Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Six Nations decider 2011 - England verse Ireland

Mark Cueto is a rare breed -  a winger that doesn't score tries.

Well, it's been great to be back in the Northern Hemisphere, to soak up the wonderful atmosphere that is the Six Nations. 

As an All Black fan trying to gauge what this will all mean for the World Cup, a few interesting things.  England's resurgence after years of dross is exciting for the game. As much as it pains me, I think England, whether they win the Slam and the Six Nations or not this year, have to now be considered as genuine Rugby World Cup 2011 contenders.

The main reasons: they've always had good forwards, but now that they've finally found some men out wide that can chance their arm means a whole new dimension has finally been added to their play (it's only taken about a decade to catch-up).   Chris Ashton brings a frisson when he gets his hands on the ball. And I love their halfback - Youngs. He's dynamic and has a great pass.  At such a young age, he has the world in front of him.

In the forwards, well England have always boasted a strong front row and their locks don't look too shabby either. I think the key areas where they will probably be found a little bit wanting are still in the loose forwards. Scotland had it over them in this department of the game last week, and I don't know whether Martin Johnson's loosies will ever pose a serious threat to the Southern Hemisphere flankers.

England's main weapon however, remains the same as it was in 2003 and 2007. Jonny Wilkinson. He knows how to play tournament rugby, and we all know that he is the best in the world to push a drop goal over when the pressure is piling up. He also is the calm in the storm, he can make decisions under pressure and his team will trust him if the chips are down to know what to do.

For me, the jury is still out on Toby Flood. Sure, he looked good against Italy and found a few gaps. But to be realistic, Italy were shocking the day England played them and I don't think that was down to England's brilliance. Still, with Wilkinson on the bench, maybe Johnson can afford to have Flood out on the field - for although he is not that great, he isn't dreadful either.

Other weak links for England? Definitely Mike Tindall and Shontanye Hape - they lack penetration and just seem a wee bit ploddy out there. It will be interesting to see what Matt Banahan does against the Irish tomorrow. He seems to inject real impact when he is on the field. If I was Johnson, I would have been starting him for every test.

My personal favourite in the England team is Steve Thompson.  When the All Blacks play England, I always hope Steve Thompson isn't on the field.  I think that might be the ultimate compliment for him.

So, England tomorrow against Ireland. I personally of course want Ireland to beat them.  Why? Because I'm a terrible, fickle person, and also because the English media is unbearable about their rugby team when they're winning.

I think the game could be very close. It is being played on Irish soil, and England haven't had to travel to hostile territory in this tournament much (excepting the Welsh game). In fact, is it just me, or does England in general try not to tour very much (it was a few years ago they played the All Blacks in NZ). 

Ireland have a chance. They have Brian O'Driscoll, they have Paul O'Connell. They have a strong back row and backs that can run and break the line.  Where Ireland will struggle is in the scrum.  But if they can get parity there, and if they can maintain their puff through to the 80 minute mark, then this will be a very close game indeed. But too close to call I think. Come on Ireland!

Additional notes:

1. Is it just me or is the England captaincy becoming a bit of a poisened chalice? First for Moody and then Tindall? Will they get their places back in the team let alone the captaincy when world cup time rolls around?
2. I think England will have a good chance of reaching a world cup final, as long as they don't meet New Zealand beforehand. If they do, it will be curtains for them. Let's not forget, for all that English rugby supporters drone on and on about the All Blacks 'choking' at world cups, the English rugby team has never beaten the All Blacks during a World Cup tournament.

1 comment:

slugso said...

Nice one , Ferdy.

That Scotland game returned a few wobbles to England I think - maybe good that it did, reel in the expectations. So sad the the Scots suffer at set pieces because you are so right about their massive loose forward ability. They are big team.

Will be having a Guinness and hoping Ireland win as well.

Sorry, but I can't believe you like Steve Thompson.

I'm not talking to you now.