category: rugby news

Still fighting

Stuart Barnes15/10/07

From the bottom of the pit England has clambered to within sight of the summit.

It is proving to be one of the more dramatic of all rugby expeditions. Brian Ashton has got his team thinking and they have roused themselves to a furious pitch of determined and heart warming patriotism.

France and their conservative coach, Bernard Laporte got their deserts. Yes, they froze but with the extra talent at their disposal behind the scrum and a competitive pack, it was a poor and unambitious performance from them.

England are not pretty, that is for sure, but they are finding some momentum and self belief. They will also need to find some better finishing skills if they are to complete the job and turn around a 36-0 defeat just a month ago.

Jonny Wilkinson, with his amazing temperament, was the hero although he was poor for seventy odd minutes. He needs to have that scoreboard ticking with much more regularity than Saturday because Sunday night was a reminder of South Africa's strike power, either through their athletic pack or that man Habana.

The line-out is another mountain all of its own that England must scale if they are to ascend the big one. Logic has the Boks strong favourites to win the match but this has been a fiercely illogical tournament to date.

Smash into the half backs and make South Africa play for 80 minutes and who knows; after the last few weeks I am not prepared to discount anything - except maybe Mark Regan outsprinting Bryan Habana to the line from 90 metres. Other than that, it remains up for grabs.

South Africa have the extra class but also the huge burden of expectation. England have already overachieved. Their fear is a healthy fear; not one that can lead to the frozen performance we saw from France.

You never know...

STUART BARNES | SKY Sports | Monday, 15 October 2007 | Comment on this article

Stuart Barnes

Still fighting 15/10/07
Fiji accept Mission Impossible 2/10/07
No time for complacency 24/9/07
Step forward for Boks 16/9/07
Minnows impress 10/9/07
World Cup wonders 5/9/07
Stuart Barnes' dream XV 2/9/07
The gloom deepens 20/8/07
Backs to the wall 13/8/07

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