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Winning ugly looks good for England

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Tom Fordyce | 21:53 UK time, Saturday, 26 February 2011


After the flair, the fight.

If the thrashing of Italy a fortnight ago was a party full of Ash Splash and dash, England's tight, tense win over France was something very different - a brutal, relentless shift on the shop floor.

Hard graft replaced soft hands. Swallow dives were superseded by donkey-work. If anything, the effect was more impressive.

After the merry destruction of Australia last November, we knew this England team could play champagne rugby. What we didn't know is whether they could grind out results against the big boys when the fizz was noticeably absent.

Against South Africa they had been knocked backwards by a mean, lumpy set of forwards and were unable to work out how to get back on their feet. France's forwards are as lumpy as the northern hemisphere's come, and for 40 minutes they threatened to teach Martin Johnson's men the same lesson twice.

Four months on, however, there is a Plan B. There is also the nous to figure out that Plan A needs to be torn up, and the ability to implement the back-up when hearts are thumping and knees knocking.

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"In our middle game last year to Ireland we lost a game like this, and it rips your guts out," said Johnson with immense feeling afterwards.

"You've got to win these matches. They are ferocious - France were hard on the ball, they turned our line over a few times. Bad teams don't come back from that, but we did."

This was a far from flawless performance by England. In the first half their indiscipline kept throwing Marc Lievremont's men little lifelines just as they threatened to be cut adrift. Penalties were no sooner kicked than conceded. The star turns from the season so far - Ben Youngs, Toby Flood, even Chris Ashton - found their spark snuffed out by a blanket defence and the stamping feet of Thierry Dusautoir and Imanol Harinordoquy.

On a wet, chill day, the Twickenham turf squelchy after a day of heavy rain, they opted for tactics more suited to sunshine and slick hands. If it seems harsh to criticise a young, revitalised team for showing too much ambition, it was equally obvious that these were conditions for a no-frills territorial game.

In that first period England were disjointed, France disruptive. This time they turned it round.

Skipper Mike Tindall revealed afterwards that there had been no tea cups sent flying at half-time, no old-fashioned ranting from captain or coach. Instead there was what he called a "quiet, calm chat", and what it lacked in drama it made up for in effectiveness.

Had Dimitri Yachvili's penalty on the stroke of half-time drifted inside the left-hand post rather than narrowly across it, France would have taken both the lead and the momentum into the second period.

Instead England came out revitalised, and smashed into them from the re-start onwards.
First sloppy hands and a careless boot allowed Tom Palmer to charge down the clearing kick. Then, with England crashing closer to the right-hand corner of the French try line, Flood spotted the spaces out wide left and spun the attack the other way.

Mark Cueto's quick-thinking tap-on was clever, Ben Foden's dummy, shoulder-dip and drive for the line a fine piece of finishing.

England could have added two more tries in quick succession. Ashton dived under the posts to a deafening roar from the Twickenham faithful, only for the score to be ruled out by a marginally forward pass from Flood to Youngs, before Shontayne Hape opted to go alone with a clear overlap on his left shoulder and the line at his mercy.

France's hopes, still buoyant despite that blitz, were punctured in a crucial five-minute spell from 52 minutes to 57.

Jonny Wilkinson, whose reputation in France is such that grown men quake at the sight of his pre-kick crouch, banged over a long-ranger to take England's lead past a converted try. Yachvili, given an immediate opportunity to bring it back within range by James Haskell's daft infringement, sent his effort against the post.

It got worse for the noisy travelling contingent packed into the north-west corner of the ground. Francois Trinh-Duc flicked through a delightfully disguised grubber, Aurelien Rougerie raced onto it as the England defence stared wrong-footed and then, with no tackler within touching distance, knocked the ball on when a forward's flop would have touched it down.

France had been unbeaten in the championship since the corresponding fixture two years ago, and if the scoreline was never going to mirror the 30-point thrashing on that day, nor the similar defeat on their very first visit to Twickenham a century ago this year, they are the reigning Grand Slam champions for several very good reasons.

Unfortunately those reasons were seldom in evidence from Rougerie's fumble onwards.

Toothless in attack, increasingly directionless with ball in hand and weary-legged from toil on a heavy pitch, they looked a beaten team with over quarter of the match still to go.

One hundred and fifty passes were made, but not a single line break. Instead, the handling errors piled up - 16 and counting - and the heads went down. After his bright start, Yachvili never looked like repeating his feats here of 2007. Neither his selection nor that of Sebastien Chabal, Lievremont's other high-profile change, could be said to have paid off.

England impressed in several key departments. The front row, significantly more inexperienced than its counterpart, stood firm under the onslaught. Dan Cole banished the memory of the uncomfortable time he endured at the Stade de France in the reverse fixture last year; Alex Corbisiero ensured that Andrew Sheridan's loss on 22 minutes was barely noticed.

They were matched by both locks and loose forwards, whose work-rate first equalled that of their illustrious counterparts and then exceeded it. That the pack was missing three more first choicers (Courtney Lawes, Tom Croft and Lewis Moody) was never apparent.

In defence, England were remorseless. France, tryless, were turned over seven times, repeatedly stopped in their tracks or driven back by a wall of white. Mike Ford's homework and the hard work on the training pitches had paid off handsomely.

Twickenham responded accordingly. The new-found zeal within the team is now being mirrored by the supporters around the stadium. There have been plenty of horror shows and a whole lot of ugly business to absorb over the last few seasons, but the belief is coming back at pace.

Even Johnson is catching a little of the fever, laughing and joking in his news conference afterwards to an extent that was slightly unsettling to seasoned watchers.

Only when one brave soul dared mention the words 'Grand Slam' did the smile fall off those craggy chops. "That's ridiculous," he muttered darkly.

Lievremont made no such bones about it. "For me, England are the best team in the northern hemisphere right now," he said. "After this game, the path to the Grand Slam is wide open for them."

There was even, from a man who had spent the earlier part of the week telling everyone how much he disliked the English, a grudging admission of admiration.

"I hope," he said with a shrug, "England win the Grand Slam this year."

He might yet get his wish.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Tom Palmer was fantastic. We can't start talking about a grandslam just yet.
    Three first choice back rows missing too, as Tom pointed out.
    I'm young but I've not know England having such strength in depth.

    Great performance, I've no nails left!

  • Comment number 2.

    Great Blog Tom. I thought that Wood and Palmer played really well and it was nice to see us have a successful change of plan at half time for once. Cant wait for the next game. Will try and grow my nails back by then.

  • Comment number 3.

    The England performance in the first half was error-strewn, but hearty, and they were full-blooded throughout. However, what was really impressive to me was the last 20 minutes when England closed out the match beautifully. They absorbed pressure magnificently, rarely looking like conceding, and played keep-ball when in possession. All this done with the assurance of a team that can afford to be wrong once.

    I can't understand why Ben Youngs must alway come off after an hour, or why Jonny Wilkinson is apparently not allowed to play with him, but other than at I'm a quietly contented England fan. You can have your Ashton swallow dives, enjoyable as they are - Ben Foden muscling his way over the line was a joy to behold.

  • Comment number 4.

    this is are year england can't fail

  • Comment number 5.

    What the game lacked in technical brilliance and flair it more than made up for in intensity and sheer grit and determination. England - France was never going to be easy and with some many marginal cases, the game could so easily have gone either way. Both sides missed many opportunities. Overall, this was a thrilling game in my opinion.

    Now, it is almost inevitable that even at this stage we can expect a swarm of England nay-sayers here so here are a few little things that might interest you:

    -Wales beat Italy by the same margin that England beat France. Ireland also only beat Italy by a land minute drop goal. England on the other half absolutely obliterated Italy.
    -People dismissed England as only beating a sub-par Welsh side. While this may be true, said Welsh are currently second in the standings and Ireland will need a pretty decent win to pass them.
    -England have scored the most and conceded the least in the tournament so far, with the exception of Ireland who have conceded 5 points less but still have another game to come.
    -Some people say Ireland and Scotland could easily stop England yet Ireland only just scraped a win against Italy and got beaten by France. Scotland have lost both to Wales and France, teams England have beaten.

    So, if anyone wants to still make out that England are rubbish or facing an imminent pounding, just look at the stats. Any argument made that England is going to fall flat on their face is based on NOTHING but blatant anti-Engish sentiment.

    Also, to claim England are arrogant, tell me was it Martin Johnson who bad mouthed Wales? Was it Martin Johnson who bad mouthed France? Have the coaches of those 2 countries bad mouthed us? Has MJ ever said anything more than he wants England to constantly improve an recognised that every game will be tough? England have been on the receiving end of vicious anti-English attacks and to some just being happy about winning is arrogance. How many times have Wales talked about Grand Slams before the tournament has even started?

