England's new world

Hodgson pockets the keys to No 10 as Robinson's men move stylishly out of the shadows of Sydney's heroes
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The Independent Online

England took a positive step towards putting the glittering Clive Woodward era behind them and moving on when Charlie Hodgson inspired the demolition of South Africa - England's sixth successive victory over the Springboks - with a glittering performance in the first half at Twickenham yesterday. He emerged from the shadows and carried Andy Robinson's new-look team with him.

England took a positive step towards putting the glittering Clive Woodward era behind them and moving on when Charlie Hodgson inspired the demolition of South Africa - England's sixth successive victory over the Springboks - with a glittering performance in the first half at Twickenham yesterday. He emerged from the shadows and carried Andy Robinson's new-look team with him.

Play it down as he might, Hodgson is competing for the fly-half position normally reserved for Jonny Wilkinson. Last week he stepped into the injured maestro's shoes against Canada but left his kicking boots at home. This time he did everything that could reasonably have been expected of him. He charged past three Springboks to dive under the posts, converted that try and one by Mark Cueto, landed five penalties and even included in his 27-point haul a drop goal, the kick that became Wilkinson's trademark as England powered to World Cup success in Australia.

Whatever the moans and groans about his wayward kicking against Canada last week, Charlie really was the darling of the home contingent in the 73,000 crowd.

Hodgsoninsisted that he is simply trying to do his best and leaving the rest to Andy Robinson, the coach. "A lot of things had been said about how this game was a make or break one for me in terms of being England's fly-half," Hodgson said. "I just wanted to put in a good performance and fortunately it happened for me today. The better I play the more pressure it puts on Andy Robinson to keep picking me."

Robinson would not be drawn on the rivalry at No 10, because with Wilkinson injured there is no decision to be made, but he said the Sale man would play next week against Australia, who beat Scotland 31-17. "He is playing brilliantly and I am pleased for Charlie that he is taking his opportunities," the coach said.

More important to him was the overall team performance, and the quality of that had not surprised him as players who had waited in the wings took their chance. "All our players are putting their hands up. It is about the full pack fronting up and today ours was superb," he said."From numbers one to 15, one to 22, every player has bought into it, led tremendously well by Jason Robinson. Martin Corry had a fabulous game, based on the work of the front five."

South Africa arrived on these islands after a long season proclaiming they would secure a grand slam of home nation scalps. First came defeat in Ireland, now destruction at Twickenham. Jason Robinson, the captain, was delighted. "The last 12 months have been disappointing but today we proved we are back on the scene in a big way," he said.

Wales, too, are making great strides but are falling short in a small way. After losing by only two points to South Africa last week, they battled New Zealand to a standstill at the Millennium Stadium but lost again, this time 26-25. Colin Charvis, the flanker, was masterful in inspiring the Welsh pack to a magnificent performance that had the All Blacks out on their feet as they clung on to an advantage that owed much to Joe Rokocoko's two tries.

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