Monday, 8 August 2011

Scott's England verdict

Youth Coaching Co-ordinator Scott Vinnicombe gives his verdict on England's performance against Wales on Saturday and makes a call on their world cup chances.

England Match report- Twickenham- Saturday 06/08/2011
England 23 def Wales 19

Martin Johnson named a “second String” team to face Wales in Saturday’s world cup warm up match. With only three games left before the long awaited trip to New Zealand this was a chance for several players to cement their spot on the plane and for others to put themselves forward.

Some of the key selections for the match include England’s world cup winning fly half Johnny Wilkinson, who has returned to form and fitness since leaving Newcastle for Toulon in the 2009/10 season.

Matt Stevens who has served his two year ban for drug use and has quickly re-established himself as a dominant prop in English rugby playing for Saracens and the England Saxons in 17 undefeated matches since his return.

Finally Manu Tuilagi the young Samoan born centre known most recently for trying to knock Chris Astons head off in the Premiership semi final.

For me the three people I just mentioned were England’s best players on the day, Wilkinson didn’t miss a kick, carried the ball well and when Danny care gave him quick ball he attacked on the gain line and caused the welsh defence lots of problems. He kicked a total of 13 points from England’s 23 and set up a try with a well timed switch with centre Tuilagi. Wilko a definite starter in the world cup for me!

Tuilagi had an impressive first team debut for England and I think his second half try sealed him a place in the world cup squad maybe even the starting XV. Defensively he showed his inexperience early on but seemed to improve greatly as the game went on and he combined well with Wilko for his try cutting back inside on the switch then breaking three welsh tackles to score under the posts.

I think Matt Stevens has also got himself a squad place for the world cup especially as he can prop as both tight and loosehead. Good performances in the set pieces with his strength in the scrum setting up the platform for James Haskell’s try in the first half. Didn’t see too much of him with ball in hand but I think he will be on the plane to New Zealand.

A quick mention also for Delon Armitage who played at fullback, unfortunately for him Ben Foden finished the season on great form and doesn’t look like giving up the fullback spot but Armitage certainly gave England’s selectors a performance to warrant a trip to the world cup. Several key tackles including a try saving(match saving) tackle on Wales captain Warburton, he also showed a flash of his counter attacking skills after intercepting a pass and running it back from the halfway line up to the welsh 5metre line before a great covering tackle stopped what would have been the try of the match.

So... can England win the world cup??? My honest opinion is no, my heart screams yes but I must swallow my pride and use my head, England have come along way since the 2007 world cup and the young players coming through are starting to gel and looking good but I think the world cup has come a year too early for us to be real contenders.

I think we will make the semi finals but a draw against Australia or South Africa could end our world cup hopes very quickly as both team have a very strong squad, To me it doesn’t matter who we play because I just can’t see past New Zealand winning it.

They have been known to choke in the world cup but with the form they are showing in the tri-nations and the fact that they play host this year surely they will lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

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