentality falls to pieces after something bad happens, England wouldn't have punished them the way New Zealand did, and France would have kept playing with confidence.

    In all honesty, I don't really rate England. They are better than scotland and should win that match, but I consider them poorer than Wales and Ireland (to name but two teams). The ITV commentary team seem to talk as if England have a brilliant chance to make it to the Final, in reality, I think they'll fall well short of that mark.

  • Comment number 34.

    Johnson saying 'Things get sensationalised - often things lie somewhere in the middle...' was a funny thing to say. This take on Tindall's Treason is great: http://tinyurl.com/3egdprp

  • Comment number 35.

    Scotland to beat England by 3 points

  • Comment number 36.

    I am not an ENG supporter but I think the whole media coverage of ENG in the RWC has been a disgrace. And self serving to justify so many reporters on a jolly in NZ no doubt takng their families for a holiday. The Tindall incident was a nothing - so linked to his 'royal' status as to be pathetically contrived - and the media discussion of their form in these early stages has been hysterical. You do not win the RWC in the groups. The tournament hasn't even really started yet. The ENG players are professionals in a hard game - and much more dedicated and professional and personable and decent than most of their football playing contemporary nobodies who routinely earn more in a month than top rugby players do in a year and produce far less. Whether they win or lose the RWC they will care a lot more than the footballers do.

  • Comment number 37.

    Fairly sure England are going to win the World Cup now.

  • Comment number 38.

    Why do people keep banging on about how england have not been tested yet. This is a world cup every game ia a test. When you preach on about this it shows disrespect to the so called lesser nations. There is nothing lesser about them, they are all up and coming teams and have performed really well so far. Romania scared scotland (so im not really bothered about scotland being a true threat). All the top teams have conceded at least a try some more. England have conceded one.
    So all this england arnt ready for france yet blah blah blah, Bring em on, with got more guts and spirit than any team here.

    Congrats to all the teams

    USA, Russia, Namibia, Japan, georgia, romania, Canada.

    All this second tier nation rubbish is what it says rubbish, keep working, next world cup could be yours, im routing for you. More competition can only improve rugby overall , not keep it the usual teams every world cup. The all blacks days are numbered, the rugby world is coming.

  • Comment number 39.

    The more international rugby I watch the more I'm dismayed by the influence on the game of the referee. Messers Lawrence and Kaplan seem to have an interest in improving the English game by assisting in correcting the English precision. After England's fifth try against Georgia Mr. Kaplan stopped blowing his whistle and the game flowed better. If Mr. Roland had refereed todays game by the book NZ would never have got into their stride as they clinically seal off every breakdown, take defenders off the fringes and tackle over the shoulder all of which are penalty offences. Don't mention the tackle in the air -dangerous play yellow card, punch in the face and even the great Dan Carter pulling supporting players back by the shirt. I love watching the AB's they are so professional in everything they do, legal and illegal it's a shame that the refereeing is not in the same league.

  • Comment number 40.

    You have to think that Romania gave everything in the Scotland match, which they were so unlucky not to win.
    England will be better for this match as it will have allowed them to get thier combinations running a bit more smoothly. Still a lot of penalties though... which means all is not well in that department and could cost them dearly further down the track.
    Not convince Scotland are good enough to beat Argentina or England... having said that if the Scots to beat Argentina. Then the pressure will be heap on to England big time because England most certainly don't want to go anywhere near New Zealand.

  • Comment number 41.

    As I thought, a lot of 'it's only Romania so we learnt nothing' merchants out. Shame we can't have much balance - ironically, many people criticised the media etc for going overboard with their slagging off of the first 2 games, then when a blog comes up with a balanced analysis, it's the commentors that loose perspective!

    I don't think anyone is hyping this up as a huge corner-turn for England that proves conclusively that they can win the thing. If anyone did that today it was NZ, showing how effective a team can be when they simplify rugby and nail the basics, e.g. drawing a man, passing into space, forward pressure etc etc. It just makes a change from an England point of view to see the attack get it's act together and look pretty menacing. I agree there are still areas to work on, and I still fear a regression back into the old ways if we end up diving into the trenches with Scotland, but for once, let's enjoy the fact that England have come out of a recent game with more positives than negatives. Hell, if we slagged off our team so badly that it felt like we lost against Georgia and Argentina, let's at least pat them on the back for this game.

  • Comment number 42.

    England WC performance
    Reaching quarter final - expected
    Winning quater final - acceptable WC
    Winning semi final - good WC
    Winning the final - like the last time - unbelievable!

  • Comment number 43.

