THE ENGLISH MEDIA are taking their national team’s victory over Ireland as a sure-fire sign that they have come of age (the English team that is, not the media).
Writing for The Telegraph, Paul Hayward underlines his belief that Ireland have “developed a habit of providing the true measure of England’s worth,” before continuing to claim that England’s third win in a row over Ireland has new significance.
“There is a relentlessness about Lancaster’s England that must be horrible to play against. They are never slaves to their mistakes and refuse to be discouraged. Against all the odds the Twickenham crowd are also playing their part, throwing themselves behind this mission to add purpose and meaning to English rugby beyond mere scale and wealth.”
On the same pages, Oliver Brown brought up claims that Brian O’Driscoll “has not produced a memorable individual turn for club or country” since Leinster’s 2011 Heineken Cup triumph, suggesting that the outside centre had struggled in Twickenham.
His farewell Six Nations is one to demonstrate that where the heart might ever be willing, the legs and the lungs are, at the age of 35 and worn down by a decade-and-a-half of international punishment, sadly unobliging.”
There was some revealing insight from Mike Brown via the BBC, as he spoke about the training drill that allowed him to make that wonderful ‘save’ on O’Driscoll’s attempted grubber kick in the early stages of the game.
Source: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
“Brown says he honed his goalkeeping skills in training drills with Harlequins team-mate Danny Care. ”We just blast balls at each other to see if we can save them,” said Brown. He added that they called the drill ‘Schmeichel’ after the former Manchester United goalkeeper.”
Paul Rees of the Guardian was complimentary about Ireland’s performance, saying they “have become a smarter side under their New Zealand head coach Joe Schmidt.” However, Rees did point out that there was something lacking out wide for the visitors.
Jonathan Sexton varied his attacking game, chipping into space and deploying decoy runners; without Mike Brown as the last line of defence, England would have had to score more than 13 points to win. What Ireland lacked was pace out wide but they have players to return.”
The always excellent Dean Ryan wrote that this clash saw two sides “playing to rare standard and intensity” and pointed out that “you’d still fancy Ireland” to win the championship.
“After Dublin and Wales, Joe Schmidt came to Twickenham with a different game plan. I guess he must have looked at England’s back-five forwards, thought he wasn’t going to get any change there and decided his ambitions lay wider out.
“Instead of the driving maul that earned him 17 points against Wales, Ireland went for the “bust” – the break off the back of a maul that took the attack to the relative lack of experience on the wings.”
Source: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Clive Woodward was less restrained than other journalists, writing for MailOnline that this success “was a watershed victory for England and the most significant win of Stuart Lancaster’s tenure as head coach.”
History will show this as the day a promising group proved they have the armoury, ability and personnel — on and off the field — to go on and achieve something special. Regardless of what happens from here in this tournament, England are building a team capable of becoming No. 1 in the world.”
Chris Hewett echoed those sentiments on the pages of The Independent: “The fact that things ultimately went so right confirmed that Robshaw and company will take an awful lot of beating when the World Cup comes to town next year.”
Hewett did swiftly provide some balance to that comment, saying English rugby shouldn’t be getting ahead of itself, particularly after beating an Ireland team who “are about to lose Brian O’Driscoll to retirement and have surely seen the best of Gordon D’Arcy and Paul O’Connell.”
Finally, the knowledgeable and neutral voice of Sir Ian McGeechan highlighted that Saturday’s game “may have been a low-scoring match but it was a high quality contest which ebbed and flowed throughout which is a sign of two good teams playing at the top of their game.”
We’re with you on that one, Geech.