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How England got their mojo back

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Tom Fordyce | 20:21 UK time, Thursday, 24 February 2011

When we analyse the improvement of rugby teams, there are plenty of incontrovertible statistics to explain and underline performances - basics, like tries scored and scrums won; percentages, of possession and tackles made and missed; tallies, of errors, offloads and line-breaks.

Most of the time they come together to form an equation that clearly explains victories and defeats. Most of the time, but not always.

Team sports can't always be reduced to mathematics or columns on a spreadsheet. Whilst England's stats give every indication of the side's progression over the past 12 months (they have already scored almost as many points from their two games so far this year as they managed in all five Six Nations matches in 2010, and almost double the number of tries) there may be other, less easily quantified forces at work.

A year ago, a visit to England's training headquarters in Bagshot gave the impression of many things - hard work, determination, planning - but not always of enjoyment and fun.

The determination and work are still in evidence. So, for the first time in an age, is the fun part. And it seems to be having a significant effect on the team's on-pitch displays.

England lost to France in Paris last year

England lost to France in Paris last season

"All of us are genuinely enjoying playing for England at the moment," says scrum-half Danny Care. "There is a massive trust thing inside the team which means you don't want to let anyone down. There's a real one-for-all feeling."

The trigger, according to Nick Easter, was a deliberate switch in strategy implemented almost exactly a year ago.

"People had been turning up to Pennyhill Park (England's team hotel), training together, but you'd only ever talk about rugby, even over dinner," he says. "You'd never get to actually know somebody.

"You're never going to be best buddies with everybody, but when you don't really know your team-mates it does make a difference on the pitch. If you've got a strong bond, you subconsciously are going to go that extra mile."

How were those bonds formed? How did a disparate group of players, in a team that was struggling to produce either results or fluent rugby, begin to rediscover a camaraderie and zest for the game?

"The Australia tour last summer was very important," admits Easter. "We had three days when we arrived when we didn't touch a rugby ball. It was quite a young group, which helped, but more importantly we had a few socials.

"We visited a brewery while we were over there, we've done a few over here. That's not to say we're alcoholics or anything, but you do need to have a few beers with people, to break down barriers and discover things about each other, and have something else to talk about apart from, 'How was your boys' game last weekend?'"

Just as the England cricket team in Australia socialised over computer games played on a portable giant screen in James Anderson's hotel room, so their rugby counterparts do the same. A Mario Kart league is the favourite ("...which I lead, by the way," insists Easter), with Call of Duty a close second. Another of the key factors that has brought the squad together is, to put it mildly, a touch more unorthodox.

"Table-tennis," says full-back Ben Foden. "We play a game where you get three lives, R-E-D, and when they've gone everyone gets to smash the ball at you until you're covered in lots of red dots. When we were in Australia all the boys got into it."

Hold on, you might say. This is international rugby. It's not about smiles and laughter. How often did you see Martin Johnson beaming in his playing days?

"We needed to turn off from rugby every now and then," believes Foden. "You come into camp, and it can be rugby, rugby, rugby. You've got meetings at six o'clock, meetings with Mike Ford doing defence, meetings with Brian Smith doing attack, analysing... it can take over. We've learned to switch off and enjoy each other's company, have a laugh.

"We have become more together and united because of that. It now feels like you're taking the field with 15 or 22 mates.

"You have to trust the players around you that they're going to do their job. And once you've had a few beers with someone, understand someone, you're taking the field with guys you know and can trust. It frees up your mind to do your job and then do that little bit extra you need to do at international level.

"You do the huddle before the game and look into everyone's eyes, and you can see that everyone's now there for each other. They're willing to put their bodies on the line for their country and the white shirt, but also because they don't want to let anyone down in the group."

With burgeoning friendships has come a liberation on the pitch, the product too of a more relaxed approach from the management team.

