LAst Saturday some of rugby’s new kids on the block well and truly announced themselves as stars of the present on the international stage.
Most of them contributed to the quantum leap that England made in its development and path to the Rugby World Cup 2011. I had already drawn attention to the Northampton contingent and once again they did not let me down.
Watching England was like watching Ireland only with a finger on the fast forward button, and no-one demonstrated this more than their outstanding flying winger Chris Ashton.
His touchdown was one of the best tries ever witnessed at Twickenham and it exemplified the ambition, decision-making, execution and pace of England’s full 80-minute effort. Getting in on the act was young Tigers scrumhalf Ben Youngs who fully justified his man of the match award.
His most daring of counterattacks gave a classic example of ‘heads up rugby’. Courtney Lawes showed an abundance of composure and intelligence as he drew two defenders and released Ashton on the flank and the latter’s finish was simply breathtaking.
It also showed the fine margins in international rugby. Seconds earlier Aussie scrumhalf, Will Genia, had been held up inches from the England tryline only to be turned over in possession of the ball. Within a flash he was standing under his own goalposts waiting for Toby Flood’s conversion — it was effectively a 14-point swing.
England’s challenge is now to maintain this level of intensity and precision — as much as it hurts to say it, this performance was a pleasure to watch.