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Victory on Merit
Critics Are Rather Rose-Tinting The Past
Posted Mar 11, 2011 by Shaun Edwards
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There is a danger in most sports of over-criticism from journalists and fans of any side that obtains victories despite never really playing that well. Whether they fluke a try in the last five minutes or simply manage to graft kick after kick over the posts despite being consistently under the cosh, there is often a vitriolic reaction to anything that’s not beautiful sport. Is there really any place for this reaction in rugby, though?
England’s performance against France was the latest in a line of victories for Martin Johnson’s side that were not entirely merited. Aside from the way they swept aside Italy, England have rarely looked completely dominant in this tournament, prompting many people to unfavourably compare the current unit to the world-conquering one of 2003. However, this evaluation is hardly fair.
Let us not forget that despite the World Cup victory, the 2003 England side had more than their fair share of lucky wins. In the quarter final of that very tournament, they were obscenely lucky to get away with defeating a Welsh side that utterly dominated them in the first half, Shane Williams tormenting the white shirts with a huge performance. England were crushed, and won anyway.
In the same year’s Six Nations tournament, they ground out wins against both France at Twickenham and then against Ireland in Dublin to obtain the grand slam. England looked either lacklustre or downright worried by their opponents, but still came away with the victory. Had England’s results matched their performances, they would have finished 2003 being critically hammered and considered by everyone to be utter choke-artists.
They didn’t – they won the games, went forward to win the World Cup and were widely considered as heroes by pretty much everyone. Just as the England of today could have lost against France or Wales, though, the England of 2003 had more than their fair share of scares. Whilst the current side doesn’t have the quality on paper of that team, then it is hard to argue with the fact that they are slowly learning to obtain victories that they don’t deserve, and that is a valuable skill in itself.