Lewis Moody column: A case of what might have been – now England can take another step in New Zealand


Another second place for England but this was a step forward from last year. Stuart Lancaster’s side have made strides over this Six Nations, even if he will be looking back at that French game and thinking what might have been.

In private Lancaster may rue a couple of the selections he didn’t make on the bench – not having a fly-half and then being left with Luther Burrell on the wing as that game was lost in the last few minutes when it was England’s to win. That will frustrate him, but in terms of the continuity of their performances this has been a good season for England, with the game against Ireland in particular one that can prove the making of this side. They are creating their own identity, their own style of play, their own image and I like what I am seeing.

There is reason to be optimistic, not least the consistency across the field from the Hartley-Lawes-Launchbury combination at the line-out to Mike Brown’s threat from full-back, but next up is an even bigger challenge – three Tests in New Zealand. This is a tour that could make or break England’s World Cup chances.

A 3-0 whitewash off the back of a first Test when England will be without a raft of key men, left at home for the Premiership final, is the worst-case scenario and would be a real blow to their World Cup preparation. Going into the tournament you need to be confident, know your side, have everything in place – you do not learn on the job come a World Cup.


This tour is going to be a marker for where England will feature in the World Cup and beyond the first Test it is possible to believe England might succeed down there rather than fearing the worst.

This side can make a mark in New Zealand. I don’t think they are far off winning there. Take the last two games they have played against New Zealand – that win two years ago and a very close defeat last year. If they had looked after their own ball inside the 22 it could have been another win. Those little areas, like against France, are the difference between winning and losing against the top sides. If they can deal with those aspects then they can win the second Test and set up a decider.

The areas where England need to improve are dealing with pressure and executing when the game is tight. They showed us they can do it against Ireland, having not done it against New Zealand and France. How they cut out those little errors that can cost matches is key.

I was talking to Andy Robinson in Rome this weekend about how in the build-up to 2003 the coaches put us through scenario after scenario in training where we were two points down, three points ahead, five points down with two minutes to go, and we rehearsed them again and again and again. Games at the highest level are invariably close – look at England against France and Ireland, Ireland against France – and our preparation meant we had already almost lived those situations 100 times over. It became the norm. You have to put yourselves under pressure to operate correctly in the most intense moments, and make sure that it is not only your first-choice side that can do that but also the likes of George Ford and Anthony Watson.

Overall England deserve plaudits for their performances over the last couple of months and, while there has been encouragement across the side, there are four players I would pick out. Courtney Lawes has stepped up, and not just at the line-out. He has shone all round the pitch, producing the big hits and the big carries.

Brown has stood out at 15. He has been so consistent with his performances and so hard to stop. Positionally he has been outstanding and he has a strong case to be player of the tournament, while Danny Care has also been instrumental in helping win games for England. His threat at the breakdown and his reading of the game is first rate, whether to go himself or put others into holes like he did for Farrell in Rome. He deserves a round of applause.

As does Dave Wilson. He may not be an obvious choice but you want players to step up when given the opportunity and he had a lot of doubters over whether he should have been starting. Would he cope? Would he be fit enough? Did he have a game beyond the scrum? Yes, yes and yes. To see him developing into an international-class player has been a pleasure.

The final word, though, has to be for Brian O’Driscoll. It was a fitting way for the great man to bow out of the game and it was a championship he and Ireland deserved. He will be missed.

Lewis Moody is a Land Rover HITZ ambassador. Land Rover are a partner of HITZ, a Premiership Rugby programme which tackles some of the greatest challenges facing young people today. www.jaguarlandrover.com/hitz/


Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine