Sport Comment: Our World Cup prospects suddenly seem more positive

John Inverdale
SO THAT’S it for England’s rugby team until the small matter of playing France in Paris on the opening weekend of next year’s Six Nations.

The autumn international calendar this year is a bit of a mess with no clear definition to the fixture structure, but even allowing for what might happen in the remaining matches over the next fortnight, it seems as though England are currently in the best place as far as the home nations are concerned. Which, when you consider the make up of the team, is perhaps surprising.

The encouraging if ultimately abortive attempt to dethrone the All Blacks was a supreme example of the collective being more powerful than the individual.

After the dismissive way in which leading New Zealand commentators claimed not a single member of the England side would get within several country miles of an All Black jersey, the BBC team, on a long and winding journey from the Millennium Stadium to Murrayfield on Saturday spent much of the time debating how many of Stuart Lancaster’s team would get into the Welsh line up. Alex Corbisiero, if fit, in the front row, Courtney Lawes in the second and Owen Farrell at No10. There were a couple of votes for Mike Brown at full back instead of Leigh Halfpenny, but that was about it.

The match between the two on a Sunday next March is already a mouth-watering thought.

Ten years ago, much was made about the team of 2003 being stacked with players who would make a world XV at that time. It’s not being disrespectful to the current side to say that English representation a decade on would be minimal, if not non-existent.

Yet there has been a sense in this autumn campaign, including that victory over Australia that looks better with each passing week, that this is a squad on an upward curve.

The idea of England mounting a serious challenge for the next World Cup seems a lot less absurd now than it did a month ago.