Rugby: England triumphant in Paris; battling performance shows RFU chiefs Lancaster is man for the job
As the RFU look to find a new permanent England manager, yesterday’s game against France was do or die for Stuart Lancaster. Lose and the union would have almost certainly looked elsewhere, but after this victory it will now be very difficult for them to give the job to anybody else. Jake White had been sounded out before this match, but his decision to stay in Australia, coupled with this result, leaves Lancaster in pole position.
In the first half England totally dominated the French, in a display of fluid attacking rugby that had been missing from their games so far in the tournament. This was against a team that hadn’t lost at the Stade de France in the last 12 games, and England made them look like something akin to a part time team.
As the game wore on however, France started to get back in the game. Their forward pack started to get the better of England’s and the English lead was being ground down. If the first half was all about England’s attack, the second was all about their defence and their desire not to be beaten.
With the score at 17-9 in England’s favour, winger Sharples was sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on. The momentum was with the hosts, but England battled hard and hung on to keep the scores level during those ten long minutes.
With two more twists in the game, France had a drop goal attempt to win the game, but missed and England hung on for a fantastic 24-22 victory, a win that gives them a little outside chance of winning the Six Nations, should the French beat the Welsh in Cardiff next weekend and England win big against Ireland.
Everything about that English performance showed how far the team has come under Lancaster since he replaced Martin Johnson as Interim coach. The players are so desperate not to let each other down and battle so bravely against the odds under his stewardship, you only need to watch Phil Dowson taking two boots to the face for evidence of that.
What the RFU wanted was a complete change from the Johnson era, and Lancaster has achieved just that. The performances might not be great yet, but if the first half was anything to go by, England have a bright future with a young squad and possibly a young manager. Whether Lancaster will be given the chance to continue his great work is down to the RFU, and I for one hope Lancaster will remain as England’s coach.