England players celebrate one of their 10 tries so far

It has been all smiles for England so far in this year's Championship

The England XV in Johnson's first season as manager too often seemed hamstrung by a fear of doing the wrong thing, players stifled by the presence of the World Cup-winning skipper rather than inspired. Changes in the interpretation of the law have certainly helped - after that dreadful period of kicking the ball away, players are now less likely to be penalised after carrying the ball into contact - but a stronger relationship also exists between coaching staff and players.

"Now you've got a lot more freedom to express yourself," says Care. "The coaches have given us the licence to back ourselves and go for it. They believe in us, and we believe that what we're doing in training is the right thing.

"Two big words we try to live by are 'confidence' and 'trust'. At (his club side) Quins we're all about playing quickly - quick taps, quick line-outs, getting the nine running with the ball - but when I first came into the England team a few years ago that wasn't really the way England played. Now, (attack coach) Brian Smith is very much about a running scrum-half, and it's a lot easier to go out there and express yourself. A couple of years ago we maybe weren't so used to doing that."

Easter, possibly the most relaxed man in the squad and certainly the most laconic, is one of the players whose form has responded the best.

"Management have been very transparent," he says. "They now trust the players to lead certain sessions, certainly later in the week when you're close to what you're going to do in the match. You can pick each other's brains, both players and coaching staff, whenever you want."

It is also a relatively new-look squad, high on youthful confidence and unburdened by previous defeats and disappointments. Neither are many of the new breed shy, retiring types.

"Foden and Ashton like to be the clowns of the group," says wing Mark Cueto, revitalised by the presence of his younger team-mates in the back three. "Their energy is unbelievable and it's contagious."

Foden does not disagree. "The introduction of big loud characters like Ashy and Haskell has made a real difference. They bring life to the party. Has is one of the loudest guys out there, and he's very easy to get on the hook too."

"The front rowers are another tight group," says Care. "The rest of us just leave them alone and let them talk to one another. But Haskell's normally lingering around all the groups, trying to tell jokes and getting told to get lost most of the time."

No-one is pretending that the new atmosphere has made the team impregnable. They have arguably their two hardest games of the championship still to come, the first of those against France this Saturday. Defeat to Marc Lievremont's men at Twickenham or to Ireland in Dublin, even if Scotland are beaten in between, would appear to bring the side's revival to a juddering halt.

Easter thinks otherwise. "You have to enjoy it, because you're not going to win every game. There will be lows as well as highs, and how you get on will define how you get through them, and so then the speed that you progress."

The banter, according to the older stager, is likely to continue regardless.

"Did Fodes tell you he was good at table-tennis? He's not - he's rubbish. And you want to know why Cuets is happier now? It's because there's other northerners in the team now. Before he had two south London boys in Delon (Armitage) and Paul Sackey with him, so no-one could understand his accent and he felt all ostracised.

"I'll tell you something else. One of the northerners, Ashy, is even paler than he is. He's the palest man to ever play rugby."

Laughter once again rings out over Bagshot. Happy endings might just follow.


  • Comment number 1.

    Really enjoyed the article, it's a good compliment to the technicalities of the earlier 'inside an international' blog. Team spirit will always give a team the extra edge and people always work harder when they're having fun. While it's stating the obvious it seems that some teams / coaches miss this point. As an analogy to another sport look at Liverpool under Dalglish as opposed to Hodgson, like chalk and cheese!

  • Comment number 2.

    Good article, and an encouraging overall message. Had to disagree with: "The England XV in Johnson's first season as manager too often seemed hamstrung by a fear of doing the wrong thing" - I think you mean second season, in Johnson's first season England came within 1 point of winning the Six Nations title (away to Dublin), whilst scoring 16 tries. It was last season that they went all conservative (but then, which teams didn't! given how the refs reffed the breakdown)

  • Comment number 3.

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

  • Comment number 4.

    1 - Good Blog Tom. It makes a change from the normal sensationalist and somewhat idle blogs that do nothing more than incite anti-english tirades.

    2 - I bet this still incites anti-English tirades.

