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Narrow win brings plenty of positives

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Tom Fordyce | 22:23 UK time, Saturday, 11 February 2012

If there were no exuberant celebrations from Stuart Lancaster this week to match the light-smashing fist-pump that left him needing stitches in Edinburgh, England's interim coach will leave a frozen Rome with a warm glow of satisfaction in his belly.

With just over half an hour of the match to go, Italy leading by nine points and England shipping four penalties in quick succession, history of the most unpalatable sort appeared about to be made.

Italy, famously, have never beaten England in 17 Tests, and have lost on all 12 occasions the two sides have met in the Six Nations. That the wait goes on for another year indicates that Lancaster and his new-look team might just possess the combination of character, luck and fortitude essential to all improving sides.

As with the win over Scotland, this was no great leap forward by England. The snow that fell in great wet lumps all afternoon may have covered the pitch at the Stadio Olimpico, but it could do little to disguise the visitors' struggles in a first half that never looked likely to warm the cockles.

Charlie Hodgson celebrates his try

Hodgson scored England's only try of the game. Picture: Getty Images

Line-outs were lost, ball kicked away, two tries handed over on silver platters to leave the Eternal City believing that the endless wait might finally be over.

Had Italy showed the same accuracy with their place-kicking as the hugely impressive Owen Farrell, it would have been.

If the conversion Kris Burton missed was excusable, he had time and space to do far better with his second half drop-goal attempt. Both paled into comparison with the horrors of his replacement Tobias Botes, who hit his first penalty as if it were a balloon and his second like a sack of cement. So abject were the efforts that Italy coach Jacques Brunel must have wished he had left his kicking Botes at home.

The post-game stats told a tale of equality: 85 tackles made by both sides, Italy missing four to England's five, the Azzurri winning ball 84 times in open play to the red rose's 81. For England to be the ones to wrestle victory from such a position is therefore deserving of praise and respect.

In such a tight match one would expect the more battle-hardened outfit to prevail. But it was Italy - 698 caps in their starting XV, another 116 caps on the bench - who wobbled, England (just 248 caps across the team, and eight players with 10 appearances or less) that held firm.

To score 13 unanswered points in eight minutes, when crowd, conditions and momentum are all against you, takes a certain bottle and belief.

The epitome of those virtues was Farrell, belying his tender years with a faultless display of pressure kicking to go with some big hits in defence. Dan Cole was effective in both tight and loose, while replacements Ben Morgan and Lee Dickson lifted the pace and intensity dramatically in the half-hour they were on the pitch. Both should start against Wales in a fortnight's time.

There was luck alright. Lancaster was honest enough to admit afterwards that two charge-down tries by Charlie Hodgson in the space of eight days was an unusual way to win a pair of matches, although backs coach Andy Farrell was keen to point out that pressuring opposition kickers was something his runners had spent hours working on in training.

Neither did all the fortune work in England's favour. Giovanbattista Venditti's try owed more to pinball than precision, and Phil Dowson could have had his first international try had referee Jerome Garces not already blown for Burton's trip on David Strettle.

England's superior points tally was a reward for territorial supremacy - they spent 13 more minutes in their opposition's half than Italy did - and, in conceding just nine penalties over the 80 minutes, maintained the discipline under duress that had been one of the stand-out features of the win at Murrayfield.

Italy, despite the usual brilliance of skipper Sergio Parisse, made almost twice as many errors as England as frozen fingers fumbled possession and solid English defence loosened grips still further. On such margins do tight matches turn.

The evidence of the last three weeks suggests Lancaster is a good man-manager and positive force for his developing team to coalesce around. What we saw on Saturday was a first real glimpse of his coaching skills under pressure.

By tweaking the tactics at half-time ("get the ball and move it, use the first receiver more, don't play everything off number nine") and blooding Morgan and Dickson at a stage when more conservative coaches would have left Dowson and Ben Youngs to battle on, the interim man did his permanent prospects no harm at all.

"Relieved would be one word; proud would be another," said Lancaster afterwards. "We didn't do everything right, and we recognise that we still have a long way to go. But the most pleasing thing is that there was no sense of panic."

This result also needs to be set in against the context of English supporters' expectation.

England's last two victories in Rome have also come by similarly narrow margins - four points four years ago, five in 2010, the latter the joyless nadir of Steve Borthwick's spell as captain.

This one will be welcomed with more optimism than both in part because of how low England's stock sunk during the World Cup, and in part because it is built on fresh talent like Farrell, Morgan and Brad Barritt rather than loyal old toilers like Borthwick.

Much mention was made before the match of the fact that Rome wasn't built in a day, which rather ignores the fact that no city ever was. But two wins out of two will serve England rather well when many feared the reverse was more likely.

Wales are likely to be less profligate than Scotland and more ruthless than Italy when they visit Twickenham in a fortnight. France at the Stade de France may be tougher yet. England have beaten the two weakest sides in the tournament.

But they have also done it away from home, in front of hostile crowds, against vastly more experienced players. With proven performers of their own to bring back in the next two weeks - Toby Flood, Courtney Lawes, Manu Tuilagi - the future looks brighter than the recent past.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I maintained from the beginning of the 6N that three wins would be a great benchmark for this new team - and top three in the table if possible.

    The three bigger matches are to come, and I hope we can get one more win against three very strong oppositions. Anyone see that happening?

    I must say that from a 59-13 win to a 19-15 win - then congratulations to a greatly improved Italy. I hope to see them get stronger and stronger.

  • Comment number 2.

    Pretty it was not, effective, barely, awful to watch, absolutely. Glad we won, given all the things that have happened to this England side, oh definitely. Well done. Wales can wait, the result may be the same but I have my doubts.

  • Comment number 3.

    Wow. It took till the second post for "awful to watch" to appear about an England game. Normally it is the first....

    England have played two games with a new, inexperienced side, that has been together a few weeks, and in very cold, unhelpful conditions, and with a new coaching side.
    These factors are not conducive to flowing fast rugby. Scotland and Italy are not walkovers, especially at home. In view of this, England are showing promise. Their penalty count is much lower than last year, their error rate is down and their defence is good. We have seen some sparks of creativity, and there are good players coming back from injury. Two weeks more could see this team really start to gel, and a win over Wales become a real possibility.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think you have it about right all round Tom, including the three tough games ahead for England.

    I saw a huge improvement when Dickson came on and I'd like to see him start against Wales. For me one of the downsides is that Ben Youngs seems to have lost his sparkle since the days of those great wins agains Australia, but I'm sure he'll be back - it must be in his head since he has massive talent. And while it's great to see Charlie Hodgson back there was clearly an understanding between Youngs and Toby Flood in attack and with Flood and Chris Ashton - we have that yet to come.

  • Comment number 5.

    The last two games have been far from fantastic performances, but we have seen two key qualities needed in a successful international rugby team. Firstly, discipline, much has been said of that already. But what we saw today was character. I said at half time it would take a show of character to come back and the boys did exactly that! Well done to them. They handled the pressure admirably.

    Wales will be a tougher test. But after a couple more weeks together, what will no doubt be a far more open game and the fact that this team are at Twickers for the first time we could just do it.

    Well done to Farrell, Barritt and Morgan. Thought they were exceptional today. The question is, will Lawes, Flood and Tuilangi start?? I personally think only Lawes. Flood and Tuilangi on the bench as impact subs! Good luck England!!

  • Comment number 6.

