Roger Uttley: England are now a side who know what they're doing

Former England captain Roger Uttley believes England have what it takes to win a tightly-contested Six Nations Championship

Stu Forster/Getty Images England player Luther Burrell (l) and Joe Launchbury (c) combine to tackle Jamie Roberts of Wales
England player Luther Burrell (l) and Joe Launchbury (c) combine to tackle Jamie Roberts of Wales

Have this group of England players suffered sufficiently yet to make them hard-edged and gritty enough to win a Six Nations Championship? Have they experienced enough disappointment?

I suspect they have and the manner in which they controlled the game against Wales last Sunday leads me to think they truly believe in what they are doing.

The statistical situation this Saturday favours Ireland, given their vastly superior points difference.

Victory for the Irish in Paris in the late kick-off would almost certainly mean Brian O’Driscoll bowing out with a Championship win.

England travel to Rome in the earlier game and, having seen Ireland put a load of points on the Italians last weekend, they cannot simply assume they will win in a similar fashion.

First they must make sure they win the forward battle, then they can start thinking how they might win the match.

The timing of the game has been mentioned by some as a negative for England, not knowing what they need to do due to the other games kicking off later in the afternoon.

I see that as a positive for the English, who can just go full blast and see what happens afterwards.

One thing is for sure, the result will be more clear-cut than my first season as an international player, when there was a five-way tie for the Championship title due to every team winning two of their four games!

England go into the final week on the back of a convincing victory over Wales at Twickenham, where the big question on everybody’s lips was could they repeat the magnificent form they had shown against Ireland?

That they surpassed those levels and completely suppressed a Welsh side unable to combat England’s intensity was wonderful to witness. The general standard of play was excellent. It was another exceptional performance from Chris Robshaw as captain and open-side, where he demonstrated remarkable durability.

I hope this is not the kiss of death, but he has been phenomenal and is right up there every time he plays.

I admire his consistency, and he typifies the fighting spirit of the side he is leading.

He is a very good intuitive footballer who understands his role perfectly.

He carries the ball well, makes a lot of tackles and forms an excellent backrow combination with Tom Wood and Ben Morgan in the back-row, and Billy Vunipola when he is fit.

All England supporters were hoping Morgan would step up having been given his starting spot, and I felt he did so magnificently in a pack which simply nullified the Welsh through their physical and combative approach. The current Six Nations champions could not get into the game as a result. The form of Danny Care has again shown the folly of his substitution against France and I suspect Stuart Lancaster will now look back on that change with a certain degree of embarrassment.

Care has since shown he is super-sharp at scrum-half, and another player to be in the headlines for the right reasons now is Dylan Hartley.

He is putting himself about in a very positive and confident way and his stock has risen dramatically compared to the low point of the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

All of the above was extremely encouraging – as was the continuing development of the England back three who more than matched their illustrious Welsh counterparts.

It is great having three players who, every time they get the ball, you expect something to happen – the only criticism I would offer being the lateral running of Johnny May on occasion. He is much better when drawing defenders towards him then offloading a little earlierrather than being isolated in possession.

Had Wales not had the excellent Leigh Halfpenny at full-back they would have been severely embarrassed. His boot was the only real incentive they hadand without him they would have been buried.

On every front it was positive for England, and a major boost given they will be in the same group as Wales during next year’s World Cup.

The respective ages of the two squads again favour the more youthful England and Lancaster has been very clever in the way he has blooded some of his prospects two years out from the tournament.

Owen Farrell has had a lot of stick at times for not being a great fly-half, but the way he managed the game alongside Care was really accomplished, as was his flawless kicking.

England have something they can build on, and anyone who saw the under-20s beating Wales 67-7 will have enjoyed that too.


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