ENGLAND got their first win over Wales under head coach Stuart Lancaster in a key Six Nations fixture yesterday. Nick Westby looks at the significance of the Twickenham victory.
England’s redemption win over Wales was made in Yorkshire.
It was schemed by Leeds resident Stuart Lancaster, and executed in clinical fashion by tries from Leeds lad Danny Care and Huddersfield-born Luther Burrell.
Okay, I may be stretching reality a little.
A first victory in four attempts over Wales could not have been achieved without the might of a Harlequins core of Chris Robshaw and Mike Brown, nor the quartet of indomitable Northampton Saints in the pack, among others.
But there is some value to the notion that the Red Rose is very reliant on the men of White Rose these days.
It would seem that the county’s lack of representation in the Premiership is no barrier to the quality of players and thinkers the Broad Acres are producing.
No wonder Leeds Carnegie are ready to shed their city tag to rebrand as Yorkshire from next season to tap into the rich seam of talent.
But that’s a story for another day.
March 9, 2014, was a day to celebrate England and their latest, and arguably, biggest landmark win.
As psychological blows go, this was a fierce one struck as the build-up to the 2015 World Cup goes.
England’s Six Nations title destiny may rest on the outcome of the France versus Ireland game in Paris, but for the long-term plan, yesterday’s 29-18 win heightened the sense that Lancaster’s men are on the right track for the World Cup on home soil in a little over 18 months’ time.
And it is on the shoulders of their all-action Yorkshiremen that England can continue building towards their goal of global domination.
The zip and execution Care and Burrell bring embodies the type of attacking rugby Lancaster wants his charges to play.
Care has been in and out of England’s No 9 shirt for a variety of reasons over the last four years but with his quick-thinking producing two tries in his last two starts and having steered his nation into the title equation, he at last looks to have put form and off-field troubles behind him to seal the shirt.
With Owen Farrell playing outside him, and managing the game as maturely as he has ever done, they are developing into a half-back pairing to match anyone.
Burrell’s fearless start to international rugby – he has three tries in four games – must have the recovering Manu Tuilagi worried about his place in the starting XV less than a year after he was at his bulldozing best.
And young wing wonders Jonny May and Jack Nowell have left old favourite Chris Ashton wondering if his days are numbered.
Mike Brown gets better with every game and is comfortably England’s latest addition to world class company.
On a sunny day in south west London they were allowed to roam freely around the Twickenham pitch, making Wales look old with every probing run and forward burst.
For that was the other significant facet of yesterday’s largely – surprisingly – one-sided game.
It marked the end of Wales’ reign as the best the northern hemisphere has to offer – a status they have enjoyed ever since reaching the World Cup semi-final in New Zealand two-and-a-half years ago.
France might have beaten them that day but Wales went onto win the next two Six Nations titles, the first in grand-slam fashion, before providing the brunt of the first successful British and Irish Lions touring party for 16 years last summer.
They looked tired and unusually porous at Twickenham yesterday, as they were denied by England the chance to get their big gamebreaking backs of George North and Alex Cuthbert, and forwards like Sam Warburton and Toby Faletau on the ball.
Only the metronomic boot of the phenomenally-talented Leigh Halfpenny kept them in the hunt as England’s indiscipline ensured that Lancaster and his coaches Andy Farrell, Mike Catt and Graham Rowntree will not get too carried away with this landmark win.
Twelve months ago England were crushed by Wales at the Millennium Stadium, a result that has haunted them ever since.
They went a long way to exorcising those demons yesterday, and the transformation of their fortunes continues – with more than a little help from a trio from Yorkshire.