It’s a little overdue, I know but actually, I’m still coming down from England’s fantastic 12-10 win over Australia. Frankly, it’s great to beat the Aussies in any sport at any time but here in the Rugby World Cup Quarter Finals, with us as rank outsiders, it was particularly sweet.
Our pack won it, no secret there. But I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more one-sided forward contest in international rugby. So dominant were we by the end of the first half that, once we’d gone ahead in the second half (a half in which Australia scored no points at all.. and yes I know we scored zero against South Africa in 80 mins but it just shows how we are improving) I could not see the Aussies coming back to win. Our turnover ball was hugely impressive, our driving was solid and most of all, our scrum was awesome and more disciplined than I have seen from England in a long time. As soon as our pack had the ball, I could relax, knowing they would not give it away.
Seeing the looks on the Aussie pack’s faces whenever a scrum was called is something I shall remember for a long time. It wasn’t fear, exactly, but it was shock, confusion and hopelessness. And our forwards just rolled on over them every single time. Magnificent stuff. Simon Shaw has been given the nod in many quarters as Man of the Match but my pick would be Andrew Sheridan. A massive presence, dropping the right words in the right ears at the right times and masterminding our pack dominance. It might not have been pretty but it was incredibly effective and a show of force that others ought to be wary of.
France are next up and I see that we ‘have no fear’ of them. But I saw the France v All Blacks match too and any team who can grind down the All Blacks and then outscore them with relative comfort in the second half is a team to be respected mightily. Our biggest foes right now are over-confidence and the blight that is spilling the ball in the loose. Too much of that against France and we will come unstuck. They, like us, have improved beyond recognition since the opening games and they are at home. It promises to be a superb occasion. Get in front of your TVs and prepare to have your nerves shredded most finely.