Many of you will have watched England concede a heart-breaking defeat at Twickenham nearly two weeks ago. Their chances of winning the RBS Six Nations Grand Slam (which they haven’t done since the climactic year of 2003) are now shattered. However, the lack of positive results is mistakenly put down to an absence of talent within the elite squad, which, in my opinion, is totally wrong. The obstacle, which will no doubt be conquered within the coming years, is age and experience.
Let me elaborate. The collective number of caps of the English front row playing against Wales was 73, whereas their adversary’s collective number amounted to 159. Furthermore, the England pack was heavily outweighed. Alex Corbisiero looked like he had been eating in the soup kitchens at the Salvation Army for the last week, while his opposite number Gethin Jenkins would have given even Joseph Kony a fright. The young and relatively inexperienced scrum was reflected in the statistics of the game. The Wales pack dominated in the lineouts, won one more scrum than England and made far less handling errors. Though no doubt talented, their time has not yet come. Back to the gym boys, and don’t forget your protein.
The only player on Saturday to put any points on the board was Owen Farrell, thanks to his slick kicking ability. The boy, who looks like he should still be doing his A Levels (if any Americans did not understand that joke, just replace ‘A Levels’ with ‘SATs’ – there you go), is running the England line at the age of 20. Don’t get me wrong, the fact that his father is in the England coaching staff might have had something to do with it, but Farrell has talent. He is perhaps the future of English rugby. The rest of the team seem to have great confidence in him and he can most definitely run the line better than many international Fly-Halves – at least those his age.
It will be interesting to see how England steps up to the mark when facing Phillipe Saint-André’s Les Bleus this weekend at the iconic Stade de France. They are most definitely the underdogs in this encounter and the pressure will be on. The French national side are hardened rugby veterans, with the average player cap at a very impressive 32. The experience will most likely outweigh the flair of youth and I predict that England will be shoulder to shoulder with France in the first half, but will be crushed in the second. This is nothing more than a rough guess, but one thing is for certain – it will be an incredible match, with each team holding different strengths and weaknesses. Do no miss this battle dear readers – it may be the best match we’ll see this tournament.
The 2015 Rugby World Cup, which will be held on our very own soil, will be the podium for the English national side. The players will have matured, improved and learned. The tournament will be their opportunity to show that England has bred yet another word class squad, worthy of winning the world cup and returning to the glory of 2003.