    3 - The team does certainly appear to get on better and it shows in the rugby. However, within this article there are still a hidden couple of concerns. Firstly, Danny Care mentions that Smith now likes to see a running 9 but that was not the way for him in when he first came into the team. I said sometime ago that the players were more advanced in modern rugby than the coaches and that was why there was such a reluctance to pick them. Foden on was on fire at 15 for Northampton when Monye was played out of position, Hape was strangely playing better rugby when Arinle was picked. Smith also claimed recently that his backs are still only at 60%.

    He has had way too long to only get up to 60%.

    Secondly, this team sounds like they are on the home stretch - although largely that is down to the media getting too ahead of itself. We must remember that for every good game recently there has been a bad one that has lacked coordination. Australia win, New Zealand lost, Samoa struggle, South Africa capitulation.

    Its good to see them all happy, I just hope that Martin Johnson can keep them grounded whilst the media do their 'short memories aren't we great routine'.

  • Comment number 5.

    Ahh - the life of a sport's journalist.

    Smiley - happy - everthing wonderful. 5 minutes later (when nothing has changed apart from a couple of less than convincing performances) scowling - grumpy - how could the coach/manager/governing body not see the blindly obvious faults that were so crystal clear to me.

    An admirable profession.

  • Comment number 6.

    Banter is an important ingredient to success, especially in rugby. England are lucky in that they have found some quality players who are also jovial. As long as they keep their eye on the prize, they can go a long way.

  • Comment number 7.

    #5 zerofeet_or_lower - you're broadly right, sadly, but putting that comment on Tom's article is missing the mark. He tends to be a whole lot better on balancing things than the kneejerk "Best team ever!" (next week) "Worst team ever!" journo hacks elsewhere.

  • Comment number 8.

    Yet another blog about England - how original. It's called the six nations as there are five other teams besides England. You're meant to be the British Broadcasting Corporation, not the English Broadcasting Corporation.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think this is probably the difference between the Rugby and Cricket teams and the Football team. The fact they are allowed to do something else, relax, relieve pressure.
    I would like to see this transferred to the England Football camp as well and hopefully it might produce some good results.
    As for the Rugby. Well Done MJ and the Team so far. Keep it up and lets hammer the frogs.

  • Comment number 10.

    Tom, another great article - have you thought of applying to the Sunday Times? I feel you would be a welcome replacement for one Stephen Jones.
    I just wanted to add something to one of your comments -
    'Hold on, you might say. This is international rugby. It's not about smiles and laughter. How often did you see Martin Johnson beaming in his playing days?'
    Having watched 'Sweet Chariot' for the umpteenth time the other night, I witnessed much laughter and amusement amongst a fiercely competitive world-class team. Even Martin Johnson got in on the fun, usually perpetrated by Healy or Greenwood. The interesting thing was that when it came to business they all dropped the banter immediately and put in the hard yards.
    My point is that whilst not comparable with the 2003 side (not yet anyway) there is some semblance of that same winning mentality evident in this current crop, a mix of banter and bravado combined with great talent and commitment.
    The only real thing they are missing is the expect to win mentality, possessed by the 2003 side and regularly by the All Blacks. Sweet Chariot has a scene where England beat Scotland in the 2003 Grand Slam year by forty points to five. The expressions on the players faces were as if they had just lost the Grand Slam itself. If this current team can add this to their rapidly burgeoning arsenal then you can guarantee they will pack a mighty punch.

  • Comment number 11.

    Yey, thanks whitespyder for the generic anti-english reporting comment, and it only took until number 8, wonderful! Just to quickly deal with that: the Welsh have Scrum V, which the English would love to have - the Irish and we in Scotland get the Magners League televised on terrestrial tv, again something the English don't have with the Premiership. On the BBC Sport Website there're currently interviews with Stephen Jones, Turnball, Gatland, Shane Williams and Shanklin for Wales. Scotland has regular blogs from John Beattie and Richie Gray and interviews with Kellogg and Blair, and Ireland has interviews with Kidney, O'Driscoll, O'Gara and Bowe (and bear in mind that's the Republic of Ireland, not just Northern Ireland, so not officially in the BBC's remit.

