By Rugby World editor, Paul Morgan
ENGLAND ARE starting to rumble back to their 2000 or 2001 levels, boosted by the new law interpretations which are suiting them down to the ground. Gone (thank goodness!) are the days of ping-pong rugby and teams playing positive rugby, like France and the Tri-Nations sides, as prospering.
It is clear in players like Ben Youngs and Chris Ashton they have some of the best young players in Europe and have a thriving Aviva Premiership that allows them to throw in a player like Alex Corbisiero, 24 hours before kick off, and for him to look like he’d won 51 caps and not one!
They are a threat because their threats come from a number of different places. Against Australia in the autumn it was Ben Youngs who sparked their impressive performance and today against Italy it was Toby Flood who was the catalyst, standing flat and challenging the Italian defence at every opportunity.
And when Flood has a predator in the team like Chris Ashton the tries will follow. Ashton is so keen to look for work he’s always prowling on the shoulder of any player making a break and there were a lot of those at Twickenham.
England, who are also basing their offence on their power runners like James Haskell, cut Italy open so often it almost became embarrassing.
Italy will be embarrassed by the tape of the match because of the lack of tackling, which led to a couple of England tries. There is really no excuse for that level of defence for professional players and at times it looked like Sergio Parisse was playing England on his own.
As against Wales last weekend Martin Johnson will be delighted. Not just with the win but because there was so much for England to improve upon. Their kicking game in the first half was awful and if they do that against France in two weeks they will lose by 50 points.
Italy have absolutely nothing to learn from this game. Memo to Nick Mallett: burn all copies of the tape of the match immediately. And lots of tackling practice between now and the Wales game.
The Ashton Celebrations? I am a big fan of having as many characters in the game as we can. Save me for the institutionalised players who represented England in 2008 and 2009. Please don’t take me back to those days. World-class teams (and England aren’t that yet) need characters and Ashton is one. Keeping diving!
The penalty count? Ouch! At 18 that is far too many from a side that dominated the game. Johnno must sort that out as France will capitalise if it happens again. They almost made up for it with a massive 15 line breaks to Italy’s one!
The running front five? I was heavily critical in the lack of ball carrying the front five did against Wales. I believe you need two and probably three of the front five to carry good yards if you are to win a Grand Slam, which is England’s ambition. At least Dan Cole picked up the gauntlet against Italy but why – I ask myself – doesn’t Dylan Hartley carry for England like he does for Northampton. He charges like a bull in a china shop at Franklin’s Gardens. He’s obviously under England team orders – please change those orders!
Don’t worry be Hape? Shontayne Hape has his detractors and it seems at times that his only fan is Martin Johnson. He turned in another accomplished performance against Italy and is growing with every game.
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