November 16, 2012, 12:22am
WHAT have we learned from the autumn internationals so far? New Zealand are still the best by far, South Africa win tight games with brutal defence and Argentina again punched above their weight against a surprisingly poor Welsh team.
What has happened to Australia? Hammered by a good French display, they’ve never been so inconsistent. I spoke to their forwards coach Andrew Blades this week; they are hurting badly and we should expect a backlash tomorrow. They have injuries to key players but one of the most exciting backs anywhere, Digby Ioane, returns and has expressed his relish about getting stuck into “pretty boy England wingers”. I’m sure Chris Ashton will be delighted someone has called him pretty.
England seem settled, unflashy yet with glimpses of attacking intent. Against Fiji they looked a team growing in confidence. A hard-working forward pack spearheaded by the excellent Chris Robshaw should provide the platform for a backline that, with Alex Goode, has a balance of skill, pace and power. An England win will see Twickenham start to feel like a fortress again.
Our own fortress in the making is Saracens Allianz Park. The state of the art stadium in north London, which opens for our first game on 16 February, is a welcome home to a wandering team who have played 11 games at 11 different venues this term. The fact we’ve only lost once shows the club is in good shape on the field, and with a new stadium and new City office at Allianz HQ on Gracechurch Street, it is showing ambition and intent off the field.
Hugh Vyvyan is an ex England and Saracens rugby player who is currently developing the Saracens Tulip Club offering in the City.