    #36

    Well said, The tindal incident was nothing more than a desperate media circus desperate for a storry to sell to the slum papers and tabloids, i though with the news of the world being cowards and closing, i hoped the other slum paper would follow suit.
    Even now at interviews all they ask about is tindal, where are the questions about the rugby and performance.
    The media trash in new zealnad should stick to what they know, talentless idiots in the big brother house and 5 mins celebrities, leave our rugby boys alone and let them play rugby

  • Comment number 44.

    I find it astonishing that people are saying France would demolish England no problems and are playing better than us. If anything they are equal. Neither side has set the tournament alight and England only have slight bragging rights with 3 wins out of 3.

    NZ are the benchmark and SA can have a say. Australia haven't done great either and 67-5 over USA was a little flattering.

    Plus with the French there were struggling at 28-21 against Japan until the final 15 minutes with a few tries which flattered them and were only 32-19 up against Canada in the 75th minute with the Canucks pushing them hard only for France to get two more tries to flatter the score line.

    First 10 minutes today? Whats that mean. Its 80 minutes. Any team can have 10 mins but if the other team do better for the remaining 70 not much use.

    Ok the fixture has to be confirmed first before it can happen and there might be some twists and you never know what might happen.

    Plus if Liveremont wants to have another Xenophobic rant at England like in the 6N, we all know it fires England up like it did at Twickenham leaving Mr L with sticky egg on his face! I thought teams would of learnt that lesson by now? Not that he is the first Frenchman do that! Plus Dave "Republican Yorkshireman, England Traitor' Eliis will give it loads.

    Plus on the French, Mr Poite very poor today. Needed the TMO for Cueto's third try when it was blatantly a try so was wasting time and kept his eyes glued when England were trying to get the ball but kept looking awaying with Romania and missed a blatant penalty up the side (as mentioned by Messer Mullins and Vickery) yet punished Thompson 10 mins later!

  • Comment number 45.

    Please can we stop all this nonsense. England have beaten a second string Romanian team and already talk of England turning corners and next it will be they going to win the world cup blah blah blah.
    And as for a "rust busting" performance from Mark Cueto, oh purrrrlease. A few tries against a second string, second tier nation, hardly makes him a world class finisher!!
    His last international try? Italy i do believe. Last try before that? Probably Carlisle 3rd xv. My mrs could have run those tries in today. England would have a good back 3 if they included Armitage along side Foden and Ashton.

  • Comment number 46.

    This is really an awful blog Ben. To think England have turned a corner?? Please what a joke! There wasn't 1 quality try. It was too easy. The all blacks U21 team would have trashed England today. England will struggle to beat Scotland and will lose to France! Mark my words!

  • Comment number 47.

    oh here we go !!!!

    Wimpish celtic nations, putting down england because there fear us again, not that you have much to cheer about.

    England cant win blah blah blah, you gobbed of like this last time and we made the final where were you lot at home crying.

    Get over yourselves, england are improving, france as we know can produce a good game, wales, blah, scotland, blah, Ireland ok have talent.

    ENGLAND ON THE UP DEAL WITH IT

  • Comment number 48.

    First off, i hate the term second tier natuon. Its that sort of attitude that put me off football when i was a teenager. These guys come out and represent their country with as much heart as the best. They have smaller leagues, less supporters and less money yet still try to stand up to the big guys. This was a good performance against a team who wanted it just as much. Yes, there were errors BUT there was also glimpses of what the team can do, they now need to have the confidence in themselves to do the same against the big guns, which this game has hopefully given them

  • Comment number 49.

    It was a good performance. It means England should be ranked about 3rd favourite to win the WC which would be about where most commentators would have put them before the WC.

    England are improving each game and if Argentina beat Scotland tomorrow morning (I give Argentina the edge but a really tough match to call) that may well put the first game into some perspective.

    NZ played a class game against France but should have had a player (Daag I think) win binned in first 15 mins for clearly tackling a player in the air - how the ref and linesman missed that I do not know. Big game will be SF against SA. With the pressure on NZ that game is a real 50/50 call.

    SA look good too. We should be grateful they will play NZ before the final.

    Australia looked busted. The scrum yet again being a game changing weakness. Shame because they have the most inventive back line. Will lose at QF

    Ireland: who knows? Have they found a front row or are Australia really very bad? Stick my neck out - they will beat Wales in the QF and should be favourites against England in SF.

