England 47 Wales 13: Dallaglio power inspires England juggernaut's message to the world

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The Independent Online

Had the Severn Bridge toll operator asked the fallen Six Nations champions for £4.8m rather than £4.80 on Saturday night, they would happily have stumped up the money, just so long as they could leave English soil without further pain and lock their front doors behind them. As Martyn Williams, the wonderfully gifted Cardiff Blues flanker, conceded after the game: "They're so strong up front. It seems to me that although Charlie Hodgson pulls the strings and gives them more of a cutting edge, they still love doing what they do best. Come next year's World Cup, they'll be pretty much as powerful as in the last World Cup." Which they won, of course.

In terms of both the result and the performance, events at Twickenham forced the entire union community to sit up and take notice. Wales, as expected, were more imaginative and fleet of foot in what might be termed the Great Outdoors area of the field; to be sure, their opponents could not offer anyone with the range of skills offered by Martyn Williams or Michael Owen, still less the will-'o-the-wisp dimension that made the likes of Dwayne Peel, Shane Williams and Mark Jones such compelling figures. Yet England scored almost 50 points, and they scored them because they established complete mastery in the teeming slums of ruck and maul, where the harsh realities of life come to the fore.

Robinson, pleased as punch to have coached his side to such a victory in a contest he had described as the most important since Jonny Wilkinson did his thing in Sydney all those months and injuries ago, was keen to stress that this England team is no one-trick pony, pointing to the tries by Mark Cueto, Mike Tindall and Tom Voyce as evidence of a growing understanding of the game's aesthetics. But England cannot do what New Zealand or France do with ball in hand - or what Wales do, come to that. They are proficient in other disciplines, disciplines that happen to be extremely important when it comes to winning a game of rugby.

This is not to suggest that Cueto, from the outset, and Voyce, once he had replaced the stricken Josh Lewsey at the start of the second quarter, were mere adjuncts. Cueto, in particular, made Wales think twice in precisely the parts of the field they attempted to claim as their own. His opening try on 14 minutes was a gem, and he might well have had a second after the interval had he fixed his sights on the right corner flag rather than stepped inside and allowed himself to be sacked by the covering Hal Luscombe. But Cueto did not dummy or swerve his way to the line, still less glide over the turf or transfix the Welsh defence with a touch of the Lionel Blairs. He picked a wounding angle, ran fast and hard, and backed his exceptional power to do the rest.

It was England all over. They are a monstrously physical bunch - the ferocious war they waged against New Zealand last November was entirely of their own design - and the Welsh, stripped of their new tight-head enforcer Chris Horsman as well as the Lions tourists Ryan Jones and Brent Cockbain, did not have the wherewithal to live with them. Denied possession for increasingly long periods of time - they held the ball for only nine minutes in the second half and spent all but 13 minutes of it incarcerated in their own territory - they were reduced to killing English rucks by the dozen. Colin Charvis was deeply fortunate to escape serious censure.

England even managed to stay on the right side of Paul Honiss, the referee from New Zealand, whose view of rugby as a non-contact sport is unusual, to say the least. There was one utterly bizarre moment when he penalised the red-rose scrum for "too hard a shove" at a set-piece, which was rather like throwing the book at Tiger Woods for putting too accurately, but by and large there was nothing Honiss could do to de-power the English performance.

To many, that performance was defined by the try Lawrence Dallaglio contributed from the base of a granite-like scrum after replacing Martin Corry at No 8 shortly after the hour. The English forwards set themselves with mean-eyed intent, won the engagement decisively, wheeled their tiring opponents to open up an avenue of attack and reaped full reward when the sage of Shepherd's Bush ploughed through Stephen Jones to take his side across the 30-point threshold.

It brought the house down, naturally; the former captain has earned the adoration of the Twickenham crowd three times over. But Robinson was profoundly suspicious of the wave of Dallaglio cheer-leading that washed over the after-match formalities like a flood tide, bluntly informing his questioners that while Dallaglio had played a wholly positive hand since ending his period of international exile and rejoining the squad, so had everyone else. The coach grew extremely weary of the old obsession with Wilkinson, and will have even less patience with this one if it gathers momentum.

Having beaten the reigning Six Nations champions to something resembling a pulp, England are now set fair for their strongest championship showing since 2003, when they completed a long-awaited Grand Slam. They play Italy in Rome this week, and although Lewsey's damaged shoulder joint may prevent him playing, his absence will not undermine England too severely, for Voyce showed enough at full-back to suggest he will challenge his fellow Wasp for first-choice status come next year's World Cup. If only there was an immediate alternative to the centre combination of Jamie Noon and Mike Tindall, all would be hale and hearty in the red rose camp.

Noon showed some good touches in the outside role - some of his running angles were geometrically perfect - but there was still a lack of the divine creative spark. Tindall tried desperately hard to make things happen, but he could not work the oracle. Time and again, the Gloucester centre cursed himself with a transparency that betrayed his sense of frustration. When he scored England's third try, materialising on the end of a second huge overlap after a long attack generated by Lewis Moody and beautifully managed by Hodgson, he rolled his eyes to the heavens in an act of profoundest irony.

Poor old Wales looked to their God for very different reasons, but there was no help from on high. In rugby, the handling game beats the power game only once in a blue moon. That moon rose last season. On Saturday, it had disappeared below the horizon.

England: J Lewsey (Wasps); M Cueto (Sale), J Noon (Newcastle), M Tindall (Gloucester), B Cohen (Northampton); C Hodgson (Sale), H Ellis (Leicester); A Sheridan (Sale), S Thompson (Northampton), M Stevens (Bath), D Grewcock (Bath), S Borthwick (Bath), J Worsley (Wasps), L Moody (Leicester), M Corry (Leicester, capt). Replacements: T Voyce (Wasps) for Lewsey, 21; L Dallaglio (Wasps) for Worsley, 6-13, and for Corry, 65; L Mears (Bath) for Thompson, 65; J White (Leicester) for Sheridan, 71; S Shaw (Wasps) for Grewcock, 75; M Dawson (Wasps) for Ellis, 77; A Goode (Leicester) for Hodgson, 77.

Wales: G Thomas (Toulouse, capt); M Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), H Luscombe (Newport-Gwent Dragons), M Watkins (Scarlets), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Clermont Auvergne), D Peel (Scarlets); D Jones (Ospreys), R Thomas (Cardiff Blues), A R Jones (Ospreys), I Gough (Dragons), R Sidoli (Blues), C Charvis (Newcastle), M Williams (Blues), M Owen (Dragons). Replacements: L Byrne (Scarlets) for Watkins, 6-17 and for G Cooper (Dragons), 84; A M Jones (Scarlets) for Gough, 14-20 and 67; G Jenkins (Blues) for A R Jones 61; Cooper for Peel, 67; A Popham (Scarlets) for Charvis, 75.

Referee: P Honiss (New Zealand).

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