Callard crew shows the true spirit of togetherness

England Saxons 23 Ireland Wolfhounds 17

Sandy Park

The last time Jon Callard found himself in charge of rugby business at a senior level, as opposed to running England age-group teams or struggling to build a career as a specialist kicking coach in the face of Jonny Wilkinson's iron refusal to work with anyone except Dave Alred, he fell victim to the bitching, the backbiting and the peculiarly restless form of claustrophobia that is never far below the surface at a small-town, big-noise club like Bath. By emerging from the shadows and restoring himself to full view in Devon at the weekend, he gave the movers and shakers at Twickenham another reminder that the southern hemisphere does not have a monopoly on coaching talent.

When Martin Johnson made the entirely sensible decision to resign as England manager after the World Cup mess last autumn, a headlong rush to sign a big hitter from one of the three Sanzar nations – Australia, New Zealand, South Africa – seemed inevitable, and it may be that by the end of March, a Nick Mallett or a Wayne Smith (or even both) will have been handed the task of recapturing the Webb Ellis Cup on the playing fields of Blighty itself in 2015. But there are some Englishmen here and there who are dead set on complicating the issue: Stuart Lancaster, Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell to name but three. And Callard, to name a fourth.

Callard as head coach? Probably not this side of eternity. But that's not the point. The most intriguing aspect of current life at red-rose level is its high-spiritedness – an air of "all in it togetherness" that seems just a little more persuasive and infinitely more real than David Cameron's version. It is both a sharp reaction to the buttoned-up, joyless, do-as-you're-damned-well-told environment of the previous three and a half years and a blessedly welcome one. The tone has been set by Lancaster and happily embraced by Callard, whose contrary streak as a full-back was never more than skin deep and tended to disappear the moment he had an after-match pint in his hand.

"What impressed me most," he said, following his Saxons side's morale-boosting win against a dangerous Irish second string in Exeter, "was the endeavour shown by the players. Heart and desire? They had it in bucketloads. And I liked the fact that Stuart, Graham and Andy were all watching, although I'm not happy that Rowntree nicked my coat.

"They're only a week away from the first Six Nations game, but they're passionate and they wanted to be here. That's massive, because like any business, the tone is set from the top. It rubs off on the players, especially when it comes to making the last tackle, the last-ditch effort."

Much of that effort was of what might be called the "middle-ditch" variety, for after a confident start that yielded a try for the inexperienced Saracens scrum-half Ben Spencer following excellent approach work from the eye-catching Worcester prop Matt Mullan, the Saxons found themselves doing an awful lot of work without the ball. Fortunately for them, there was no one in the Wolfhounds midfield capable of pulling strings the way the Gloucester fly-half Freddie Burns pulled them on behalf of the home side. All the same, the one-sidedness of the second quarter might have broken a less cohesive unit.

Having reached the interval 10-5 to the good – the Wolfhounds responded to Spencer's score with a fine one of their own, David Kearney gathering an inside pass from Eoin O'Malley – the Saxons used the 15-minute breather to greater effect and began the second half in much the same way as they had started the first. Their reward for the scrummaging dominance established by Mullan and Paul Doran-Jones was a second try, completed by Thomas Waldrom from a Burns toe-poke that ricocheted into the No 8's grateful clutches.

"It didn't go quite as planned, but Freddie's option was still the right one," said Callard who, like many other coaches, believes Burns has the skill-set to make something of himself at representative level. "Had the execution been perfect, Billy Twelvetrees would have been in under the posts. Either way, it was an important score."

Burns will no doubt agree. A little like Napoleon and his generals, a No 10 with a lucky streak is worth his weight in gold.

Even though the hard-bitten little Munster scrum-half Tomas O'Leary levelled the try-count from close range just shy of the hour – and even though a hot-shot wing from the same province, Simon Zebo, claimed a consolation touchdown deep in injury time – the Saxons were good winners. Mullan, one of the men on Johnson's radar until injury hassles knocked him back down the front-row pecking order, was particularly impressive, and there were some interesting contributions from the Saracens flanker Andy Saull, a natural breakaway of the kind not currently resident in the senior squad.

"I think I've tightened up my game since Andy Farrell sat me down and told me to cut down on the errors," Saull said. "I was very raw a couple of seasons ago. I always thought I could throw the miracle pass, the magic offload – that I could win the game in a single phase. I'm more consistent now, but having said that, if the chance of a run arises I still want to be the guy, 100 per cent. My game is about energy and enthusiasm. I don't want to lose those things."

The way Lancaster is going about his work – and, by extension, Callard too – there is not much chance of that happening. Thank the Lord.

Scorers: England Saxons: Tries: Spencer, Waldrom. Conversions: Burns 2. Penalties: Burns 3. Ireland Wolfhounds: Tries: Kearney, O'Leary, Zebo. Conversion: Madigan.

England Saxons: D Armitage (London Irish); U Monye (Harlequins), M Hopper (Harlequins), W Twelvetrees (Leicester), M Banahan (Bath); F Burns (Gloucester), B Spencer (Saracens); M Mullan (Worcester), J Gray (Harlequins), P Doran-Jones (Northampton), M Garvey (London Irish), G Robson (Harlequins), J Gaskell (Sale, capt), A Saull (Saracens), T Waldrom (Leicester). Replacements: K Myall (Sale) for Garvey, 46; J May (Gloucester) for Banahan, 59; C Brooker (Harlequins) for Gray, 59; P Hodgson (L Irish) for Spencer, 65; T Johnson (Exeter) for Saull, 69.

Ireland Wolfhounds: G Duffy (Connacht); D Kearney (Leinster), E O'Malley (Leinster), N Spence (Ulster), S Zebo (Munster); I Keatley (Munster), I Boss (Leinster); B Wilkinson (Connacht), D Varley (Munster), S Archer (Munster), D Tuohy (Ulster), M McCarthy (Connacht), J Muldoon (Connacht), C Henry (Ulster, capt), R Ruddock (Leinster). Replacements: I Madigan (Leinster) for Keatley, 51; T O'Leary (Munster) for Boss, 51; D Hurley (Munster) for Duffy, 54; R Loughney (Connacht) for Wilkinson, 59; D Toner (Leinster) for McCarthy, 61; M Sherry (Munster) for Varley, 65; K McLaughlin (L'nster) for Muldoon, 65;

Referee: C Marchat (France).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there