Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster must stick with Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury in the engine room for Argentina game. They were too good to drop

 

The home dressing room at Twickenham has a different look to my day. The big box changing room, with its wooden cubicles, into which everyone used to walk and say “Over there in the corner, that’s where Jonny sat”, is gone. For too long England have languished in the hangover from 2003, burdened by trying to emulate that team. Now at last there is a growing sense that Stuart Lancaster and this England side are creating their “own” team, a fresh, new team.

This is a different team, changing in a different room – one with all the modern sporting requirements but one that also still has a reminder of the heritage of which these players will become a part, keeping a link with the past but not being suffocated by it. The names of former players are listed around the room, a reminder of what comes with wearing the white shirt – yet this is a new environment. The players have contributed to the new look and there is increasingly an air of unity and purpose. Add all the developments the Rugby Football Union is putting into the training facilities at Pennyhill Park – which, it has to be said, is long overdue – and there are good foundations in place for Lancaster’s England.

That brings benefits on the pitch and Saturday was an example. It was an ugly win for England but no less worthy for the manner in which Chris Robshaw’s men beat an Australian side that, we should not forget, recently put more than 30 points on the All Blacks. There was a steady confidence about what England did, battling through the tough patches and winning on Saturday will have only added to that. In the run up to the 2003 World Cup England had a knack of winning ugly when necessary and that played its part in the ultimate achievement.

England have the confidence that comes out from winning and that can’t be understated. That game was so important for their immediate progress, people will knock the performance, say it was not where it needs to be, but the first game of an autumn season never is because it takes a time to gel back together.

There was one partnership that did gel effectively on Saturday. I was impressed by Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury in the engine room. Lancaster is sure to make some changes for Argentina – with the All Blacks in mind I would like to see Mike Brown, excellent against Australia, rested and Ben Foden given a run at 15, Ben Youngs should start at No 9 and Luther Burrell deserves an outing in the centre. Christian Wade, who has been in scintillating form for his club for two seasons now, is worthy of a position on the wing, especially with Chris Ashton quiet against Australia and coming out of the defensive pattern to help Australia score their try.

But I would give Billy Vunipola another go at No 8 and certainly keep Lawes and Launchbury together. They have earned it.

There was a lot of unseen pressure on Lawes because he had a new role in calling the lineouts and doing that in front of 80,000 people at Twickenham is very different to doing it in club colours. I thought he acquitted himself well and gave a solid performance. Launchbury’s was a workhorse-like performance, willing and dependable as ever. There were several lineouts that went astray, but that’s never down just to one individual, whether it’s Tom Youngs, the lifter or the jumper, so that is something to work on. But I was more than happy with their pairing, the work-rate and what they brought to the game. Make the lineout more consistent and these two really will be a force to be reckoned with.

Geoff Parling is a fine player and a brilliant leader but Lancaster has always said he will pick on form – as he did with Lee Dickson – and at the moment Lawes and Launchbury are just a notch ahead of Parling on this season’s performance. In my mind there is no way you can drop Lawes or Launchbury. Courtney in particular is back to his form of 2010. They are the men in possession and they should stay there. That huge competition for the shirt is indicative of what Lancaster is beginning to get across the pitch. We talk about building for 2015, the need for depth, and that is what you can see happening.

I wrote ahead of the Australia game about the England bench, how strong it looked, and it played a huge part in the win. The boost when you have that many caps on the bench is just enormous for a side, when you have players of the calibre of Dave Wilson, Foden, Flood and Ben Youngs, who in particular made a real impact when he came on. They could all start against Argentina and I hope Wilson does – Alex Corbisiero is more of a certainty on Saturday. Ben Morgan has not had a stellar season but he is still a big, strong, abrasive ball-carrier who will be hungry to get his place back.

The more competition you can create, the more hunger it creates in individuals and actually it creates more of a collective unity. You respect the guys who are ahead of you, or the guys who are pushing you. It is exactly what Lancaster needs to drive the bid for a Grand Slam or Six Nations title next season.

Captain has coped superbly with tricky spell

I was delighted for Chris Robshaw on Saturday. Having been a captain, I can understand the pressures he is under, and just as equally the pressures you put on yourself to perform. There is that constant striving to produce the perfect performance. When that doesn’t happen you can be hard on yourself. And on top of what you want from yourself there is plenty that others want too – being captain brings extra attention from the media and the outside world.

There has been plenty of talk about who should be England’s No 7. Should we have an out-and-out openside? I pushed for Matt Kvesic last year – he is one for the future, an outstanding openside in the making, but I couldn’t push his cause at the moment and claim he is playing better than Robshaw.

Robshaw has done a great job and mentally has been very strong, through the leadership issues of last autumn over his decision-making and a tough summer not going with the Lions. It was right to rest him from the Argentina trip but we have seen in the past what can happen when captains don’t play. I witnessed it myself with Steve Borthwick, who was a good captain, missed one summer tour through injury and never got his place back. All those doubts go through your mind but Robshaw has come back stronger and fitter.

The answer at 7 in the long run may be Luke Wallace or Kvesic but at the moment Robshaw is doing an outstanding job. He may not be everyone’s cup of tea: being a leader you can never worry about that. There will always be questions over how you do it – there were questions about Martin Johnson’s leadership from time to time, incredible as that may be to think now. All you can do is go out and play and show that you deserve that shirt.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
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

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot