Lewis Moody: Care can help England to consolation win – but only if they are quick off the Boks
Saturday 23 June 2012
The target for Stuart Lancaster at the start of this tour was three wins out of five. That is still on in Port Elizabeth today, and I have a fancy England might pull this off.
South Africa have claimed the series. The big tests are behind them. There may be a chance that they take their foot off the pedal here. This will be more of a run-out for them but it is a game England are desperate to win. The pride and commitment shown have been great but sport is about winning.
After 10 minutes last week I thought it was going to be a 50-point game for South Africa. If they reproduce the form they showed in the first half in Jo'burg they have the potential to terrorise England.
Conversely, if England play for 80 minutes like they did the final 40 last week and do not offer South Africa easy points, then they have a chance. Despite being well drilled and flying out of the blocks, South Africa looked vulnerable at times after the break, and England showed what a capable side they are.
Ben Youngs was outstanding. The previous week he knew that the kicking out of hand had been poor. He wanted to improve in that area, to impress all round, and he did. He ran well, distributed well and took his tries superbly. He will be missed, but Danny Care is a fantastic replacement. For me, Youngs and Care are the two best scrum-halves in the country. As long as Danny keeps his head down, it will be an interesting and exciting battle for the No 9 shirt.
Danny's form during the year has been fantastic. He will love the opportunity to show the new management regime what he can do. Danny will pose a threat. He is a great runner, incisive and good at bringing his forwards into the game. He is also tenacious and puts himself about. I have always been a fan. It is a shame for Youngs. Three months is a long time out at this level, as I know only too well.
James Haskell also has a huge job on his hands today. He is a big physical specimen, the kind of bloke you want in a confrontation with South Africa. The issue is delivering consistently. James has been around a few years now. He is capable of the kind of perform ance that you want from someone of his size. But doing it in Port Elizabeth against a South African side on the up is a different challenge. There is huge squad pressure on Haskell from the likes of Carl Fearns, who has shown great potential in the midweek games. He is only 22 but makes big hits and carries the ball hard, which is precisely Haskell's job today.
Perhaps Haskell has suffered a little for his versatility; he has played across the back row for England. He is in today at seven in place of the injured captain Chris Robshaw, who has had a fantastic tour.
Though the debate about Robshaw's standing as a world-class seven to compare with the likes of Richie McCaw and David Pocock goes on, he has been persuasive in South Africa. He has played his heart out, won good ball and was even praised by the ref, Steve Walsh, during the opening match in Durban, which is something you don't hear often. So Haskell has big boots to fill. He is a lively character, to say the least. I hope that he pulls it off. It is also good to see the return of Tom Palmer at lock. The scrum is one area in which England have struggled a bit on this tour. I know Graham Rowntree has been working hard on that.
There is yet another change in the back three. Alex Goode comes in at full-back, with Ben Foden reverting to the wing. Alex is an Old Oakhamian, like myself, so it is good to see him stepping up to the international arena. He is a tenacious player, good under the high ball, and has a sound kicking game. It will be fascinating to see how he shapes up in this environment.
It's a tough call but I'm going to stick my neck out. England to win by three points.
I know about injuries and players need to be safer
I know all about shoulder injuries. I had five shoulder operations and that is why I had to retire in the end. If you haven't got a functioning shoulder you can neither tackle nor pass. You can battle through the pain as I did when I injured my shoulder the first time but in the end you have to bow to the inevitable and go under the knife.
So I feel for Ben Youngs. I know I'm going to have to have surgery again even now. I've been away this week for a break with my family and diving into the pool is a torture. I love the physical side of the game but, given the improved fitness levels and strength of the modern player, the issue of injuries will have to be addressed.
I would not like to see the game adopt the protective padding at the level of American football, but an increase in the protection allowed is almost inevitable.
It is not something you think about as a player. You accept that injuries are part of the game, but the hits these days are brutal. They did a medical audit a few years ago on the nature of injury in training and in matches. It needs to be revisited at some stage. Surprisingly, it emerged that players were at greater risk in training, maybe because you spend more time on the training pitch than in competition.
No one wants to see constant injuries but even in gridiron there is a limit to what can be achieved by the prolific use of protective padding. Careers tend to average out around five years at the top.
This is the chance for Wales to break the spell
You will probably be reading this while munching on your cornflakes (after Scotland and Ireland have finished) but I think we will see a victory for the northern hemisphere teams at some stage this morning.
The Irish were desperately unlucky last week. They have some fantastic players and that was their big chance to get a victory in New Zealand. I hope it is not gone and, with Dan Carter sidelined, they have a slim chance to hit back in the final rubber, but the best opportunity rests with Wales.
Their form has been impressive for the last year. The difficulty for them is the mental block they seem to have in winning tough games against southern hemisphere sides but it only takes one win to break the spell.
They were in control of the game in Australian territory. A couple of silly penalties cost them at the close. They have to learn to manage that period of the game better. If they do, they will finally get their reward.
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