    I am also one who thought three wins would be a good result from this campaign. So far, so good. However, against the stronger back rows and midfield of their next three opponents current form is not good enough. The line out is also a worry. Tactical kicking was slightly improved (not easy in the conditions) but again too many opportunities kicked away. Set scrums and penalty kicks aren't enough, though it was heartening to see now well the front row performed. Not sure the balance in the back row is quite right, despite improving individual performances, and again the backs didn't really link well enough (Barrett was much improved). Most of all they are a side who is learning how to win, who don't panic as individuals (Foden remained remarkably steady after a nightmare period) or as a team. I still think that the bench might suffer against stronger opposition, but the did alright today - would definitely prefer Dickson to start next time.

  • Comment number 7.

    Dowson had a better game, but I still think it is time for Morgan to start, the guy looks like he is the future at number 8 for England.

    Also Dickson made a huge difference, and it is good to see an English scrum half who can pass from the base of a ruck, rather than taking a couple of paces first. He has to start in the next game as yet again Youngs was having an absolute shocker.

    Other than that, there were signs of improvement. The front 5 did ok against a hugely experienced and very powerful Italian front 5, Barritt once again had a very strong game, and for such a young player Farrell looks completely at home in international rugby.

    Hodgson was unspectacular but solid, for the most part he is doing what he was asked to do - providing leadership and experience in an inexperienced midfield. I doubt anybody would have expected 2 charge down tries in two games, but it is evidence of how hard he is working for the team.

  • Comment number 8.

    If we are to have any chance of beating Wales Dickson must start! It was no coincidence that the momentum swung as soon as he was introduced

  • Comment number 9.

    Good & fair balanced article and agree with most comments thus far. Plenty to work on and improve but the second half showed lots of promise, I especially like the way (2nd half) England seemed to have responded to Graham Henry's comments about clearing the ruck (I think he was spot on as well), a few times saw a couple of players bound together pushing past way over the ball allowing No9 clean quick ball (a la NZ style). Dickson has the sharpness we have to have at this level and Morgan, wow, he's what England have been crying out for at No 8 since big Lol left. We're still not good enough yet in attack but starting to show signs of promise, I thought Barritt looked good, but I hope as games go on better understanding & moves will happen.
    Very excited about next game. Wales have to be favourites but clinging on to the possibility they are having lock problems and that could affect their set pieces and with a bit of zip from No 9, crowd lifting breaks from Morgan, Barritt & Tuilangi (?) and, if not size, better pace on the wings there's plenty to hope for.

  • Comment number 10.

    In the last week I've told anyone who'd listen that England would struggle this week, and they've been fairly fortunate to win twice, despite a good 2nd half performance. Lancaster's substitutions proved crucial. In defence of the referee, he had to blow his whistle before Dowson touched down. The scrum-half Gori had collected the ball, albeit briefly, and the ref could only assume England had lost their advantage.

  • Comment number 11.

    Once more England snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against a side that should have and could have won were it not for an abject failure to drive the advantage home. Should Italy finally have found a decent kicker, England would have lost be a fair margin.

    So Tom, that is some piece you've written there. You've done well to find so many "positives". Farrell is "hugely impressive" but barely crosses the gain line, fails to straighten the line and simply doesn't get the England back three (possibly the strongest part of the team) moving.

    A team so devoid of creativity that charge-down Charlie is the main avenue for try scoring must be a major worry for Lancaster.

    Given the resources at his disposal, and facing one of the worst 10s ever to play international rugby, Lancaster failed to either select or coach a back line to pose any sort of threat to the Italians.

    We all know about the English spirit and tight forward skills, but where's the next try coming from? Charlie?

  • Comment number 12.

    England performed, a win is a win. Pretty rugby is for fairy tales look at the world cup final, NZ won, it wasn't pretty, but they won. The change happened around the try not sure how much Dickson or the try lifted England, maybe if Youngs had been on for 5 more mins he would may have sparked again.

    The back line is lacking impetus, but the midfield of Barrett and Farrell seems out of place no one straightening the line or forcing line breaks. If Tuilllangi come back he looks like a similar player to Barrett but has some sublime side stpes and makes straightening line breaks which would release the fly boys.

    Unfortunately i think Wales will win quite comprehensively unless England can bog them down in a forward battle because the welsh midfield has width in its attack and could really expose the English backs.

  • Comment number 13.

    Played two, won two.

    Hopefully after the next game it will be played three won three.

    I get the feeling though that some England fans would prefer played three lost three but we played some lovely pretty rugby. Winning is a habit as is losing and its better for these young players to start with the correct one from the start. We have two home games to come (yes against stronger opposition) and an away game in Paris which no-one expects anything from. These are the games to start trying to be more expansive especially with the likes of Toby Flood, Courtney Lawes & Manu Tuilagi coming back. Throw in Morgan & Dickson starting and a team is starting to form there.

    Perfect start but definately work in progress. Hopefully by the end of the 6N the memory of World Cup 11 will be gone forever.

  • Comment number 14.

    Good blog Tom. We cannot be critical of two away wins or the way they have been achieved, given the hostile surroundings and difficult conditions. It is very much work in progress and we are heading in the right direction - the team spirit, character and discipline are all already significant improvements on the previous regime. Now we also have 3 established performers - Lawes, Flood and Tuilagi - ready to return so we now even have a selection dilemma!

    I have followed Owen Farrell's progress for several years, I first saw him when he was 13 and I remain convinced he is the real deal. Now he has shown he is here to stay I would personally try him at 10 which has always been his natural position, that way we can retain Barritt, bring in Tuilagi and have Flood on the bench as impact. With Morgan and Dickson (and Lawes) also coming in I actually really like the look of that.

    Finally, well played to Charlie Hodgson who will probably drop out now and a special mention also to Alex Corbisiero who looks rock solid, always does his job and yesterday was a match for Castro in the scrum.

  • Comment number 15.

    Not much to be learnt from this game in terms of England as a team. Why? Well basically the conditions took charge. I would say two weeks running the opposition handed the game to England on a plate. I am saddened that Morgan opted for England because I think he is a big lump and knows how to go forward and He should start against us! Farrell is a very good kicker but is yet to show much else. This SN is still too early to call. We should get a better idea about things after today's game is played under the roof. Scotland surely can't drop the ball 16 times again and can Wales win any line out to feed their backs and of course does George North really walk on water?

    I would love to say Wales will take England apart in two weeks but even I would agree to say so might be a bit deluded. Bring on the Rubgy and we do need it to get a bit warmer!

  • Comment number 16.

    I have to say I disagree when Mr Fordyce thinks that the "future looks brighter than the recent past." I didn't see much that was bright in the games against either Scotland or Italy, except that the front row went well in both games (although the lost scrum in the last minute yesterday did stand out). I can't see England winning another game in this campaign, which doesn't compare well to last year's 6 Nations when we into into the last game unbeaten and ended up top of the table despite losing to Ireland. The two main issues for me are the missed tackles around the breakdown and that I just don't see where we will be able to create try scoring opportunities against the other 3 sides. Although Mr Fordyce is correct when he says that we were rewarded for the better territorial position we really should have lost yesterday. For me, I also agree . I do think it's mildly ironic that the media stance is "2 wins from 2 is good enough" although we didn't hear much of that when we came out of RWC pool with 4 from 4, including wins against Scotland and Argentina. As you can no doubt tell I am in the "MJ supporters camp."

  • Comment number 17.

