BBC BLOGS - Tom Fordyce

Archives for February 2012

Victorious Wales see off resurgent England

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Tom Fordyce | 21:11 UK time, Saturday, 25 February 2012

With five minutes left on the clock on Saturday evening and both sides on weak legs and wobbly nerves after a wonderfully ferocious contest, it seemed that we were going to see the first try-less Test between England and Wales in 32 years and only their second draw in 44 years.

Scott Williams had other ideas. The 21-year-old Scarlets centre, only on the pitch because of injury to the more heralded Jamie Roberts, will now go into the record books as the scorer of a famous match-winning try for Wales at Twickenham alongside JPR Williams, Adrian Hadley and Mike Phillips.

Before his late larceny on Courtney Lawes he had already made two key contributions, first dragging Mouritz Botha to the ground after the England lock had blocked Rhys Priestland's clearing kick and threatened to score his side's third charge-down try in three matches. With 12 minutes to go he capitalised on a barrelling break from Ryan Jones and had George North outside him, unmarked and untroubled to the line, had he not taken the ball into contact instead.

Redemption was to follow. Lawes, rumbling over halfway, was robbed. With England's line up flat, the kick through took him into acres of open space, and the bounce of the ball did the rest. Lucky? Not a bit of it. Wales practice ball-stealing in every training session.

That had seemed enough late drama even for this contest, but David Strettle's was-it-wasn't-it try in the corner as the clock ran out had the 81,598 packed into the stadium with hearts in mouths and hands on heads.

It was a horrible decision for television match official Iain Ramage to have to make, but from the replays I saw he looked to have got it right.

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Lancaster gambles ahead of Wales test

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Tom Fordyce | 21:20 UK time, Thursday, 23 February 2012

Should fortune favour the brave, England's interim coach Stuart Lancaster could be in for the most satisfying of Twickenham debuts.

But if Six Nations rugby is more about the more prosaic virtues of experience, form and proven ability, Saturday's meeting with Wales might just turn out to be a little less pleasant.

In making four changes to the team who started against Italy in Rome a fortnight ago, Lancaster has also shown he does not mind taking a gamble.

Almost half his side will be making their first appearances for England at Twickenham. He has a combination at nine and 10 that have never played together before, nor started in those positions at international level, and a centre pairing that is entirely untried.

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Narrow win brings plenty of positives

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

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

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

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

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New boy Barritt relishing England revival

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Tom Fordyce | 18:36 UK time, Thursday, 9 February 2012

While one England national team might have been in crisis on Thursday, another was continuing to show clear signs of recovery.

The parallels between the nation's football and rugby sides - hugely disappointing World Cups, a subsequent influx of new blood, a struggle to reconnect with disenchanted supporters - were already strong. That both now have interim coaches called Stuart, and that rugby's Lancaster revealed that football's Pearce had phoned him last week to wish him luck, only seemed to underline the bond.

But while the atmosphere at Wembley was one of crisis and chaos, at the England rugby team's camp in Surrey there was a discernible sense of order and optimism in the bitter winter air.

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No love lost as Capello takes his leave

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Tom Fordyce | 08:06 UK time, Thursday, 9 February 2012

And so what started with such optimism in December 2007 ends just over four years later in rancour and another unholy mess.

"We wanted a winner with a capital W," barked the FA chief executive Brian Barwick at that unveiling in central London. "That was the template. This is the man. Fabio Capello!"

You could understand Barwick's brio. Capello came to the England job with a CV like few others - nine major league titles and a European Cup in 16 years as club manager, a successful enough itinerant to have won championships in four different big cities.

For a while he appeared to be bringing the same success to international football. Under his stern gaze, England made their best ever start to a World Cup qualifying campaign, winning their first nine matches, including demolishing Croatia 4-1 in Zagreb in exhilarating fashion.

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Same old story for Scotland as Lancaster profits

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Tom Fordyce | 08:03 UK time, Sunday, 5 February 2012

If you had accidentally stumbled into the post-match interviews at Murrayfield on Saturday night, the briefest of glances at the faces of the two coaches would have told you all you needed to know about the preceding few hours.

England’s interim coach Stuart Lancaster was wide-eyed, beaming, even letting rip with the occasional unabashed chuckle after his team’s 13-6 victory. Scotland’s Andy Robinson, by furious contrast, had looked ready to punch his way into next week – scowling, frowning, seething, not so much a bulldog chewing a wasp as one stung all over the snout by a whole swarm of them.

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New dawns, auld enemies

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Tom Fordyce | 19:58 UK time, Thursday, 2 February 2012

The wintry weather at England's training base, tucked away in the forests of rural Surrey, appeared on Thursday to be perfectly in sync with the ambitions of interim coach Stuart Lancaster - first a bright new sunny dawn, then a fierce wind to blow away the dead wood.

Inside the plush Pennyhill Park staterooms, Lancaster had just announced a line-up to face Scotland that featured eight new caps in the match-day 22, led by a skipper with a solitary cap from a summer tour.

There was excitement about the place. There were a few raised eyebrows from the wiser old owls listening in - Murrayfield on a bleak February evening being no place for dilettantes, that sort of thing - and, already, the sound of clanging nerves.

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