    England are a good team, they have potential, they have a future and it is time people stopped being petty and simply accepted that.

  • Comment number 6.

    Yet another good blog :-)

    Any non England supporters care to comment now?

  • Comment number 7.

    NorthernTyrant it was two first choice back-rowers and 1 first choice second-rower. Easter is a regular, Deacon is not(he did however play well).

    New Zeland was the belief, Australia was the realisation, South Africa was the bringing back to earth of the team. However this game is more important, as when it comes to world cup time, its all about winning ugly, which England did.

  • Comment number 8.

    Anyone sense a cynical replacement of Cole with just a few minutes to go? He'd been limping for some while, but seemed to continue to make a contribution and was scrummaging OK. Pulling him off at that point, and thus forcing uncontested scrums, left me with a bad taste - I think Clancy should have told Cole to get on with it. I still fancied that a five-metre scrum on our line at that stage of the game would have been an extremely dodgy prospect

    Should hasten to point out that I am an Englishman and extremely happy with the win BUT was also puzzled by the stream of decisions against the French scrum. I have Corbisiero down as an adequate (by which I mean pretty damn good, but not a Domingo) scrummager and highly effective around the field. Mas is one of the best three or four tight heads in the world - yet all the penalties were against Mas...

    Great win, whatever misgivings I may have, and a fine year shaping up: odd though how much may have turned on the turnover on the England line against Australia that led to Ashton's breakaway try, and Rougerie's fumble as he dived over this afternoon (oh I know Tindall scored really, but you knwo what I mean)

  • Comment number 9.

    A good result but lots to be worked on.

    Once again on the opposition 5m line the forwards lacked control and composure and we wasted chances again.

    Its get to be a big problem. We look good from 20m out - but close in, the coordination needs a lot of work. There was one catch and drive from a 3m lineout that was frankly laughable. It looked like none of them had ever worked on it.

    The open play kicking was also a little wayward, as it has been for a long while.

    So it was a good performance but still plenty of work to do - this is world cup year, and the SH teams are who we should be aspiring to compare to.

  • Comment number 10.

    You should probably take a look at Cueto's quick thinking tap on again, he fumbled it, luckily it went to Foden.

    Great win, but England need to be more clinical. Saying that Clancy was overzealous in his decision for the forward pass and also disallowing Tindalls try, i didn't hink he was held.

  • Comment number 11.

    Tim i think the reasons for johnny wilkinson not playing first team and coming of the bench is that although he is a great kicker at goal, he cant control or dictate play the way he use to and toby flood is exceptional at that, notice how many of the tries go through him, he always starts the move off, ireland do a similar thing in that they play sexton over o'gara who again is a great kicker but doesnt have the creative influence he once did. Although im not to sure about why ben youngs is always taken of although we are lucky in that we have two very good scrum-halfs in danny care aswell

  • Comment number 12.

    #7 yes I realised as soon as I had posted!

  • Comment number 13.

    Brilliant Blog again Tom, interesting though isn't it? after the wales and italy games, everyone was telling us how much this england team are going to get battered by everyone else. Strange now isn't it?

    Massive congrats to MJand the managment staff, for not only creating a mighty england squad, but also showing other coaches how to behave when coming up to a big game

  • Comment number 14.

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

  • Comment number 15.

    where are all the 'england way too complacent - france will batter them' commenters now?! scotland at twickers should be fine, but im secretly a little worried about going to ireland, they're tough at home. C'MON ENGLAND!!

  • Comment number 16.

    Riveting game and just the sort of tense, brutal, high-pressure work-out this team unit needs in preparing for the world cup. I was worried at one point by the excellent French counter-rucking but to England's great credit they sorted it out and turned it around. There were some excellent individual performances but RU is a team game and England, to MJs credit, are getting a very settled team that is understanding and working for each other increasingly well (too well sometimes - I wish Ashton had been a bit more selfish instead of trying to put in Cueto, I think he could have skinned the other guy). Don't count yer chickens and all that but England will have the SH looking over their shoulder now and they'll not be the most wanted opponents come the RWC. Exciting times for England, who always seems to get a bit of momentum going come the RWC year! ...3 finals in a row?

  • Comment number 17.

    England played pretty well both in defence and execution of game plan and have looked impressive in all of their matches so far in the tournament. However, no-one can deny that France didnt play to their full potential. Whether it has been Johnson winning the media battle or teams scared of the Twickenham factor, Australia and France, and to an extent Italy, have failed to live up to expectations. Do England fans think that they will be able to play with the same discipline and quality against SA or NZ away from Twickenham at the world cup? I think you are 2 players short in the tight 5. On the other hand, the strength in depth at back row is unrivalled in the NH.

    As a scotland fan, i am slightly dreading twickenham in next round. England seem to have the basic skills of "pass and catch" nailed down more so than any other team and we can't scrum....however, stranger things have happened, especially if it rains. I hope Andy Robinson plays his usual reserved self this week, scotland play better when we are supposed to be just steamrolled. No. 5, those facts mean nothing- form seems to have no, or very little bearing on 6 nations games these days.

    A note on the suposed anti-english comments- what do you expect on a blog containing "England" and "win Grand Slam"? A debate is pretty dull if everyone agrees. Best game of the day from a pure entertainment level was the Italy-wales game- There, I said it...

  • Comment number 18.

    "No. 5, those facts mean nothing- form seems to have no, or very little bearing on 6 nations games these days."

    No, those facts DO mean something. People say England will lose yet what are they basing that on? There is nothing to base it on. Considering we just beat France who have not lost a game since we last beat them shows the quality.

    "what do you expect on a blog containing "England" and "win Grand Slam"? A debate is pretty dull if everyone agrees. "

    I don't have a problem with people disagreeing. Many English would say it is a hope and not a certainty. However, look at previous blogs and you see they don't simply say England won't get a grandslam, they say every game England will lose. We were told England would lose convincingly to Wales, Italy and now France yet despite putting in the most consistant performances of the 6 nations, people still look for ways to attack England rather than simply give credit where it is due. Also like I said, how many times have French, Irish or Welsh talked about Grandslams before the tournament has even started? Complete double standards.

  • Comment number 19.

    Exciting game. Lots of intensity. But a ridiculous amount of errors from both teams.

    Call me "anti-English" (apparently that's anyone who doesn't proclaim them to be World beaters) but there was nothing on show today that would have frightened NZ or SA.

    As for Ashton... brilliant at finishing off other people's good work... but pretty much every Tri Nations winger would have converted his clear opportunity today into points. He choked when forced to make a decision on the run. Best winger in the World? Please...

  • Comment number 20.

    @ no 10 Moony. Cueto's 'fumble' - Video'd game & replied that a few times. Ok he fumbled the first touch but he clearly aims the tap at Foden. I think it was slippy ball but excellent quick thinking and deft skills by Cueto aided by great positional play/well timed run by Foden. Conversely I think the ref was right about the Flood forward pass; extremely close and only normally allowed if your kit is all black ...actually I'd love to see this ref do an All Black game, he was fair but a sticker for the rules! Tindal's try looked like it should have counted though.

  • Comment number 21.

    No.18. I think you missed my point. England "could" lose as Scotland or Ireland might have a really good game and England have an off day. By winning, or playing well in 1 match does not necessarily mean you are going to win or play well in the next. Case in point: scotland playing well in paris and then have a shocker and lose to wales. England played well against Australia then looked pretty ordinary against Samoa.

    All i was saying was that I think teams (SA and NZ excluded) seem to bottle it when they are in the limelight of the British media and that I dont think England can expect the opposition to fall down in front of them at the RWC. Well done to england for beating the french and winning so far but, as a scotland fan, i hope we, for once, fall into the same category as SA and NZ.

  • Comment number 22.

    rugbys boring, the second half of england v france for the most part proved it. still though its nice to see england been good at at least one sport for once because today we get torn a new hole in the cricket by india lol

  • Comment number 23.

    I'm surprised I'm the first to bring up the referee. He seemed to have a different approach for both teams. You know when Brian Moore describes an England pen as 50/50 you've just got lucky!!

    Blatant yellow on Cueto, bizarre offside calls, missed knock-ons leading to points, 5 pretty random free kicks at the scrum... If I were French I'd be more than a little annoyed. But hey ho, the ref just about made the difference in a tight affair.

    England had the luck on the night, not sure any point has been proven. Except that Chabal is not international class. How you can drop Bonnaire and switch the best no 8 in the world to 7 just to accomodate him I have no idea.

