Saturday, February 10, 2007

Jonny on the Spot

Wilko will make all the difference!!

The return of Jonny Wilkinson has galvanized the England rugby team into action – finally. After as dismal a run as you would not wish on your enemies, the team finally looked capable of winning a match in the Six Nations and duly did.

Is this a false dawn or a turning of the corner? (Nice mixed metaphor that, don't you think?)

There is no doubt that Jonny's return was little less than miraculous. Despite not playing seriously for years he seemed in a class of his own. Other players who have suffered the slings and arrows of recent fortune seemed suddenly to believe that all would be well, and it was. Such was his contribution.

Surely it has been a long time since the addition of just one player has made such an impact on what is very much a team game. Put Jonny behind a pack of useless forwards and give him service from a scrum-half without either a pass or a brain and the result would have been a lot different.

So, where do England go from here?

Today they have a home game against Italy who, despite the hype, seem again to be the milch cow of the Six Nations. Their much vaunted pack of forwards could not cope with the (so the pundits told us at the time!) “poor” pack of Frenchmen! Their backs are simply not up to international standard. Ergo – England will win comfortably. So the story goes.

No doubt this is the line the experts will be pushing today. They may well be right. But, some caution should be observed. Italy may not be as bad as they appeared last week. If they are it's going to be a long season for them!

Jonny may be stretchered off in the first ten minutes – or tweak something in the warm-up. England probably cannot survive such a psychological, never mind physical and tactical, blow.

Hopefully all will be well for Jonny and England. The real tests are down the line. Whoever makes up the schedule has been very kind to England. A mediocre Scots team followed by Italy in disarray – not a difficult start.

Let's hope England play well and Jonny comes through unscathed.

Let's also hope that Andy Robinson continues to show such dignity in the commentary box. Having been deprived, through no fault of his own, of most of England's world class players during his disastrous reign as coach, it is good to see him taking it on the chin and revelling in England's successes under a different, luckier coach!

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