Red rose blooming
February 28, 2012
Courtney Lawes came in for criticism at the weekend but Healey believes he has a role to play in the side for years to come © Getty Images
The papers are awash with talk of who will get the England job with Stuart Lancaster's credentials taking a hit after their loss to Wales at the weekend, but people are making too much out of it. I actually think it was very positive. England will look back on the game and see that if they had taken their chances and not turned over the amount of ball they did, then they should have won that game.
And elsewhere, the feel-good factor is back with the side. If you go down to the England training sessions then you can see that Lancaster has the balance and culture right and that has become engrained in a lot of the players. Whatever the RFU decide, I really think that there is a role for Lancaster in whatever the make-up of the new coaching staff is.
But the RFU must decide whether that is as head coach. One thing's for certain, if Lancaster gets the job full-time then he is short of a couple of coaches. He will have to choose wisely over who he'll bring in as there are a lot of journeymen out there that won't really add a lot - but are happy to get paid so there might be some tough decisions ahead for him if he gets the nod.
The game will be remembered for that one moment at the end when David Strettle crossed the line to potentially give Toby Flood an opportunity to draw the game. It looked like a try to me. You need to have downward pressure on the ball for it to constitute a try and there was a moment in time when the ball was touching the ground.
I can't see how it wasn't awarded to be honest. Just because his hand was underneath - it doesn't mean you can't pull the ball down - you are still in control of the ball.
In the other 80 minutes on the field, there was good invention there from England but what did for them was that their substitutes made no impact. In fact, they made a negative impact. You need your substitutes to come on and really up the ante but for England, none of them did.
Ben Youngs is struggling with form. But he is a class player and he needs to re-find that spark but he will be disappointed with his performance. And in regards to Courtney Lawes, he will get criticised a lot for turning the ball over in the tackle which led to Scott Williams' score. I also don't think he's got a very good percentage rate in the contact area in terms of retention so it's something for him to work on. But he's undoubtedly a brilliant athlete and someone who will be in the England squad for years to come.
One massive plus for England was fly-half Owen Farrell. The big challenge for him is to keep on doing it week in week out. He's clearly a class player - I've been singing his praises on ESPN for the past 12 months. He's been given his chance and the shirt now seems like it should stay on his back - unfortunately for Charlie Hodgson. Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi also played very well so Farrell at ten and those two in the centres gives England a bit more balance in the midfield and direction. So it's a tough one on Charlie but you have to be careful not to give anyone an opportunity and he has done just that- and Owen took it.
Much has been made of England's lack of ability to score tries but we haven't seen that many in the Six Nations from anyone yet really. Yes Ireland scored a load against Italy but the conditions were great and the Italian side capitulated in the second-half so I'm not worried by it.
But in regards to the bigger picture, it'll be tough for England to win the Six Nations now. Wales are looking like they're on a roll. Probably only the French can stop a Grand Slam so it's going to be tough to win it. But England can certainly beat Ireland at home and France in Paris will be an interesting game.
And after last weekend, one man who is coming in for a lot of criticism is Andy Robinson but Scotland were good at the weekend and they put up a good fight against a strong French side. I think he has done as well as he could do in the situation. He hasn't got as many players as the rest of the nations - apart from Italy - so he should be praised for what he has achieved.
And there are reasons for optimism for all you Scotland supporters. They have got a very competitive back-row and a great ability around the breakdown and we saw that against the French. They struggled to get any continuity in that area but in the rest of the field, France were ruthless on occasion.
Scotland's opponents now face Ireland this weekend and I think it is a very tough ask for Declan Kidney's team to get anything out of the game. France know what it takes to close out tight games - while Ireland struggle as their record shows - so I expect a home win.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
Austin Healey is Lead Analyst for ESPN Rugby
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