Martin Johnson may have started his reign as England coach with a win, but this match won’t define the successfulness of the latest era of English Rugby – far from it.
Something that the man himself was extremely happy with were the performances of his five uncapped players – Delon Armitage, Riki Flutey, Ugo Monye, Nick Kennedy and Dylan Hartley all made their first appearances in England colours. Johnson said that all of his debutants ‘did well’ and that they are ready to play their part in an ‘exciting young team’.
One man that received special praise was full-back Armitage, who picked up the man-of-the-match award to confirm a more than impressive performance. Johnson described him as ‘outstanding’, adding that it was the finest debut he had ever seen and this was completely on the money – the London Irish man was faultless throughout and really looks at home in test match rugby. This is effusive praise from Johnson, but he was indeed a bright spark in a rather nervous England performance.
Danny Care also impressed as he looks to make the number nine shirt his own and I thought his partnership with Danny Cipriani at the back looked promising, if not perfect just yet. There was certainly a freshness about England, a new balance and a number of positive individual performances.
As we all know though, the bigger test comes this weekend when Johnson’s men take on Australia. This is a match that will be a huge challenge for an England team that has only played together once and certainly represents the youthful team being thrown in at the deep end.
Australia are currently the favourites in the rugby betting at 1.92 (10/11) with England available at 2.12 (11/10) with Betfair. The rugby odds don’t favour an England win, but I personally wouldn’t rule it out – they will be extremely motivated for the challenge and will be keen to build on the encouraging display against the Islanders.
Australia weren’t particularly impressive against Italy, and with another powerful forward performance by Andrew Sheridan and his cohorts dominating scrums and clearing out at the breakdown, England could tear the Wallabies apart.
This is, of course, the first of three seriously tough matches for Johnson’s side. After the Australia game it’s South Africa and then New Zealand at Twickenham. It’s a tough start for the new era, and the results will go someway to telling us whether this is destined to be a successful England team or another false dawn.
By Thomas Rooney