  • Comment number 24.

    "we have two very good scrum-halfs in danny care as well"

    Surely not – 13st 4lbs is nowhere near enough material for two players!

  • Comment number 25.

    19, andysw17

    "Call me "anti-English" (apparently that's anyone who doesn't proclaim them to be World beaters)"

    Would you care to show us where exactly the English have proclaimed themselves world beaters and /or called others "Anti-English" for not saying they are?

    These are exactly the inane posts that cycloptic people such as you come out with each time England have a decent result or look promising.
    The English posts are by and large quite guarded and measured as are the comments of MJ with regard to where England are.

    Unlike some of the other coaches notably the French who well, "lets not be hypocritical", still haven't got over the failed attempt at empire building and the ignominy of being consistently rescued from tyrants. Etiquette but no manners!

    If you have a comment on the game, fine. But kindly don't clog up the screen with subjective anti English bias.

    We, the English, won't let it go unchallenged.

  • Comment number 26.

    Bonjour as they say in these parts.
    Great to be English today. The cheese seller in my local market will be very quiet next Saturday. Watched the game with a Swiss guy who knew nothing aout Rugby and even he was amazed at the intensity of the game. Something to build on but it does show that plan B can work as well.
    Chabal No.8. Jamais!

  • Comment number 27.

    RE: #19

    New Zealand I'll give you, but I'm not sure why South Africa are some exalted team looking down upon England and France, clearly unruffled. They are an average team at best who've got away with being muscular against teams who failed to attack their many weaknesses.

  • Comment number 28.

    Morning bloggers!

    Thoroughly enjoyed the game yesterday. It was reassuring, though a little frightening, to see England take pressure so well! Thought Haskell, Woods, Palmer and Deacon were exceptional, all of them played out of their skin!

    I do however have 2 gripes with the game: Shontayne Hape and French scrum feeds. I'll start with the latter: at almost every scrum Yachvilli stuck the ball into the second row, even after he was penalised for it, he continued, whereas I thought Ben Youngs played his fairly. On scrums that did go to completion, for either side, the French normally held if they weren't going forward, so I don't see why it was necessary for them to manipulate their own scrum so often. It really got on my nerves!

    Hape: still doesn't look like a good fit for me...mistakes in attack and defence again today, he was again our worst player. In this, a world cup year, I dont think we should be carrying on with an experiment that doesn't seem to be working. I know we're winning, and I'm pleased ad punch about that, but I honestly think we have the personnel in England who would make our team better, Allen, Barkley, Flutey and Waldouck all, I think, are better 12s, Sam Vesty and Wilko can also both play there, which could allow more interchange at first receiver...maybe? Just the sight of Hape getting isolated or missing a tackle or being in the wrong place seems to be common's. A blemish on an improving team, time to change it I feel.

    All in all though: 3 games, 3 wins...would have taken that the last few years!

  • Comment number 29.

    Post 25, i have read a few of your posts this week and i have come to the conclusion that you have no interest in talking about rugby, your focus is to berate and belittle the Celtic nations. Let it go now little man and focus on the rugby, you should start by watching a game or two!

    To the rest, very good win for England yesterday sometimes you have to win ugly and they did. France look unsettled and i daresay have no idea who the best team are as yet. I think its safe to say English rugby has turned a corner and looks in good shape heading into a World Cup. As for a Grand Slam, you have 2 games to go yet, but so far so good.

  • Comment number 30.

    The best France have played, very firm and heavy in their tackles and with a smart gameplan. If they'd played like that against Ireland they'd have saved Lievremont a few grey hairs. The wet conditions also caused a few more handling errors for both sides than the norm.

    But England gritted their teeth and did the hard slog. The journo trying to goad the England players into saying "Grand Slam" was a bit out of order though, I can't imagine the proud Scottish side will enjoy being treated as an afterthought and wisely no-one bit. Plus Ireland in Lansdowne Road should trouble any team.

  • Comment number 31.

    I really enjoy the singing / roaring of the National Anthems before a rugby international but yesterday at Twickenham it was spoiled by the reedy, nasal 'singing' of the kids choir. It was completely inappropriate and destroyed what should be the gladiatorial, ferocious pre-match atmosphere.
    If they MUST be there again, no microphones please!

  • Comment number 32.

    Tom, you're certainly right about JW's reputation in France. Colossal. A very popular man over here.

    I also agree with the post who brought up the refereeing. The French commentators, who were quick to praise his good calls, had worries about a few first- half 'misses': a forward pass and a knock-on that were fairly evident.

    But I was shocked and heartened by thé way England came out on thé 2nd half.

    Good performance against a good French side. Interestingly thé French press is far more impressed by this defeat than by the dodgy win against Ireland.

  • Comment number 33.

    31. Agreed, I think all the home nations are guilty of trying to entertain when really its all about the game. The WRU insist on bloody pyrotechnics and flame throwers as the team come on and that is unnecessay too. I also hate that incessant music when teams score, the English tune is particularly annoying and I have been hearing it a lot recently!

  • Comment number 34.

    Good blog - (consistent with Tom's series this 6 nations - excellent work).

    I thought Deacon was immense. Palmer is getting all of the plaudits (he deserves them) but Deacon looked like a world-class lock yesterday - always broke the gain line, tackled in the loose, tore into rucks, materminded the line-out again. He was a real 'tractor' lock, and all the great teams have that sort of player. Cole also put his troubles against Domingo last year well behind him - that first scrum made a statement that played a big part in England winning the game. Sheridam may well have gone on to wreck Mas, and its a shame that he had to go off. Corbisiero looked the part. Wood is the nearest to Richard Hill England have had since Hilly retired (some compliment). Lawes and Croft - seriously good players both - will be hard put to get back into this team, which can only be good for the squad.

    Tindall also had his best game for England since 2003; Hape is a better player than some pundits are giving him credit for. All of those other 12s mentioned (Barclay, Waldouk, Allen, Wilko, Flutey) do not have his bulk, and given the way that the World game is currently played, would be exposed in Test matches of the intensity of yesterday.

    One grumble generally - the Toby Flood pass that set up Ashton's disallowed try was fractionally forward, and rightly blown up - generally I thought that the ref was excellent - but exactly that sort of try has been awarded to SH teams for years (esp ABs/Oz). Usually the forward pass does not even get a mention, whilst the commentators go off on another eulogy about the speed of thought and execution of the great SH teams. So - let's hope that there is the same level of reffing in the WC in September, and that this type of pass is rightly blown up in all games where it occurs.

  • Comment number 35.

    Mark Cueto's quick-thinking tap-on was clever
    Oh the irony! I thought it was an excellent result (all that matters ostensibly) but England were hardly on fire against a French team that looked low on confidence.

    Did anyone else think the accuracy of the England passing was, well, innaccurate. To have (the same old) players unable to make accurate 10-20 yard passes off either hand is completely unnacceptable; passes from Youngs (a rare off day passing) to Flood, Hape, Ashton and, in particular Tindall were the kind of mistakes that are unnaccpetable at the highest level, or even a moderate level.

    If we are to have any chance of winning the RWC in the next 10 years or so, let's start teaching kids to pass first and lift weights second.

  • Comment number 36.

    As an Englishman I am proud of the performance yesterday. France played a very intense, physical, defensive game and but for a few missed kicks there could well have been a different result. England showed great strength and resolve, some flashes of brilliance and I felt were the more creative side. The game reminded me a lot of the Welsh game. England, Wales, France and Ireland are all exceptionally close.

    However, my post is about Wales really. I'm 1/8th Welsh and that 1/8th believes Wales can be contenders for the World Cup......if they can get everyone fit and playing in the right position (big if!!!!!). Player for player I think they have the most talent of all those 4 teams .....just maybe not the strength in depth that England and France have or a really world class number 8! Sorry Ryan and Andy!
    I think they'll come close down under. The result against England could have gone either way, beat the Scots and Italy, flashes of inspiration/Welsh flair, confidence returning. They've still got tough games against Ireland at home and France away....but win those two games and I think Welsh world cup momentum and confidence will grow.

    If they start to believe they can win and play their natural game
    then any match against them at the world cup will be a real battle.
    If they win group D (beating SA) in the world cup then they would be likely to play Ireland in QF . If they come second then Australia are likely QF opponents.So a lot depends on beating SA in the group stages.
    Win group and their QF and likely semi against NZ....mmmmmm!!

    In short, i think thy are a good bet to get to the Semi's and who knows from there!!!!

  • Comment number 37.

