YOU wouldn’t know it from much of the media coverage or the vibes surrounding the camp, but I think England have made a good start to this World Cup. An overreaction to the performance against Georgia last week combined with the nonsense about players’ off-field pursuits has created a cloud. There is no doubt that has and will continue to affect players who have not done an awful lot wrong so far at the tournament.
Martin Johnson had a bit of a fit last weekend but I don’t think the manager was saying they played badly. He was frustrated at giving away silly penalties that kept Georgia in the game – and I can understand that because it is a problem for England and is very avoidable. Other than that, though, I think he should be pleased with the win.
It was by no means a travesty of a display against Georgia, who I thought played very well indeed. Yes England gave away far too many penalties but they did score six tries. Besides, England have never started World Cups well.
Fly-half Toby Flood did well – kicking better and attacking the line – although it is still a close call between him and Jonny Wilkinson for a starting place. Chris Ashton scored twice and that’s encouraging because you need match-winners and he is one. Centre Manu Tuilagi showed again what he can do and the scrum did pretty well. The key ingredients for winning a World Cup are coming through.
Johnson has rotated again for Romania tomorrow and that is right – you can’t pick your best team every week because all players need game time. Wing Mark Cueto returns from injury but faces a task to oust Delon Armitage, who has been England’s best back so far. However, Steve Thompson looks to have won his duel with fellow hooker Dylan Hartley.
Vice-captain Mike Tindall is in the spotlight after tabloid stories and some unfair criticism from Saracens director Brendan Venter. I know Mike well and this will only make him play better if anything. And while Venter may be right in that centre is not England’s strongest area, Tindall and Tuilagi remain the best option.
Against Romania, England need to practice winning at the breakdown without conceding penalties, dominate every area and be a bit more dangerous with ball in hand. If they do that it will be a cricket score and hopefully all this negativity will blow over.
World Cup winner Kyran Bracken (@kyranbracken) was speaking courtesy of GamePlan Solutions: managing high profile and popular sport stars; speakers, leaders, motivators and ambassadors www.gameplansolutions.co.uk