    England will improve, but from most of these postings it seems that the implication is that at present England have too many English players in the team. For the country with the most rugby clubs and the most players this is pathetic.
    Two "well worked and practiced in training" trys for, and two "lucky trys" against, is spin doctoring at it's best.

  • Comment number 18.

    Great character to come back in those conditions, definitely shouldn't be belittled by anyone. Although it wasn't pretty (n let's face it, it was never going to be with conditions like that) I see many positives. The front three could b there for many years as they more than held heir own against an excellent Italian scrum, Farrell was magnificent with the boot n I thought Barrit was again very good defensively. Will be interesting to see what happens when Tuilangi comes back - would like to see Farrell drop to 10 n Barrit n Tuilangi play at centre, then they have kicking nous, line breaking running n solid tackling in a good mix. Looking at Wales last week it's going to be very tough but England have a chance ...

  • Comment number 19.

    Good ol' charge down Charlie saves the day again. Though there were small improvements in the second half, England were woeful. If they have any chance of beating Wales, France or Ireland there needs to be a vast improvement and hope ol' Charge down Charlie stays fit ;.)

  • Comment number 20.

    In the last two weeks England have shown that they have the basis for a great in the future. There's no point comparing them the 2011 RWC or six nations teams; this is a new team and we have to look beyond this years championship.

    Getting a win in any of the next 3 games is going to be a big ask, but as long as England continue to build on the early promising signs then we can maybe look forward to some great results in future years.

  • Comment number 21.

    A win is a win but England are a long way from being competitive on the evidence of yesterday.

    As for the Italians they are clearly improving but desperately need to find some quality half backs.

  • Comment number 22.

    I would definitely agree they showed great character to seal the win but for me there is a massive problem with 10/12/13. They seem completely incapable of bringing Ashton, foden and strettle into the game and I think will really struggle against better opposition. Barritt looks like much more of a 12 for me at this level and they need someone with a bit of gas or spark at 13 - a bit raw but I would chuck Matt hopper in there playing off Farrell.

  • Comment number 23.

    If Wales lose to this English side I'm going to top myself! I don't want to hear about inexperience blah blah blah,richest union in the world,biggest player base in the world,and that's what you come up with ! Make no bones about it , England should have lost both games by twenty points,good luck with your next three games,you'll need it !

  • Comment number 24.

    I agree with people talking about a young team doing okay....but that young Italian Kicker fell to pieces, if head put over what were two kickable penalties we wouldn't have the win and we wouldn't be talking about great discipline.

    The two wins so far have averted disaster for the 'new dawn' team project so far, but the next three will provide a realistic yardstick for where the team both really stands, and where it may go in terms of potential.

  • Comment number 25.

    Clearly Tobias did leave his kicking boots at home. But good effort Mr Fordyce. Just a shame Burnel couldn’t engineer a win, it proved to be a bridge too far. Well done England.

  • Comment number 26.

    I can't believe the self delusion of the English pundits and fans. Both Scotland and Italy threw the games against England away, England winning by the default of the other teams being marginally more awful than they are.

    Those of you toying with the idea of an England victory against Wales at Twickenham need to seek psychiatric help. I would suggest that the more likely scenario is that England are about to suffer one of their most embarrasing defeats at Twickenham, and one that they thourougly deserve. I cannot help but think that Ireland and France will go on to add to the woe.

    For years England have served up drab rugby and got away with it in 2003. But the Rugby world has moved on leaving the truck and trailer chariot stuck in the mud.

    Long may it continue.

  • Comment number 27.

    If Tom Wood is fit, I would make 3 changes, Wood, Dickson, Tuilagi for Robshaw, Barritt and Dowson. Lawes & Flood to start on the bench. For me, although Robshaw has done lots of dirty clear-up work, his work in the ruck and open is far below Wood, who also adds extra size and line out ability. Manu punches holes anybody can work with, and Dickson just adds speed of play to the breakdown.

    I actually think that given these changes, the Wales games is very winnable. Should be a good game though, nobody actually knows what we can expect.

  • Comment number 28.

    Can someone please explain to me what has happened to Ben youngs? Lining up for the anthems he had hands in his pockets, shivering looking like a lost boy. His general play has been lacking in everything we were excited about him, tempo, spinning the ball out to the right runners, darting, chipping, all gone. Personal issues perhaps? Somebody needs to help out as he has so much potential, till then Dickson can bring the backs into play. Morgan looks tasty!

  • Comment number 29.

    This is all about momentum.

    This team has played very little decent rugby, if any, but has won. Not in the Johnson way of "a wins a win" but rather by solid discipline and defence. For a young and inexperienced team that is, in itself, a positive.

    People keep harping on about who will do what to who but talk means nothing (ask the Scots who are suffering with Robinson at the moment).

    Realism exists with this team.

    Positives are that the front 5 have mastered their last 2 sets of opponents, Robshaw inspires his team, Farrell is all they said and in players like Botha, Barritt, Morgan and Dickson we have a future. With Tuilagi, Flood and Lawes to return we are moving forward.

    Negatives are Youngs, who has to go off the scene and rediscover his form, Ashton, albeit he's on the wrong wing, Dowson (sorry but there is better) and our lack of an inventive style of play.

    However we have won two from two away, and now these supposed superior teams have to come to Twickenham.

    It's a good place to be.

  • Comment number 30.

    Interestingly, a lot of posters on here are peddling the same line that England would have been soundly beaten if Italy had a decent kicker. Did they actually watch the game? The Italians were going nowhere before a couple of, to be honest, soft tries. There were some positives, a solid, aggresive scrum, a lineout that eventually sorted itself out and most encouraging of all, an ability to dig themselves out of a hole...England would still have won the second half if the Italians had potted their penalties.

    A long way to go (admittedly) but a bit of decent weather, a home game against a Welsh team that might not be as good as they and the media think they are (a pretty flat Irish time exposed a lot of holes) and we might see some real progress.

  • Comment number 31.

    HOW BAD are the core skills in Union?

    You just can't catch, pass, run angles or tackle.

    The RBS have pumped millions into your sport and I've seen no improvement.

    AWFUL.

  • Comment number 32.

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

  • Comment number 33.

    It is clear that England are going to have to improve to win any of the remaining games, however we have known that since the start of the six nations. We have been lucky to get the "easier" games at the start allowing us to build momentum.

    There are still problems with the midfield, who are struggling to make breaks and bring in our back three. However the way we played once Dickson and Morgan came on, combined with the return of Tuilagi, has shown that the potential is there. Of course who to drop for Tuilagi presents a whole new problem.

    If England can start the game against Wales and play the way they did for most of the second half against Italy, we have a chance.

  • Comment number 34.

    As opposed to some Welsh views on this thread, I don't think a Welsh win is a fore gone conclusion. I would be mightily impressed if England do manage to beat a very good Welsh side (the best Welsh I have witnessed) but to discount it is folly.

    The English forwards are clearing better ball. In Dickson we have someone capable of making use of it. That alone is a step forward.

    Can we make a bigger step forward and up our performance to a level required to beat Wales? Maybe not, but I do think Wales will get a real game. At leat I hope so ;)

  • Comment number 35.

    England still need to iron out the basic flaws and to stop kicking the ball away, we have 2 great wingers and need to usde them, encouraging signs though? Just one point, can you stop referring to England as the "Red Rose"...the rose worn on the jersey is a "Tudor Rose or Royal roe" which is in fact red and white and symbolises the marriage of HenryVII (House of Lancaster) to Elizabeth (House of York) after the war of the roses, thanks!!

