Above all, we got a perfect six

Click to follow
The Independent Online

I don't go along with the theory that it was the arrogance of the English that led to their downfall. They might well have been over-confident but they failed because of their shortcomings as a rugby team.

I don't go along with the theory that it was the arrogance of the English that led to their downfall. They might well have been over-confident but they failed because of their shortcomings as a rugby team.

England can't think of themselves as potential world champions until they learn that winning is the first priority - far more important than proving how good you are. We mustn't forget the courageous way the Scots played. They thoroughly deserved to win but the English played into their hands.

New Zealand would have taken one look at the conditions at Murrayfield and been happy to settle for a 3-0, no frills, victory. That was the cool, professional way to approach the job and it never even dawned on England to take it.

They said that their shock defeat by Wales at Wembley last year had a profound effect on them. They could have fooled me because they proceeded to make the same mistake of not kicking their penalties for goal. England didn't need a master tactician to work out that it was never going to be a runaway victory, especially when the rains came. In conditions like that, and when you are faced with a fired-up opposition, the only sensible ploy is to stick the ball up your jumper and aim every kick at goal.

Taking the points when they are on offer should be the golden rule. If you accumulate enough points to make the game safe and dishearten your opponents then you can start showing off.

I'm sure England have the potential to get to the top of the world but they have a lot to learn before they take on the southern hemisphere sides who are much more focused on winning games and aren't too worried about how they do it.

I wouldn't have been so surprised if the occasion had demanded that England played out of character but grinding out wins is the traditional English way. The half-backs have to share much of the blame for not changing the strategy. Matt Dawson didn't have a good game and Jonny Wilkinson should have spotted the need to kick far more than he did. Part of the reason Matt Perry played so well was the distance he achieved with his kicks.

England's other big fault was to lose their composure. Did they expect the Scots to give up without a fight? Do they take no notice of history?

What we saw last weekend was a triumph for the Six Nations - full of unexpected heroes ploughing their way through rugby more tense and tough than you will find anywhere.

You can shove your TriNations; we have the best and most competitive rugby tournament in the world right on our doorstep and we'd do well to remember it. I doubt if England will forget it in a hurry.

It may lack quality but in terms of drama, atmosphere and tension it has no equal. Scotland are a prime example of how a team can transform themselves in a few weeks. But what happened to them is what happens to Wales and Ireland. They each have limited resources and unless they play at 100 per cent of their potential they are not going to succeed. It is a lot to ask of them but it is a fact they have to accept. Mind you, when they hit that 100 per cent, it takes a very good team to subdue them.

The best aspect of the Six Nations this year is that everybody achieved some joy out of it. England will eventually get around to consoling themselves with the fact they won the championship. Italy should rejoice in a debut that was far more encouraging than any of us imagined. France had flashes of brilliance mixed with flashes of disaster. They came so close to beating England and had they done so would surely have won the Grand Slam.

Ireland, after an appalling start won three in a row, and produced the find of the tournament in Brian O'Driscoll. Wales were poor against France and England but recovered against Scotland and Ireland and blooded two great prospects in Rhys and Shane Williams. This, plus the development of Geraint Lewis and Nathan Budgett in the back row, will give hope, and Scotland finished on the highest note of all - the Calcutta Cup. Something for everyone.

Comments