>> Youngs does his talk­ing on the pitch

The Rugby Paper - - Front Page - BRENDAN GAL­LAGHER

Play­ers with points to prove, chips on their shoul­ders, anger to vent, ground to make up and ca­reers to sal­vage. It didn’t make for a great spec­ta­cle – that was never go­ing to hap­pen any­way given the con­di­tions – but it did her­ald an Eng­land win and frankly that was the only thing that counted.

This week Ben Youngs did his talk­ing both on the pitch and with Sky’s Gail Davis af­ter­wards while Mike Brown, who de­manded re­spect in mid­week af­ter be­ing ver­bally abused by fans in Bloem­fontein, earned it for the umpteenth time with an­other strong per­for­mance. Chris Rob­shaw, mean­while, gave his re­ply to the pre­ma­ture rugby obit­u­ar­ies re­cently penned with his best per­for­mance in a long while.

Ok, South Africa were poor and Rassie Eras­mus will have learnt the first les­son of Test rugby which is never take your foot off the jugu­lar. In Test rugby you al­ways kick an op­po­nent when they are down and give them no cause for hope or op­ti­mism.

Over the pre­vi­ous two weeks his in­ex­pe­ri­enced ex­per­i­men­tal team had re­stored the feel good fac­tor in South African rugby but yes­ter­day, rest­ing key men at fly-half and full­back and with changes else­where, the re­sult was a mis­er­ably poor per­for­mance. You tinker at your peril at this and once the magic has dis­si­pated it can be fiendishly dif­fi­cult to con­jure up again from the ether.

None of that need con­cern Eng­land, their sole objective at New­lands, was to win by any score and they made a de­cent fist of that in dif­fi­cult con­di­tions.

Youngs, right, was in hot wa­ter this week af­ter his tac­i­turn post match in­ter­view, and there was a steely look to the way he went about his work and af­ter tak­ing some­thing of a pound­ing against op­po­site num­ber Faf de Klerk in the first two Test matches. Re­venge will have been sweet.

The Tiger em­braced the con­di­tions. There was much attention on Danny Cipri­ani and pos­si­bly sublim­i­nal pres­sure to let the Wasps man run the show and Eng­land also now have an al­most em­bar­rass­ing ar­ray of kick­ing op­tions in Owen Far­rell, Mike Brown, Henry Slade and Eliott Daly.

The con­di­tions – and there­for the need to keep pass­ing to a min­i­mum – dic­tated, how­ever, that the scrum-half did most of the kick­ing – tac­ti­cal as well as clearing de­fen­sive work – and Youngs hap­pily took that man­tle on.

You might think that is ob­vi­ous – Youngs has 76 caps and is a Lion from 2013 – but as Eng­land’s con­fi­dence has dipped in re­cent months many play­ers have stopped do­ing the ob­vi­ous in­stinc­tive thing.

So Youngs was in much bet­ter form dur­ing and straight af­ter the game yes­ter­day and there was no squirm­ing with em­bar­rasslevel ment – on our part as well as his – when he was pulled over for a word soon af­ter fi­nal whis­tle.

Brown has also en­joyed him­self in the kind of game he rel­ishes. Al­though wear­ing an 11 shirt he was very much play­ing full-back in de­fence and dealt with the high ball as well as any­body on a dif­fi­cult night. It’s what he does well and he also ran strongly and de­fended clev­erly and he has been one of Eng­land’s most con­sis­tent play­ers on this dif­fi­cult tour.

His ef­forts for Eng­land have al­ways de­manded re­spect. Feel free to con­struc­tively crit­i­cise his play and skills on oc­ca­sions – and many have in­clud­ing my­self – but there is no­body in the Eng­land set-up who gives more of him­self to the cause. That part of his game never

de­serves bad mouthing by fans.

Then we come to Rob­shaw who can never be ac­cused of giv­ing less than 100 per cent for Eng­land al­though for a few months he hasn’t quite been him­self, al­most cer­tainly on ac­count of the ac­cu­mu­lated fa­tigue that inevitably hits such whole hearted play­ers oc­ca­sion­ally.

Take the in­ten­sity out of their game and they be­come pale im­i­ta­tions of them­selves. When in­ten­sity, workrate, pas­sion and not miss­great ing tack­les is the rea­son you are in the team you can’t af­ford to be at less than 100 per cent. Play­ers with higher tar­iff skills can pa­per over the cracks to a cer­tain ex­tent with a well taken try or one moment of bril­liance. Rob­shaw un­doubt­edly de­served to be dropped af­ter the first Test at El­lis Park but the rush by some to send him off into Test re­tire­ment was pre­ma­ture and a lit­tle un­seemly. He needed a rest – I have ab­so­lutely no idea why Ed­die Jones played him in that Bar­bar­ians match – and in fact he still needs a lengthy break to re-en­er­gise but things hap­pen on tour and Brad Shields’ ill­ness in mid­week ne­ces­si­tated that he put the surf­board away down in Dur­ban at train­ing this week and go to the well one more time this sea­son.

Wet ball, heav­ier con­di­tions, must win game, a mus­cu­lar arm wres­tle – Rob­shaw was born for such rugby matches and he was soon back in the groove earn­ing some valu­able turnovers and land­ing a few big hits and gen­er­ally en­joy­ing the slower pace of the game. Rob­shaw – cer­tainly at this late stage in his ca­reer – is a man who en­joys the mud, rain and wind of Cape Town much more than the dust and sweat of the High Veldt.

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