Lewis Moody has been given a clear message that he will be England's captain through to the World Cup – if the Bath flanker can get fit from the knee injury that prevented him playing any part in the new champions' Six Nations campaign.
With just three warm-up matches in August before flying to New Zealand, the England manager Martin Johnson was asked if Moody was his choice as captain if fit. He replied: "Yeah, he is." Was this a departure from the policy of picking the team first and then the skipper? "It is," said Johnson.
"He's an outstanding player. The way he conducts himself, the way he plays, the way he trains, is fantastic. You know when you speak to him you're going to get the truth, not just what you want to hear. And his personality is that he'll do anything to be successful, to win."
While rehabilitating, Moody accompanied the England squad throughout the Championship, but Mike Tindall was on-field captain for the first four matches followed by Nick Easter for the last day in Dublin.
Galwey takes the Mick
It fell to Easter to receive the Six Nations trophy – witnessed by Ruck and Maul, naturally – in a roped-off alcove of the Four Seasons hotel almost three hours after England's 24-8 defeat by Ireland.
The stand-in skipper said on live television that "a few Budweisers" had lifted his team's spirits while they were forced to wait for the finish of France v Wales, and he had Ben Youngs behind him mouthing "hello mum" as several players played up to the cameras. This upset the former England captain Phil Vickery, who said: "They were like kids behaving like it did not matter. If I had lost a Grand Slam game in Dublin I'd have been gutted."
At the post-match dinner, Mark Cueto sang "Angels" to mark his 50th cap while another half-centurion, Denis Leamy, picked the more mournful "The River" by Bruce Springsteen.
A little later in a different Dublin bar, another ex-captain – Mick Galwey of Munster and Ireland – told Ruck and Maul: "There was no way we'd let England win the Slam here, no way." Galwey's role with Munster these days? "Player mentor." What does that entail? "Letting 'em know what it means to wear the jersey."
Insert a well-known expletive before each verb and noun for his actual quote!
Not so happy Easter
Presenting the Six Nations trophy immediately can be just as unsatisfactory – remember the glum faces of Ieuan Evans of Wales at Twickenham in 1994 or England's Matt Dawson in Dublin in 2001?
In 1996, the silver pot was positioned halfway between London and Cardiff, pending the last day's results, and eventually whisked east to be handed to Will Carling, the England captain, at the Hilton hotel. Carling had hobbled out of that afternoon's win over Ireland with an ankle ligament injury – the same problem that kept Tindall out last weekend when England were crying out for strong leadership.
"It was the worst day of my rugby career," Easter told Ruck and Maul after a few days of reflection. Sometimes winning the title – which you could argue is the main point of the whole thing – is not enough.Reuse content