    @34. good call ré: Deacon. FYI French viewers (France 2) voted Deacon MOTM ('talent d'or'). I watched thé game in a bistro with some mates. I felt physically sick during the 1st half. Thought Chabal had (another) shocker and agree with previous post that SC shouldn't be in thé French side. Lievremont does not know his best XV. The four changes reflected more about thé Ireland performance than a strategy against Les Rosbifs.

    (apologies for French characters. French mobile and scrolling back to édit is a killer.)

    Keep it going England. :-)

  • Comment number 38.

    I think a lot of people underestimate the impact of conditions yesterday on the number of mistakes - if not for them it would have been a classic. Exactly the conditions likely to be encountered at some point at RWC in October.
    Regarding Hape I agree not his best game, but I recall feeling as doubtful about Hartley last year but he now seems to have matured into a much better player with a solid run in the team. Flutey would have been my first choice but since the Lions he has lost form and suffered injury, but I am unsure about Banahan - ok as a winger, one-dimensional as a centre and not offering cover at full back.
    Agree that this pack might struggle against SH, but with Sheridan Croft, Lawes and Moody missing they still outplayed a top class unit.
    Johnson seems to have turned a corner at last in terms of a settled squad, alternative game plans and confidence on the pitch, tho I am concerned it took them 40 minutes to deal with the French approach yesterday - NZ might have been out of sight!

  • Comment number 39.

    this is to elfromgavenny and all those celts who have added ridiculous biased messages across the last 2-3 years, everything i said has come to fruition,

    the welsh and irish were never any good, just an english team in transition, just in time for the world cup- FIJI are coming for you wales

    good job Italy haven't got a half decent kicker- wales have been a disgrace-

    one thing that the french got right is Lievermont's comments about the celts, i am english and live in scotland and have lived in wales, this is why i find it necessary to post this kind of comment as the hatred i have seen is dispicable, english people don't realise that the scots/welsh/irish don't mind losin to fiji, or beating each other by 30 points or more as long as they can exert their hatred of the english.

    i guarantee the scots who looked like they couldn't give a crap against wales, will come with braveheart like passion to twickenham, and for that they should be ashamed.

    we proved in cardiff that skill and ability outweighs passion and hatred

    Grand Slam, world cup,................JOB DONE

  • Comment number 40.

    Hi all,

    First want to agree with others and compliments to Tom for another fine blog. Want also to echo earlier comments regarding the fall out from the match yesterday. It was a very important win for England as they answered the doubts raised by the dismal battering taken against South Africa. In the first half it looked like there was a danger that this France team who fought their corner impressively, would be able to do the same thing as the Boks did. The second half performance from england sent those doubts straight into touch.
    The pre game comments of Lievremont I should imagine sound embarassing to him now. MJ handled it well. The selections for the French also didn't work out in the sense that Yachvilli and Chabal did not have a crucial influence. On the other hand having Jauzion and Rougerie in the centre and both of whom performed impressivley worked out well. How Clancy could allow Yashvilli's crooked feed for the whole match , even though he did penalise him once for it baffles me utterly. The decisions on forward passes were very marginal and but for Ashton taking the wrong option in trying to find Cueto instead of Care on his inside or going himself, the margin of victory would have been more hansome. But its also true that the French had their chances. The really impressive thing was the England defense, and now the strength coming of the bench means that its hard to take the game away from England in the last quarter with the likes of Wilkinson and Thompson coming on. Why Care always comes on just after Wilkinson I don't know. Youngs for me is the better runner and distributor. Wilko not only kicked his kicks he made the tackles and he also put Ashton and Tindall in too. Couple of his kicks out of hand didn't quite come off but he was making sure that England played a bit more of a territorial game. When France countered who was it who was covering time and again, Wilko. Last word; unfortunately for him Hape again found wanting, missed tackles wrong options and looks confused. MJ very loyal but Hape cannot survive on this form.

  • Comment number 41.

    Fair play, and though it pains me to admit, England looked really efficient last night. They played a very controlled, disciplined, one gear game. The juggernaut was put into cruise control from minute one and it took them through to minute eighty. It wasn't fantasy rugby but it was good enough to beat a competent French side.

    Are they good enough to win the Grand Slam? Yes, because the quality of northern hemisphere rugby is ordinary at best. England are not a great side - they have a very heavy footed midfield, a front row that will be found wanting in the World Cup and a tactically naive scrum half.

    Enjoy your glory while it lasts - cause it ain't gonna last a whole lot longer!!

  • Comment number 42.

    I had a really bad feeling before the game that with the rain and the (frankly over-confident) build up France would grind out a win. And half way through the first half my fears seemed well founded because I felt we were completely outplayed at the breakdown and, with no momentum over the gain line, Youngs and Flood were struggling to get anything going in terms of attack.

    However the intensity we showed at the start of the 2nd half was terrific and the speed with which we were clearing out enabled us to get the go-forward to score our try and on another day we could have added three more.

    I have to disagree, however, with the poster who said we closed out the match "beautifully." I thought we showed very little composure in the last quarter. We had ample oppoturnities to play simple possession in the French 22 but time after time we either turned the ball over through over-complicating things or gave silly penalties away. You can't afford to do that in tight games and we were lucky France couldn't take advantage.

    We have a long way to go before we become a class side at the world level but we've shown that definite progress has been made since last year. We have a tough game against Scotland next round (who are much better than their results imply in my opinion). But if we play to our strengths and keep progressing then we have a great chance of winning the 6N for the first time in 8 years :)

  • Comment number 43.

    Watching watched Alex Corbisiero in the last two matches I would suggest that he should be retained in the starting line up. It would give us a young front row that could only grow in stature.

  • Comment number 44.

    To: handofjohnson

    As you say, having lived in Wales and Scotland you probably are better informed than most about 2/3 of the Celtic nations. I am a Welshman living in England and i don't hate the English at all, i have however taken great exception to some of the content of your blog which sounded more like a rant than anything else. For me, the thing i love about rugby is that you beat 7 bells out of each other and then have a beer after the game and share a laugh, that is what was so wonderful about this game for me irrespective of nationality.

    Similarly, i went to the Wales game with 2 of my friends (both English) and watched (though i don't love admitting it) my side play poorly and get beaten by the better side on the night. We left the ground, went into a pub and i bought the beers and wished them the best, i had my leg pulled, i scowled and bought more beers. Thats the way it should be isn't it? England are on a roll, they're playing well and are the most attractive side to watch (that actually hurts saying that but its true). The problem is that the less informed rugby journos and fans get a bit ahead of themselves and premature talk of Grand Slams and World Cups can be a bit disrespectful to other teams, i think keeping a lid on it is the best policy and to be fair to Martin Johnson he has done that. So lets keep it about the sport and not try and whip up a nationalistic frenzy eh? You should be excited about your team as they are looking good, the more sensible English bloggers on here aren't getting carried away, i suggest you follow their lead.

  • Comment number 45.

    No Celt likes us, every Froggy hates us,
    We're going out to eat worms!
    Long thin slimy ones,
    Shart fat fuzzy ones,
    Gooey, gooey, gooey, gooey worms!

    First we bite the heads off, then we suck the juice out,
    Throw the skins away!
    Nobody knows how well we thrive,
    On worms three times a day!

    Just Give Us Wormmmms!

  • Comment number 46.

    Really good game I thought. Just one observation, the forward pass which disallowed Ashton's try was in a way forced by a French player being accidentally offside. I'm not in the UK so can't actually watch a replay of it or any highlights. But from my memory, any further backwards and the ball would have hit the retreating French player. I know it had no real impact on the game overall. But I'm just wondering if there could have been any possibility of this decision going England's way (i.e. England scrum for accidental offside) unless the ball actually hit the offside player. Apologies again if this is a pointless question but I can't re-watch it.

  • Comment number 47.

    To Bear7657
    Totally agree with you and will allways support guys of all nationalities who stand up for the great spirit of rugby. In the end its about a great game producing passion, glory, victory or defeat. But beyond that its about coming together in sporting cameraderie after the competition is decided. Once watched and England Wales match with a welsh guy, we were both very passionate, very biased but we enjoyed the match a beer or two together.Win lose or draw look your opponent in the eye when its over and shake his hand!Its called respect!

  • Comment number 48.

    Nice one boys - reminds me of some of the classic England France games of the late 90s - all intensity and guile.

    Oh and please handofjohnson, you're embarrassing us English, so don't write anymore.

  • Comment number 49.

    Great match, but frustrating that the post match forum isnt available on demand/online. why is this?

  • Comment number 50.

