Jason's jinks the way to create a new dimension

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The Independent Online

I'm looking forward to Jason Robinson being offered an above-average number of one-to-one confrontations in Rome today, because that's an attacking skill I want to see developed in this Six Nations' tournament - players going past their opponents.

It's one of the reasons why our first view of England in competitive action since the World Cup ought to be well worth the wait. Not because we expect to see a contest of nail-biting drama so much as a clear view of Sir Clive Woodward's approach to re-shaping his champion team.

His decision to move Robinson to outside-centre didn't surprise me; in fact it delights me. Last Sunday, I was expressing the hope that this Six Nations would produce some more creative variations in attacking rugby.

The tendency for most teams is to build up phase by phase, suck in defenders and create overlaps. It is not a bad ploy, but it is so predictable. I'm yearning to see teams cutting that process short on occasion and pitching their best attacking players directly at opponents from first phase.

Too many players have lost the habit or, more likely, the confidence to take people on. Robinson never has. That was part of the game he brought from rugby league, and Woodward has now put him in a position from where he can use that skill to best advantage.

Robinson can play anywhere, but he has been doing well at outside-centre for Sale and now England are going to avail themselves of the extra front-line attacking he can bring.

I'm a big admirer of Will Greenwood, who takes the inside-centre berth, but I am very interested to see that Henry Paul is on the bench. If he should get on for any reason and England have a pair of former league men in the centres, then we could see two players prepared to jink their way through.

I am so pleased Paul seems finally to have completed the transition from one code to the other. I know how hard it has been for him to adjust, but all of a sudden he is playing like I knew he would, and it's great to see him getting his reward at last. I hate to say I told you so, but when he and Iestyn Harris first made the change I did predict that No 12 would be the position to make the most of their abilities.

It has happened at an appropriate time for England, because centre had become a problem position with injuries to Mike Tindall, Mike Catt and Stuart Abbott. To have Robinson and Paul joining the strength alongside Greenwood must be a relief for Woodward, especially with the extra attacking possibilities they bring.

I'm not suggesting Italy will struggle today. They had quite a good World Cup, particularly up front. I have no doubt they will give England early problems, but their hopes depend on how long they can compete.

They've been able to live with most sides for a half but then they lose their grip in the game. Italy must learn how to stay in contention for a longer period. It is a tough lesson, but they'll get there.

It'll be strange watching England without Martin Johnson and Jonny Wilkinson. The half-backs will have the biggest problem coping. Andy Gomarsall deserves his shot at scrum-half because he has been playing well while Matt Dawson has hardly been playing. Paul Grayson has the harder task, because he has Wilkinson's boots to fill.

But, when you examine it, he is just the right replacement. Wilkinson's strength is that he brings an authority to the game with his tactical nous and kicking ability out of hand and at goal. His defence and defensive organisation is also outstanding. To put it bluntly, though, when it came to making the half-breaks and putting players through holes, he had a relatively quiet World Cup.

This is a statement of fact that is not intended to overlook how instrumental he is to England's overall performance and gathering points for his team.

Grayson is similar in that he does the basics much better than any of the other contenders. He has the ability and the experience to understudy Wilkinson in the areas that have proved vital to England's progress.

This is a very strong England side, and one suited to the expansive game I'm expecting to see. When you look at the back three of Ben Cohen, Josh Lewsey and Iain Balshaw, the midfield and the back five of the pack - locks Danny Grewcock and Ben Kay are very mobile - then you can be sure that Lawrence Dallaglio will be out to lead a rampaging side. The next World Cup starts here.

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