MISSING BILL AND FINDING PROPS
Not sure what to make of the England-Wales game. Putting 30 points on Wales is no mean achievement, but still a sense of frustration among England supporters – certainly those who supped deep from the well of Sussex bitter last weekend. Nick Easter is massively important to England and his partnership at the base of the England pack with his Harlequins teammate at scrum-half Danny Care must be allowed to develop. But what England are missing, even if they held up well against the Welsh, is a scary front-five. Andrew Sheridan being out does not help, but even Sherry god bless him lacks edge, unless you get him really angry, which he finally got in the third Lions Test.
I am no little Englander and Riki Flutey is an outstanding centre, who deserves to grace the game at the highest level. But it is a little depressing in terms of England's player development that England are hanging out for the return from a dead leg of a bloke from Wairarapa, New Zealand, who plays in France. Mind you if you ever head for Wairarapa, kick on to the Wharekauhau estate, a 5000-acre sheep station right on the southern tip of the north island. It is a magical spot for a honeymoon. Fine wine too.
We all have our memories of the late great Bill McLaren and we have all attempted the accent. Eddie Butler does a grand job as BBC lead commentator, but Bill’s boots are impossible to fill, not that anybody would want to. You know the moment I most missed Bill – ‘have a Hawick ball son’ – was at Twickenham when prop Dan Cole came on as a replacement for his England debut. Now I know these days you get mass replacements and precious little time for detail and whimsy. But whilst Eddie Butler managed quickly to tell us Cole was on for his first cap, I could hear Bill McLaren saying: “What a moment for young Daniel Cole, Leicester born and bred. Goodness there’s a fair bit of the fella at 6ft 3 and 18 stone. You would have asked for a sick note from your mammy if you were a prop down to scrummage against him at Robert Smyth School up in Market Harborough, alma mater of the great Martin Johnson no less.”
Talking of props, did you see the performance of 19-year-old Harlequins prop Joe Marler against Wales for England U20? Marler, out of Sussex clubs Eastbourne and Haywards Heath, scored two storming tries, but does his stuff in the tight too. Saracens hooker Jamie George was equally impressive alongside him. England’s front-row future looks bright.
I may be a slow, fat old hooker of no repute, but wow do I love Sevens – watching it obviously. If I won the lottery (don’t tell the wife) I would jet around the world watching the IRB Sevens circuit. Latest stop was Wellington in New Zealand, with a great tournament won by Fiji. England have a clutch of exceptional speedsters. Christian Wade, Dan Norton, Dan Caprice and Mat Turner would make a fair old 4 x 100 metre relay squad. Meanwhile Grandpa Ben Gollings continues to defy the years and his sevens brain is as fast as his feet. Commentator Nigel Starmer-Smith is clearly revelling in the Sevens too. He is ageing like a fine wine in the commentary box; Starmer-Smith’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the game shines through and he rarely stumbles over names, even if it is Fiji’s Osea kolinisau.
Posted by: , on February 09th 2010 on 11:03pm