I rarely delve into the world of rugby but do follow the England team and as I have not written a post about rugby in a very long time I thought I would share my opinion, albeit briefly, on the team after their opening Autumn Test.
England fought back to within ten point of the All Blacks at Twickenham yesterday and it probably should have been less. With New Zealand a man down and all the momentum with England in the final ten minutes, it was right to think England could find at least one extra score.
Despite the loss, there has been an overarching sense of optimism surrounding the performance. Following a breath-taking 21-20 victory over Australia back in June, England seem to be heading in the right direction.
I have always been quite forthright with my disapproval of the choice of Martin Johnson as England coach. I feel that his first two years in charge of the team largely justified this too. Now, however, there are signs that he is growing into the role.
There have been numerous changes made, both tactically and in personnel, that have given England a new look. The aimless kicking and slow ball is on its way to being eradicated and in its place there are new, young and exciting players coming in and looking to play more expansive and positive rugby. If nothing else then this makes an England match slightly less arduous to watch.
Foden, Ashton, Lawes and Youngs all promise to be stars of the future. The balance between experience and youth seems to be almost right.
My main concern with the England team is at Fly Half. Is Toby Flood good enough to lead this new England side to a period of sustained success? I have my doubts. At the heart of any great team is a Fly Half pulling the strings. Flood seems to lack the quality required to act as the lynch-pin of this ever-improving England team.
Flood failed to impose himself on the match and dictate the play, especially in New Zealand's 22, in which England had good possession which they failed to convert into points. Dan Carter's clinical leading of the All Black attack served only to exaggerate Flood's own failings. Perhaps I am being overly critical but he does not fill me with the calming confidence that a world class No.10 should.
Nevertheless, England performed admirably. New Zealand came to Twickenham on the back of a busy Autumn schedule. Not surprisingly therefore, they looked sharper and made by far the brighter start. England warmed to their task and in the second half though and had given good cause for optimism by the final whistle.
Martin Johnson's men now face Australia, Samoa and South Africa on consecutive Saturdays at Twickenham and how well they perform will be an ideal parameter of just how far the team have come and how far they have left to go ahead of the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
Thoughts, comments and opinions please...