Saturday, November 11, 2006

Familiar Faces

It’s good to see Andy Robinson stick with largely the same line-up that came off so badly against the Kiwis last week. Apart from Perry Freshwater coming in for Andrew Sheridan (who is still to live up to the reputation as a destroyer he created for himself against the Aussies last year) there is continuity throughout the team.

That means another chance for young Anthony Allen, who I thought impressed despite a couple of errors. His ability to break the line was heartening, and it was his movement that finally sent Noon over for a (legitimate) try – albeit through a slightly fortunate bounce after the intended pass went a little astray.

The high tackle which Daniel Carter handed-off with alacrity was a rooky error (though, despite being slightly older that Allen, I still tend to make the same mistake; England call up anyone…?) but hopefully he’ll wear the scars on his sleeve and make mincemeat of the next 5/8 who tries it on.

Richard Williams got some flak out there on the t’interweb last week for striking up the old clarion call for monsieur le Jonny – but it has to be said that there’s a paucity of candidates. Hodgeson’s confidence is so brittle that a misplaced pass in the warm-up might be enough to break him, and there are times, although not specifically last week, when his inability to nail kick-after-kick-after-kick (or even just ‘kick’) loses us games (France 2005 sticks in the mind). But who else is there? Goode is not goode enough, at least not until he obtains the physique of a rugby player to go with his kicking skills. Lamb would surely be one to the slaughter just now, and Toby Flood is hardly looking like the next Matt Giteau.

The Wilko debate is academic, as his fantabulous injury bandwagon shows no sign of halting (report). I’d be interested to see if Olly Barkely’s matured enough for the role – when I watched
England vs Wales in 2004, he looked callow, but he’s a bit bigger now, and should flourish under Ashton. That said, he was Hodgeson’s partner in criminal offences in the aforementioned France game.

Interestingly, although Mark Van Gisbergen was slotting everything in front of him last season (equalling Wilkinson's consecutive kicking record in the process), he subsequently hit a sticky patch of form just before the Autumn internationals, got a few minutes as a temporary replacement against Australia, and then was shunted to Andy Robinson’s box of odd socks. Being as Ian Balshaw didn’t exactly light the blue touch paper last week (he might have found it, but he probably punted it into touch), why not stick the itinerant Kiwi plumber at 15, and let him have a crack?


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