  • Comment number 36.

    Fuzzy, you're a league fan, I take it? Good for you mate. You're welcome to it.

    Matt..

  • Comment number 37.

    Is there a media spin conspiracy? How is the new look England any different to any thing served up over the last 9 years?
    It may be a "new team" but we still have the same old problems with the basics as displayed by Hartley missing the mark at lineouts, Foden passing to the opposition, Youngs not noticing the ball coming out of the back of the ruck. We still have no idea as to how to penetrate the opposition defence. I read about our potent back three but never see any evidence of them running anywhere but into trouble.
    We have won two games because of the national trait of digging in when your backs are against the wall a la Dunkirk spirit.
    Our penalty count was down, but then you talk of getting Lawes back in so the count will shoot back up again. If Flood was going to somehow set alight the English backs he would have done it by. Tuilagi will probably jump ship again!!
    There will be no brave world in English rugby until the likes of Rob Andrew, Fran Cotton and "the 57 Old farts" are kicked into touch.

  • Comment number 38.

    Good blog Tom.

    Plenty of positives yes, but there are still an awful lot of questions that need to be answered before this bunch of England newbies start to answer the questions that a lot of people still have of them.
    Yes the discipline is obviously better (they were awful under MJ) and the defence was good, but defence is the whole reason for living for any England team, and has been now for donkeys years. It's getting the chariot out of the mud and getting it moving that is oing to be the problem. Now I know most England fans will say that they'll take a win over exciting rugby any day, and that even the AB's didn't play their usual beautiful flowing game in the RWC Final, but that NZ team has been number 1 in the world for years, and gets most of its rugby from pretty, free flowing stuff. It's only when they're really up against it that they put on the defense.

    Let's be honest.........Scotland and Italy are the two weakest teams in the 6 Nations.......surely these are the teams that you should be looking to open up against and utilise what should be a vastly superior back line.
    And don't give the rubbish that they're only just learning together........Wales took a very inexperienced team to the RWC and still managed to play some good rugby.

    If you can't take off the training wheels against the two weakest teams who are you going to take them off against?

    What I worry is that England will fall into the usual trap that they have done since before 2003, in that a tight defense puts them in a position to win games, and a reliable boot gets the points. The backs are simply there then to add to the defense and provide nothing more. Every other rugby playing nation regards England as the purveyors of boring, boring rugby, so why not use this opportunity to make a difference in this superb window of freedom?
    Surely SOMEONE at the RFU has realised that you need a good attack in modern rugby? Or are they still all burying their heads in the sand and hoping they scrape more wins which will paper of the cracks?

  • Comment number 39.

    #23 ohsoNonchalant and #26 Gibbs is my Dad, amongst your boasts about how many points Wales are going to hammer England by, and the fact that there is no point in England turning up, you forgot to include the accusation that England are arrogant. I think Wales will be favourites for that game, but one bonus is that based on #23, the world will be a far better place if England do win.

    #16 England did win the 6N last year, despite having huge problems at the breakdown. The backrow was outclassed by Scotland, but got away with it because of the lack of a cutting edge in the Scottish backline. A week later it was the same story with the Irish backrow, with the result that we got badly beaten.
    Yes England could have kept with the same approach, but if we want to get back to being serious contenders at the World Cup, we need to rebuild. With the number of new players, plus a few big names out injured (not to mention an alarming loss of form from Ben Youngs) then 2 out of 2 is a reasonable start, although the players do need to step up in the next 3 games.

  • Comment number 40.

    Markt, yeah, I'd say as poorly as we've played, their is the slightest silver lining in the fact we have shown bottle and grit in both games. Jesus, it's hard to write anything while my kids are playing tag at full volume!

    Matt..

  • Comment number 41.

    38 And don't give the rubbish that they're only just learning together........Wales took a very inexperienced team to the RWC and still managed to play some good rugby.

    Wales played some great rugby against Ireland in the world cup, but that is just one game. Apart from that the only flowing rugby they managed was against the might of Fiji and Namibia. In the other games, they scraped a narrow victory against a Samoa side playing their second game in 4 days. and played 3 lost 3 against sides in the top 5 in world rugby.

    Yes Wales should beat England, but they are basically a year ahead of England in the rebuilding process, having started to blood young players in last years 6N (a season in which they finished 4th), and are staring to see the benefit.

  • Comment number 42.

    I think a deal of realism is required - inexperienced team, even if they are skilled professionals, at this level, playing against a vastly improved Azurri away from home and in difficult weather conditions.

    We leaked two freak tries which set us back and could have had two more tries ourselves.

    The team retained composure when most required. It certainly wasn't pretty rugby but at least we can see resolve and discipline which is progress.

    For me when Tuilagi is back, Farrell should move to 10 and Barritt and Tuilagi in centres. Fair play to Hodgson with his charge downs but apart from that he still appears a little bit lost on the international stage and I don't think he represents progress.

    I agree that Morgan and Dickson need to start. Youngs threw a tantrum when taken off but he needs to look at himself closely - he is highly talented but has been off form for a while and looks ponderous, giving little quick ball. The pace picked up significantly when Dickson came on and that put Italy on the back foot. Really simple rugby but done effectively it just works.

    It will be an interesting test of this team when they come up against the strength of Ireland, France & Wales. I don't expect us to win any of these games - if we do, that will be a bonus.

  • Comment number 43.

    2 wins against the 2 weakest teams in the 6N. Both wins to be fair came from the result of lucky tries - charge downs can land anywhere.

    Played poorly against poor teams, these guys should be experienced enough its their day jobs!

    No spark, no flair, no attack no nothing... I pray Wales, Ireland and France have off days or we will be on the back of record defeats...!

  • Comment number 44.

    Still looking for the creativity - there was precious little on display!
    Positives?
    Low penalty count & greatly reduced missed-tackle count
    Verdict - promising but must do better!

  • Comment number 45.

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

  • Comment number 46.

    Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. We've played the two weakest teams in the tournament and beaten them by a collective margin of less than 10

    The Aussies, All Blacks and South Africans would be looking to rack up 50+ points against both those sides and anything less would be considered disappointing

  • Comment number 47.

    All this positivity about England is nice to read - and Lancaster is an impressive chap - but the reality is England mustered 32 points in total against the two most limited sides in the 6N, and 14 of these points came by way of individual opposition error. There has been nothing on offer in weeks one and two to suggest this England team is, on the pitch, anything like as effective as the unit that started the World Cup . . . and that team came up well short.

    England were played off the park in week one and, in response to the limitations of their play, subsequently coughed up two weak tries to Italy in match two. The next three games are where the new regime is properly analysed, and where the rule will be run over Owen Farrell and Chris Robshaw - I can't see anything other than three definitive losses.

  • Comment number 48.

    Intersting article and sums up the match very well.

    After watching the first half I was fustrated at how slow the ball was getting out of the breakdown. Youngs neither darting through the fringe or offloading immediatly is what appears to slow it down. Morgan and Dickson were immense, with great carrying from Morgan and Dickson offloading from the base of the ruck resulted in great looking rugby for the conditions. The only fault being Dickson got caught a couple of time by a Italian boot knocking the ball from his hands as he tried to pass. This killed the attack both times.

