Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England Daren't Go to Sleep amid the Din from Hell

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England Daren't Go to Sleep amid the Din from Hell

Article excerpt


NOTHING which unfolded on rugby's historic debut at Croke Park - neither the heart break of Ireland's late capitulation nor France's impression of being the outstanding team of this Six Nations so far - can have brought any comfort to an England side suddenly reacquainted with an uncomfortable vision of their autumn mediocrity.

The dynamism, ambition and, above all, pace of yesterday's collision in Dublin, won eventually 20-17 by the French through Vincent Clerc's last-gasp try, only served to show up England's laboured, pedestrian 20-7 defeat of an Italian team which, if they had been armed with some ambition to accompany their forwards' splendid doggedness, might even have truly embarrassed their hosts.

From yesterday's evidence, with Brian O'Driscoll drafted back into midfield to rejoin forces with Gordon D'Arcy and with an impassioned 82,000 crowd making a din from hell, Ireland, despite their defeat, will prevail in the landmark meeting a fortnight hence if England cannot rouse themselves significantly beyond the level they laboured to attain at Twickenham.

Not that the team didn't recognise this icy reality check. As captain Phil Vickery insisted, they had never been carried away by the Jonny Wilkinson-inspired revival against the Scots the previous weekend as a thrillstarved public and press had been.

After a team playing together for just the second time had still eked out a win, however unlovely it was, he could still only think in positives not pitfalls.

I'm not gonna stand here and say it was all fantastic. It wasn't. We struggled but I'd sooner find out things now going into the Ireland game that we know we have to improve upon," Vickery said with typical quiet honesty.

I'd liked to have put 50 points on Italian

them but in reality that doesn't happen. All I know is in months and games gone by, would we have won that game? I think there would have been a big question mark over us."

He's right. For all the inability to boss the game up front and the subsequent poverty of invention in the backs, England's win never looked in doubt.

Wilkinson's goalkicking - five out of five penalties - can turn potentially nightmarish afternoons into comfy ones but, in truth, this was the rusty rather than miraculous game we might have expected from him on his return last week, with his positional kicking too often awry or simply wasteful when other more

ambitious options beckoned. …

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