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A Result That Puts England In The Frame For World Cup Honours

A Result That Puts England In The Frame For World Cup  Honours

After watching England claim the Grand Slam with their 42-6 win over Ireland at Lansdowne Road, Mick Cleary believes they will be serious contenders for World Cup honours

Those ghosts will taunt no more. After three successive failures to land the Grand Slam, England silenced the doubters without – and the demons within – with a most comprehensive demolition job on Ireland. No amount of rosary bead twiddling, no prayers and supplications, could have stopped England in this form.

It was not that Ireland caved in with nary a fight, for they did not. It was a rousing contest, full of cut and thrust. No, it was simply that England’s relentless pursuit of the elusive goal never abated for one second. From the moment that Martin Johnson refused to bow to petty protocol and change line-up positions for the national anthems, England bossed the Lansdowne turf.

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They scored two tries in injury time to give the scoreboard a late varnishing. The last of these encapsulated what England were all about on the day. They chased Ireland like hounds from hell scavenging the last morsel. Stealing an Ireland throw on their own 22, England went through a dozen phases and two tap penalties before Dan Luger dotted down unmolested in the corner. Breathless stuff. Ireland were laid to waste.

As the final whistle blew, and dreams of Irish glory drifted forlornly away across Dublin Bay, even the partisan locals had the grace to acknowledge a fine England performance. In Jonny Wilkinson and Lawrence Dallaglio England had men of immense stature and where they led, their mates in white were only too eager to follow.

The result, and the manner of it, puts England quite squarely in the frame for World Cup honours. They deliberately talked up this game in order to put even greater pressure on themselves to deliver. They talked the talk and then strode the walk. This was self-assurance not arrogance on show. They didn’t preen or posture, they simply gave all that they had to the cause. The Australian cricketers back themselves in every situation. Now that this England squad have produced the goods, away from home and under such scrutiny, they too will know that they have the nerve, the tenacity, the desire and the deep-rooted faith in themselves and each other to come through. This victory was that significant.

“It would have been tough to recover in World Cup year if we’d not won,” said England manager Clive Woodward. “Instead there will be a spring in our step when next we meet.”

That next gathering will be for a two-Test trip to New Zealand and Australia. That first Test is against the All Blacks in Wellington when England will be looking to set a record of 12 successive victories.

Ireland, remember, were also on a run of 10 consecutive victories. They were the toughest of the sides who England have faced in their Grand Slam shoot-outs. This landmark triumph was also the first time in five occasions that the away side have won a Grand Slam showdown. The record books have taken rather a shine to England. It could be a long relationship.

England know, however, just how fragile is any side’s grip on the victory pedestal. England have talent but their most important asset is their work ethic. The victory was grafted first and foremost, and only then did craft come into its own. England also managed to ride their bumpy patches.

Ireland came right back at them just before half-time as first Geordan Murphy and then Kevin Maggs went close. England were only four points ahead, 10-6, courtesy of a try snaffled from nowhere in the ninth minute, Richard Hill, Matt Dawson and Dallaglio combining to devastating effect from the base of a scrum.

But here came the emerald wave. England resisted. And then they struck. Another poorly-protected scrum saw Dallaglio break away. A quick pop of passes and the right peg of Wilkinson swinging saw a dropped goal heading through the posts. That hurt.

Ireland simply could not match England’s sharp-eyed opportunism. Nor could they string enough telling phase play together. Their big ball carrier, Victor Costello, was well shackled. Ireland did put the ball through the hands more, bringing Murphy’s dancing feet into play. He twinkled into position once or twice, Brian O’Driscoll strained at the leash, but England were determined to give them nowt. An early David Humphreys dropped goal and a later penalty goal was all Ireland got.

England’s only ragged period was in the third quarter. They gave away a few silly penalties and were also forced into some running repairs on the injury front. No help there from an unnecessarily frosty referee, Jonathan Kaplan.

And then it all clicked. Mike Tindall came on to a short, deft pass from Will Greenwood on the hour and hit the after-burners to take him to the try-line. Five minutes later it was Greenwood’s turn to get in on the act, the centre being swept over the line by a gathering storm of white shirts after his initial breach was checked.

The game was up. England, though, did not lose focus. One measure of the mood of their play was that Wilkinson’s first penalty shot at goal did not come until the 71st minute. He did not waste it.

The final two-try blitz may have seemed unmerited. It was not. England had driven Ireland to distraction. This was the pay-back. Greenwood intercepted a pass from Murphy to stroll over before Luger wrapped it all up. You never need an excuse for a good weekend in Dublin. The Grand Slam finale did not disappoint.

(Report courtesy of The Daily Telegraph).