A sigh of relief can be heard across England with the 2022 Six Nations over.
The boys did England proud this year and after last year’s unfortunate result it was very much needed. Their performance showed that by being a unified team and doing their country proud can be just as important as winning.
Fear of a repetition of last year wasn’t out of the window initially with the tournament opening with Scotland narrowly beating England for the second year in a row, the first time ever Scotland has retained the Calcutta cup. It must be said the performance was madebetter with a significant lead until the very unfortunate deliberate knock on from Luke Cowie-Dickie. In addition to the removal of Marcus Smith which immediately switched the power on the pitch.
Deja vu struck again with some more controversial refereeing in the Wales game with Mike Adamson. The ref has already had a track record of some interesting decisions most notably last November. This resulted in the Wallabies head coach David Rennie complaining, calling his referring ‘horrendous’ after their loss to Wales. Throughout the game Rennie had been a very pedantic ref, with every penalty having to be reset and a lot of VR checking. Despite not allowing England to take a quick penalty the entire game, Welsh scrum half Kieran Hardy was allowed one 5 metres from the try line in the 79th minute catching the England side completely unaware.
The argument can be held of course that England should have been ready regardless but the track record of the game made the allowance of such a penalty still raise eyebrows. Nevertheless, England persevered with what felt like the longest extra time ever and despite another controversial ruling (a call of deliberate knock on from Courtney Lawes) Maro Itoje managed to force the crucial turnover and England claimed the win.
Despite losses against France and Ireland the performances were strong but the better teams came out on top. Both Ireland and France had looked relatively unstoppable throughout the tournament but England gave Ireland a good run for their money, even drawing at one point 15 all.
A mention must go out to Marcus Smith who’s performance at number 10 rivalled Farrell’s and made George Ford relatively redundant who ended up only playing 28 minutes in total. His control as fly half was pivotal across the six nations, encapsulated by the decision to take him off against Scotland and the loss that followed. The 23 year old scored the most points of any player and brought faith back into the next generation of English rugby.
A key problem England faced last year was the lack of new blood in the team where everyone else was bringing on new faces particularly in the Welsh and Scottish squads but the use of Randall, Lilliam as well as Smith showed a shift in the squad.
The largest change since the previous Six Nations is the discipline of the team. England fell short in 2021 and were disjointed and messy. This year they looked strong and a squad that are still a force to be reckoned with. With some of the lowest handling error stats across the board and substantially less penalties conceded than the previous year the tournament proved England were alive and kicking. With the World Cup next year and England improving every game, who knows what is in store for Eddie Jones’ side and maybe just maybe we can beat Scotland finally.
Featured image Credit – England Rugby