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

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.

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
Louis van Gaal at the Hawthorns prior to Manchester United's game against West Brom
football

Follow the latest updates from the Monday night Premier League fixture

News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

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

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past