Phil Vickery looks back on the Six Nations weekend
BY PHIL VICKERY, RUGBY LEGEND ON 29 FEB 2012 15:16 SPORT & LEISURECOMMENTS
The sweet smell of success for England’s rose
This young England side continues to surprise doesn’t it! I think at the beginning of this tournament they were being told they would be very lucky to win two games maximum and would certainly be thumped by Wales and France. Now here we are with one weekend to go and they have only lost to Wales in a contest that could have gone either way and are in with a mathematical chance of winning the Championship.
What a joy it has been to watch this team develop from a stuttering start in Scotland to the magnificent display in Paris this weekend. I think we can say even at this early stage they have given England fans everything they wanted from their team. On Sunday in Paris they did so much right in the game. Of course there were some stupid penalties which kept France in it for longer than they should have been but I thought England looked the better side for huge parts of that game.
It was great to see Tom Croft back in full flow and doing what he does best and he scored a quite magnificent try. I am increasingly liking the front row who again had a good afternoon at the coalface, both Dan and Alex look nailed on for the prop spots for a while to come. As for Stuart Lancaster and whether he should be given the job – my vote is with him. He has done everything you could have asked of him and has shown himself to be intelligent, motivated and a superb man manager. You have to remember when Clive Woodward was given the job to coach England he did not have too much in the coaching credentials wardrobe to pull out and ended up a World Cup winning coach. I don’t think we should appoint Stuart just because he is English but I honestly think at the moment he is the right man to take England forward.
What a massive weekend coming up for the Wales team in Cardiff when they take on the French for a potential Grand Slam. We are all fully aware of the sheer unpredictability of the French so whilst they were not exactly on song in Paris they are fully capable of blowing you away when they decide to play. However Wales are a very good side and have weapons of their own so if the French bring their A game it should be an absolute classic on Saturday.
A weekend of fine margins in the Six Nations
A superb weekend again, and one of fine margins, in the Six Nations tournament with all the games too close to call at half time and only Ireland really running away with it in the second half.
However, first of all a massive congratulations to Wales for winning at Twickenham and picking up the Triple Crown. As a team they have a great ethos and as I know personally a very fine coach in Warren Gatland. If you combine that with some extremely talented players you have to back them for the Grand Slam particularly as the take on the other favourite France in Cardiff.
I enjoyed the Scotland v France game and whilst understanding how gutted the Scottish players must be feeling at yet another loss you cant help feeling they are inches away from being a very decent side and getting a good win. They have some excellent players and have unearthed a fire cracker of a player in young Hogg who gave them an extra dimension in attack
As for England – I felt pretty proud of them on Saturday as they came close to beating this excellent Welsh team. I felt the power and pace of Manu Tuilagi made a big difference and I admire Stuart Lancaster for the team he picked which had more go forward that the previous two. What was particularly pleasing for me was to hear the Twickenham crowd get right behind the team and there is genuinely a feeling of a fresh start and new more hungry players out there. You can see that in the way they defend which has been magnificent. They are a gutsy and passionate group of lads with no little skill and I am genuinely excited about the potential.
Big plus point for Lancaster though is finally seeing what this side can do in attack and young Owen Farrell really orchestrated things at fly half. Lee Dickson at scrum half did what he was picked to do which was to speed up the game and slow it down at the right time and Ben Morgan at 8 definitely gave us a lot more go forward. I thought both sides had their chances but great defending by both the red shirts and the white shirts kept it close all the way through. Massively encouraging if you are England fan and to date this young and inexperienced side has let nobody down whilst doing a lot better than many thought they would. I have had so many people say to me that they are enjoying watching England play again after being disillusioned over the last couple of years and that is I believe down to the type of team Stuart Lancaster has created. It is obvious to everyone this group want to play for that shirt and are giving everything.