This Personal Duel Hangs over England like Poisonous Gas

The Evening Standard (London, England), March 6, 2006 | Go to article overview

This Personal Duel Hangs over England like Poisonous Gas


Byline: JUSTIN CARTWRIGHT

WASPS' victory over Leicester in the semifinal of the Powergen Cup semi-final was gripping but this was a game strangely overshadowed by the knowledge that what we were watching was not the real story.

The rugby was hard-fought, even gripping, but the true drama was about the England team and Lawrence Dallaglio.

His massive, and not entirely benign presence, either glowering from the bench or denying any interest in displacing the England captain, Martin Corry, was the story. It's doubtful that even a single person in the Millennium Stadium believed Dallaglio's disclaimers nor did they believe Corry when he said that he had no concerns about the situation.

The truth is, it was humiliating for the England captain to be brought off against Scotland. Try to imagine Martin Johnson being replaced by Simon Shaw at a key stage in a game against the Scots a couple of seasons ago: Johnson would not have stood for it, and Clive Woodward wouldn't have dared anyway.

The problem is that there is only one place that Dallaglio can play, and that is Corry's place. It seems clear that England head coach Andy Robinson, in his heart of hearts, believes that Dallaglio is the better player and the better captain. And this suspicion is undermining Corry and England. It hangs over the England team like poison gas. Robinson may not realise it, but it is also hanging over him as a coach. He looks weak and conservative, rather than ruthless or bold.

Leicester coach, Pat Howard, said that Corry is a man for a crisis, who remains calm in all situations. Howard said that England would have beaten Scotland if Corry hadn't been replaced. While there is no evidence for this, it was not obvious what Dallaglio was going to do during his 15 minutes on the field that Corry couldn't. …

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