Sunday, February 24, 2013

Vive la différence

Definitely a game of two halves, though sorry for parroting a football cliché.
England 23 : 13 France though anyone who'd simply watched the first half would have thought it a travesty as France dominated the early stages with a strong pack and some breathtaking running skills. England did hold their own in the kicking department though as Owen Farrell kept England in contention despite a brilliant French try. The sheer power of the French pack had England knocked back on their heels and it was a very different France who had failed in their previous two Six nations attempts against Italy and Wales.Indeed England were extremely fortuitous to hold the score to a one point deficit at half time to England 9 : 10 France.
And then, and then...
It was the difference in the strength of the two sides coupled by some bizarre substitutions by France taking off some of their better players and bringing on others who took them back to the previous two match indiscipline and lack of coordination. This along with some 'lucky' refereeing decisions in England's favour meant that it was England who totally dominated the second half and drove the French back on their heels with a try and three conversions two of whom came from Toby Flood who replaced the injured Owen Farrell. It was this strength in depth where England could replace like for like that put France to the sword, despite the French having a more talented initial starting line drawn from their domestic sides who are currently dominating the Heineken cup and with good reason.
In the end the score did not do France justice on their first half performance, but, overall it did underline the strength that England can bring to bear as the minutes tick by and tired bodies and minor injuries necessitate the interchanging of players. France were undone by a lack of strength in depth and at the end it showed as their discipline slipped and a series of unforced errors kept them well away from England's 22.
I doubt Italy will stand in much better stead in two weeks time at Twickenham, though stranger things have happened. Wales though at the Millennium Stadium in three weeks, that I think will decide just whether this England side will have a decent chance in the up and coming world cup...

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