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
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
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 |
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