Forty years in the waiting, England's first Test victory against the Wallabies in Australia said more about their immediate future as serious World Cup contenders than it did about their barren past. Tries from Will Greenwood, Mike Tindall and Ben Cohen - all of them backs who, according to many dismissive southern hemisphere critics, do not touch the ball in a month of Sundays - gave Clive Woodward's team a win over the tournament hosts and forced even the most anti-English rugby elements to acknowledge the quality of their performance.
Woodward, the national coach, knows pretty much everything there is to know about the Wallaby game, having lived and played in Sydney for five years and presided over a humiliating 76-point beating in Brisbane in 1998. As a result, he understands better than anyone the magnitude of yesterday's triumph in front of more than 50,000 locals. It was England's most complete display south of the equator since they dismantled the Springboks 32-15 in Pretoria in 1994.
Lambasted for alleged tactical and footballing limitations following their defeat of the All Blacks in desperate Wellington weather conditions the previous weekend, England dominated much of yesterday's match - played indoors under the vast hydraulic roof of the Docklands Stadium - and proved it possible to rise above the worst excesses of the Wallaby publicity machine, which effectively accused of the tourists of using illegal defensive techniques at the tackle area.
"I thought David McHugh [the Irish referee] did an outstanding job considering the pressure he had been put under all week," said Woodward. "With all the ballyhoo about our tactics in the local press, the players did not need a team talk from me. In many ways, Eddie did our team talk for us. I'm getting very confused about what is happening in this part of the world. The people in New Zealand and Australia talk about style all the time, about anything other than actually winning Test matches. I thought winning was what mattered to rugby people down here.
"Some of the stuff said about us was premeditated, and I don't think it does the sport any favours. I certainly don't think England won this game because of the referee. If any Australians suggest that was the case, then they have become extremely one-eyed."
England have now won Tests in all three major southern hemisphere union countries since Woodward succeeded Jack Rowell in 1997; in addition, they have beaten Argentina in Buenos Aires with an inexperienced side. Their next game against one of the "big trio" will be in Perth on 18 October, when they face the South Africans in a significant World Cup match. On this evidence, they will expect to win by 15 points and book a place in the gentler half of the knock-out draw.Reuse content