    Wales: possibly the fittest team phyically but up there with France as the weakest team mentally. When the tough get going Wales lose. The problem is the pack which is 4 players short of being a great pack. Second rows are anonymous (AWJ has failed to improve in 4 years). Will lose QF against Ireland

    England: if they could find the right balance in the back row they would be a real threat. Haskell, despite the plaudits does not convince me that he is a no 8. Seems to me to be a poor mans version of Jamie Heaslip. Discipline is a problem and not aggressive enough at the breakdown.

    France: they may have the most useless coach in the RWC.

    I wonder what odds I can have on a SA v Ireland final?

  • Comment number 50.

    Just another pool game win. The Sco game will be an important one. But the competition proper starts at the the knockout stage.

  • Comment number 51.

    Well done England. If the Rugby World Cup consisited of second string East European sides I would have a side bet that you could make the final.

  • Comment number 52.

    If England win this World Cup I will eat my hamster. They will struggle against Scotland.

  • Comment number 53.

    Good display by England against the second string Romanian team, so no need for too much congratulations yet. Looking forward to the Scotland Argentina game.
    All Black look awesome though, and Boks picking up the pace.

  • Comment number 54.

    What is it with England fans?! We struggle to overcome Argentina/Georgia, yet all the comments are positive, we put in a very good performance here, and there is just negativity.

    #52 - why will we struggle to beat Scotland? They only beat Romania by 10 points, we just put in a great display against them

    #51 - Pointless post of the day

    #46 - Most ridiculous post of the day! 'We didnt score 1 quality try'. Evidently didnt watch the match then...
    The Youngs break, then try? The final try?

    Stop being so negative for once people!

  • Comment number 55.

    #54 - The difference is Romania rested their first XV vs England.

  • Comment number 56.

    Lots of WUMs on this page I think!

    England gave away a few penalties but it's the nature of the penalties that you need to look at it, most of them we're due to over-enthusiasm rather than killing the ball. Hopefully the message is sinking in about penalties in the red-zone. They'll never get away with it like the All Blacks do.

    Talking of whom, agree they should have been down to 14 men when Kahui took out the French chaser. Stayed down looking injured cleverly there didn't he? And Clancy and Roland didn't have the guts to call it really.

  • Comment number 57.

    @ 54 is the gap between 1st an 2nd really thay big for any team?

  • Comment number 58.

    Twickenhamloyal, you are a bit too loyal if you think England are on the up. Get real mate, you played no one yet and also failed to impress. You really think celtic nations fear England!! Erm what happened in Dublin in six nations, erm what happened in Cardiff in August? Oh ye you lost. lost to the as you call wimpish celtic nations!

  • Comment number 59.

    Twickenhamloyal

    Got to agree with jprsuckspennies, I think all home nations would look forward to playing England at the mo as they look very vunerable, Romania are hardly world beaters, smell the coffee mate

  • Comment number 60.

    Nothing wrong with being loyal to my team and country. Being able to support my team regardless of win or lose is what make me a true fan over you part timers. I have cheered england through every world coup and every six nations and i will never believe they cant win, even during the dark days of andy robinson (good luck scots) Loyalty is not earned it is expected, win or lose i will be proud, Deal with it, welshies and scotties wil lonly winge and blame everybody else for theri embarrasing defeat

  • Comment number 61.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 62.

    This game was a fun, training-ground type work-out, but meaningless as any kind of gauge of real form or status. I'm sure it will help moral etc, but I was more impressed with the hard win against Argentina.
    Against a team who actually tackle, the knock-ons and missed chances, and interceptions will be much more costly.
    Looking good though, we'll give anyone a run for their money; and with discipline could still go all the way I reckon...so long as we do the painful deed and drop Tindall.

  • Comment number 63.

    Celtic Nations seem to get very bitter when ever the English feel happy or Patriotic.

    They just have to stick their nose into our business and never leave us alone (just like English laws voted on by Celts!). The Celts should have no right to comment or have opinions on the English!

    Of course Celts can talk up their individual nation with such nationalist BS as much as they want! If an Englishman shows one inch of pride, he's arrogant! An English can't even say 'good morning' never mind anything else without a celt calling us arrogant.

    Well arrogance is shoving their nationalistic values down our throats! Just goes to show how little 'patriotism' Celts actually have! Or when playing England, they always have to bring Politics into it and feel they 'deserve' to beat England on history.

    Oh yeah and fact remains in Playing the Celtic nations this year England have won 3, lost 2. Oh and scored more tries than all 3 celtic teams put together and points and won 100% of their games. Deal with it. Oh and we don't have a player like Paul O Connell or Phil Bennett delivering Xenophobic, nationalist team talks!

    Now leave us alone and focus on your own issues!

  • Comment number 64.

    Time for medication, methinks.

  • Comment number 65.

