x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Six Nations: Why the door was slammed in England's face

The ingredients to Wales's success over England included a greater desire on the day, greater experience and clearer heads.

Left to right, dejected England players Toby Flood, Mike Brown, Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley after defeat to Wales.
Left to right, dejected England players Toby Flood, Mike Brown, Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley after defeat to Wales.

If New Zealand can be labelled as chokers for failing to win the Rugby World Cup in the period between 1987 and 2011, then it must be time to look at England in a similar light after their latest failure to secure the Six Nations Grand Slam.

On Saturday, England crumbled to their eighth defeat when a clean sweep was on the line. The match may have been delicately poised at 9-3 at half time but in a ferocious third quarter Wales raced away to inflict a 30-3 humiliation on their visitors. To add insult to injury, England failed to score a try in the fixture for the second year running.

The ingredients to Wales's success included a greater desire on the day, greater experience and clearer heads.

Wales were adamant that England were not going to parade the Six Nations trophy through Cardiff on Saturday night. They managed to maintain clarity of thought during the hurly-burly of a championship decider because their experience had taught them how to.

The Wales starting line-up boasted 336 caps more than did England's and they were quality caps, too.

The Wales prop Adam Jones had played in three grand slam-winning matches. Gethin Jenkins, who captained the side, had played in two, as had Ian Evans and Alun Wyn-Jones.

Only Dan Biggar and Justin Tipuric, who may just be a candidate for a late run into the British & Irish Lions touring party, were not in Paris when Wales completed the clean sweep last season. Wales had not beaten England by such a margin for over 100 years but by retaining the title for the first time since the 1978/79 season they rammed home the point that they are the dominant force in the northern hemisphere.

It is certainly not England. It is a decade since they last won a Grand Slam en route to their deserved victory in the Rugby World Cup under the guidance of Sir Clive Woodward the same year. Before that, England had not beaten every team since 1995, and Italy were not even in the tournament then.

By collecting their 26th championship, Wales have drawn level with England at the top of the all-time records and lead their bitter rivals 54-51 in head-to-heads. There have been 12 draws.

England's player pool is approximately eight times greater than that of Wales, which only underlines further how spectacularly they have underachieved since Woodward vacated the post in 2004.

In Stuart Lancaster, however, England have the right man for the job. The coach is the ultimate professional and is an excellent manager. He has vision and understands how he is going to get his team to achieve his goals.

New Zealand are the only team to regularly perform at a high level in international rugby. Most other international teams learn from either one, or a series, of catastrophic setbacks.

England lost three grand slams in a row before demolishing Ireland on their way to the World Cup in 2003. The squad were taught a valuable lesson in Cardiff on Saturday. They need to learn from it, and fast.

 

sports@thenational.ae