MIKE TINDALL has been a fantastic servant to English rugby but I’d venture to say the dead leg which has ruled him out of tomorrow’s World Cup quarter-final against France may just have made life easier for manager Martin Johnson.
England have been nowhere near as poor in this tournament as has been documented, but certainly they’ve yet to hit the heights of the Six Nations and the inclusion of Toby Flood next to Jonny Wilkinson, at the expense of vice-captain Tindall, offers significant hope that we’ll see the Red Rose open up against Les Bleus.
I’m genuinely excited by the potential a Wilkinson-Flood axis provides, even if it’s a combination that might not have taken to the field had Tindall been fit.
When Flood came on against Scotland last week he really added width to England’s play and his presence will benefit the likes of Chris Ashton, while Wilkinson’s defensive prowess – I’d expect him to line-up at centre when France have the ball – should never be underestimated.
It will be interesting to see who takes the responsibility in the goal- kicking department. Wilkinson’s pedigree and track record would normally see him pull rank over the young pretender, but he has been uncharacteristically wayward so far and really struggled with the new ball.
If it’s the case, I’m a fan of the suggestion that the two will stage a behind closed doors penalty shoot-out to determine who gets the nod.
I think anything that adds a bit of variety to the training methods will benefit the guys and I doubt it will unduly affect or undermine whoever comes off second best.
Whoever gets the vote, it’s vital they’re on target, however, particularly early on against a France side who could wilt if they are put under pressure from the off. They really are in a state of disarray and I’d pin the responsibility for that on their coach Marc Lievremont.
He’s really undermined the players through the press and he doesn’t seem to have any consistency in terms of selection. It’s a complete mess and the fact a team packed with so many potential match-winners could perform so poorly against Tonga reflects more on the inadequacies of the coach than the players.
That said, playing France always represents one of the hardest fixtures in international rugby because you simply don’t know what you’re going to be lining up against. Normally you can prepare in a structured way and analyse the other teams’ strengths and weaknesses, but that’s not the case with France and certainly the team they’ll put out in Auckland.
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