I got it wrong but who saw England display coming?
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