James Lawton: Stuart Lancaster may just be taking this vibrant England side into new lands of adventure

His greatest encouragement will come if England can make order in Dublin where so often there has been nothing less than maelstrom

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The Independent Online

You could make it sound like some glorious backwoods logging town boxing show just by a getting a barker to cry out the names at the top of the bill. Roll up, he might shout, for Billy Twelvetrees versus your man Brian O'Driscoll. And then there is The Kid, Owen Farrell, against Jonny Sexton, the cunning, durable pro who some time ago absorbed a few of the lessons his young admirer may still have to learn.

There is other quite as wonderful symmetry attached to events at Lansdowne Road, Dublin, on Sunday afternoon when England seek to win a competitive match in the Irish capital for the first time in 10 years.

Of course, they did more than win back in 2003. They served fair warning to the rest of the rugby world when they rampaged to a 42-6 massacre on their way to a World Cup triumph in Sydney later in the year.

Lawrence Dallaglio, who scored a try of withering impact, sang the national anthem so passionately you worried he might burst a blood vessel. The skipper, Martin Johnson, contented himself with an act of unsurpassable rudeness which required the Irish president Mary McAleese to leave the red carpet and muddy her designer shoes in order to shake hands with the home team.

But if all that was awesome in its huge and curmudgeonly way – and if certain brutal promises were ultimately fulfilled – there is something less domineering but perhaps much more intriguing about tomorrow's England.

We always knew about the strengths of Johnson's England. They were not so hard to measure, a superbly motivated pack inhabited by men like Richard Hill and Neil Back, the running of Will Greenwood and the trickery of Jason Robinson, and there at the end was the boot of Jonny Wilkinson.

It is too soon to know, truly, the virtues of Stuart Lancaster's new England but we can at least offer one sweeping tribute to the astonishing speed with which he has reconstructed, physically and morally, a team that just a little more than a year ago had no serious rival as the laughing stock of the world game.

We can do it by asking a question that, for all of its commitment and self-awareness, was never going to be provoked by the team assembled by Sir Clive Woodward.

We can ask if Lancaster, having brilliantly fulfilled his first obligation of creating a grown-up team mentality, is now moving England towards the possibility of a new dimension for the rugby nation which has never lacked for resources and the world's largest playing population. In giving Farrell his head, in injecting the huge promise of Twelvetrees into the furies of Lansdowne Road after just one cap, against the chronically limited Scots, is Lancaster maybe saying that it is time for England to move beyond the old agenda of power and control won hard up front on to something more adventurous?

Is the unheralded bureaucrat of the Twickenham coaching system, a man who saw only from a distance the catastrophic timewarp into which Johnson and his 2011 World Cup team disappeared, less interested in completing repairs than unfurling an entirely new model?

If it is so – and his faith in the potentially thrilling Twelvetrees while he parks the formidably strong Manu Tuilagi on the bench provides strong supporting evidence – his greatest encouragement will come if England display ability to make order in Dublin where so often in the past there has been nothing less than maelstrom.

There was reason enough to doubt the ultimate wisdom of Lancaster's permanent appointment after his first, brisk mopping-up of the mess. With his clean hands and manifestly decent instincts, he could lay down the need for new values. He could say that a team without discipline was one waiting to be knocked down. But could he build on that first declaration?

Could he make a necessarily young, raw team sufficiently savvy in the ways of the international game quickly enough for it to make some kind of credible run at the home World Cup of 2015?

Did he have the man-of-the-world sophistication of his principal rival Nick Mallett?

There were grounds for doubt in the early going of an autumn Test series. Too often England seemed as though they were playing by numbers. The gain line was impenetrable enough to be a barbed wire trench in the defeats by South Africa and an allegedly broken-down, travel-weary Wallaby squad. We were not looking through splayed fingers for a new England then. No, the imperative seemed to be the breathing of some life, some spark into one old, and toothless, before its time.

Lancaster, his anger barely suppressed, called for a little understanding, the merest sense that sometimes the hardest work and the most clearly defined priorities are not instantly absorbed.

The request was, of course, made with the most impeccable timing. Whatever the problems of the All Blacks, they were not beaten at Twickenham. They were devoured. In the process it was possible to see something beautifully developed against the outplayed Scots. It was some of the old ferocity and a stunning amount of new bite and imagination.

Twelvetrees moved with a fine subtlety and force against the Scots and some voted him the man of the match. A large majority, however, gave the honour to Farrell, and if this was a rare example of democracy getting it right it hardly diminished the impact of the man from Gloucester.

The great O'Driscoll no doubt knows things about which Twelvetrees may only be dimly aware but then what would he give for the fresh, bruise-free talent that has given his young opponent such a promising lease on life?

Farrell versus Sexton is surely the pivotal, show-stealing dispute. The winner will take all of the day and a strong claim on the future. England could not have done this more forcefully in this place 10 years ago but there was never a possibility, or a demand, that they re-made themselves, not just as a team but an effectively working rugby culture. Tomorrow, it is surely reasonable to hope that Owen Farrell and Billy Twelvetrees will indeed tread such new ground.

How Moyes may profit

There is considerable confusion over the long-term implications of the Premier League's belated decision to impose upon itself some financial restrictions. However, it is reasonable to believe that one consequence will be that the playing field that separates a Roberto Mancini, Rafa Benitez and Sir Alex Ferguson from, say, Everton's David Moyes, will begin to resemble less the north face of the Eiger.

Ironic, though, if Moyes should tomorrow make a further claim on the attention of the leading clubs by completing at Old Trafford a stunning double over the man many believe he is ideally qualified to succeed some time over the next few years.

Now it seems he might inherit a great empire without the old means of automatically augmenting its strength at the first hint of need. But then, if it's good for the game, the chances are it will also be good for one of its most brilliantly consistent workers.

Bale chases the Gale

Transfer speculation takes various and often ambiguous and unlikely forms but it is not into any of these categories that we have to place the latest reported interest of Real Madrid in Gareth Bale. For some time he has made a formidable case for himself as the most naturally talented player bred in these islands since George Best.

Best, though, will not be the point of comparison for many old Bernabeu patrons if the Welshman does move to Madrid. There, they will be thinking more of the legendary left-winger Francisco Gento, who was affectionately known as La Galerna del Cantabrico, the Gale of the Cantabrian Sea.

Bale's speed and finishing power would surely earn something equally laudatory. However, he will have to blow hard for a very long time to match the electric Gento's record mark of six European Cup final wins in eight appearances.