With England's less than memorable World Cup ending, they rounded off their campaign with a big win over Uruguay. Here are some of the things we have learnt
By Adam Hathaway
Slade is no one-hit wonder
Slade are a band whose 1973 single ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ gets rolled out once a year, so the composers are rolling in royalties, let’s hope Henry Slade gets more than an annual outing. Saturday’s game did not tell us anything we did not know already about the Exeter centre but it may have opened the selectors’ eyes a bit. You would have thought they would have been opened when he was part of a ‘second string’ attack that shredded the first-teamers in training the week before England’s game against Wales, but that is for another day. He can pass off both hands, has a great left boot, has a rugby brain and even knows how to put a winger away in a two-on-one situation. Unheard of. The nifty footwork he showed at the home of Manchester City to score his try, albeit against Uruguay, was as good as anything Francis Lee or Sergio Aguero could have conjured up. I don’t care if he plays 10, 12 or 13 – he is too good to be left out. He will be number one wherever he plays.
Curing the Blues
One thing this World Cup has taught us is that there is life outside Twickenham. If more than 50,000 people can turn up in Manchester for a match as dead as a dodo, why don’t the RFU take England around the country more? Bottom line, old boy, is the flannel we normally we get from the suits but there are some things more important than the bottom line. Like the starry-eyed kids who waited in the car park to see an England team, already out of the World Cup, get off the bus on Saturday night at the City of Manchester Stadium, or whatever we are supposed to call it this week. New Zealand, South Africa and Australia take their heroes around the country; why should England be any different? It is not as if the RFU are short of a few bob.
We may never know what Danny Care has done to offend Stuart Lancaster but he was back to his sparky self on Saturday night on his only run-out of the World Cup. He has been a long time in camp carrying tackle bags, but the Harlequins new club captain showed what he can do and it just makes you wonder if he would have been a better bet off the bench than Richard Wigglesworth. Wigglesworth is the type of number nine who dictates the game, he is the best box-kicker in the Premiership from the off, but is not the sort of scrum-half who is going to nick a game when you are trailing with 20 minutes to go. Wigglesworth is a starter or a complete non-runner from this viewpoint, Care could have had added spark to England’s bench.
Burst the bubble
England were staying at Worsley Park in the build-up to their match against Uruguay in Manchester and what a fine hotel it is. When they are playing at Twickenham, England stay at Pennyhill Park, near Bagshot, and what a fine hotel that is. Everything on tap, wall-to-wall luxury, waited on hand-and-foot and completely and utterly boring. Both establishments are a fair-old trot away from anywhere else and completely removed from real life. It is all very well living in the bubble but we should not be surprised if the bubble bursts now and then. If England occasionally stayed somewhere where players could stroll out for a cuppa, or even to pick up the latest copy of Rugby World from a friendly newsagent, they might be able to stay sane. They might even meet some real-life fans who are not introduced to them at some sponsor’s bash.
Three Lions have no Lions
Mike Brown came out with the most telling line of the lot on Saturday night when he was being quizzed in the mixed zone after England’s 60-3 win over Uruguay. The full-back chucked one question back at his interrogators by asking how many of the England team would get into a British & Irish Lions squad if it was picked now. The full-back reckoned he might be able to ‘push a couple in there’, from the World Cup squad, but in a long, delayed train journey on Sunday we could only come up with one or two who might make a match-day 23. Brown might get a game, if the team were playing tomorrow and Leigh Halfpenny was still injured, Anthony Watson would have a squeak but er…that is about it. That is the biggest shocker of a shocking four weeks for English rugby.