Combinations crack the Welsh safe

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The Independent Online
So the wagon keeps rolling. Or perhaps I should say juggernaut, for that is probably a more apt description of this England side, especially up front.

Although our pack were not quite as imperious at Cardiff as they had been in the first two games of this year's Five Nations' Championship, playing behind them on Saturday was like being at the controls of an articulated lorry ploughing down a country lane, such was their dominance.

However, Wales' ability to spoil and harrass in the loose, and control at the set-piece - until their prop, John Davies, was sent off - meant that we were never really able to relax until my brother, Rory, went over for his second try in the dying seconds.

These spoiling tactics in the loose were exacerbated by the referee's failure to penalise what amounted to a bending of the rules by the Welsh at ruck and maul situations, by collapsing or by coming in from an offside position. As a result, the Welsh were able to slow down the release of second-phase possession long enough for their defence to reform.

Furthermore, having seen our use of strong runners off driving platforms in previous games, the Welsh made sure that their defence off the sides of rucks and mauls was very well manned.

Therefore, we were never really able to get our game into full swing, and the match then degenerated into a series of stop-start phases of inconsequential rugby. Thus the game was probably not a great spectacle for most people. It was certainly nothing of the sort when viewed from my position out on England's right flank.

However, none of this could detract from the satisfaction that we took from winning in Cardiff, and setting ourselves up for a possible Grand Slam, which would give us a marvellous boost on the road to the World Cup in South Africa this summer.

However, as we plan for what lies ahead, we will have to realise that future opponents will have taken note of how well Wales countered some of our strategies. We will therefore have to strive to come up with ways to counter these threats, and constantly keep opponents guessing over our tactics.

What was pleasing, however, was that despite all this we were still able to maintain our composure in sticking to the game plan and ultimately score three tries.

Victor Ubogu's try came from just the kind of build-up which has served us so well in previous games: a clean catch at a line-out on the Welsh 22-metre line, a maul set up and driven to the Welsh goal line, followed by a powerful burst off the back by Victor.

Rory's two tries came from the other strong part of our game, the good interplay between backs and forwards. This sucks in defenders, and enables us to release quick ball for our wide men to finish off with relish.

One of the big tests of the day was how Mike Catt, Rory and myself performed as a back three. Any mistakes in this area would be like manna from heaven to the Welsh high-kick chasers. From a defensive point of view, however, everything was solid, and we were able to show that there is more to our game than just being an exciting attacking unit.

Much has been written about Rory's performances in previous Tests in Cardiff. I doubt if it has really worried him, but from a team-mate's perspective, let alone a brother's, it was especially pleasing to see him sign off in Cardiff with such style and aplomb.

I missed out, however, and I hope that in a month's time we can both manage to get on to the scoresheet when we face Scotland in our final match of this year's championship.

Following Scotland's historic win in Paris, impartial followers of the game will no doubt be hoping for a Scotland victory over Wales in a fortnight's time to set up another Grand Slam decider between ourselves and Scotland at Twickenham. What an exciting prospect that would be.

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