x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Future looks bright for fast-improving England

Six Nations champions Ireland left with several holes to fill going into Rugby World Cup

England captain Chris Robshaw acknowledges the crowd at the end of the Six Nations match between Italy and England at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on March 15, 2014. Shaun Botterill / Getty Images
England captain Chris Robshaw acknowledges the crowd at the end of the Six Nations match between Italy and England at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on March 15, 2014. Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

The Six Nations championship should never be regarded as a means to an end, so perhaps it got the winner it deserved this year.

Its finale and the ensuing victory for Ireland capped the life’s work for arguably the finest European rugby player of the past 15 years.

Brian O’Driscoll’s career hardly needed a valedictory exclamation mark like this, but it got it anyway.

That said, the championship of 2013 could yet be marked as a seminal point in the development of an emerging side. England have finished second in the past three seasons and the Celtic nations must be fed up with the amount they have to hear about them.

Yet no one will have emerged from this Six Nations more optimistic about the future than England. So Ireland won, but now they have to work out who will be playing in the No 13 shirt for the 2015 World Cup.

England have found their answers already to perpetual conundrums such as the captaincy, the second-row and full-back.

Gutsy wins against Ireland and Wales will have fostered genuine belief. They will have learnt valuable lessons in defeat in France in the tournament opener, too.

“We made a vow to each other in Rome that next year is going to be our year,” Chris Robshaw, England’s captain, wrote in his newspaper column. “We are judged on silverware. We desperately want to take the next step in 2015 and win the Six Nations championship. Then our sights will be set on the World Cup.”

pradley@thenational.ae

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