IN 12 months under Stuart Lancaster England have developed well beyond where I thought they’d be. They now look like a team, have proved that a group of talented individuals can play as a cohesive unit, have pride in the shirt, and they look happy.
If something is slightly missing it’s certainty about the way they’re going to try to play; how they’re going to develop their style. This Six Nations is a crucial time for England – are they going to adopt a Harlequins-type game or are they going to grind out wins?
Scotland at home tomorrow represents the perfect opening Six Nations fixture. The first Test is always tricky and historically it’s never been an easy contest but hopefully England have turned a corner and my expectations are very high for a comfortable win.
Their form against New Zealand in the autumn is where they need to be. There’s no doubt Scotland carry a threat in their powerful attack, but the backs are in disarray, so it’s a chance for Lancaster’s men to really dominate proceedings.
There is no doubt that the absence of Manu Tuilagi, who was so influential against the All Blacks, is a loss to England. But Billy Twelvetress is in good form, is big and strong and will get over the advantage line, so England should still have enough firepower to win. The centre partnerships have always been up for debate and this will be a chance for Billy to make a mark.
Another man with a point to prove is prop Joe Marler. There were questions over him against Australia in November, and when Alex Corbisiero came in it certainly helped England. I still think Alex would start if fit but Joe will be chomping at the bit to show what he can do and claw back his reputation.
Elsewhere this weekend I expect France, England’s main rivals for the title, to beat Italy comfortably, while Ireland’s trip to Wales is harder to call. I see a few teams beating each other this time, so I’m not expecting to see a Grand Slam, and points difference could be absolutely crucial in deciding this championship.
Kyran Bracken was speaking courtesy of GamePlan Solutions: managing high-profile and popular sport stars; speakers, leaders, motivators and ambassadors. www.gameplansolutions.co.uk