    Essentially, there is plenty there for each nation, and we shouldn't be bitter about the fact that England vs. France at Twickenham is by far the biggest game of the 6N so far, and that there are 50million English people compared to a grand total of 10million celts reading the site, would appear to be extremely fair that it is English-biased, even though as I've pointed out it is not.

    Anyway, great blog Tom, have loved the insights you've given us into an international rugby camp over the last couple of years - I wonder if there's any chance you could detail the fitness regime that these guys follow - is it all ball-in-hand or is there a lot of pyramid running and aqua running?

  • Comment number 12.

    @ 11:

    Best riposte to the 'generic anti-English reporting' post ever. And you're not even English!

    Hats off you good sir.

  • Comment number 13.

    Well said 0darroch (blog post 11)! I couldn't have put it better myself.

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi Tom,
    I read all your blogs and have to say they have become a highlight of my day. Keep up the good work. On that note, with the cuts to various sectors of the BBC will you still be writing these in 6 months? I think it would be a great shame if these posts stopped, as compared to what is spouted across the internet in general they are a breath of fresh air!

    Thanks for another enlightening post, you really do get that feeling in interviews and while watching the game that the players are mates and enjoying themselves greatly.

    Part of this also i would have to say has to be down to the captain and senior players, i really don't think we would be seeing this if we still had Borthwick in there as captain and it's great to see players like Easter having more put on them and responding positively.

    I agree with the poster above, in MJ's first year we found Armitage among others, scored a shed load of tries and nearly won the comp. It was the year after with higher expectations that things fell flat.

    I look forward to post WC, when tours like last seasons to Oz become far more regular, it can only do brilliant things for the squad. Does any one know where we are going to tour next summer '12?

  • Comment number 15.

    Funny how having fun can assist a winning mentality - the U18's I am helping to coach we're told at the start of the season, no pressure, just come and play so we can keep a team running (more players leave the game at 17 than at any other age) so that we can bolster the senior squads in the coming years - so far we are 5 from 5, top of the table and 1 point from a semi final place. Now isn't that why people start to play the game in the first place - to have fun ? So why should it be any different at elite level ?

  • Comment number 16.

    Gosh another person who thinks that BBC doesn't do anything for the other home countries when others have their own TV program, get to watch the Magners League on the standard TV channels and have specific countrymen writing their own blogs, only Northern Ireland are slightly hard done by. Bet you'll all be glad when services like this are cut from the BBC.

    Onto the topic, I'm actually really like the current set of blogs that are coming through, not completely reactionary to games but talking about behing the scenes with the usual brand of humour. Rather like blogs that Graeme Swann's blogs over the summer you are getting the same sort of information which gives different angles of view on professional sportsmen rather than giving opinions about what we have already seen.

  • Comment number 17.

    Another horrible self-congratulatory article. Egg will well and truly be on face when England put in a dismal performance against France.

  • Comment number 18.

    Post 17,

    ....and you know this how exactly?

  • Comment number 19.

    @princeblahblah How is it self-congratulatory? England have played the best rugby of the 6N so far (all the other teams say so too), have beaten Australia twice in the last 12 months and ran NZ relatively close - and the improvement in the team in the last 12 months is marked, as Tom rightly points out. Judging by the consistency of the English performances since last year's 6N (the SA apart, granted), the chances of them putting in a "dismal" performance would seem to be fairly slim.

    The English squad is relatively young, very talented, seem to be enjoying their rugby much more than a year ago and consequently are playing very well - that is the thrust of this article and it's entirely true.

    I like the fact that players are feeling the freedom to take chances on the pitch in the English team, something my beloved Scottish team simply don't have at the moment. The fear of losing and the criticism that follows paralyses the Scots, and hugely restricted the English last year - I hope the Scots can follow in the footsteps of the English team.

