Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Tyrone Howe: Northampton contingent behind signs of English revival

Ireland’s limitations and South Africa’s lack of ambition indicate that they will struggle to be proper contenders in next year’s World Cup.

Over in Twickenham, however, we saw two sides who gave glimpses of real quality. We associate this with the All Blacks, but after they recovered from their dreadful start, England’s players suggested that they might just be getting their act together.

It will come as little comfort to Martin Johnson, but maybe the biggest compliment his players can take is that they proved that, when under pressure, even the mighty All Blacks can be rattled.

For this, England’s head coach can thank his young Northampton contingent. Courtney Lawes shone like a beacon in the lineout; Ben Foden was dynamic in counterattack and added real and much-needed pace to the backline; and Chris Ashton made the crowd buzz every time he got the ball.

Finally, supersub Dylan Hartley came on and galvanised the whole team. He oozed competitive spirit, lifted his teammates, and ran with utmost belief for his try.

Hartley’s flash of indiscipline showed that other side of his character and it surprised me, as his captaincy of the Saints seemed to have sorted out this tendency to over-exuberance.

While I have nothing but admiration and respect for that true warrior Lewis Moody, I would let the Bath flanker concentrate on performance.

Hartley exudes leadership and, come the Six Nations, he would be my man to take on the captain’s armband and lead England into the World Cup.