    Twickenhamloyal you really are narrow minded. Are you really trying to say that the Welsh and the Scottish are not loyal to their teams? Loyal yes. delusional no.
    What was the first world cup you watched? 2003 by any chance?
    And just for your information regards the national athems, you are right the British anthem is god save the queen, so what the hell is England doing singing it? no anthem of your own mate?

  • Comment number 66.

    Race for your life. The reason England dont have any player giving xenophobic team talks is because half your team could not give a toss about England, there for the pay cheque pal.
    And i not having a pop about people being patriotic towards England. I all for it. Its all a little too much for some to be talking them up as world beaters though. A lot of England fans are taking the Scotland game as a formality. I feel egg on face is on the way.

  • Comment number 67.

    Ok, I'm getting sick of this. Why is it everytime a blog about the England RUGBY team is written it degenerates into an England vs the Celts argument? This is about rugby games and results. Ig you all want to argue, find a pub.
    All the home nations have goods and bads. Surely getting ANY home nation far in the WC isgoid.

    PS. Please forgive all spelling in my posts, touch-screen mobile not the best for this with my fat fingers!

  • Comment number 68.

    #35 - not in a million years.

    I have placed money on Argentina beating Scotland by more than 3 points tomorrow with every bookie who will still take my money. And there is even less chance of Scotland beating England.

  • Comment number 69.

    & to #46, the Junior Blacks were lucky to beat England at the last Junior RWC. NZ are very much beatable. Any team with the non-tackling Thomson at 8 are vulnerable. They must be praying Read is soon fit. & have an All Blacks side ever been so weak at 9? SA must be licking their lips.

    It's 50:50 weather England make the World Cup final but I would love to see Tuilagi face Nonu; the young Samoan may be schooled, or he could be the game winner. The NZ pack can be dominated & I believe SA will prove so before we even witness the Final.

  • Comment number 70.

    james mathew
    Some excellent comments on here but you do talk some rubbish!!
    Fair play, you WUM!!

  • Comment number 71.

    Here we go. I didn't think it would be long before some numpty started talking about "Celtic nations", we'll be getting "our brother's in arms" next! What tripe!

    There has been mention af a second string Romanian side. Wasn't it also reported that the French were fielding a 'B" team? If so, perhaps the AB's win might not seem so stellar.

    England are not worried about playing Scotland, France or indeed anyone. As MJ has said many times, this is the WC and if you want to win it you will have to play the top teams at some time so just get on and face what is in front of you. All this talk of easier sides of the draw is nonsense. You want to win? Beat the opposition!

    The AB's were great, but I also felt they got away with a lot (often going over off their feet) but the French weren't very good. (mind you it was only their "B" team wasn't it?)

    Scotland will have to play out of their skin to beat England, and they'll have a good go (not least because of Robinson) but England are too much of a quality team to let that happen in this tournament. Plus I don't think Scotland will beat Argentina.

    England will do very well in this WC, mark my words......cous!

  • Comment number 72.

    My aren't some of you English fans insecure.

  • Comment number 73.

    Are I was waiting for you to show you silly little head again.

    So let me get this right you sit there all day on your now with nothing better to do than try are stir the pot..........do you not think that is a very big waste of a life. As I said I feel very sorry for your kids .......

  • Comment number 74.

    Folks
    Sorry about the typos in the last Post typing with me forehead again.....

  • Comment number 75.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 76.

    75

    You need help sonny

  • Comment number 77.

    You sound a very angry man... have you been rioting lately?

  • Comment number 78.

    No not angry. with the dumb comment about rioting I assume you are trying to infer I am English you are once again incorrect. Do you ever get anything right...it's rhetorical, I am sure you can find someone to explain that...oh wait no ok look it up on your computer............but please stop droning on and on and on and on .............Note the correct use of the word DRONE....in this context

  • Comment number 79.

    Stop lying to yourself poopypants.

  • Comment number 80.

    Lying to myself how where????

    You know you are an embarrassment to not only Scotland but also New Zealand.................

  • Comment number 81.

    Bet you presss really hard on the keyboard when typing typing in that angry fanshion.

  • Comment number 82.

    No not really quite relaxed action actually as I asked said Lying to myself where when?.
    I have also noticed that as soon as you are put under pressure to back up your stupid comments you become child like in you responses as well as personal........Do you actually watch rugby have you ever been out to a game in this RWC ...in fact any game at all??

  • Comment number 83.

    Scot/Arg

    Geeze anyone no any jokes?

  • Comment number 84.

    Can you two please shut up?