    @44. Bear 7657:

    Totally agree. Frankly I'm a little surprised that the post to which you refer made it beyond moderation.

    When I moved to France some people said "You're crazy. They hate the English." Utter nonsense. Gracious hosts, magnanimous losers. But isn't that true of all of us? I think so. Racial hatred is a minority concern, hardly a stain on rugby.

  • Comment number 51.


    I'm sure you will be able to show a few factual instances where I have "Berated and belittled " the Celtic nations?

    AS for the "little man" comment, well that just proves my point. Silly people saying things they can't possibly know,example "most neutral supporters would agree...." etc,.

    It won't surprise you to know I agree with a lot of what handofjohnson has said. People say things against England because they are English and use this stupid "Celtic" word to foster some kind of bond to rejoice in outdoing the uppity English. As one post put it the other day, it only took til post #5 before the anti English jibe kicked in.

    If you want to talk rugby fine, but I won't sit back and read snide comments about the English by those who feel they can say things and feel warm and fuzzy behind the term 'Celtic".

    As for "little man" should you wish to carry on in that manner.......I haven't even started on you yet sweetheart!

  • Comment number 52.

    Handofjohnson - You are a muppet!!

    Well played England, really enjoyed the game, felt England always looked the more likely to win, especially in the second half. The French appeared to look scared, possibly something to do with the defence of England looking so strong bashing them all over the park. Chabal had a shocker!! Thought England counter rucked brilliantly, Deacon was my MOTM but I think it was a good pack performance. Personally think Sheridans injury was a blessing to England, don't think he lives up to the hype around him.

    Tindall played very well and should have been awarded a try. Overall a good result for England, especially considering they probably made more errors in this game than in the previous two.

  • Comment number 53.

    Really enjoyed the England game, both teams battering each other for 80 mins. England are still a "work in progress" however the way they changed their gameplan at half-time was definately a step in the right direction. Grand Slam????? Scotland are the great destroyers of England GS, so lets take one game at a time.

  • Comment number 54.

    What I liked about the game was that both teams really tried to play flowing rugby in slippery conditions. Someone earlier said that the Italy Wales game was better...........whoever you are did you actually watch it or do you just have your Celtgoggles on?!?! It was OK but nowhere near as intense and gripping - and the rugby on show from England and France was exciting and ambitious - unfortunately some of it just didn't work.

    I suspect both teams will beat southern hemisphere opposition in the WC (just like last time) because France (certainly) and now England are no longer predictable.

    &lookslikeacolonialchip - go and join handofjohnson in the bigotroom. Luckily what you and he think and say bear no relation to what most English people think and say!!!

  • Comment number 55.

    to those ignorant individuals who think my post was over the top, obviously haven't witnessed the ridiculous statements made on here over the past few years, about how great the welsh/irish are and the sheer revelery and delight taken in an england team finding it's way............

    the fact of the matter is lievermont was correct in what he says, do you think he made it up? where do you think he got this idea from? i quote 'we left ireland having won, yet all the irish wanted to say was 'make sure you beat the english', says it all! i have seen this first hand, the pure delight at beating the english and not really caring about other results, to the point where the whole of wales comes to a standstill when they play england 'the old enemy', and actually, LITERALLY have parties to celebrate, yes that's correct a party to celebrate victory!!!!!pathetic, it goes past banter and i'm afraid this may have made me appear somewhat bitter!!!!!!

    so as the 'big brother' as foden put it, why should we be sooooooo 'english' and instead just stuff it right back to them!!!so take the blinkers off, recognise the true hatred shown towards us as a nation and embrace the fact the we are the 2nd/3rd best team in the world with a world cup record second to none!!!!!

  • Comment number 56.

    Number 44 - you've made a good point re whipping up nationalistic frenzy! I'm English and like all fans like to see my team playing well and winning. I also enjoy having a joke with Scottish, Irish, Welsh and French friends after a game.

    The ability to sit down and watch the game with fans from opposing teams and enjoy the banter that makes rugby such a special game to be involved with.

    There is no need to run around like a bunch of football supporting school kids abusing other fans - just because we have been on the receiving end of some anti-English rant.

    As for Grand Slams and RWCs anyone who has followed England for more than a season will know its a roller-coaster ride that can often end in heartache.

    In the meantime sit back and enjoy the rugby - England are starting to play some great stuff and if this continues we will get a chance to turnover some of the SH teams in the world cup. Then we can really start to dream!

  • Comment number 57.

    25 lookslikeacolonialchip

    Sorry to offend buddy but I did comment on the game. Care to respond to that?

    There were several posts before me that either referred to GS's or RWCs and also several who made comments like "I'm sure all the anti-English posters will say... etc"

    You may not like it but its apparent that when non-English posters have anything negative to say about the England team they are anti-English... why?

    I stand by what I said. Exciting and intense but error-strewn and not particularly impressive in the context of International rugby.

    You might like to know that I'm an Aussie and the reason I didn't include Australia in my comment is that the sort of intensity shown by England yesterday usually makes the Wallabies lose the plot and look like rabbits in headlights. Not so SA and the ABs. If England made the same number of errors against the ABs they would have been beaten by a large margin.

    Anyway, you are yet to comment on the game yourself. You're more worried about taking potshots at people you disagree with. Your moniker alone suggests where you're coming from.

    Enjoy your Sunday. England have made a good start to their big run chase. I thought they would struggle to be honest (but then I'm anti-English aren't I?)

  • Comment number 58.


    "we are the 2nd/3rd best team in the world with a world cup record second to none!!!!!"

    Except for the two countries that have won it twice of course.

  • Comment number 59.

    Alright handofjohnson you have your own point of view - and that's fair enough. But I'm afraid you're wrong about Lievremont - he does bot hate the English, and most French don't either - I'm surprised you fell for what is obviously a bit of pre-game hype. It's exactly the same as Gatland's 'the Irish hate the Welsh' thing a couple of years ago. Do you believe that too?!?

    I live in Wales and have had no probs - well, apart from the usual banter when we get beat by the Welsh. But I love it here and I've never had any of the sort of thing you're talking about here, in Scotland, Ireland or France.

    I travel alot for work (clue in the username.....and I don't make honey!!), spending long periods in many different countries and I've found that people are for the most part really friendly to the English - especially in sport - any sport.

    Think you need to get that block of wood off your shoulder handofjohnson old chap!!

  • Comment number 60.


    2nd/3rd best team in the world?????????

    Maybe 4th

    In Wales Rugby is our number 1 sport, we always take great pride in beating our big brothers because for a long time, we couldn't come anywhere near you in terms of beating you, whereas over the past 5 years the results have been more even. I've never been to a party to celebrate an England victory, maybe a party to celebrate a grandslam victory. When England play football I'm 110% behind them and nobody was more gutted than me when they didn't turn up in the last world cup, I really hoped and thought they could have won it.

    When it comes to Rugby I am 110% behind Wales, we are a tiny nation in comparison to England, so a victory for us is a big achievement and a Welshman always has plenty of optimism for the rugby team, if we didn't we would have lost any support years ago,but it doesn't mean I hate the English.When you won the World Cup in 2003 I was supporting England and should you get to the final this year, will support you again or should another home nation get there, they will get my support too.

    England are the strongest of the Home nations so victory against you is always sweeter, but that is a compliment to your strength and nothing else. So wind your neck in and enjoy your success while you have it

  • Comment number 61.

    andysw17- 2007 - final, 2003 - winners, 1995 semi final, 1991 final..........any questions?

    arachaeobee- fact is 'old chap' in general we aren't liked by our celtic brothers, there's no point in pointing out 'me and my welsh mate' or what have you as this does not form a general reflection ..............i haven't got a problem with this, we flooded welsh villages to give the scousers water and then sold it back to the welsh at a more expensive rate,they don't like us for historical reasons that again (generally) they haven't got over. this can't be expressed in every day life but sport is a great outlet for this hostility! i have a problem with fellow englishmen (like yourself) who pretend this isn't the case, that everyone likes us, living in some kind of Michael Jackson Neverland bubble, just accept it my friend

    I too have lived in other countries (including a year in germany) and ironically or not have never had a problem. yet the time spent in wales and scotland i have............this may be a class issue as rugby in it's origins was bought to the welsh by coal miners, that is not a condescending comment but the fact is rugby is not the working man's sport in england, just a fact............another fact is having lived in Scotland there is no chance I would even consider going to watch an england football match in the pub wearing an english shirt, i'd get battered! yet a scots man would have absoloutley no bother doing that in england

  • Comment number 62.

    Australia 1999 winners 1991 winners

    SA 2007 winners 1995 winners

    That's all that matters.

