Saturday 05 February 2005
THE INSIDE VIEW
Debut: 18/03/95 v Scotland
What is your first memory of the Five Nations as a boy? Watching England on the telly in the early eighties, particularly my hero Phil Blakeway (Prop, Gloucester and England).
What is your abiding memory of your Five Nations debut? Coming on as a blood-replacement for Jason Leonard in March 1995 for 10 minutes at Twickenham against Scotland and not wanting to come off, and deliberately turning my back to the sideline, where Jason was trying to get back on.
What has been your best moment in the competition? Winning the Grand Slam in Dublin in 2003.
And the worst? Losing against France in 2002, and at Twickenham in 1997.
And the funniest? In 2003 at Lansdowne Road one small Irish official attempted to move us from one half of the pitch to the other just before the national anthems. This was down to the Irish thinking it was good luck to be at that particular end. Martin Johnson wouldn't have any of this, and we didn't budge.
What was the team's best performance last year? Against South Africa in November when we won 32-16.
What are England's prospects for the tournament this year?
We'll know more after the first two games. We've got the right players and we're gagging for it.
If you don't win it, who will? France.
Which young player will catch the eye this year? Harry Ellis (scrum-half, England).
Who is the hardest hitter in the world right now? Jerry Collins (flanker, New Zealand).
And the best player? Julian White (prop, England).
Will the Grand Slam be completed this season? Yes.
What is the worst punishment handed out to you by a tour court? On tour in South Africa in 1994, Judge Brian Moore made me drink 10 bottles of lager, one after the other.
What is your favourite...
Book? On the Loose by Josh Kronfeld, his 2000 biography.
Band? Radiohead (below), Public Enemy.
TV programme? Phoenix Nights, or anything involving Peter Kay.
2 KEY QUESTIONS
1 A team in transition, or a team on the skids? Johnson, Dallaglio, Back, Bracken, Leonard. The first four of that great quintet are still producing performances of considerable grandeur at club level and the sight of England's World Cup-winning senior citizenry controlling games with their customary authority underlines the comparative weakness of the current national team. Where are the decision-makers, the players capable of bending the shape of a game to their will? Thompson, Borthwick and Lewsey are the new leaders of men and they must make their voices heard.
2Can Andy Robinson field a representative side? Injuries are the bane of a coach's life, and England have enough of them to fill a field hospital. In midfield alone, the losses of Wilkinson, Greenwood, Tindall and Abbott add up to a crisis. Robinson is not one of life's natural gamblers, but he will have to take a punt or two this time.
HIGHS AND LOWS
GRAND SLAMS 1913, 1914, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1928, 1957, 1980, 1991, 1992, 1995, 2003.
TRIPLE CROWNS 1883, 1884, 1892, 1913, 1914, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1928, 1934, 1937, 1954, 1957, 1960, 1980, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003.
OUTRIGHT WINNERS 1883, 1884, 1890, 1892, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1928, 1930, 1934, 1937, 1953. 1957, 1958, 1963, 1980, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2003.
WOODEN SPOONS 1901, 1903, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1909, 1976.
IF ENGLAND MADE MUSIC THEY'D BE... THE WHO
The Who? Exactly. England are unrecognisable from the side who won the World Cup. Their fortunes have come crashing down around their ears like Keith Moon's drumkit, their form has imploded like one of Pete Townshend's amplifiers. After last season's Six Nations failure, Sir Clive Woodward could be heard humming "Won't Get Fooled Again". The moment he walked out, his choice of song made sense.
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