Eng­land de­liv­ered, now they

The Rugby Paper - - Autumn Internationals - BREN­DAN GAL­LAGHER VER­DICT

FFar­rell got away with it and then had a stormer but refs no­tice these things and will be on his case

or many – pos­si­bly most – the jury was on whether Eng­land had en­joyed a good Au­tumn un­til as late as the sec­ond half yes­ter­day. And then, in one fell swoop, they an­swered most of the ques­tions and wor­ries with an ex­hil­a­rat­ing half of high tempo rugby that was much too good for the Aussies

If Eng­land could some­how, and with some reg­u­lar­ity, mesh their first half against New Zea­land and yes­ter­day’s sec­ond half they will def­i­nitely win the World Cup and some­how achiev­ing that un­stop­pable 80-minute game is Ed­die Jones’ chal­lenge go­ing into 2019.

It all started to fall into place af­ter the break yes­ter­day. El­liot Daly hasn’t been an out-and-out suc­cess at full-back, mainly be­cause he needs to learn and adapt to new de­fen­sive du­ties, but there is no ques­tion that 15 is the po­si­tion in which he can cause most dam­age.

It of­fers more space and just a frac­tion of a sec­ond more time for him to look up and pick his way through the traf­fic with his danc­ing feet and light­ning pace. All of this was ev­i­dent dur­ing his bril­liant try.

And then ‘Smokin Joe’ came out of his cor­ner throw­ing big punches look­ing to fin­ish the fight early. Joe Cokanasiga has al­ways been a tal­ent, that’s why Ed­die Jones has taken him on the last two sum­mer tours and why an ar­range­ment was made with Lon­don Ir­ish that he could keep play­ing Pre­mier­ship rugby with Bath.

Against Ja­pan he looked born for Test rugby and he had been do­ing ev­ery­thing ef­fi­ciently and well yes­ter­day un­til he let the hand­brake off. Cokanasiga is not in the team to be ef­fi­cient, he is there for his raw

power and pace and preda­tory try scor­ing in­stincts.

He made his try look de­cep­tively easy and then came that re­mark­able run which should have re­sulted in the try of the au­tumn but brought the house down none­the­less. Be­ing hy­per crit­i­cal he should have handed on to Henry Slade at the death but Michael Hooper’s try-sav­ing tackle was off the Richter scale.

Add to all this the ever-dan­ger­ous Jonny May, the ex­cel­lent Kyle Sinck­ler, the prodi­giously hard work­ing Mark Wil­son and the en­cour­ag­ing sign of Manu Tuilagi re­turn­ing to Test rugby – and look­ing pretty sharp in uni­son with Ben Te’o – and this was a per­for­mance to sway even the most scep­ti­cal jury.

Eng­land started by some­how win­ning a game they should have lost against South Africa. The Boks should have put Eng­land away be­fore half-time and then made a mess of things af­ter the break. The try-sav­ing tackle by Owen Far­rell gar­nered all the head­lines and Eng­land were much im­proved af­ter the break but in all hon­esty the Boks threw that one away.

But then Eng­land lost a game they clearly should have won. They out­played New Zea­land for much of the first half, built a 15-0 lead and then clutched de­feat from the jaws of vic­tory. There were mit­i­gat­ing cir­cum­stances, though.

When the dust had set­tled there is no ques­tion that they were done in cold blood by the TMO over the Sam Un­der­hill try that never was. The more you look at it the more it be­comes ev­i­dent that the ABs had made a hor­licks of things at the back of the ruck and that the ball was live at which point there was no off­side line and TJ Per­e­nara didn’t have the pro­tec­tion of de­lay­ing the mo­ment he lifted the ball.

And then what to make of the Ja­pan match? A truly dis­mal open­ing 40 min­utes by Eng­land fol­lowed by a de­cent, ef­fi­cient sec­ond half which co­in­cided with the ar­rival of Far­rell off the bench.

It was a be­wil­der­ing se­ries of per­for­mances on which to judge Eng­land and un­doubt­edly upped the ante yes­ter­day. The pres­sure was on and they de­liv­ered.

The pres­sure now is to keep on de­liv­er­ing. Eng­land have the game, they have the tem­plate now they must dis­cover how to repli­cate such qual­ity against all-com­ers on for­eign soil or at least neu­tral ground.

A bru­tal start to the Six Na­tions will quickly test this. Ire­land away first up is as tough as it comes in world rugby and the prospect of that clash alone will sus­tain us through the first part of the win­ter.

But then comes an im­proved France at home and the Welsh in Cardiff. Come through those three games in credit and you can qui­etly start look­ing at the World Cup odds and mak­ing a mod­est in­vest­ment.

There are ar­eas still work on, of course there are, and one surely must be Owen Far­rell’s tack­ling tech­nique. He was le­gal, just, in my opin­ion dur­ing that in­ci­dent at the end of the Boks game but was to­tally il­le­gal just be­fore half-time yes­ter­day when Aus­tralia should have been awarded a penalty try and he should have spent ten min­utes in the bin.

Far­rell got away with it and sub­se­quently had a storm­ing game but refs no­tice these things and af­ter their end-of-term de­brief rest as­sured they will be on his case in the Six Na­tions and through­out next year. Eng­land be­ware.

Ex­cel­lent: Kyle Sinck­ler

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