    Are you really saying England have the best record because they're better at "almost winning" than anyone else? Interesting.

    I'd love to know if anyone agrees with that view.

  • Comment number 63.

    elfromgavenny- take it you missed the last 2 times we played australia?

    do you speak for your nation? i wish individuals would stop stating there own personal experience as that of a nation! 'i'm welsh and i don't hate england, therefore all welsh people like english' (interesting logic......or.......'i'm english and i've got a welsh mate, so you're talking rubbish'.........the atmosphere when we played wales was almost gladitorial, that stadium was full of hate.......that's 70,000 not one bloke who 'doesn't mind' the english, thanks by the way, really grateful (sarcasm by the way)

  • Comment number 64.

    Re: the anti-English sentiment. There's no problem objective criticism, but it's clear some bloggers, not so much necessarily on here, live and breath hatred of anything English. I consider myself English, having been born in England, of Irish parents, and lived most of my younger life there. And I've lived in Ireland too. And France. And a few other countries too, including the one I live in now. I love a lot of things about Ireland, and France too, and met some great people in those countries, but I'm afraid I didn't live in that bubble you live in archaeobee. And there's no excuse for it, and none should be made. That's not to say England is whiter than white either, but this is the BBC. You can be sure the anti-host sentiment that goes on on here often doesn't see the light of day on foreign broadcaster's websites. And to finish with, have you ever heard an Australian rugby commentary?!

  • Comment number 65.

    andysw17- it's about consistently being at the top of world rugby, only one team can win, but if you can't be that team then being in the final (and so on) is obviously (apparently not to you) the next best thing..............

    New Zealand have never won the world cup so by your ignorance, they must be rubbish......genius

  • Comment number 66.

    You're brightening up my Sunday handof

    "I wish individuals would stop stating there (sic) own personal experience as that of a nation"

    Yet just a few minutes before you say:

    "I too have lived in other countries (including a year in germany) and ironically or not have never had a problem. yet the time spent in wales and scotland i have"

    Isn't that stating your own personal experience as that of a nation?

    You're funny.

  • Comment number 67.

    Umm, NZ have won the RWC. How old are you?

    I thought we were talking about RWC records. I never said anything about anyone being rubbish. I said that your assertion that England had the best record is rubbish. Winning the thing twice is a better record than winning it once.

    NZ does not have as good a RWC record as Aus and SA, but it does have as good a record as England.

    NZ are and have been the most consistent and best side in world rugby history. It doesn't change the fact that their RWC record isn't as good as Aus and NZ.

    Simple really. I'd be surprised if you have many people backing you up here but maybe I'm wrong.

  • Comment number 68.

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

  • Comment number 69.

    I think that Chris Ashton looked very foolish with his over the top swallow dive for an unopposed try ages after the whistle had blown.

  • Comment number 70.

    handofjohnson - ah well - don't think anything I say will cure you of your paranoia. Come off it about the working class thing, though - that's been done to death - I play rugby at town level and I can guarantee you that most grass roots rugby in England is played by your 'working man'.

    Of course there will always be muppets who hate other people just for being a certain nationality - just as there are muppets who have a right block of wood on their shoulder about being from a certain country..............but in my little experience they are often the one and the same sort of person !! Maybe people's reaction to you says more about you than them!!

    and Drooper - trust me - I don't live in a bubble, it popped ages ago!!

  • Comment number 71.

    elfromgavenny- don't get personal now, sitting at your laptop, shows your lack of intelligence- you can't compare the atmosphere yesterday to that of millennium stadium a few weeks back, there was know hatred, all you could hear was 'allez blu', as the middle class rugby crowd don't like to chant- get a grip

    i obviously get on fine in these countries or i wouldn't live there? i'm talking about what i hear when people are talking about the english and how we are portrayed in the media

    andysw17- i do apologise- NZ haven't won a world cup since in 24 years - and it's the OVERALL record i'm talking about,especially i comparison to any other NH side, i don't think you've grasped the point.....the point with NZ is they've been head and shoulders the best team going into most tournaments yet haven't won (except 1987), so if winning 'is all that matters' as you said (a very insular and narrow minded view) then according to your own statement NZ's status would be redundant

  • Comment number 72.


    Wasn't getting personal, just being honest

  • Comment number 73.


    Lack of intelligence, i'm surprised you could spell the word.

    You should read your posts, your spelling and grammar is awful

  • Comment number 74.


    And excuses!!!

  • Comment number 75.


    I understand your point, I just don't agree with it (and I'd be surprised if anyone else did).

    I have not said that the RWC is the be all and end all (though it is very important). I have not questioned NZ's status because of their lack of success at the RWC (although I suspect NZ supporters would have given up a few years of dominance to win another RWC).

    I'm not sure how it could possibly be insular (?) or narrow minded to say that the team who has won a sports tournament the most has the best record in that tournament. Suggesting otherwise is a bit silly really.

    If it helps you sleep at night to believe that England has the best record at the RWC then so be it. Seems to me to be glorifying failure but each to their own.

    I guess Tim Henman has a better Wimbledon record because he made more semi finals than Lleyton Hewitt (who actually won the thing).

  • Comment number 76.

    Well try this then!! Am I the only one who thinks that Eddy. Butlers dreadful pronunciation of French names driven me bonkers. Now I don't know if he speaks la French but if he does (and I don't I am ashamed to say) then please drop the pink panther impression.

    I thought it was a great game, hard in yer face rugby. Some opportunities missed by both sides but you play the ref, I note today that the French are giving the ref a bit of grief but I thought the ref had a fantastic game. I do wish the touch line officials would pull scrum halfs more ( I know he did ping the French once) but it didn't stop the feeding did it. Next up Scotland I'll bet they cant wait!!!

  • Comment number 77.

    Fraid handofjohnson has that classic English disease - wearebetterthananybodyelseateverythingsistitis. At least that's what it appears like reading his rather muddled words.
    However it may be that he has a new strain recently discovered in a pub on Canvey Island - everyonehatesmebecauseimenglishnotbecauseimabitofamuppetosotis!!

  • Comment number 78.

    I would like to say well done England !! Top performance all round. Makes a full blooded Englishman proud. I havnt been more positive about where we are going since the mighty roar of lawrence dalaglio bashing through the opponents.

    As i am new to this blog i would like to say a few things. I have read this blog for a number of years but this is my first contribution

    1. stop the moaning. Celtic nations have had your moments of glory and i have never complained. Accept england are the better team at the moment - Wales are in decline - ireland not top form and scotland - get Andy Robinson to stop changing the line up - get some consistancy.

    2. We are all here for the love of ruby why moan at each other - can we be united together like we have all displayed for new zealand - except losses graciouly and stop moaning at at the other team when you under perform

    3. BBC please stop the constant drubbing of Chris Ashton celebrations. Ok you have said you piece now leave it. Why shouldnt he celebrate at least he aint like a football player and kisses his team mates (weird)

    4. Coaches - stop slating countries just to try and get the edge in matches - we are all proud human beings who have pride in our countries - dont put us down.

    These are only a few points im sure i will add more.

    Good luck to all nations in the next round - lets have a good weekend of rugby and deliver the excitement, passion and love of rugby we all share

    I am english so COME ON ENGLAND !!!! FINISH THE JOB

  • Comment number 79.

    I think handofjohnson might still be in prep school!!!!

  • Comment number 80.

    archaeobee- not using a space bar- genius- think you should get back in your bubble

    ellfromgavenny- the point you made of me siting individual experience is redundant, when i refer to my experience it is that of a culture and media that take every opportunity to discredit and disrespect the english - by my experience i do not mean, a scottish guy came up to me and said 'i don't like you as you are english'. You (and others) are citing individual experience as in 'i've got a mate called dave and he's welsh' or 'i go down the pub with my irish pal'. i think you'll find my arguments are construed in an articulate and informative manor and having read my posts( as you so kindly suggested), i have been unable to locate the poor spelling that is causing you such distress. Maybe it's your ability (or lack of) to read language consisting of multiple syllables that's causing the issue

    andysw17- i'm sorry but i really don't think you've got the point, and i'm not being facetious. The whole point of an overall record is that it is an OVERALL RECORD. E.G if a team 'A' wins the world cup once and then never makes it past the quarter final again and another team, we'll call them 'B' (keep things simple) gets to every world cup final but never wins it, who has the best OVERALL RECORD? you would say team A? but then that would be a bit shall we say 'silly'!! is it that complicated!!!

    I assume your welsh or irish and would be absolutely delighted if your team made it to a world up final!