  • Comment number 20.

    Any sauce come with all those chips of yours Priceblahblah???

  • Comment number 21.

    I reckon vast majority of the readers of this website are English, therefore it makes sense for the vast majority of blogs to be about English rugby, even if as post 11 says they may well not be!!

  • Comment number 22.

    Great blog to read. Not only well written, but a great angle as well - team spirit (perhaps a bit of teen spirit too?;))and enjoyment of your own and others' success.

    Do Martin Johnson and Andy Flower know eachother, or have they talked recently? As Tom points out, there are considerable parallels between the recent cricket and rugby teams in the way the sides have bonded. Perhaps there is some other factor they have in common. I don't think it is success, because I am seeing success (perhaps wrongly) as a consequence here, not a cause. Is it Dave Alred with his psychology hat on?

    The England side this one reminds me of at the moment is Will Carling's bunch. I think it's that sense that suddenly we're playing rugby like this, scoring bucketloads of tries and everyone's smiling.

  • Comment number 23.

    Great article Tom- great to see the usual complaints about bad journalism (sigh) England-focused commentary (sigh) and also being told defacto that England will put in a 'dismal performance'. 17- if you can predict team performance so accurately before they happen (particularly when the jack in the box French are involved) could I have a run down of the premiership scores pls? i feel a spread coming on!!!

    0darroch very well said son!

    I think this was a great piece, a reminder that these guys are people as well as international rugby players- though according to some posters it wouldve been better if you had not reported on an England team on the up, and had instead written about a fictional England who had lost their first two games of the tournament because they have been throwing the ball around willy nilly and all had facial muscle sprains from smiling too much!!! (you also failed to mention James Hooks positional dilemma once!- SHAME ON YOU TOM!!!) :)

  • Comment number 24.

    As i stated in #8 this was another BLOG about England. Yes there have been stories and interviews published from every team involved, but in terms of Blogs, where we expect to see some in depth articles relating to the teams and their perfomances, in the last week we've had 5 blogs devoted to the England team (Ok one of these was a very interesting take on 'Inside the heart of a rugby international' which happened to be based on interviews with the England team). The England v France game may be a championship decider, but we're only 2 games in, so anythings possible before the end of the tournament - the BLOGS produced during the last week really do show an overwhelming England bias.

  • Comment number 25.

    #11 best post I've seen on the BBC site all week thank you. I haven't actually read the blog yet, going to do so now but I thought I'd scroll down first to see how long it would take for the obligatory "English-bias" comment. Perfect response and much appreciated by everyone else it seems.

  • Comment number 26.

    Ah come on Tom! Here we go upsetting our cousins again by showing conviviality on top of other uniquely English hateful behaviour, like draping ourselves in the flag, chanting for our team, and singing hymns. How are we supposed to fit the stereotype if you report something positive?

  • Comment number 27.

    Thank you, Odarroch, for bringing some level-headedness to the pointless debate that always springs up during the 6 Nations.

    Whitespyder, if anything the number of blogs show a bias toward the Celtic nations. England has a population of ~52mill, Scotland ~5mill, Wales ~3mill and NI ~2mill. So really a fair distribution of blogs between the nations would result in 1 Scottish blog for every 10 English blogs or 1 Welsh blog for every 17 English blogs. As it is, Scotland get a minimum of 1 blog a week from Beattie and Wales get their own rugby show along with sporadic blogs.

    I often wonder whether people who complain about BBC/media bias towards England are actually aware how much of the UK's population is comprised of English people. I'm not saying that necessarily makes it any easier to keep reading English news if you are Welsh but it as least puts it in perspective.

  • Comment number 28.

    25. At 12:44pm on 25 Feb 2011, lee fett wrote:

    #11 best post I've seen on the BBC site all week thank you. I haven't actually read the blog yet, going to do so now but I thought I'd scroll down first to see how long it would take for the obligatory "English-bias" comment. Perfect response and much appreciated by everyone else it seems.

