Rugby Union: De Glanville blends work and play

Simon O'Hagan hears the new England captain take the rough with the smooth
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The Independent Online
Anyone who has spent as much of his career on the sidelines as Phil de Glanville is likely to be well versed in the art of realism and, while taking pleasure in a mostly emphatic victory over Italy yesterday, the new England captain, and to a much greater extent the England coach, were far from blind to the areas where the team fell short.

With so many changes and so much inexperience in a side playing their first match for eight months, the performance was almost bound to have its rough edges, and it is clear that this has to be seen as a small but positive step towards a much more challenging future.

The forwards certainly came out of it best. "They were magnificent," de Glanville said. "I don't think I've ever played in a side that dominated the line-out like that. They were a pleasure to play behind. The ball we had was very good."

The lively second-half recovery by the Italians, however, brought a much shakier England to the surface, and de Glanville admitted that he was "concerned" at the way the team coped. "We lost our way a little bit and were defensively disorganised for 10 minutes. We've got some work to do. We didn't work as hard in defence as we did in attack. What we need to do is keep working on the balance of our game because we are not going to play like that against sides of the calibre of New Zealand."

Jack Rowell made the point rather more forcefully. "Italy put us to the sword in the second half, so that was a good defensive work-out," he said. "I was pleased when they got to 21 that we got another score."

The prospect of next week's visit by the New Zealand Barbarians - the All Blacks by another name - positively filled Rowell with dread. "We'll be on the rack. That's what England need. We need sharpening up. It's their World Cup team and we're still in an embryonic state. We have made a good start, but next week I think that there are all kinds of things that are going to happen on the pitch and I hope we can keep our heads above the water. They play rhythmic, controlled rugby that's beyond anyone in the world. Their teamwork will be well beyond England's given our need to change at the moment."

On the positive side, Rowell said: "What England have, as good as anyone, if not better, is running forwards. One is always looking for an edge and if we can get that going it might give it to us." He also praised the place-kicking of Mike Catt and the way he put behind him a terrible miss in the opening minutes. "I was a little surprised but very pleased with what he achieved."

While England's new caps enjoyed more than their share of the limelight, de Glanville's contribution was intelligently supported from the moment he denied himself the honour of leading out the team, making way for the 50-cap man Jason Leonard. "It was a special moment for Jason and there was no question he was always going to lead the side out," de Glanville said.

First impressions: How the new caps performed at Twickenham

Tim Stimpson

The Newcastle full-back had few chances to attack with England's forwards exercising such close control. But he settled his nerves by impressively fielding a couple of high balls and his catching was faultless. His only error was when he bought an outrageous dummy from Vaccari for Italy's first try.

Adedayo Adebayo

Another debutant to have a quiet game, Adebayo suffered from England's reluctance to spread the play. A couple of early opportunities to run with the ball were snuffed out by stout Italian defence and his contributions thereafter were limited to occasional, unsuccessful appearances in the line.

Andy Gomarsall

The star of the show, and not just because he scored two tries, the first by an England debutant for four years. From the moment he ran an early penalty, Gomarsall looked to the manor born. His passing was quick and accurate, and he kept driving England on with his forceful, elusive running.

Simon Shaw

Yet another new boy who didn't put a foot wrong. His lineout catching was exceptional and one acrobatic snatch helped to set up Dallaglio's try before half-time. His tackling was efficient in the loose, and he looked comfortable with the ball in his hands, most notably near the end of the first half.

Chris Sheasby

Shearsby, 30 this Saturday, had a long wait for his first cap. His anonymous start hinted he is not big enough to be an international No 8. But his fitness and handling came into their own towards the end, culminating in a superb lineout catch and terrier-like try two minutes later.

Assessments by Paul Trow