The Six Nations Rugby Tournament: Englands Story so Far

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The Six Nations Rugby Tournament: Englands Story so Far
The 2008 Six Nations tournament started full of hope & promise, England had regrouped, after the disappointment of losing the World Cup final to South Africa, and had some bright new stars in place to push the team onwards & upwards, In particular one rising star was the potential replacement for the Iconic Johnny Wilkinson (not that he is anywhere near being replaced yet!), Enter the young pretender...Danny Cipriani from Wasps, could this youngster really be England’s future? Tom Croft, Louis Deacon, Lee Dixon, Jason Hobson, Paul Hodgson were the other new faces in the squad, these were surrounded by the experienced players such as Gommersall, Wilkinson & Vickery, The other new arrival was the new rugby union recruit Lesley Vainikolo (otherwise known as “The Volcano”), so this all boded well for the tournament, Brian Ashton had been retained as head coach, so surely this was a promising start? The 2008 Six Nations tournament started with our first match against Wales, the sworn enemy, there is no way that they will defeat us!, they are smaller than us (by the way, this is causing me distress writing this about Wales, I am Half Welsh!!) They do not have as many talented players as us, I really don’t think that Wales read the script..... The first half was a joy to behold, England were in total domination, complete control, at the break England were 16-6 in front, there had been some down sides to this with unfortunate injury’s to David Strettle, Tom Ree’s, Lewis Moody & Mike Tindall, While the Welsh had one man stretchered off with concussion, the first half had been as close to perfection as you could ask for, the start of the 2nd half started brightly, with the ever reliable Wilkinson kicking a penalty to stretch the lead to 19-6, then the Welsh team started asking searching questions of England in the second-half, all to which sadly England had no answer, Wave upon wave of the Welsh attack was thrust upon England, it started to take its toll as Wales went into overdrive, smashing England ruthlessly on to the back foot, And they did it the hard way, fighting back from 19-6 adrift to score 20 unanswered points during a remarkable 13-minute second-half spell, Full-back Lee Byrne and scrum-half Mike Phillips scored tries to tilt the balance of a gripping encounter, while fly-half James Hook kicked 16 points. The devastation on the player’s faces at the final whistle was palatable, they were speechless, as was the rest of the country. The next match was against Italy, A chance for redemption, to put the painful defeat behind us?, the performance that we saw was another Jekyll & Hyde performance, In the 1st half England once again were fantastic, and this filled us all with hope again, at the break England led 20-6, with Johnny Wilkinson landing a penalty which gave him 1000 career Goals, all seemed to be going fine, then came the 2nd half...England seemed to have lost direction, did they really believe that this game was already won?, it appeared so, it was like watching a totally different team (again!) But, as against Wales at Twickenham (when they blew a 19-6 lead and lost by seven points)England this time almost saw a 20-6 interval lead wiped out. Italy seemed to sense England’s nerves, and went on the attack, England seemed to be unsure of themselves once again, and were making mistakes over & over again, Italy kept on chipping away at the score line, England’s only reply was a penalty from Wilkinson, the young star Danny Cipriani was brought on to help inspire things, but this did not seem to help, surely England could not throw away another lead?, Italy tried their best when substitute scrum-half Simon Picone claimed a late try when he charged down a kick from Danny Cipriani, and full-back David Bortolussi’s conversion - he also kicked four penalties - caused panic in English ranks, but thankfully England held on to win 23-19, we had the first win..Just! England then followed this up with a hard fought win against the French, the sign’s were starting to look promising again, but rumors were persisting of dressing room unrest, at the coaching method’s that were used by Ashton & his staff, people were also questioning about what he says to the team at half time to make them capitulate the way they did, there were many unanswered questions, The next match was against Scotland, and Danny Cipriani was due to start in the Full back position, his first start, then a newspaper pictured him leaving a nightclub at 12:10am in the morning, alot of fuss was made over this, and the Head Coach had a decision to make, the one he made was startling, he dropped Cipriani from the squad, questions were raised about the way that Ashton had handled this, so this didn’t help in the run up to the Scotland match, we had a proud record against the Scot’s, we were very rarely (if ever) beaten by them, so this match should be relatively straight forward, the weather on that day was atrocious, it was heavily raining, and there was gale force winds, but having said all of that, that was not an excuse for what transpired, The team that went onto that pitch seemed to lack motivation & inspiration, it was a error strewn match that will be better best forgotten, and as with the previous matches, the bizarre substitutions were again carried out by Brian Ashton, England lost 15-9, it was a truly awful time. The last match in the tournament was against another of our fierce rivals, Ireland. Wilkinson was dropped to the bench, in his place stepped up Danny Cipriani, for his (eventual!) first start, the vulture’s were circling, defeat now and surely Ashton would have to be dismissed, well...I’m pleased to say, the England team that played that day was full of confidence & vigor, even in the 2nd half!!, England ran out 33-10 winners, with the new young rising star landing 7 goals, and having a hand in creating try’s for Paul Sackey, Matthew Tait & Jamie Noon, job done! As for a review of the Six Nations, well in all honesty, this tournament has shown painfully the failings of the England team and its coaching staff. Will changes be rang to correct these? If all the rumors are true, then it appears that The World cup winning captain Martin Johnson will be taking over as Head Coach. Changes are desperately needed from top to bottom, the young stars that were brought in have given hope, Lesley Vainikolo showed glimpses of his talent, but was woefully under used, Cipriani showed his potential, but we must not rely on him too much at such a young age Let’s just hope & pray that this time, the changes that are needed are put into effect for the sake of England Rugby.

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