    I haven't read the blog yet either Lee.I was scrolling down the comments first to see if Papa Shango had decided to stalk Tom's blogs with his usual erudite,accurate and well balanced postings.

  • Comment number 29.

    Good blog but I can't help feeling that this kind of "bonding" happens in all international teams in one form or another and so what you are saying shouldn't be seeb as so revolutionary in terms of this current squad and their mood.
    They are on a high because of their fantastic recent performances, thats the major reason by a mile. Far better to assess their spirit and bondeness when they ve taken a tough loss or have had a bad run.....character is truly revealed in defeat....
    They ve had a good start but this team is still too young and inexperienced to deserve the praise being poured onto it

  • Comment number 30.

    Excellent article Tom.

    Very insightful.

    I'm not sure what the issue of some poster's in but I guess they just like complaining to be honest.

    There is lots of Scots/Welsh/Irish stuff at the moment, (and usually is), and this particular article, far from sounding self-congratulatory, actually appears pretty refreshing and honest to me. While you are obviously discussing reasons for an abvious improvement from last season, (more in the considerable expansive style than the results if I am honest), you are also hinting at and looking forward to two big games on the horizon.

    Even if we were to lose both these games, (it's possible), the comments would still stand as written because the content is not that England will win because of a change in off-pitch mentality, but because some of the players in the squad find the current approach more suited to their own style and personality.

    You don't say all players. You don't say that it makes them World-beaters. To me it is Johnson just ticking another little box and moving things another little step forward. This in itself will not get them where they aim to be, (but this and everything else together......)

    The last succesful England Manager/Coach was Woodward and his style was simply to leave absolutely nothing to chance and to employ the best people for absolutely everything and delegate very effectively, but control the whole thing and give impetus and direction. It might be suggested that Johnson, (stepping back and seeing a need for a change in mood/atmosphere), is doing something similar, (albeit at his own pace and for his own reasons).

    Johnson is a particularly focussed and intense character, (or so it seems), and while that might suit him, I am sure that not everyone is built of the same stuff and he has simply realised that what is best for him as a player is not what is best for his squad as a Manager/Coach.

    I think it speaks volumes for his advancement/development in this area.

    Thanks again Tom.


  • Comment number 31.

    *calms down* Uninventivename you make a good point about the population differences and i think it is something thats often forgotten - its sometimes difficult to keep that kind of perspective when our media is frustratingly dominated by predominantly English output - but as you said, it is understandable when you look at the figures

  • Comment number 32.

    Jacksofbuxton - I wasn't aware that our mutual friend understood rugby aswell.
    It appears to me that Johnson has recaptured a "Team England" mentality present during the glory years from 2000 - 2003. Woodward managed to instil the mentality that you were first and foremost England players then whatever club you played for. This has been achieved by sensible consistent selection (some of which I will admit I did not always agree with).
    I also think that returning Dave Aldred to the fold shouldn't be underestimated.
    Good blog as always Tom.

  • Comment number 33.

    32. At 1:33pm on 25 Feb 2011, Steak and Ale Pie wrote:

    Jacksofbuxton - I wasn't aware that our mutual friend understood rugby as well.


    Pieman,his knowledge knows no bounds....

  • Comment number 34.

    @ #29 Jules

    Praise has nothing to do with experience or age. Praise is deserved (or not!) from results and whether the team play well or not.

  • Comment number 35.

    Anti English comments are just part of being English, I dont like them, but generally I just ignore them. To quote a good friend of mine...Do you see a flick on the give-a-dam-ometer!!

    Anyone seen Papashango, I need his knowledge to get me through the next few hours?!

  • Comment number 36.

    Tom do you know if there have been any moves taken to get Sherylle Calder, the peripheral vision coach, back working with the English team? I remembering reading elsewhere that she's the only link between the English '03 team and the SA '07 team - and all the coverage about her I've read contains rave reviews from players - have you heard anything??

