Cole fires England notice to Johnson

Leicester 34 Wasps 8

Any cynics among the sell-out 24,000 audience at Welford Road – and there must have been a few, for Leicester crowds are not renowned for their credulity – would say they now fully understand why Wasps once had a well-earned reputation for moving to uncontested scrums at the drop of a hat and are now equally renowned for their reluctance to play in extreme conditions. They might also point out that if England's coaches imagine they can win the forthcoming Six Nations Championship with a tight-forward game based around the things the Londoners do in this department, they should expect an early visit from the men in white coats.

Wasps were not merely dismantled at the set-piece on Saturday: they were marmalised, smithereened, obliterated, beaten to a pulp. This must be of acute concern to Martin Johnson and the rest of the red-rose hierarchy, given that England's first-choice prop on the loose-head side of the scrum, Tim Payne, and their foremost scrummaging lock, Simon Shaw, were operating at the heart of this powder-puff pack, together with a couple of uncapped forwards from the second-string Saxons squad.

Payne spent time in the cooler for playing the "Mr Collapso" role – the Tigers scored 17 points during his absence – and when he had the brass neck to continue performing it on his return, he found himself within a gnat's crotchet of being sent off. For his part, Shaw failed to go the distance after hyperextending a knee, possibly the consequence of attempting to move forward half an inch while being driven back 20 yards at a time. When the irresistible force meets the all-too-moveable object, there can be only one winner.

It was a sure sign of Wasps' distress that when the unfortunate Payne was substituted – or rather, put out of his misery – in the dying minutes and left the field to raucously ironic applause from the home supporters, the man chosen to replace him in a position wholly unfit for angels went by the Christian name of Gabriel. No, really. You couldn't possibly make it up.

What is that noise we hear? Why, it's the sound of chickens coming home to roost. If Leicester celebrated loud and long after this most comprehensive of victories against the only other team to win the Premiership title more than once, it was because they remembered only too clearly their scrummaging superiority being rendered useless in a big Twickenham final because Wasps ran out of props in a way that did not so much invite suspicion as insist upon it. The fact that teams must now suffer casualties on a Napoleonic scale before moving to uncontested scrums – and must also forfeit a man once they get there – is one of the saving graces of this current campaign.

If Wasps travelled up the M1 with a number of props on their lengthy injury list – Phil Vickery, Jason Hobson and Tom French among them – there was no guarantee, or even a likelihood, that any combination would have found a way of subduing Marcos Ayerza, Mefin Davies and Dan Cole in Saturday's freezing conditions, or any other conditions come to that. Cole, the 22-year-old local product whose current run of tight-head form gives him an excellent chance of an immediate England call-up, was at full bore once again; indeed, if Payne sees him again this side of eternity, he will surely consider it too soon.

Richard Cockerill, the Leicester head coach, was in slightly mischievous mood when pressed on Cole's chances of beating the likes of Duncan Bell and Paul Doran-Jones to a place on the Six Nations roster. "He still has the odd bad scrum and while he's been playing exceptionally well, you have to take some account of the people he's been up against," said the hard-bitten old hooker, his eyes a-twinkle. The most recent accounting includes three international props: Lionel Faure of France, whom Cole scrummaged off the pitch; Matias Aguero of Italy, on whom he inflicted the full range of front-row indignities; and Payne of England, of whom the least said the better. For all his diversionary tactics, Cockerill knows as well as anyone, and better than most, that he has a major find on his hands.

As the scrum was so utterly decisive, it was easy to miss some of the other strengths of Leicester's game against opponents who started well enough to score a fine early try and might have turned round 11-3 up had Danny Cipriani, the architect of the opening score, not opted to run a penalty on the Tigers 22 rather than take the points on offer – a decision described by his director of rugby, Tony Hanks, as "just a little ambitious". In particular, there was a terrific performance from the up-and-coming Ben Youngs at scrum-half, who revelled in his instinctive grasp of the game's fundamentals, and a vintage effort from the been-there-and-done-it wing Lote Tuqiri, who scored twice and gave Wasps all the hassle they could handle.

There was also much to admire from the French referee Romain Poite, whose intelligent handling of a combustible fixture was a shot in the arm for officials everywhere post-Cockerill, post-Edgeley Park and post-Venter. He may have missed a forward pass in the build-up to Mark van Gisbergen's try for Wasps and failed to notice Tuqiri's fluffed touchdown early in the second half, but there could be no arguing with an approach that reflected and rewarded supremacy wherever it was established.

In an ideal world, Johnson would have seen a little more of Cipriani on the front foot, for there were moments in the first half when the celebrity playmaker looked a million dollars. There again, he must have appreciated the things accomplished by Toby Flood (below) in a similar vein – less obviously dynamic, but no less sophisticated for that. A bold selector would include both men in his Six Nations squad. If there is room for only one of them, the smart money must be on the man blessed with subtlety, rather than the one sprinkled with stardust.

Leicester: Tries Tuqiri 2, Murphy, Penalty; Conversions Flood 4; Penalties Flood 2. Wasps: Try Van Gisbergen. Penalty Cipriani.

Leicester: S Hamilton; J Murphy (A Tuilagi, 57), D Hipkiss, T Flood, L Tuqiri; J Staunton (S Vesty, 67) , B Youngs (J Grindal, 67); M Ayerza (B Stankovich, 68), M Davies (G Chuter, 63), D Cole (R Harris, 71), L Deacon (capt), G Parling, C Newby (T Croft, 61), L Moody, J Crane (B Deacon, 68).

Wasps: M Van Gisbergen (D Walder, 76; Van Gisbergen, 78); P Sackey, B Jacobs, D Waldouck, D Lemi; D Cipriani, M Robinson (J Honeyben, 69); T Payne (G Bocca, 77), R Webber (J Ward, 65), B Broster (S Taulafo, 49), S Shaw (M Veale, 57), G Skivington, J Hart (capt), W Matthews (Taulafo, 40-48; D Leo, 55), D Ward-Smith.

Referee: R Poite (France).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
News
people
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

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world