    People haven't given Argentina sufficient credit. They've been a tough game for years and have been steadily improving. Yes, England should have done better, but it wasn't a great game to go into as your first of the Tournament.

  • Comment number 85.

    Argentina 13 Scotland 12

    who asked for a joke?

  • Comment number 86.

    I see sportmanship from Scotland went out of the window Twice Barnes asked the Scot capt if he wanted to stop play after an injury to an Argentine player and got a no. But Contiponi was asked the same he said yes. Poor form Scotland. And the most boring game by far of this RWC.....

  • Comment number 87.

    I think England have a good team, they have a lot of firepower in the team. Can they win the RWC? I doubt it. I think there's tow teams in this tournament that can beat NZ, Australia and South Africa..they might cancel each other out. I think NZ don't wnat to play Australia in the final, even though they lost to Ireland..they still have beaten both South Africa (in Sth Africa) and NZ in the tri nations..that was a high pressure game and anybody who watched would have noticed one thing..great defense from Australia. Personally I think if Australia meet NZ in this RWC, Australia will beat them...if Australia fire, they are the only team capable of beating the AllBlacks and the only team the All Blacks really fear in the RWC..see how we go

  • Comment number 88.

    First criticism I've heard about referees. Sean FitzPatrick and Girvan Dempsey about Wayne Barnes (English).

    If you can't have a go at the England team, have a pop at the English ref. Pathetic.

  • Comment number 89.

    Well thats added some spice for next weekend, i knew it'd be close but that was great. Next game will be a biggy.

  • Comment number 90.

    86.
    Oh dear looks like you still angry there runningnumber8. Aucht well Scotland are oot will have to through my hat in with the AB's now:-)

  • Comment number 91.

    well simon Barnes here and Ina jones is saying he did good so go figure

  • Comment number 92.

    90

    See once again you have got it wrong Scotland are not out. They can beat England on Saturday by heaps and can still qualify to the next round ......Do you ever ever get anything right...........NO NO NO

  • Comment number 93.

    Now back to Rugby why did the Scots Coach take gray off he was dominating the line out......anyone have any idea?????

  • Comment number 94.

    90.
    Come on now running you really need to settle yersel doon a bit.


    Things I got wrong so far... Ireland beating Aus - wrong; Arg beating Eng - wrong; Sam v Wal - wrong; SA v Fiji - wrong; Sco v Arg - right; Italy first played in the Six Nations - right; England ran to the change rooms after letting GS slip for second year in a row and snub Annie - right; Dan Carter has superior running game - right.

    Now pull your trousers up and open the curtains the sun is up.

  • Comment number 95.

    I turn up here this morning and the comments have descended into an utterly petty slanging match...sigh. Keep it going and it'll turn into the average McNulty football blog, with hardcore fans of opposition teams trolling away desperately.

    I'll stress it again - NO-ONE is saying that this win turns England into nailed-on finalists/contenders for the trophy. As England fans we're just happy to see the team playing with a bit of direction and discipline, scoring good tries. That'll give us a bit of confidence for the bigger games ahead. This does NOT mean that they are now nailed-on favourites to beat Scotland, France or whoever else lies in wait, but it stands them in better stead than if they'd just come out of the stuttering, sloppy performances against Argentina/Georgia.

    @mickindenmark, is that true? I normally don't watch the pre and post-match punditry, just gets on my nerves. Where has the British press/TV got off on this constant hyping of Wales/Scotland/Ireland? Both with Wales against SA and now Scotland against Argentina, the loosing team were hyped as 'deserving to win' and the subtext seemed to be that they were robbed (now being backed up with the slagging off of the English ref, trying to insinuate bias - an absolutely pathetic non-story). If you asked the teams whether they 'deserved to win', they'd reply that if they really deserved to win, they probably should have ACTUALLY won.

    And yes, next week's match has become even bigger than it was already. Let's face it, it's England-Scotland...it wouldn't have mattered if even one team had already qualified and the other already out...it's just one of those games. Now the fate of the group rests on it, there's even more at stake than just the Calcutta Cup. Part of me cannot wait - the other part is dreading it. Bring it on!

  • Comment number 96.

    94

    What about breathing???

  • Comment number 97.

    94

    What's the Italy comment all about.....and as I told you England did not run from the field

    I can assure you where I am the sun is not up...do you actually want to make comments about rugby....ever????

  • Comment number 98.

    Mickin

    Yeah wasn't a barrel of laughs though aye?

  • Comment number 99.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 100.

    Churguys.
    Here was me thinking we could meet up for a spot of lunch and I could show round some of the lovely wineries in Hawkes Bay.

 

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