    England will hopefully improve some aspects of thier game before the Welsh game. They have been together for around a month so that is little time to actually gel as a world class team. I am still hopeing for 3 wins this 6N, but will settle for 2 winns and 3 close losses. Wales played some good rugby last week, but lets see how well they do against Scotland who are bruising from a poor display against England. I expect a Welsh win this week, but you never know what will happen in the six nations.

    2 weeks could be an interesting game, and if Morgan and Dickson start I think we may surprise Wales with some attacking rugby.
    I would need to look at it again but when

  • Comment number 49.

    Also, where do England produce these totally ineffective but massively overhyped scrum halves (ref Youngs, Care, Perry, Wigglesworth, Ellis) who are quickly shown to be out of their depth in international rugby from? What does it say about the Premiership that Barnes, Greenwood, Morris et al spend weeks salivating about these kids being world class only to then see the players hideously shown up on the biggest stage?

    Youngs was given preposterous media hype based on two games against a provably soft Australian team and has had no positive impact for the national side since the Italy drubbing last year. Apparently he threw a strop when substituted for the far more effective (and former Scotland U19) Lee Dickson - class act too.

  • Comment number 50.

    All well and good bemoaning the lack of creativity but at least they were trying in difficult conditions, not easily suited to running rugby. I note two worrying themes above, one is certain fans getting a bit ahead of themselves, there is a long way to go. The other is the totally opposite view and we all know who this comes from in the main. It would be wise to wait until the end of the 6N before they aggrandise their team(s) and write off the others too much. As for the view that England were lucky, rubbush! Nice to see that the Italians have taken lessons from their footballing compatriots. Two of the penalties they were given were shameful, please leave it to the 11-a-side game. Lucky try for England? Less so than the 1st Italian one. Wonder what will happen today? JD has warned the Welsh players and fans to manage expectations and their games against Scotland have always been unpredictable. Looking forward to a good game.

  • Comment number 51.

    As a Welsh supporter I've been under no illusions that Wales's most difficult game in this campaign will be against England.

    Why? Wales are expected to win, and if they do so, there will be no backlash from the English fans and media. Wales are missing key players in their pack (though Alun Wyn Jones may be fit to play at Twickenham). England are at home for the first time in the tournament, with fans and media on their side. England's first two fixtures were against the two weaker sides in the tournament, therefore enhancing their chances of coming into the game against Wales on the back of victories.

    England have shown little to be afraid of so far. The back row and 10/12/13 channel are both unbalanced, and areas where Wales are particularly strong at the moment. But they have shown a focus and determination that wasn't present under Martin Johnson.

    If Wales play as they did against Ireland and England play as they did against Scotland and Italy, Wales will win. But there is more chance in this game than any other that either side will raise their game or make mistakes.

  • Comment number 52.

    Some good realistic comments, interspersed with some absolute delusion. Clearly England have a brighter future, it couldn't be any darker than the recent past and As for Toms 'many positives' personally i'd limit that to a few positives. The line out was a joke at times, the scrum poor and the ineptitude in possession for periods was cringeworthy to watch. The reality is but for 2 fortuituous charge downs and an atrocious kicking display from Burton England would be staring down the barrel of a wooden spoon and that win had more to do with an Italian implosion as anything else. I'll hear no more talk of English Grand Slams, three very long afternoons lay in wait...

  • Comment number 53.

    Really good blog. But REALLY?? The positives in England's first two games are few. Appalling first half's out both times, yes improved seconds half's but still containing a lack of communication in key places and some dreadful moments.

    I think we can all agree if the Italian kicker had kept his head the game would have finished differently. Did England look like scoring a try over Italy??? (no would be my guess charge downs are lucky)

    Now look at Wales, Ireland and if they are in the mood for it France, if we played like that what would the score line be?

    There are positives but amid a lot of bleak facts. We have won our last game in the six nations ( As I see it on paper, not counting conditions and injuries and lucky balls "charge down charlie") , but our defence is getting sharper our team can stay focused and we have players coming back in from injury. The lessons learnt in winning will now be added to those in loss. As Lancaster has said we are building to 2015 so these lessons need learning.

    Oh and on a side line to the Welsh fans who like to say how lucky we are "Yellow Card tip tackle off the ball" how lucky is that should have been red and you know it.

    last bit of rant ....really enjoyable Six Nations once again great rugby all round so lets hope it continues that way

  • Comment number 54.

    Tom writes " Lancaster and his new-look team might just possess the combination of character, luck and fortitude essential to all improving sides" (What about skill, flair and ability?). It appears to me that he has written Lancaster's epitaph. Those in the RFU halls of power who will try anything to have Nick Mallett installed as soon as possible will be wearing a bigger smug smirk than usual.
    As for the Welsh the blog is not about them so can we keep them in perspective and just refer to them as the next opposition.

  • Comment number 55.

    Funny how England ‘got lucky’ with their charge-down try, but Italy ‘deserved’ their 2 tries despite the large element of luck in both. And we gifted Italy the chance to kick for the 6 points they missed. Seeing what you want to see I guess. The better side over the full 80 mins won – as is usually the case.

    However England were very poor in the 1st half, and against the remaining sides would have ended too far adrift to come back. Shame that 2 of our more talented players were mince yesterday (Foden & Young). But if we can move on from the 2nd half performance we will be very competitive in our remaining games.

    The next game will define Lancaster’s managerial and tactical qualities. Does he stick largely to the current unbeaten side, or does he start with the undoubted talents of Manu, Flood and Lawes (and when is Wood back to fitness?)? And if Manu starts who of Farrell and Barritt does he drop? And does he look to form and start with Dickson and Morgan (and maybe Brown)? He can talk a good game, now’s the time to earn his money.

  • Comment number 56.

    Mr. Henry of NZ got it about right when he said England waste tallent and play a self limiting type of game. I'd be happy (ish) if England and the major players in the Aviva Prem were to adopt a more atticking, faster paced style. Ok, our team would look all at sea to start with, but in the longer term it'd do us good.

    As for Wales, I was happy to see them beat the Irish. I'm not anti Irish, half of my family are from Dublin, but Wales are a good team playing good rugby.

    Matt..

  • Comment number 57.

    @Barney McGrew did it

    I wouldn't drop Farrell or Barritt I'd play Tuilagi at 13 and shift the other two inwards

  • Comment number 58.

    Positives from the first two weeks: Front row looks rock solid, Farrell is a reliable kicker, Robshaw is an inspirational captain, fewer penalties conceded and the clearing out at ruck time is much better.
    Negatives: Little or no attacking flair, line-out looks vulnerable, Youngs out of form, back row balance not quite right.
    As in previous posts, Morgan looks the real deal at eight, a big monster ball carrier to give go-forward ball, Dickson does the simple things right and speeds up the play. I would also include Lawes for Botha, Flood for Hodgson and Tuilagi for Barritt but would have no problem seeing them on the bench.

  • Comment number 59.

    There seems to be alot of negativty about the result yesterday this is an inexperienced side that have gone away from home twice now to two hostile atmospheres and won ok not pretty expansive Rugby but it is a mark of a good side who can grind out victories. These two victories will also galvanise the squad for the last three games as fans and ex-pros have been writing this team off yet they have ground out the victories.

