Relief - but still much to be done

Click to follow
The Independent Online
What a relief! That about sums up our feelings. The dressing room was a contrast of mixed emotions but overriding everything was the sense of gratification that the record books now have this England team of the 1994-5 season inscribed clearly in them.

The grand finale to the Grand Slam was not to be. There were chances to run in a few tries, but they were not taken. Instead, it was left to the princely boot of Rob Andrew to secure the day.

Quite honestly, you could say the occasion got to us a bit. The tension leading up to the game had been quite suffocating all week and that spilled over on to the pitch. All credit to the Scots for their manful defence, but we plainly played within ourselves and were never able to exert the dominance of our earlier games.

A lot has been said already - in the moments after the game when the frenzy of the contest was still uppermost in most people's minds. In the cold light of day it would be harsh just to write the Scots off and claim that all they came down to do was kill the game. Scotland can look back at a few try-scoring chances of their own, and, but for a great tackle by Mike Catt, would have gone into the final 10 minutes needing just a penalty to win.

Instead, we have to be philosophical about their tactics. We knew they would try and kill our multi-phase possession and infringe off rucks and mauls, bending the rules as far as the referee would allow them. The fact that we were unable to stop them more effectively and produce the kind of quality ball we were looking for indicates an area for improvement.

However, what is continually frustrating is that if the referee does not enforce the strict letter of the law in this area, there is little a player in the northern hemisphere can do to take the initiative without being penalised.

I mean, of course, rucking. The prime example on Saturday was the yellow card shown to Peter Wright for his dispensation on Will Carling. Will would be the first to admit that when you are on the wrong side of the ruck you can rightfully expect to receive a calling card for your visit. However, as we have learned in the past, referees in the northern hemisphere do not take too kindly to this.

Come the World Cup, things should be different, though, and the rucking of players out of offside positions will be commonplace and left unpunished - except where the infringer's head is used for purchase!

Putting things into perspective, if this were not World Cup year, this would have been a great season for England. However, the season is only half over and more accolades are there to be won.

We are as disappointed as anyone that the game was not a spectacle, but in the whole scheme of things a win is a win and we will settle for that. Yes, there is room for improvement, but we can always work on that - and far more easily on the back of six successive wins, a Grand Slam and all the rest.

Jack Rowell has stressed that we wish to arrive in South Africa up and running, and Saturday's win maintains that momentum. It would be nice to sit back and bask in the knowledge of what we have achieved, but what now follows is a succession of training evenings and weekends in our push for World Cup glory. Wish us well, and thank you for the send-off at Twickenham on Saturday.

Comments