…like all the best things are.
Stuart Lancaster along with the England team he put together during this 6 Nations tournament have made a great deal about how it all came about in Leeds,
made in Leeds they readily repeated.
Made in Leeds, that get together has bonded the team together with the coaching staff and after the final game of the 6 Nations saw them annihilating Ireland, who had beat them in what 8 straight including that thumping last year, should it mean they’re kept together?
Should Lancaster get the job or should someone else be shipped in and everything be started all over again from scratch? Would a new guy be happy with the players Lancaster has chosen for the squad and starting XV or would he want his own picks? Can’t see it being the former.
But a process has been started, one tournament used up, in the build up to the next World Cup and that after all is the ultimate goal. And as a process it has the feel of the Woodward era of discarding the old guard and getting together a younger bunch to form the nucleus of a side that’ll still be there in a few years time. Now under Clive there was ups and downs, the thrashings that young side took down under, then the World Cup dismissal by the drop goals of Jannie de Beer in ’99.
But ultimately it had the success desired with a drop goal of their own.
This England side under Lancaster have progressed even through the five games played here and are almost light years away from the disaster that was the World Cup. Though of course they only came second in the 6 Nations table, where they won it under Johnson last time out.
Though you could say they were closer to a Grand Slam this time round. One mistake against Wales is all that stood between them and a clean sweep. That mistake was as I posted about at the time one of Lancaster coaching by numbers and making unnecessary personnel changes based on what the clock showed rather than what was happening on the pitch. But bizarrely in English sport he actually seemed to
learn from his mistake and the substitutions weren’t as bad in the following games.
Lancaster has got the fans happy to support and watch England again and I would say a major part of that is the turfing out of a lot of the the previous regimes players and bringing in new and untried individuals who at this moment see representing England as an honour and not as their right. The task is to keep their mindset like that once they become established.
So to the Ireland thumping. OK it wasn’t the greatest performance all round wise. The conditions didn’t help in that respect. Felt like time for an old fashioned England game at headquarters, in the rain and number 8 with his socks round his ankles and the ball up his jumper – think Dean Richards or Mike Teague – fly-half kicked to the corners.
Didn’t quite turn out that way as the forward domination came from a little further forward. The England front three just destroyed Ireland’s scrum. I don’t think even Australia’s at it’s worst has crumbled like that under such an assault from England. Luckily for England the ref knew what was happening and everything that happened at the scrums was all down to the domination of those in white.
Some might think the complacency has hit early with Dickson’s performance against Ireland. Over confidence that he’s now first pick and so had a bit of a stinker. Personally I don’t think he was as bad as some would have you believe. Yes he created problems for himself wasting time behind rucks before clearing his lines, with sliced kicks. But then he did that previously and it seems the routine of most number 9s in this tournament. He was still quick to the breakdown and when he wanted quick away from it with the pass. Certainly quicker than Youngs. Yes Youngs was quick thinking with his try but facing a completely demoralised Ireland side who’d yet again crumbled at a scrum and then turned their back on him, if he hadn’t scored a try there then he he should never wear an England shirt again.
Dickson should still be first choice but if it gives Youngs the kick up the arse to get him back to where he was before all the hype then it’s win-win.
So I say keep Lancaster, see if he can cut out the penalties and handling errors – though you can’t exactly blame him for Croft’s juggling act when he could have… should have scored – keep using the youngsters, let them grow together and see what happens. It’s what should be done with the football team, again rugby ahead of it’s offshoot.
But as I said it’s the RFU so god knows what will happen.