    So yes-Tiger Tim has a better OVERALL record than Leyton Hewitt- weather he would swap his ridiculous amounts of semi finals for a win is not relevant and therefore irrelevant!

    Bear7657- Not sure i should even respond to someone who uses the term 'prep school', mmmmmmm, yet paradoxically i already have. it was a hilarious post and well worth the time spent logging in to leave such a 'golden nugget' of humour, on behalf of all bloggers thank you

  • Comment number 81.


    You wrote:
    So yes-Tiger Tim has a better OVERALL record than Leyton Hewitt- weather he would swap his ridiculous amounts of semi finals for a win is not relevant and therefore irrelevant!

    I think the word weather is actually spelt whether in this context.

  • Comment number 82.

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

  • Comment number 83.

    You're an angry. angry young man handof.

    I'm Australian, mentioned it in an earlier post.

    You have the mindset of the mediocre. "We've almost won more times than anyone... that makes us better".

    I've said already, if that's the way you think then so be it. If you need to find an obscure way to big up England so be it.

    I'm sure a Welsh or Irish fan would love their team to make the RWC final. However their teams could make the next 30 finals... until they win one their record ain't as good as England.

    Good luck for this year's Cup. Maybe England can lose another final and cement their place (in your mind) as the bestest World Cup team ever... while the winners celebrate... ummm.... winning.

  • Comment number 84.

    Handonmyjohnny and lookslikeacolon will continue to use these blogs to compensate for the lack of attention and esteem that they have in real life. I suggest that they be treated as midges - they are annoying but of no consequence to higher lifeforms and best ignored.

  • Comment number 85.

    andysw17- if getting to a world cup final is mediocre than fine, i'm mediocre!!!! if the question was who's won it the most you'd have a point, but it isn't, so you haven't. i wouldn't say i was angry, just want to get rid of the hypocrisy of the celts being able to slate the english in the media, yet when we are on top we can't mention it as it's arrogant.

    zerofeetorinsertfunnyusername- another gem, thanks for logging in and using your 'superior intellect' to change johnson to johnny, how did you come up with it? perhaps we can nominate you for the pulitzer prize. Call in work tomorrow morning and say 'i can't make it, found a new carrier as the funniest guy ever to walk the face of the planet', bore off

  • Comment number 86.


  • Comment number 87.

    Handsof, elfromgavenny, andysw17, drooper, et al
    For goodness sake take your schoolboy bickering round the back of the bikesheds. Leave those of us with a genuine, dare I say adult, interest in the subject of the blog in peace. Every nation has it's share of small minded xenophobes, surely the best way to deal with them when they appear on here is just to ignore them - they'll soon go away.
    Now unless you have something relevant, interesting or witty to say please please please just STFU !

  • Comment number 88.

    Five things we learned about England yesterday.

    1. Hape is not and never will be good enough to justify his status as an international rugby union player. He must be the only professional Kiwi rugby play unable to pass or tackle. Simply dreadful. Again.

    2. Care still makes the two step skipping motion before releasing the pass. It is unnecessary and slows down ball. Either coach it out of him or get someone else.

    3. Care still cannot box kick properly. Kicking it too far does not allow the runners to close down the opposition and allows them to counter attack. England got away with it yesterday but they won't against Auz, NZ or France on form. Either coach it out of him or get someone else.

    4. Johnson needs to learn the art of creative substitution. Why take off Youngs and bring on Care? It was detrimental to the cause - I feel Eng lost momentum right at that point.

    5. That pack is starting to look again like a force to be reckoned with. Not yet Johnson/Dayglo/Hill etc, much less Skinner/Dooley/Richards etc but coming along nicely thank you very much. Impressive in the second half when they began to contest the tackle area.

  • Comment number 89.

    Tom, I felt your article was a bit off balance on a few quotes:

    'snuffed out by a blanket defence and the stamping feet of Thierry Dusautoir and Imanol Harinordoquy'. Are you seriously insinuating a citing or just not recognising how good those guys are?

    'Only for the score to be ruled out by a marginally forward pass from Flood to Youngs' - it either was or it wasn't and the referee has the final word and he played the pantomime villain. Shame, it was a decent break..

    'Jonny Wilkinson, whose reputation in France is such that grown men quake at the sight of his pre-kick crouch' - comments like that were just a tad jingoistic. Strikes terror in the heart of Johnny Foreigner, you know? They don't like it up 'em!

    As a neutral I looked forward to this game, I was not disappointed. i felt France were dangerous for the about 60% of the game, but one awful period that led to Foden's try killed them. England deserved it and on paper, should go to the WC with the Slam. It is refreshing watching an England team that can win and entertain, it's been a while.

    Typical World Cup year though, all the Celtic Nations regress and England and France hit the ground running. What next? NZ to choke? Oh but seriously folks...

    I would say that on the latest performances, I don't see a Northern winner. That's disappointing, the wheel turns and we are stuck exactly where we have been time and time before. I'd even cheer France on if it meant we had a change.

    ok, one notable exception, all you english boys hammering at your screens will tell me - but what since then? The other times Northern teams have made the final, they have not looked anything but runners up.

    How about opening the game to let other nations develope to knock on the door of the top flight? They might bring some new ideas or at least get the North to start changing their own. The world isn't run by committee, (except in England, Scotland, Ireland , Wales and France. )

  • Comment number 90.

    I enjoyed the article a great deal.

    Three things I'd like to say:

    1. I have no patience with "winning ugly" talk (and I suspect that the article hints at the same view): playing hard-nosed, intelligent rugby to squeeze out a difficult win isn't ugly: it's utterly beautiful, and certainly I'd rather be there than at one of those mis-matches that yield "champagne rugby", or at a netball festival which neither side knows how to win. Well done England on a brilliant game, and well done France on making England sweat for the win.

    2. For the first time I've felt better about the northern hemisphere's chances - in the form of both France and England - of taking down some of the southern hemishere's "big three" in the world cup. If the Six Nations produced more competition like this, I'd be positively buoyant!

    3. I really appreciated Lievremont's post-match comments. He tells it like it is, and if that means praising the opponents who've just beaten his side, well, he tells it like it is.

    By the way, did anybody watch the recent Canterbury vs Auckland "Super fifteen" game? Carter missed touch from inside his twenty-two more often even than usual, had average success going for the posts, and by the second half wasn't putting his outside backs into space at all. Auckland, whose fly-half's place-kicking was appalling, won, and went on to lose to Natal. Chruden, whom I understand to be thought of as Carter's understudy, looked pathetic as the Wellinton franchise went down to Otago. England and France may not be as clinical as they'd like to be, but nobody's entirely perfect. Guess everybody's still warming up for the big one...

  • Comment number 91.

    Insightful debate on here as always... (sarcasm)

    Once people realise that there are idiots from all nations, then perhaps the boring arguing will stop? Being a fool is not dependent on which country you were born in. Just because several English fans get ridiculous and start claiming England are the best team in the world, doesn't mean we all do. And just because some Welsh fans state that the entire English rugby-fan population is arrogant, it doesn't mean all Welsh fans are that ignorant. Let's treat people as individuals and not tar each other with a national brush, please!

  • Comment number 92.

    @ #88 Grover, it's very kind of you to say that we found out about Care's limits yesterday, when you know full well that they are well established. I simply cannot understand why Youngs isn't allowed to finish matches, even when they are still in the balance. Ben Youngs has been the single most significant factor in England's recent revival. I made the same point earlier on and for some reason I was accused indirectly of being a mindless Wilko fanboy. It's not rocket science - Flood's miraculous improvement coincides precisely with Youngs breaking into the side, and Wilko's best days "happen" to coincide with Matt Dawson in his pomp. Wilko's never going to get ahead of Flood in the pecking order if he only ever stands outside a second-rate scrum half. Having said that, as long as Youngs is on the field, either Wilkinson or Flood would do an equally good job at 10.

    @ all involved in the petty schoolboy jingoistic squabble above: get a life! I think most rugby fans are rather sensible types, who enjoy seeing their team play well and win, but actually appreciate good rugby from whatever team it may be - whether the team wears a silver fern or a red rose. They are sadly under-represented in these comments.

    Ben Dirs take note - those who comment on BBC blogs are a strictly self-selecting sample, not to be taken as in any way representative. This blog in particular is a prime example. When you base your generalisations on this particular crowd, as you did in your latest blog, you do the majority a grave disservice. Tom wins the rugby blogging stakes this week, hands down!

  • Comment number 93.

    @ Tim

    You clearly missed the operative word 'still' - I did not claim to have just discovered Care's limitations but instead pointed out that he as yet has not addressed them.

