Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Six Nations 2010: England face a defining moment against Ireland

By Mick Cleary, Rugby Union Correspondent Published: 5:06PM GMT twenty-six February 2010

Looking up: Martin Johnson and his boss, Rob Andrew, will be anticipating for big things from England at Twickenham Looking up: Martin Johnson and his boss, Rob Andrew, will be anticipating for big things from England at Twickenham Photo: GETTY IMAGES

They have a superb event on Saturday afternoon at Twickenham to get everybody on-message: to convince the sceptics that they can fool around with animation and variety, to charm the floating voter with a opening of demon and substance, and to set themselves up with a probability of their initial Triple Crown since the excellence days of 2003. The moments of tab come thick and fast for England.

There is constantly a flip-side to such upbeat portents, and it is this. England are dominant in this year"s tournament, and in truth have won their last 4 Six Nations matches, but they have nonetheless to yield credible justification that they can be relied on to broach the products at any since time.

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They sojourn a group in transition, a side of occasional promise, as able of frustrating lapses as they are of rising heady opportunist strikes such as we saw opposite France last deteriorate and irregularly opposite Wales 3 weeks ago.

England are conjunction as bad as sardonic headlines can infrequently have them out to be, nor as great as they ought to be. Ho-hum standards do not underline on any Rugby Football Union mission statements.

The revisit of Ireland, therefore, is a seminal arise for Martin Johnson"s side. Win, and England unequivocally are on the move: lose, and the gripes will go on to snarl turn Twickenham. These are edgy, capricious times. It is the impulse for clarity.

Ireland are important opponents. The Grand Slam champions took a battering themselves in Paris, one that lifted the probability that this era have crested the brow of the hill, but they are still packaged with potency.

Centres Brian O"Driscoll and Gordon D"Arcy, who is in his most appropriate form for most a year, and wing Tommy Bowe can have a hoax of the tightest of defences whilst the fake to Ronan O"Gara"s fly-half throne, Jonny Sexton, has the strut of one who intends to means effect and infer that head manager Declan Kidney was right in preferring him to O"Gara.

Sexton takes over from a man who has featured in Ireland"s prior 32 championship matches. That"s a little layer to inherit. Johnson conceded on Friday that Sexton"s participation done Ireland some-more formidable to read.

The Irish back-row is as well-balanced as any in the championship. Given that Test matches are made by what happens, or by what you can get afar with, at the breakdown, afterwards the conflict of the particular foraging trios will be hugely influential, as will the refereeing of Mark Lawrence, from South Africa.

"Ireland were the most appropriate section in 2009," Nick Easter, the England No 8, acknowledged. "I do sense, though, that there"s a lot some-more to come from us right opposite the field. We"ve been at about 60-70 per cent and need to get up to 90 per cent opposite teams such as Ireland. The mood is great and we can positively give it a go if needs be."

The England pack will be acid for an corner in the scrummage. The Ireland props, Cian Healy and centurion John Hayes, have had their difficulties, nonetheless constantly they find a approach to survive. If Tim Payne and Dan Cole could get the poke on, it would be a poignant advantage. Scrum-half Danny Care would afterwards have probability to speak up gait in England"s diversion and to put his half-back partner, Jonny Wilkinson on the front foot.

Wilkinson is not the usually one at No10 to have had a bad press these past couple of weeks. There"s as most probability of Wilkinson losing his cool as there is of Gordon Brown maintaining his.

But Wilkinson needs to show his care qualities, infer to an increasingly jealous assembly that he is some-more than a Powerpoint fly-half, one who can attain usually with clever programming. There is some-more in him. We sorely need to see it.

In the second row Simon Shaw has to denote the violent form that was such a hallmark of his Lions tour. Paul O"Connell, the Lions captain, will know all about that threat.

Ireland have the genius to hurt any newly built reputations. England, for their part, have been in championship hibernation for as well long. It is time for them to arise blinking in to the object and show loyal championship credentials.


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