Erinle errors defy laws of defensive motion

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The Independent Online

England went for three Wasps to bolster their back line, unsurprisingly given the three-time Premiership champions' display in winning the Grand Final here a fortnight ago. But beating Leicester is one thing, and handling multi-talented Barbarians quite another. Paul Sackey, Ayoola Erinle and Tom Voyce could be half-satisfied at best with their performances at a half-full HQ.

England went for three Wasps to bolster their back line, unsurprisingly given the three-time Premiership champions' display in winning the Grand Final here a fortnight ago. But beating Leicester is one thing, and handling multi-talented Barbarians quite another. Paul Sackey, Ayoola Erinle and Tom Voyce could be half-satisfied at best with their performances at a half-full HQ.

Sackey's rumbustiously-taken pair of tries kept the former London Irish wing's scoring record ticking over nicely: he managed three for Wasps in the title run-in after his transfer in February. Going forward Erinle and Voyce are, likewise, rangy and effective runners. This fixture more than any other, though, is a test of defence, not least because the Barbarian forwards were as good on grass as they were on paper, and more than a match for their hosts' pack.

Denied the protective cocoon of Wasps' blitz technique, Erinle watched one Baa-baa after another skip around him. As for Voyce at full-back, he looked less like a wasp, more like a repeatedly-swatted fly. Erinle, the one-time Countdown contestant, might have aimed a few well-chosen consonants and vowels Voyce's way: T, A, C, K, L, E.

There are not only 21 English players away with the Lions; the defence coach Phil Larder is in New Zealand too, so this squad are in the hands of Joe Lydon and, in defensive terms, Damian McGrath. Both men made their names in rugby league and both may be rewinding the video tape with some concern before they get to breakfast today.

The Baa-baas cut through or ran round England with ease. Fortunately there is ample opportunity before and after the flight to Canada for next month's Churchill Cup to work on a solution.

In any case another little gold trophy, bearing the name Webb Ellis, is the principal point of this experience-building exercise (that and the raking in for more cash for the Rugby Football Union).

Erinle and Sackey were two of the five uncapped players in this England line-up. Erinle's rugby education had not even extended to an appearance for England's Under-21 or A team, though his top-grade A-levels in Physics and Chemistry told of an academic brightness.

Astrophysics is a passion for Erinle and, at 6ft 3in and over 17st, he is capable of adding a chapter to Newton's laws of motion. Charging up in support of a twin break by Voyce and Andy Goode from a quickly taken line-out in the opening minute of the second half, Erinle cantered powerfully to the posts without a Barbarian able to lay a hand on him, much less generate an equal and opposite force.

It doesn't take a Newton to work out that, almost two years since England won the World Cup it must be just over two years until the next one. Erinle says his reading on the aeroplane to Alberta on 9 June will be Bill Bryson's A Short History Of Almost Everything.

For his and the other wannabes' history in the national side to extend until France in 2007, they will hope for a better supply line than they got here.

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