Jonathan Davies: Ricochet falls to Robinson to leave the shaky fortress intact

Anyone with the Three Feathers close to their heart will be shaking their head for the next 12 months as they think back to that charge-down in the England 22 in the final five minutes of yesterday's pulsating encounter. When Olly Barkley's kick to touch ricocheted off the chest of Ceri Sweeney it could have gone anywhere, and if it had fallen in red hands instead of those of Jason Robinson, then that would, in all probability, have sealed a win that would have been welcomed in Wales more warmly than any other.

As it was, Robinson ran it out 80 yards - as is this fleet-footed genius's custom - and England, with a late Joe Worsley try, were able to emerge as 10-point winners. But the final scoreline did not tell the real story, after Wales had come so close to causing an upset that would have rattled the world champions to their very core.

What would have made a Welsh win so remarkable - apart, of course, from being the second successive Red Rose capitulation at "Fortress Twickenham" - was that they would have done so with barely any possession - their line-out was totally ineffective and that their scrum wasn't that much better.

Indeed on this showing Wales must be judged as the best team in the world when they haven't got the ball, because yesterday their defence was nothing short of heroic and their attack, on the limited occasions they actually did get hold of the ball, was breathtaking. Mike Ruddock, the incoming Wales coach, has vowed his primary aim will be to concentrate on the basics and after yesterday he must be itching to sort out the Welsh set-pieces in order to give the dancing Welsh backline the stage their potential deserves.

An example of the attacking talent Wales have at their disposal is Tom Shanklin, who filled in for his injured Cardiff team-mate Iestyn Harris yesterday. It was the inside-centre's break in the third minute that signified the holes in England's drift defence.

That the visitors found themselves only seven points to the bad at half-time owed more to their ceaseless work at the tackle - especially in the Welsh back-row - and this allowed them to target the England defence in a quite exhilarating opening to the second half that yielded two fabulous tries. Their backs were cute enough to realise there was no way through the England midfield, but plenty of room outside to go around it. Clive Woodward must look at this area with some urgency before next Saturday's showdown in Paris because the French, with a far greater percentage of possession than Wales, will have more opportunities to exploit it.

What did for Wales in the end was not a lack of fitness, as some suggested, but more the fatigue induced by almost an hour of non-stop defending. The England pack went back to the basics that made them a great team in the first place and ground the tired Welsh legs down to the point of submission. If England proved anything in the final quarter yesterday it is that they have not yet forgotten how to win.

But apart from those last 20 minutes there were not too many positives for England to take from another weekend that, as supposed infallible world champions, they would prefer to forget. The one obvious exception, of course, was the performance of Barkley, the 22-year-old outside-half who stepped into the boots vacated first by Jonny Wilkinson and then, on Friday, by Paul Grayson, with impressive assurance. His six out of seven success rate in front of the posts speaks for itself but what shone most brightlywas this young man's confidence with ball in hand.

If I was Woodward I would have no hesitation in naming Barkley in the team to face France, because here is a playmaker who offers something different to the steady head of Grayson. Barkley asked many questions of the Welsh defence yesterday and this tactical awareness married to his many creative abilities marks him down in my book as the perfect deputy for Wilkinson. Indeed, after yesterday's performance the hero of the World Cup must be keener than ever to get back and make the No 10 shirt his own again.

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