    England Team to start against Wales:

    15. Ben Foden
    14. Chris Ashton
    13. Manu Tuilagi
    12. Brad Barritt
    11. David Strettle
    10. Owen Farrell
    9. Lee Dickson
    1. Alex Corbisiero
    2. Dylan Hartley
    3. Dan Cole
    4. Tom Palmer
    5. Courtney Lawes
    6. Tom Croft
    7. Chris Robshaw (Capt)
    8. Ben Morgan

    Subs
    16. Rob Webber
    17. Matt Stevens
    18. Mourtiz Botha
    19. Phil Dowson
    20. Ben Youngs
    21. Toby Flood
    22. Mike Brown

  • Comment number 60.

    I know I probably sound like one of the "57 boring old farts" but does anyone else get irritated by the way the sponsors pitch logo paint covers every player within minutes of the start of every game and has done for several years - we all know they ruined the British economy but do they have to do the same to rugby? thats not what good sponsors are supposed to do.

    On to rugby, I think England have been lucky but have fought their way through against tough but not inspiring opposition so a mid table finish probably looks about right.

    It does seem to be an English characteristic to knock everything even when we do win but if we really are building from scratch for the next RWC then lets show a bit of patience. If by the end of the 6N we have won 2/lost 3 then Lancaster will move on and some expensive new guy will come in - he will either work miracles or we can all whinge about him too.

    Personally I hope Lancaster does a good enough job to keep his role as I do think he has the right approach - and with certainty over his position he can clear out some of the brain dead (eg Ashton) and start to really build for the RWC.

  • Comment number 61.

    My thoughts on England's progress so far...

    1) Will probably get annihilated by Wales in a couple of weeks
    2) Have so far offered nothing in attack, charge downs do not count
    3) Have shown great character and tenacity
    4) Have, crucially, not been able to unlock Strettle, Ashton and Foden: arguably our best players
    5) Must cut the dead wood. Release Youngs back to Leicester to sort out whatever problem he has. Start Dickson
    6) Drop Dowson, start with Morgan
    7) I say: drop Hodgson, get Flood back in there, drop Palmer for Lawes.

    If we do that we may have a chance to win one of our three remaining games. I don't buy into this "we showed great character + defence" nonsense. We very narrowly and luckily beat two very inept teams, and character alone will not stop wave after wave of well executed Welsh phases.

  • Comment number 62.

    Gonna keep this short coz freedom of speech is not allowed on this site.

    England are not the finished article but show promise. Exciting time to be english

    Wales, blowing their own trumpets as usual coz nobody else will

    Ireland robbed by bad reffing

    France - look good

    Scotland have a bad coach - Simple

    Bring on wales

  • Comment number 63.

    Is it just me or have England been just really lucky in the first 2 games?

    A charge down in the Scotland game that fell nicely for a try and a Scotland no-try that on an other day could have been given! if it these had gone the other way Egnland would have been beaten convinsingly!

    Then yesterday and an other charge down falling for a try and 2 missed Italy Penaltes! Again if the ball does not bounce into Charlie Hodgson's hands and Italy scored the 2 Penaltes! England have lost 2 games and things are not looking so bright!

    All in all i think Other teams have given England the wins and i have not seen anything from them to show improvment from the world cup!

  • Comment number 64.

    I find it unbelievable that England are talking themselves up again. Masters of their own downfall as usual. Just the same as the cricket team.

    You've beaten the two traditional wooden spoon contenders narrowly by two Charlie Hodgson charge downs. Slightly lucky? Of course not. Be it not for Owen Farrell's very good right boot, you'd be looking at the wooden spoon, so consider yourselves lucky and try having some modesty!

  • Comment number 65.

    Twickenhamloyal- Wales aren't blowing any trumpets, some overexuberant fans are. They're actually a pretty good outfit not to be taken lightly. England look limited, but some promise. With home advantage, Wales game looks 50:50

  • Comment number 66.

    Well-balanced article Tom.

    Great achievement for new team to win 2 away matches on the trot (whoever the opposition is in the 6N). Good teams win even when they don't play that well so there is some hope for this England team. I Like the low penalty count as well.

    Wonder if there is anyone in the squad who can boss a match against the 3 better teams that lie in wait. Can these players offer anything but spirit and teamwork?
    There is plenty to build on, but I don't see a similar performance bothering Wales, Ireland and France - so who holds the key? At the moment England do not possess a true World-Class player to follow. Is he in the squad or will Manu man-up when he returns?

    Botha deserves to stay, Youngs should take a breather, Morgan should maybe start, Croft needs to make more of an impact and Morgan's inclusion might help him.

    Anybody else here think Stuart Barnes is a plonker? Would have liked to see him play champagne rugby under the pressure of those first 2 games. I'd still rather win ugly in the early days of this new team than watch them throw it about and get thrashed.

  • Comment number 67.

    England are a team in transition, it is as simple as that and any of the other teams going through the same thing that they are, would be just as happy with 2 wins away from home in hostile atmospheres in conditions not conducive to good flowing rugby. They would definitley settle for it I am sure. However, they need to improve their attaching intent and I would bring in Lawes, Morgan, Dickson and Tuilagi to start, for Botha (unfortunate), Dowson, Youngs (horrible) and Hodgson (not the future) with Flood on the bench. England may then give Wales a good game. It will be difficult for them and they shouldn't think that England won't make it difficult for them, because they will.

    Before any Welshmen start getting ahead of themselves and start crowing about how good they are, they need to remember that they came 4th in the 6N's last year, when England won it. Also, at the World Cup they only won 4 out of 7 games in the end, a win/loss ratio of 57%. England won 4 out 5, a win/loss ratio of 80%. In addition, 2 of Wales's wins came against Namibia and Fiji, hardly world beaters!! When it really mattered in the big games against, South Africa, France and Australian they blew it!! Having said that they played some good stuff and deserved to get to the final four with a terrific performance against Ireland in the Quarters.

    R: #26 Gibbs is my Dad, Wales shouldn't get too carried away about how good they are as they have taken some fearful beatings at the hands of England over the years. Take the following as examples;

    1997 - England 34 Wales 13
    1998 - England 60 Wales 26
    2000 - England 46 Wales 12
    2001 - England 44 Wales 15
    2002 - England 50 Wales 10
    2003 - England 43 Wales 9
    2006 - England 47 Wales 13
    2007 - England 62 Wales 5

    If you don't believe me just look at the record books, it's all there in black and white.

    That adds up to a very sorry list of hammerings. Somewhere in there was some good rugby I do believe, as scores like that would not have materialised or are Welsh supporters so one-eyed not even to accept that. Interspersed with that was a couple of very fortunate Welsh wins, 1999 (32 -31), we know what happened there and 2005 (11 - 9) again with a score at the death. In both cases, England could quite easily have one, but for dubious refereeing decisions.

    Recent fixtures have been more evenly contested I grant you. What they should focus on though is the World Cup and it is there where they are well short. Wales have never been to a World Cup Final and are never likely too. They had a chance last year and blew it. I seem to remember England have been to 3 already!!

    In order to do that they might have to beat the All Blacks, a feat they have not achieved since 1953 and the Springboks, one win out of 25/26 games!!

    So, the point I am making is that I accept they have a very good side at the moment, especially in the backs, forwards are very average, they shouldn't get ahead of themselves as when it comes to the battles that really matter, they have often fallen short.

    They will probably start as favourites in 2 weeks time and rightly so, but many a side has gone down to Twickenham in recent years and got stuffed by the men in white, including at home.

    Yours,
    The Scribe

  • Comment number 68.

