I got it wrong but who saw Eng­land dis­play com­ing?

Gloucestershire Echo - - BRAIN TEASER -

OK, so I got it wrong se­lect­ing Ire­land to beat Eng­land in the open­ing Six Na­tions game; but who saw that Eng­land per­for­mance com­ing?

The Eng­land side did look pow­er­ful and with a side packed with British Li­ons they would not be in­tim­i­dated play­ing in the Aviva Sta­dium. This looked like Eng­land’s strong­est side apart from An­thony Wat­son and Joe Launch­bury who would, if fit, be con­sid­ered for se­lec­tion. Eng­land re­alised if they wanted to stop Ire­land they would have to win the gain-line bat­tle thwart­ing the Ir­ish mo­men­tum.

This they did and more, with pos­i­tive tack­les rain­ing in from all the Eng­land play­ers, and when you think prop for­ward Mano Vu­nipola made 20-plus tack­les you re­alise the amount of ef­fort the play­ers were putting in.

A lot of this con­cen­tra­tion in the de­struc­tive and phys­i­cal de­fen­sive ef­fort must go down to the re­turn­ing de­fence coach John Mitchell, who Ed­die Jones shrewdly ap­pointed the Kiwi to give the English de­fence more fo­cus.

When Eng­land were dom­i­nat­ing the world game, they had a de­fen­sive sys­tem that teams could not pen­e­trate, this such an im­por­tant el­e­ment of the game, sti­fling any Ir­ish threats.

It was a clas­sic Test match with great in­ter­na­tional play­ers do­ing their up­most to get the up­per hand. The Ir­ish half back in Jonny Sex­ton and Conor Mur­ray were nul­li­fied by the qual­ity of ball that they were re­ceiv­ing, which was largely al­ways on the back foot. When you are play­ing in a side that has such mo­men­tum all the play­ers have that ex­tra yard of pace and the en­ergy lev­els go through the roof. Early in the game the Red Rose play­ers could sense they had the up­per hand, es­pe­cially key at the test level, and to keep the level of in­ten­sity go­ing for the en­tire game.

They did this and more. As pred­i­cated, they started the game un­ex­pect­edly with a long throw into the mid­field with the re­turn­ing wreck­ing ball Manu Tuilagi col­lect­ing the ball which at­tracted de­fend­ers and af­ter some neat off loads from the storm­ing Eng­land for­wards.

Jonny May was found by a fizz of a pass from Owen Far­rell to score and the tone was set in the first 90 sec­onds.

May must be one of the most im­proved in­ter­na­tional play­ers in the world.

He has worked on his kick­ing game and de­fence, ei­ther in kick chase or re­ceiv­ing the pre­dictable bombs that the Ir­ish use as such an ef­fec­tive weapon.

Gone was the shared Eng­land cap­taincy, with Owen Far­rell lead­ing the men in white with au­thor­ity and pre­ci­sion, mak­ing the right de­ci­sions, with ac­cu­rate dis­tri­bu­tion through the hand and boot.

The one Eng­land player that has had a stop start Eng­land ca­reer is Henry Slade who could have fi­nally ce­mented his place in the Eng­land mid­field; with an im­pres­sive two try dis­play.

His pass to May to kick on for Slade to score was world class.

Fi­nally with Manu Tuilagi re­turn­ing to fit­ness and form, Eng­land’s mid-field per­son­nel de­bate may now be put to bed.

Eng­land has the French up next at HQ.

What can you say about the French side that played in dread­ful weather con­di­tions in the first half against Wales with such pre­ci­sion, rac­ing into a win­ning po­si­tion?

Then even for the French team, they spec­tac­u­larly im­ploded in the sec­ond half.

I thought they looked in two minds how to play, keep play­ing or hold onto their com­mand­ing first half lead.

They be­came mud­dled and without di­rec­tion, cou­pled with two mas­sive er­rors al­low­ing the Welsh to score two very soft tries.

The Welsh got away with this game, and I am sure will not play so badly again next time out against Italy.

Eng­land’s chal­lenge will now be to main­tain their form with a com­mand­ing per­for­mance against the French mov­ing a game closer to the Slam.

Henry Slade cel­e­brates with Manu Tuilagi af­ter scor­ing Eng­land’s third try in Dublin

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