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England Scrape Through
Posted Mar 16, 2011 by Shaun Edwards
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Last week I wrote a piece noting the importance of any high class side to be able to gain a win despite not really warranting it. It was as well timed as anything I’ve written: I’ve seen few wins that weren’t as deserved as England’s 22-16 victory over the Scots at Twickenham on Sunday.
With their final fixture coming against Ireland in Dublin, England will be glad that they go there still able to win the Six Nations even if they lose their first match of the tournament. However, they will also be more than aware that a performance like the one they demonstrated against the Scots will likely be taken full advantage of by the Irish. There was no fluency to the English game: they scraped their way through, turning over more ball in this game than they had in the rest of the tournament. They gifted Scotland possession, and frequently made errors at the breakdown.
The reasons for the performance seem fairly obvious: whatever they may say regarding not thinking about a potential grand slam win, it was apparent they could think about little else, most of the players on the field betraying a distinctly nervous demeanour. Needless to say, this will not to come the World Cup. International sportsman cannot afford mental weakness.
Scotland though, were superb, producing a replica of the powerful form that saw them defeat both Argentina and South Africa last year. There was real power and precision in the way they persistently attacked the English forwards, and they went for the home side with a fury that almost made the fact that this was a sports match seem a bit irrelevant. Even their normally stern coach Andy Robinson was caught with the ghost of a smile on his lips watching his side’s performance. Nathan Hines and Richie Gray in particular were excellent. England main-man Ben Foden seemed unable to produce anything to combat the Scottish willpower.
After the high point of their defeat over the French, you can bet that Martin Johnson will be cracking the whip to ensure England avoid complacency in their final match and go on to obtain the Six Nations trophy. Whatever happens, though, his side have been given a harsh lesson as to their true place in World Rugby by a Scottish team that battled like warriors.