Wood growing up as England start to pull up trees

The parallels are too easy to draw. Yes, England have won their first three games in the Six Nations' Championship, and the last time they achieved such a feat was 2003, when a Six Nations Grand Slam was followed by victory in New Zealand and Australia, then by the World Cup triumph.

To place the 2011 class on the same plane as that of eight years ago would be ludicrous, so great is the disparity in experience. England's back row against France last weekend started with an aggregate of 73 caps as compared with Lawrence Dallaglio, Richard Hill and Neil Back, who started the 2003 World Cup with 178.

But the present England class is growing up. "That [17-9 victory over France] was another layer on our belief in where we are going," Mike Ford, the defence coach, said.

Even while England have earned applause for their attacking enthusiasm, the whole is underpinned by the defensive structures that Ford has put in place. Of 122 tackles made against France at Twickenham last Saturday, only six were missed and James Haskell – the player deemed most at risk if Lewis Moody had been fit to play – led the way with 12.

You might expect that of a flanker but Louis Deacon (10) and Dan Cole (9) also rated high in the tackle statistics, not bad for a lock and a prop. At the heart of the effort behind the scrum were Mark Cueto (11) and Mike Tindall (10). The numbers tell of enthusiasm across the pitch to reduce France's offence to a position in which the England tryline was threatened no more than once.

Asked to explain Ford's system, Tindall said: "It's simple: you don't miss tackles. It's not rocket science. We've been using the same system for God knows how long. The work-rate and fitness levels put the boys in the right positions to make tackles and not panic. Fordy does loads of stats and it [France] was one of the best in terms of errors. If you make tackles, they don't score."

Ford recognises the manner in which England have risen to the different challenges of this championship: "Wales away, with the roof shut, was a test and we came through without playing as well as we would have liked," he said. "What we did against Italy [winning 59-13] was something we haven't done for a while and coming through against France suggests our belief is growing."

Ford also leaps to the defence of England's much-maligned centres Tindall and Shontayne Hape. "Shontayne made 24 tackles against Wales and he was our best defender against Italy," the coach said. "Mike led the team brilliantly against France. Other centres may be more eye-catching but when it comes to being solid and winning the Test match, there aren't many better."

But the player who has really grabbed his attention is Tom Wood, the Northampton flanker who won his third cap last week. "I watched Tom playing for his club two weeks before the Wales game and he was, near enough, a replica of Moody," he said. "You can't take your eyes off him, the work he does in attack and defence is unbelievable. I told Martin Johnson that if we had to pick Wood all we should do is give him as little detail as possible, just encourage him to play his natural game. I have learned that you can't give people too much detail,otherwise they go out worrying about x, y and z."

There will not be many bigger midfields in world rugby than those representing England and France (Tindall and Hape against Yannick Jauzion and Aurélien Rougerie). There will, in the southern hemisphere, be cleverer ones – and Ireland on 19 March will pose questions – so further layers must be added. The good thing for England is that Ford and his fellow coaches are well aware of what is to come.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
Voices
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959
voicesWard committed no crime, and the truth is still being covered up, writes Geoffrey Robertson QC
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
Sport
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
News
i100
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

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas