By Alex Lowe
I GOT a tweet in the aftermath of England’s record triumph over New Zealand, suggesting politely I should stop getting carried away, that it was just one win. As it happened, I had not been getting carried away. All I had done was note while watching a re-run of the game how well Mike Brown played and that he “always makes ground”.
But what’s wrong with England supporters getting excited? Sport is emotion. If you take the highs and lows out of it, if you abandon the hope and the expectation, then what exactly is the point?
As a coach, I understand the value of Stuart Lancaster taking the scientific approach. He believes in culture and process. Everything he does has a clear logic, every selection decision, every training decision. He was right not to get too down after the defeat to South Africa because England had played well. But players are fuelled by emotion. They took the hurt of that defeat into the All Blacks match, they hit the world champions with a thundering intensity and showed a remarkable character to see them off.
And so red rose fans should be excited and don’t apologise for it because this is not blind faith. If you have confidence in what Lancaster is building – as I do – then this England win has to be seen as the start of something promising, potentially something special. Just consider where England are now compared to this time last year. Seven of the starting XV on Saturday made their Test debuts in 2012. Chris Robshaw had just one cap when he was appointed captain for the Six Nations. They have beaten France in Paris, Ireland by 30-odd points at home and now the world champions.
But what about those bruising defeats to the Springboks on the summer tour? What about the naive performance against the Wallabies a couple of weeks ago? I hear you. But this is a team that is learning and developing quickly. How many more England players would be in your Lions team now than on 1 November? Alex Corbisiero, Dan Cole, Tom Wood and Joe Launchbury would certainly be in my team if the first Test was next weekend. Potentially others too.
The character England showed not to fold when the All Blacks suddenly found their groove after the interval and closed from 15-0 down to within a point belied their inexperience. Other teams would have been crushed. England refused. Owen Farrell called it a “champion’s attitude”. That is where the likes of Robshaw, the mighty Wood and Cole come into their own. They led a commanding forward effort, which underpinned an historic victory.
Of course, as of right now England’s 38-21 triumph is a one-off result. We have seen new dawns before. In the autumn of 1983, England beat New Zealand at Twickenham and then won just one of their seven matches in 1984. In 2010 England beat Australia in Sydney, thumped them at home in the autumn, won the 2011 Six Nations and then crashed out of the World Cup.
Before England had even left the pitch on Saturday, the message from Robshaw was for the squad to remember what it took and what it felt like to beat the All Blacks and replicate it when Scotland come to town in February. Lancaster’s plan has longevity. When you see what the likes of Launchbury and Tom Youngs are already contributing to England, it is hard not see them and the team improving campaign on campaign between now and 2015 and then beyond.
Billy Twelvetrees will be involved in the Six Nations and he is sure to add a different dimension to the England midfield, while Dylan Hartley and Ben Foden will also be back in the mix. My belief that the future is bright for England is based on what I see and what I hear from inside the camp.
As a fan, you should just get carried away. England have only ever beaten New Zealand seven times. Rejoice.
Follow Alex Lowe on Twitter @AlexMLowe