Monday, 21 June 2010

Sorting the men from the boys

It may well be one of the biggest clichés in sport, but…

….what a difference a week can make.

In Perth last week, England played as badly as I or anyone else watching has seen them under the management of Martin Johnson.

They were almost as bad as England in Cape Town on Friday night, but that is pushing it a little.

After feeling deflated, disappointed and totally disillusioned by the England’s performance against Algeria, Saturday morning totally revived my weekend. The way England beat Australia in Sydney for the first time since they won the World Cup in 2003 was unbelievable. Yes the performance was improved. Yes the rugby played was worlds apart from the week before. Yes the changes made a big difference on the field. But for me, the spirit and the heart shown was remarkable.

In all honesty, a video of the game should be shown to our boys in South Africa – that is the level of performance needed to win. That is the attitude to have.

It was like watching a different team. From the opening minutes there was this confidence that many argued was nowhere to be seen. All week, both the English and Australian media hammered home this idea that there was no ‘togetherness’ within the squad. The series of phases England built upon was vastly improved – the second try scored by Chris Ashton was truly memorable. Phase upon phase, patience and organisation led to an opening and Ashton helped himself. The first try was a moment of individual mastery by Ben Youngs. Will Genia is said to be the best scrum-half on the planet, yet Youngs glided past him and made Drew Mitchell look like a plodding front row forward. If he isn’t England’s first choice for years to come, Johnson is surely missing a trick.

And then enter the master himself and the man who came back to haunt the Wallabies yet again on the same ground where his drop goal won the World Cup, Jonny Wilkinson. His second kick at goal echoed the inconsistency his performances showed in the 6 Nations, but the first sealed the game for England.

Fate some would say.

Like the title of this post describes, I believe England's win in Oz demonstrated the difference in passion, belief and the drive to be successful that the rugby team showed. I love my football. I can't get enough of it. But you simply can't match what rugby players show on the field.

For all those who didn’t watch the rugby, I encourage you to do so. The team evoked a real sense of pride in me on Saturday, something that was missing Friday.

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