Five reasons why an ailing red rose is flourishing again

From indispensable right-hand men to the basics of selecting on merit, there is plenty to be optimistic about

1 Three into one works better than the power of four

Seven years ago, when Sir Clive Woodward took the Lions to New Zealand armed with a long list of tradition-busting ideas, a God-awful ditty entitled "The Power of Four" was sung by the tourists as an anthem before matches. The Power of Three has a little more going for it, being a theory of rugby management as opposed to an assault on the musical ear. Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree came together as a caretaker coaching team in early January; now, in mid-March, they are the popular choices to take care of the England team right the way through to the home World Cup in 2015.

As an exercise in bright, bold, quick-thinking, communication-driven, load-sharing collaboration, the Six Nations campaign was as good as it gets, and although Lancaster did not say it in so many words on Saturday night, he would give his right arm to keep Farrell (the "presence") and Rowntree (the "credibility") alongside him, always assuming he is appointed head coach. Farrell's contract with Saracens may or may not be a problem. If it is, and proves insurmountable, the World Cup-winning New Zealand coach Wayne Smith is an obvious alternative. Given Smith's ability to zap up a team's attacking game, the RFU might offer him something anyway. That, though, would take us back into Power of Four territory.

 

2 If form is temporary, reputation is meaningless

Martin Johnson, the former England manager, must now realise that it is possible to prosper in tournament rugby by picking people who happen to be performing well now, rather than people who performed well when the chief selector was a player himself. At the World Cup, the England team featured Lewis Moody (a little past his best), Jonny Wilkinson (well past his best), Steve Thompson (way past his best), and Mike Tindall (miles beyond the pale, behaviourally and in every other way). The common thread? All four had played with Johnson on final night seven years previously. Conservative? This was England in deep freeze. By selecting uncapped or profoundly inexperienced individuals whose club form demanded closer inspection – Brad Barritt, Owen Farrell, Lee Dickson, Mouritz Botha, Geoff Parling, Chris Robshaw, Phil Dowson and Ben Morgan among others – Lancaster demonstrated that there is another, altogether fairer and more positive approach to team building.

 

3 RFU's coach development department has a point to it

In one sense, Lancaster was, and perhaps remains, a left-field candidate as full-time head coach. In another, he is – or should be – the obvious candidate. He was confident in his ability to piece together a competitive Six Nations side because he had worked his way through a system that had allowed him to work with the relevant players at age-group and second-tier Saxons levels. Jake White, the South African who won a world title in 2007 and was an early contender for the England role, was the product of a similar system in Springbok country. If you're going to spend money on this stuff, why not show some faith in it?

 

4 Brad Barritt is much more than a journeyman

When the Saracens centre started his first Six Nations, there was a widespread assumption that it would be his last. Fit, strong, a good tackler... yes, he was all of those things. A ruthless competitor? No doubt. But with Owen Farrell obviously a goalkicker of Test quality, he would surely be dropped when Toby Flood and Manu Tuilagi returned. Wouldn't he? Er, no. Barritt confirmed Lancaster's view of the world by taking his club form into the Test arena and raising it several notches. One of the key England players over the last seven weeks, he may, when someone as gifted as Billy Twelvetrees eventually stakes his midfield claim, be the one who forces Tuilagi to play on the wing.

 

5 The sun – and the son – also rises

However grisly things may seem - and in the weeks before Christmas, the red-rose game was not so much in the gutter as in the sewer – it is never all bad for long. Andy Farrell's behind-the-scenes contribution as a feel-good figure, reinforced on the field by his progeny, were gifts from on high. If England fail to make the most of this largesse, more fool them.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
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

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