    Does anyone else find it ironic that we are meant to be England 'supports' yet most people just want to slag them off? Because of course you all know better, oh wait I forgot its the ex-international coaches that have won 24 Gland Slams and 12 World Cups each, that comment on here!

    Two tough away games and we have won them both, yes there was luck in it, but every team needs a bit of luck, and in my opinion you make your own luck. In the second half we looked good when we went through the phases and were able to generate quick ball, also thought we played off 10 a lot better this week, over last. Not hard as we actually got some ball this week.

    Morgan and Dickson made an impact when they came on and should start, hopefully Tuilagi will be fit to start against Wales and that should add the missing bite to the midfield, will also be interesting to see how Roberts and Davis stand up to a centre pairing of Barritt and Tuilagi.

    We many not beat the Welsh but we wont be 'annihilated' and we can push them close, and who knows with a bit of luck.
    As for the French we've beaten them 4 times out the last 5, and when we did lose it was in Paris by about 2 points. And lets face it the French are French you never know what going to happen.
    I think we are more likely to beat the Irish, we will be at home and want a big finish, also I not convinced by them, they never look as strong as they do when a certain Mr O'Disrcoll isn't playing.

    So with a bit of luck, ok maybe a lot of luck and some big performances of key players England could pull it off, its been done before.

    But if I could have one thing, it would be that people actually SUPPORTED the team and management, instead of finding fault in everything.

  • Comment number 69.

    I am in the camp that says this is a good start but also shows seem key limitations.

    The positives:

    1. Front row: they took on Italy and won that battle. Italy are very experienced. Thought this was a step up from Scotland and given how young the front row is, this bodes well.
    2. Discipline: apart from start of second half this was very good
    3. Defence gets better each game.

    Negatives:

    1. Power game lacking in starting 15. Dowson to be dropped for Morgan will make a difference but think biggest difference will be Lawes for Palmer, with Lawes England just seem to have a nasty edge
    2. Total inability to organise a driving maul
    3. Back row balance is wrong
    4. Backs attacking seems non existent
    5. Ashton has stopped making tracking runs on inside shoulder of 10/12 channel

    I fully expect England to lose to Wales but after the first two performances (subject to game this afternoon) I can at least see a way for England to win. England have a much better front 5 and if they can drag the game down to scrums and line outs Wales will struggle

  • Comment number 70.

    you got to love the british media, during the WC when France were playing so poorly, no press criticised us more than the british, (and the new zealanders, but thats another story), but when its their team thats playing badly, really badly and winning, its all great!!
    Italy deserved that game yesterday, as much as the scots did the week before.

  • Comment number 71.

    I really hate writing spiteful comments in responce to WUMS. The 'real' rugby fan's views tend to get swamped under the deluge of bandwagon hopping round ball loving **** ants.

    liameynon - You're a bit silly linking OUR cricket to English rugby. It's the England and Wales cricket board. Incidently, our cricket team has been fantasic until we were taught a lesson in 'keeping it real'.


    Cjonesboy - You're spot on mate when you say it's the over exuberant fans that give us all a bad name.

    Anyway, I hope we win but I'd be happy for continued and gradual progression underpinned by a sound base and work ethic.

    Good luck England and Wales next week.

    Matt..

  • Comment number 72.

    BleuBlancRouge - We the British hate the British press. They're nothing short of gutterssnipe scum.

    Matt..

  • Comment number 73.

    If Lancaster wants a future as England coach, he will have to do better than Youngs and Hodgson at scrum-half and fly-half respectively. Youngs kicks away hard-won possession to no purpose, and Hodgson, despite his two charge-down tries, has never been a play-maker in an England shirt. The team will never click without quality in these two key positions. Flood is not world class, but better than Hodgson, and Lancaster's judgement is questionable if he plays an unchanged side just for the sake of it.

  • Comment number 74.

    The "luck" possessed by England here Tom, is that familiar sort of "luck" that seems to abound suspiciously for the world's wealthy union; in that they have the easiest draw by far in having their away games first up against the perennial easy-beats of the 6N tournament.

    Once feared for their set piece, England have turned to mush. Turning over ball regularly from both lineout and embarrassingly the scrum. This would be fine if England were evolving away from their stodgy 10-man game plan but with a lightweight and inept back row and coaches and selectors who seemingly don't understand this facet of the game at all it really doesn't matter who England name behind the scrum because they'll be starving on diet of stagnant scraps.

    A team in terminal decline for over a decade have gone from world cup champions, to plucky finalists to early knock out stage also-rans. No better illustration is the slip from last year's cricket score against Italy which supposedly hailed the next generation of English super stars, featuring none less than Chris "re-writing wing plan" Ashton who this year froze his mittens in isolation on the wing as England could only muster a face saving charge down try for the second week in a row.

    Make no mistake, the returning back line players are nothing more than a few more deck chairs for the deck of the RFU Titanic, as an Iceberg the size and shape of Wales bobs into view.

  • Comment number 75.

    46. At 10:52 12th Feb 2012, Long Live The King wrote:
    "Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. We've played the two weakest teams in the tournament and beaten them by a collective margin of less than 10
    The Aussies, All Blacks and South Africans would be looking to rack up 50+ points against both those sides and anything less would be considered disappointing"

    As far as I remember, both Australia and South Africa lost the last time they played at Murrayfield. They may not be the force of previous years (including losing their proud record of always getting past the group stage of the RWC), but they are still a tough side to beat at home, and always raise their intensity against England, equally the days where visits to Rome were expected to yield bucket loads of tries are also long gone.

    Nobody would dispute that England have a long way to go before they get back to the days of beating the SH teams away from home (the only true measure of a NH team other than the RWC is to win in Australia, NZ and South Africa), but at least England are finally trying to rebuild after 8 years of a damage limitation selection policy.
    There is no guarantee that they will succeed, and it is almost certain that there will be disappointments along the way, but it is still the right thing to do.

  • Comment number 76.

    Well, well. The journeyman is indeed becoming a world-beater - well, at least it is so with regards to Scotland and Italy.
    But OK, it is astonishing how history has repeated itself, when simple side-steps would have cleared the moderate danger of the journeyman. Needless to say, I'm gutted Italy couldn't make history; our time will come, though...
    So, the english now have two victories. I suspect that's as far as it'll go for this Six Nations.
    Ciao for now

  • Comment number 77.

    As a (Yorkshire) Englishman I am deeply offended that the quota of "arrogant English" observations is way below standard Celtish friends.

    I am now going to make an arrogant cup of tea and consider the colonies ;-)

    That Robshaw is a good act. He, and Corbisiero did good dog work. I think Dowson did well after unfair criticism last week. Some rugby fans seem to judge players on their attacking play only.

    England are a work in progress and we are unlikely to beat a very good Welsh team in a fortnight.

    I shall accept defeat, should it happen, with the utmost arrogance :)

  • Comment number 78.

    God the Welsh are so boring, we get it you hate the English, guess what? We're not fans of you either! You will be favourites when you play us at Twickenham, but bring it on we have nothing to lose. You always throw in that we're the biggest union blah blah, making sure there is that excuse to fall back on should something go wrong! You should have lost to Ireland were it not to two errors by the officials, so pipe down.

  • Comment number 79.

    thegreyghost, where do you hail from? I see almost all of your barbed posts are aimed at England.

    Matt..

  • Comment number 80.

    PS: I play RL (albeit as a veteran). Fuzzy Duck doesn't speak for us. Ignore.

  • Comment number 81.

    Moving in the right direction, hopefully for the upcoming games the team will be picked based on current performance and not past reputations. Interesting choices ahead in the centre where in all fairness there has been no demonstration of anything that will win games.

    The big problem is the way the Beeb covers it. It is terrible, hopefully Eurosport is covering the Olympics as 2 weeks of this lot of talking heads will drive anyone mad. What does Sonia bring to an international rugby match!!

  • Comment number 82.

    We would use RL as a drill for tackling and off loading - I loved it! Smashy, smashy!!

    Matt..

  • Comment number 83.

    Scotty88 - You're right about Ireland being unlucky to loose.


    Matt..

  • Comment number 84.

    I have yet to see anything from this England team to give any cause for optimism. For most of both games, they have not looked better than the opposition at all. In the second half against Scotland, the scots were making half breaks at will. It was only Italy's lack of ambition and class that stopped them from doing the same. I attack we continually lumbered through the phases in predictable fashion until we lost or kicked away the ball. Both games have shown that we cannot break through a well organized defence, and the scottish game showed that we cannot contain a good attack. If we get within 10 points of Wales, Ireland or France I will be amazed.

  • Comment number 85.

    Oh moderators, can we block the troll please?

  • Comment number 86.

    Which troll?

    Matt..

  • Comment number 87.

    I don't see why everyone is going on about this "great new England side."

    Two lucky charge-down tries, two lucky wins. Simple as that.

    England would have lost to any other side in Edinburgh, indeed relying on Hodgson's charge-down to get anything and then wasteful Scottish attack to stay there. Then, was I the only person who saw that they would have lost, even with their lucky try, had Jacques Brunel kept Kristopher Burton on for Italy, who would, most likely, have slotted those two penalties. And where did the Italian tries come from? English mistakes.

    Mark my words, England will get hammered by Wales, Ireland and France.

  • Comment number 88.

    "thegreyghost, where do you hail from? I see almost all of your barbed posts are aimed at England.

    Matt..
    "

    Planet Reality. Some of those trying to talk up the worst England team since the dawn of professionalism into Grandslam prospects on a couple of lucky wins over the worst sides in the 6N, neither or whom are even in the top 10 rugby playing sides should visit some time. The clarity is refreshing.

  • Comment number 89.

    @ 60: Perhaps if England didn't wear white it wouldn't show up as much. I certainly don't notice it on the Scottish shirts...

  • Comment number 90.

    This year's Six Nations is almost a two- tier competition. France, Wales and Ireland are in a different league to England, Scotland and Italy right now. I would be shocked if England beat any of the three top teams, and if more so if Scotland/ Italy did.

    I think England got somewhat lucky in the Scotland game, Scotland have a way of throwing games. Their performance against Italy wasn't bad but they need seious improvements if they want to challenge for the Championship again in the near future.

  • Comment number 91.

    Serious quantity of petty comments flying around here...

    In a fortnight, Wales will (as those who actually watch the game will know) be comfortable favourites. They deservedly beat a strong Irish team in Ireland, and showed a ruthless side to their game today. They are also playing against a team who have had a fortnight or so together with a new coaching team, compared to a team that has been built over four years. If they don't win, it will be a shock frankly.

    How could an upset happen? If Hodgson is dropped, Farrell moved to 10, Barritt 12, and Tuilagi 13. Defensively strong enough to stop a pretty scary backline, with Manu providing much needed punching power. Also, Morgan starting a 8, Lawes back into lock, and a flawless performace.

    Like I said, Wales really should be winning this one.

  • Comment number 92.

    Well done England, wooden spoon avoided. But having played the worst 2 teams in the 6 Nations, they've managed 2 charge-down tries in 160 minutes of rugby. I can't really see another win coming, home advantage notwithstanding. An actual deliberate try, on our own possession, after a few phases of high-tempo rugby would be nice, but probably too much to hope for. I sound despondent, but I am hopeful for this group of players. It's just that, after 8 years in the doldrums, I don't see any quick fixes for England's problems.

  • Comment number 93.

    How long must we suffer the inane chatter of Jonathan Davies. He seems to be incapable of allowing the viewing public to watch a match without trying to prove that he knows more about rugby than anyone else on the planet. How many times must we hear "watch this" and "running the channels off the shoulder" before he realises that the game can be enjoyed without his constant intervention. The greatest commentators (and he comes nowhere close) know when to shut up and allow the game to flow. It is not often that I am prone to criticise but he really gets to me when I am trying to enjoy a pleasant afternnon in front of the television.

  • Comment number 94.

    thegreyghost - Planet reality? If you're daft to rise to the English WUMs bait, then more fool you.


    I'm an ever proud Englishman but I'm not blinkered enough to think we're going to romp to a grand slam, hell no.

    We're not playing attractive rugby at the moment. Hell, we're not even playing rugby but with time and confidence things (or personnel) will change and get better.

    I have to admit I'm slightly concerned at the reasons behind new set up. To me the 6 nation’s campaign could be a poorly calculated gamble and we might just end up wasting a whole year.

    By the end of the campaign I'd be happy for a hint of direction and a smidgen of style.

    Matt..

  • Comment number 95.

    Gifting two tries on a plate is a basic error. Only better kicking won the match. That is not the way we want to win.

  • Comment number 96.

    Two poor performances, with Ashton/Foden/Strettle wasted. No modern openside. Some plus points (both South Africans, Farrell's kicking and the replacement Morgan). Will struggle against the Welsh, particularly if they can get two more British Lions forwards (Alun Wyn Jones and Matthew Rees) and Sam Warburton fit in time to to remove the vulnerability up front. France still favourites to win 6N. France v Wales on final day could be a cracker.

  • Comment number 97.

    Peter martin - Jonathon Davies wasn't the commentator, the Scottish guy was. Davies is paid to analyse plays and give his opinion on technicalities. If he didn't do this, he wouldn't be doing what he's paid for

  • Comment number 98.

    Lets not forget that this is a building team. However, bloodin sooo many youngsters in at this level is not the way to do it.

    Wales bled yougsters in at last years six nations and world cup but and a major but they still had the back bone of a solid team.

    Someone made a valid point at the top of the comments and its something lancaster will have nightmares about. "where are englands next tries going to come from?" this is worrying for england as on two ocassions against the two poorest teams in this championship, they havent looked like scoring tries. These are a worrying few weeks for england.

    I, being welsh, never like losing to england but should that happen in two weeks i would be bitterly dissapointed as at the moment, they are nowhere near the wales, ireland and france.

    Either way im sure itll be a good game.

  • Comment number 99.

    #90 Hardly a two tier tournament, Wales may have won by 14 points, but Scotland had a perfectly good try chalked off, and most of the big decisions went their way. Other than for a short period after half-time Scotland matched the Welsh side, and wasted almost as many scoring chances in perfect playing conditions in the MS as they did in the first game.

    Of course England could easily lose their last 3 games, Wales will be heavy favourites, but England could produce an upset, France are hard to predict, and Ireland are not the same side without David Wallace and BOD.

  • Comment number 100.

    The arrogance of the welsh fans on here. You better hope your team don't go into the game thinking like you do. You play what is in front of you. Against Scotland we got drawn into their boring brand of rugby and against Italy the conditions played a massive part to the style of game we could play. I don't think we'll beat Wales, but let's hope they go into the game as outrageously over confident as you lot are. Do yourselves a favour and stop embarrassing yourselves.

 

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