Elements that keep us on course

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The Independent Online
After a much-vaunted couple of victories over Romania and Canada, our first big Test of the season befell us in Ireland. It seemed like everything was stacked against us - playing away in Dublin on the back of two successive defeats at their hand s, and being woken up on Saturday morning, not by an alarm call but a severe gale warning.

These were undoubtedly the worst conditions I have had to play in, and no doubt the band, too (the band of An Garda Siochana), as a few notes went astray while they struggled to stay on their feet, let alone blow a tune.

The wind so strong that punting was a lottery, as when you dropped the ball to your foot you weren't even sure it would reach it.

If anything, though, it served to focus our minds - even more so when Will Carling won the toss and elected to play into the wind.

What followed in the first half is testament to just how far this England team have come. Our control was such that even when playing into the wind we were able to spend great periods of time in the Irish half and turn around 12-3 up.

What was slightly disappointing was that we were unable really to turn the screw in the second half and run up a bigger winning margin.

On a personal note, it was very special to be able to contribute with a try, especially when it encapsulated a lot that we had been working on in the last few months.

As a winger with a free role to get involved, my basic decisions revolve around whether to stay wide on the blind-side, trying to spread the defence to allow the inside runners to exploit the space we hope to create. Otherwise I do what I think I am mostdangerous at and come off my wing and look for holes on the open side to get involved in.

Such was the case in my try on Saturday. Will Carling's run in the centre sucked in a lot of defenders. Taking the ball flat and at speed straight from Kyran Bracken I was able to get behind the remaining defence.

One thing we have been talking about a lot of late is, once behind the defence, to work hard at linking up with your support. A little bit of interplay with Tim Rodber and I was over the line.

A lot of people ask what it's like scoring a try for your country. It's like nothing else! As I've just outlined, there is a lot of team work involved to get you over that line and to all intents and purposes that is what makes it so special.

Added to that the scoring of tries are the few occasions that you actually take notice of the crowd and 6,000 or so travelling England supporters make quite a bit of noise.

However, much like when you make a mistake and have to shut that out of your mind, such is the case when scoring, too.

You have a few seconds to dwell on it while your teammates congratulate you, but then it's back to business.

So next it is France at Twickenham and further proof of why the Five Nations has a firm place in most people's sporting calendar.

For us it is another step up the ladder and a challenge we are relishing.

The Irish, meanwhile, have a saying: "It matters a lot who wins the game, it matters not who won".

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