  • Comment number 37.

    I learnt that Médard is out of the match with a thigh strain, via the Guardian. If anything there's a distinct lack of France/Italy rugby news on the BBC - apart from the "we don't like ze eengleesh" article, which was a bit of nonsense anyway.

    But, WRT the article, it's great knowing the team are getting on like a house on fire, it's a factor which is seldom reported but is absolutely crucial and makes a huge difference.
    And England are playing the prettiest rugby of all the teams so far.

  • Comment number 38.

    Why would defeat by France or Ireland bring the side's revival to a shuddering halt? I'm fed up of anything other than a Grand Slam being considered failure. Why is there so litle emphasis on winning the championship? Grand Slams are supposed to be difficult to come by! Murrayfield 2000 should be adequate reminder that England don't have a divine right to beat everyone - determination can overcome skill on occasion.
    Scotland have achieved two Grand Slams in my lifetime, and I remember both with joy. But I also remember the joy of winning the final five nations championship in 1999. That win is important to me too.
    Sport isn't a choice between perfection and abjection. Appreciate what is achieved - don't give your team stick for losing one game. After all, both sides are trying their best to win.

  • Comment number 39.


    Papa can't come out to play at the moment as he is doing his homework. (Boning up on spurious rugby statistics). But I can tell you what he is thinking:

    a) Ashton has been lucky so far and will get shown up in the remaining games.
    b) Flood is overrated.
    c) England will lose the last three games.

  • Comment number 40.

    Truly enjoyable reading Tom.
    As the article says, it's not all 'Rugby, rugby, rugby". It would appear that those criticizing this blog are missing the point entirely....occaisionally it's about beer and extreme ping-pong.

  • Comment number 41.

    whitespyder - if another team starts playing rugby worth talking about, let us know...

    I think the atmosphere in the squad was available for all to see when Cueto scored his 1st try in ages against Italy... It all sounds really promising, but we'll really see whether they have character as a team in defeat... no-one carries on winning indefinitely. If we lose tomorrow, the scotland match should be an interesting response.

  • Comment number 42.

    Think this could be a right good match.

    Obviously England don't have the talent of France, but they do have home advantage, which could prove crucial.

    I think it will be close, but the French will edge it.

  • Comment number 43.

    Yes, there can be no doubt, England certainly have got their mojo back.

    A comfortable loss to the All Blacks being followed by an absolute mauling in every aspect of the game by "the worst Springbok team to tour in a decade" yet - a mere two games later! - beating the worst Italian team in the history of the 6N, and there can be no doubt . . . England are back on top.

    To think, until four weeks ago the global rugby community rated Sheridan, Hartley, Palmer, Deacon, Haskell, Easter, Flood, Hape, Cueto and Tindall as very average, brittle exponents of international rugby but now, after beating Wales and Italy (again, WALES AND ITALY), we can all see that the pounding by the Boks was an illusion.

    The beating of Italy has shown us the real dawn. The dawn of a new kind of rugby. And the rightful return of English rugby to the top of the tree.

  • Comment number 44.

    For the love of god look at this team in perspective, why do you always get so carried away!!

    Northern Hemisphere rugby is an a pretty sorry state and yet you go over the top about England's achievements. You haven't won anything with this team yet and you wonder why the Celts get so riled up by the smug attitude of some English fans, many of whom probably have never played the game! Apologies to those that have and are being level headed about the current 6NS, its just the media exposure is too much, a little moderation please!!!!

  • Comment number 45.

    Irrespective of nationality, its good to see the pros having a bit of fun, since this feeds into the team ethos and games, you can’t play well if you don’t like/know your team mates.
    The team has some strong personalities running through it who know how to enjoy what they do it seems.