    Nevertheless, I agree with the fundamental points of your argument: I don't understand why Youngs doesn't finish the game and I don't understand why they choose to replace him with Care if they do have to haul Youngs off. Both decisions baffling but even then easier to understand than the continued selection of Hape.

    Not sure I follow your argument about Dawson. Wilkinson's pomp also coincided with one of the most dominant packs in history and a certain Mr Greenwood creating magic in midfield.

  • Comment number 94.

    thought it was good old fashioned test match, not 45-30 as per super 15. Tom Wood looks a real find, saw him at Worcester, my local club, several times over last few years and he looked good player, but would not have said international standard, well done Mallinder and West. We've hardly missed Croft, can think of no greater compliment.
    Scrums creaked a bit, but was in Paris 12 months ago, big improvement on that.
    Counter rucking, plus Palmer's charge down, made difference in 2nd half; gave Eng momentum and FR struggled from then. Rougerie's touchdown would have made things interesting though. Was very worried about Johnson as coach for first 18 months, I was wrong. looks like his strength of conviction will capitalise on fine vintage over next few years ( Lawes, Foden, Ashton, Flood, Youngs, Croft, Wood, Haskell, Cole) wish he would pick Narraway though.
    we'll still probably lose matches now and then, but all we need really is a high class 12 and 13, wish Will Greenwood was 15 years younger!

  • Comment number 95.


    "Luckily what you and he think and say bear no relation to what most English people think and say!!!"

    Again a classic example of people saying things as fact they can't possibly know! Usually comes with " English are all the same, one win and suddenly you're world beaters...etc" when in fact most of the English posts I have read have been quite guarded.

    So you've spoken to most English people have you? Done the survey, completed the census and analyzed the results? Utter hogwash!

    My posts have been as a riposte to those who choose to have a shot just for their own bias and offer snide remarks at the English for being English.
    You will find no post of mine which has set out to have a go at any nation except in response to a post which has set out to insult.

    I have been accused of "berating and belittling" Celtic nations (Bear7657 )
    and have asked for clarification, of course non is forthcoming as it doesn't exist (except in the minds of some...surprisingly not English).

    Check out post 19, "Call me "anti-English" (apparently that's anyone who doesn't proclaim them to be World beaters). I have not set out to have a go at anybody but have responded in kind.

    Well firstly BUDDY, I'm not your Buddy...mate!
    You made a statement and I've asked you the question

    "Would you care to show us where exactly the English have proclaimed themselves world beaters and /or called others "Anti-English" for not saying they are?"
    I know you can't find one but you should at least say so rather than reply with some obscure reference.

    As for, "You might like to know that I'm an Aussie.." no I wouldn't. It matters not at all to me. I lived and worked in Australia for many years and know full well the relationship between the two.

    You'd like me to comment on the rugby, certainly.

    I thought it was a good intense game. Tindall played the best game he's had in years (thank god he didn't try and pass). Corbisiero did a great job for Sheriden whom we may not see much more of I fear. The French 12 was great, Chabal was useless as we knew he would be and only proved Lievremonts lack of nous in thinking he would somehow strike fear into an England waiting for him. Youngs was great and if Toby released the ball as quickly as Johny now and again he'd be perfect.

    All in all England are a good side getting better all the time and will be a force for any team come the WC. If we don't make the final I think we will be bitterly disappointed.

    You enjoy your shrimp now!

  • Comment number 96.

    @ poster 89

    I live in France, and they do fear Wilkinson. They have a great deal of respect, even admiration for him (about the only Englsih rugby player they do admire), his professionalism and his humble attitude, as well as his dedication to the cause (I've read several comments along the lines of "being able to stand being put on the bench despite his wonderful achievements shows how much he cares").

    But believe me, when he puts on that English shirt and enters the field against France, they're afraid of him. He's beaten them too often.

  • Comment number 97.

    Re Hape & Care - like it or not barring injuries these two are going to the World Cup. I disagree that Hape is a lost cause - tho he may not have enough time to find his game before the competition begins. I would much prefer Flutey at his best, but his best seems very elusive at the moment. Care is a different matter - he has a similar weakness to Phillips of moving before passing, and in addition seems to take an inordinate amount of time at the base of a ruck before moving! Simpson of Wasps must be pushing him close, but time is running out.
    Re Big Ted - I noticed the trememdous shove that England got on the French in the first scrum, and I also noticed how the French pack came back once Sheridan went off. It took a while and some on-the-field coaching from Rowntree to set the ship right. I think Corbisiero is an excellent prospect and will be a first choice before very long, but Sheridan at his best is a destroyer.
    Scotland may pull off a miracle in two weeks time but I doubt it. The French pack are a top-class unit and they blew themselves out yesterday. Ireland may make a fist of it in Dublin, but only if they avoid playing fast and loose with the rules like they did yesterday.
    Still can't see England beating the All Blacks on home territory, though.
    Finally, re all the jingoistic crap - get a life you guys. Hot News! Some Welsh/Scots/Irish/Whatever blokes dont like the English! Newsflash! Some English blokes hate the Welsh/Scots/Irish/Anybody. Does that have anything at all to do with rugby? Not a bit. Grow up.

  • Comment number 98.

    87. At 7:07pm on 27 Feb 2011, virtualknockon wrote:
    Handsof, elfromgavenny, andysw17, drooper, et al
    For goodness sake take your schoolboy bickering round the back of the bikesheds. Leave those of us with a genuine, dare I say adult, interest in the subject of the blog in peace. Every nation has it's share of small minded xenophobes, surely the best way to deal with them when they appear on here is just to ignore them - they'll soon go away.
    Now unless you have something relevant, interesting or witty to say please please please just STFU !


    Who's bickering?! Perhaps the French coach's pre-match comments are par for the course in your world, but I'm just as fed up with listening to this kind of ignorance as you are about me being fed up about it. I would argue they dispute Tim@92's cosy view of rugby, and need to be challenged, and I am pefectly entitled to express this opinion, just as you are that they should be swept under the carpet, though not that I should shut up. Ironic, as you seem perfectly content to allow Monsieur Lievremont to say whatever he wants.

    And Tim@92, while reminding Ben what his responsibilties are, remind yourself you are as much a 'self-selecting sample' and part of 'this particular crowd' as anyone else on this blog, and do a 'grave disservice' to those of us who had hoped the racial slur was dying out.

  • Comment number 99.

    In the post where you defended your spelling and grammar you made 2 fairly obvious spelling and grammar mistakes
    Weather/whether and your/you're.
    I don't normally care about such niceties but you did make a fairly aggressive challenge regarding your grammatical excellence, so stop being such a silly boy.
    Anyway, the rugby, enthralling contest I thought.
    The WEATHER prevented both sides from going through the gears too much, tired legs and slippery hands, but they do look to be a cut above the other NH sides at the moment.
    And the English look to be a cut above France too, I think it is the ability to apply a second stratagem mid-match, hopefully before too long they will be able to apply one without coming off the pitch to do it. I actually feel that the ability to have more than one game plan will see them through against SA and AUS at the world cup, as they both only seem to have one plan, albeit better executed than most teams can do it.
    I think it could be a world cup of slim pickings for the other home nations unfortunately, as they don't seem able to get their undoubtedly fine individuals all on the pitch at the same time, reading from the same script.
    Does anyone else think Tom Croft may have a hard time getting back into the team?
    Incidentally, I watched the Super-15 fixture between the Waratahs and the Reds at the weekend, and it really wasn't anything to get particularly worried about, despite it being an absolutely perfect night for rugby there were handling errors, accidental offsides, mistimed scrum hits and Quade Cooper being possibly the worst tackler in the history of professional rugby! I know it was only the second game of the season, but don't worry too much guys, the SH ain't all that!
    I genuinely think that the last 8 in the Heineken Cup would have the edge over the top 8 teams in the Super-15.

  • Comment number 100.

    I don't get some of the people on here, just chill the hell out! Just because you're anonymous it doesn't mean you should behave like a wally, no-one really cares what we think anyway. Get a life basically!

    And please someone explain why no-one has mentioned the referee and his bloody silver-haired touch judge. That short line-out was something of pure beauty and to nitpick over 20 cm is just plain sad for the game. Especially when you can't even see a clear yellow card on Easter, envision imaginary offsides and miss clear knock-ons which result in shots at goal, and don't really understand scrumming at all. That refereeing performance was very hard on France and I know for sure if the boot were on the other foot we'd be hearing a lot more on the subject.

    Anyway, that's all I wanted to say. Have a good week all, and don't be a tool.


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