When England showed off their new Canterbury of New Zealand strip in September last year, both England and Canterbury would have been hoping to see the beginning of a new era for England rugby, especially after the disappointing 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC) campaign.
The Autumn QBE Internationals got off to a good start with a convincing win against Fiji, but these were followed by losses in tight matches to Australia and then South Africa. And then came the highlight of the year as England beat the world champion All Blacks, which many pundits viewed as a possible harbinger of greater things to come with the Six Nations just around the corner.
Taking on Scotland first, England had a convincing win carrying on the form they showed against the New Zealanders. With wins against Ireland, France and Italy, the optimistic held hopes for a first Grand Slam in a decade. But the observant were concerned that England were not scoring tries and that reality hit hard in the championship decider against Wales at the Millennium Stadium. The men in white were held hopeless and were well beaten by a much better Welsh side.
The loss to Wales was a shattering blow for the English. After being the front-runners for the Six Nations title and with a Grand Slam in their sights, everything came to nought in the last match – and in emphatic fashion. Canterbury of New Zealand would have wanted to see the England players buoyant in their new strip, showing off the winner’s trophy. Instead, they got a dejected, beaten side.
Early in the season, several of the England players held high hopes of going on the Lions tour in the summer and England’s early results added weight to their claims. But they knew they had to perform well to impress Warren Gatland, who had already announced his reluctance to have too many English players in his squad.
Lack of tries and the loss to Wales hurt their chances and when the Lions side was announced ten English players were included in the 37-man squad and only three of them – Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell and Manusamoa Tuilagi – were backs, which is probably a fair reflection of the England back line’s apparent inability to produce tries.
The remaining England players go off for a tough three-match tour, with two games against an Argentina side that seems to get stronger every year and are very hard to beat at home. The tour gives Stuart Lancaster the chance to try new players and he is taking several uncapped players on the trip.
Lancaster will be hoping that some of them make a big impact as he looks forward to developing an England squad that will be competitive in the 2015 RWC. In the backs, he will be looking for new players like Christian Wade and Jonny May to perform well in the backs with Matt Kvesic developing his skills at flanker. Lancaster will also want to see more established players like Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury prove their worth.
Lancaster’s ultimate goal is the 2015 RWC and he has a player pool that is willing and skilled enough to do him and the nation proud. Those on the Lions tour will gain valuable experience and those off to South America will have the opportunity to learn and show their worth. England have the forwards to get the job done, but they need a back line of imaginative and penetrating runners if they are to score the tries they will need – they look good on paper but just seem to lack that little spark that will make them the lethal unit they have the potential to be.
England can win the World Cup if the backs learn to score tries, and Canterbury of New Zealand could well see their logo on the shirt of the winning captain as he raises the trophy – of course, there are 19 other sides that will have something to say about the outcome.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
My name is Eddard Blake and I am a freelance copywriter who likes to share my love for rugby.