Inspiration from a reconstructed master

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The Independent Online
Richard Williams hears the England manager pay tribute to a points machine "DON'T underestimate what England did today," Will Carling admonished a questioner afterwards. To which one can only add: but don't overestimate it, either. England will have to do much better than this to make an impact on the 1995 World Cup, which is n ow only 240 competitive minutes away.

If they begin matches against the All Blacks or the Australians as they did yesterday, they will be buried alive. When the real breakthrough came against brave but limited Canada, after 50 long minutes relieved only by the technical brilliance of Rob Andrew's kicking, it relied less on the sort of of sustained and imaginative attacking to which Jack Rowell aspires than to a stroke of good luck. Nothing in England's game up to that moment had justified fortune's smile...least of all the contribution of Tony Underwood, who had succeeded only in raising old questions about his composure when faced with a final defender. But the younger Underwood it was who stepped in to intercept Christian Stewart's pass, and to run from the halfway line unopposed. And witha single bound, England were free.

Free from worry about the result, that is, but not free from thoughts about how such talented players can be made to express themselves more fluently. Rowell's intentions are obvious, and he has given them the vocabulary of self-expression, but only the individuals can supply the syntax that makes it into a coherent statement.

"It's hard starting any international," Carling said, "and having kicking like that in the first half was a huge bonus. The Canadians put in some big hits, and they made it awkward for us. But they were infringing, and every time they did so Rob punishedthem with three points."

Andrew, coaxed into discussing his world record-equalling performance, paid tribute to the specialised coaching of Dave Aldred over the past 12 months. "We've virtually reconstructed my technique from scratch," he said. "It's a question of technique and focusing. I've been hitting them well for a while. We took time to get going, but the penalties gave us the cushion. Some days it goes well - and a few of them were pretty easy towards the end."

"Rob is going from strength to strength," Rowell said. "I was concerned about the wind, but he went out there this morningand said there wouldn't be a problem. He was right."

Rowell also praised Kyran Bracken, who started and finished a dazzling nine-pass move for England's third try. "He's a gifted footballer who used to play outside-half at school," the manager said, "and I think you could see that. He showed a full range of skills, and he was particularly good at bringing other people into the game. At times he was quite inspirational." And that, every bit as much as Andrew's priceless consistency, is a quality that England will need to encourage before next summer's ultimate test.