    As much as it pains me to say this as a scotsman, I don’t mind seeing england play well and even win if its good rugby, I think the problems that arose in the past were that they didn’t play well or play a good brand of rugby and thus teams would try to play against them and get shut down, nothing worse than getting beaten by a boring team, so you really railed against it.
    On the subject of all the england coverage, I suppose its only fair that the journos cover whats close by , no jollies away to speak to the other teams in the current economic climate, but maybe for the future a similar series of articles in a similar vein on the other home nations , just for a bit of balance. Whilst I’m sure its grand that the england team are all smiles and fun , I very much doubt that the other nations go about their squad get togethers all po-faced, although after our capitualtion to the welsh the other week, I reckon theres been some real toil up at murrayfield!

  • Comment number 46.

    for those earlier regarding tv coverage, scottish rugby on tv is non existent, magners is espn and bbc alba, both of which you need sky for.

  • Comment number 47.

    there is a highlights programme on stv / itv but its banished to 11pm or later and is generally crap

  • Comment number 48.

    #43,44 I don't see anywhere in the write up about England being on top. A figment of your imagination. Isn't the reality a feel good factor from a good start to the 6NS, crowned with Chris Ashton's tries? To feel happy about this isn't a crime in the reasonable world. Show some magnanimity and let people enjoy their moment. How long that will be, we're going to find out.

    'Smug' English is just another caveman stereotype, a trait I can assure you is not exclusive to some of us. It's the road to the pogrom, and doesn't deserve the light of day.

  • Comment number 49.

    Fun and winning. As a youngster, playing for Wilmslow 2nd XV, we had a dire start to the season until the team captain Charlie Wallamesly came into the dressing room after a particularly heavy defeat with a tray of fifteen gin and tonics. "The team that drinks together wins together" was all he said. From that evening a catalyst was sparked into life. We used the saying as a mantra in every future game and went on to win the majority of games that season. Players need bonding and the fun factor although the increased alcoholic content can be a negative! Come on England future WC winners in 2011!!

  • Comment number 50.

    43 and 44.

    Your sarcastic and vitriolic remarks serve only to confirm my blog name.

    Looking at the posts on here I have not read anywhere where an Englishman has gone overboard with hyperbole and jingoism to suggest "The mighty English are back on top where they belong!" A shear figment of your combined flawed imaginations. In fact most of the posts I've read are guarded in their approach to suggesting anything of the sort. (but they are allowed to have hope)

    I do however read comments such as, " beating the worst Italian team in the history of the 6N,"

    "beating Wales and Italy (again, WALES AND ITALY)" Showing real respect to them....which of course is the true character behind the posts.

    "A comfortable loss to the All Blacks being followed by an absolute mauling in every aspect of the game by "the worst Springbok team to tour in a decade".

    I haven't read anywhere a column that reads England suffered ," absolute mauling in every aspect of the game by "the worst Springbok team to tour in a decade". but then I don't get the apartheid weekly. (slur intended)

    As for, "until four weeks ago the global rugby community rated Sheridan, Hartley, Palmer, Deacon, Haskell, Easter, Flood, Hape, Cueto and Tindall as very average, brittle exponents of international rugby"

    Of course you've spoken to the global community haven't you? Read all the articles and interviewed all those nations concerned and are therefore well credentialed to make such erudite remarks. You missed having a word with the Australian front row. Of course you did....they were busy going backward. Never mind you can interview them during that two game festival you have. I believe they want to rename it the Word Series.


    "For the love of god look at this team in perspective, why do you always get so carried away!!

    Northern Hemisphere rugby is an a pretty sorry state and yet you go over the top about England's achievements."

    Apart from one comment where it was suggested "England have their mojo back" which any fan of their team is allowed to hope and is hardly over the top, show me where the English supporters who have posted have got, "so carried away.

    Your posts are typical. Only there to have a go.

    Mmmmm, lookslikeacolonialchip!

  • Comment number 51.

    oops, should read World Series.

  • Comment number 52.

    Irrespective of your national allegiances, you mus


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