JH: So how was the abseil, Martin?
MB: It was brilliant. Mildly terrifying, when you first step off the edge, and then on the way down absolutely incredible; it was fantastic.
JH: I’ve heard you’re afraid of heights though, is that right?
MB: Well, I’m probably as afraid of heights as most people are; I’m wary of heights. I know that if you fall off a height, it doesn’t do you any good.
JH: Very sensible. Tell us about where people can contribute and donate.
MB: I’m in a competition with Ben Kay to see who can raise the most money, and he is absolutely destroying me at the moment – he’s called in some heavy hitters from the city I think, whereas obviously my friends are all incredibly poor. But if anyone does want to donate, it’s bt.com/bayfsabseil.
JH: Great, we’ll get donating. Onto the rugby now – what did you make of England at the weekend? Were you impressed with the performance?
MB: I was very happy with England’s win, obviously. There were aspects of the game which the team will work on, but what’s impressed me about this team is the performances have been very consistent, right the way through the Six Nations. If you want to be a side that can contend for the World Cup, you need to have consistency. Stuart Lancaster has ensured that their base level is really high.
You get the feeling it’s a very happy England camp at the moment. There were mistakes – Dylan Hartley will be kicking himself for the number of penalties he gave away. The pressure’s on to try and catch Ireland, but they mustn’t think like that, they’ve just got to beat Italy and then see what the Irish and French can do.
JH: You’ve mentioned consistency, better performances, and that the England camp looks happy – how much do you think that is down to Lancaster’s desire to create a culture and identity for his team?
MB: I think he (Lancaster) deserves a huge pat on the back for the atmosphere he’s engendered within this [group of] players. It started almost on day one, when he took the camp training up in Leeds at a junior rugby club.
If you look at the French, they clearly have not got a clue what they’re about, what they’re trying to achieve, what they’re trying to do. This England team – ok, they may not always execute it perfectly – but you can tell what it is they’re trying to do and how they’re trying to achieve it. There was a different game plan for each game, which is also important. They’re not just trying to play Plan A, they’ve got an A,B,C and D.
And if you think of the players that have still got to come back into the squad, it’s a very settled squad, it’s a very exciting squad and it’s a very young squad. It’s exciting times, and the foundation of that is entirely down to Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell, Mike Catt and Graham Rowntree. They have got these guys absolutely buzzing.
JH: As a former lock yourself, how impressed have you been with the Launchbury/Lawes partnership?
MB: I think it’s been sensational. There are a lot of people saying they could be the best there’s ever been, or that they could keep going for another 50 or 60 caps together, but I think all the great sides, they had settled partnerships in key areas.
In 2003 that back row was so solid, and had 150-odd tests between the three of them, and you had Johnno (Martin Johnson) and Ben Kay in the second row, a club partnership. So Launchbury and Lawes, they’re both playing well and obviously enjoying playing rugby together, each compliments the other, and it’s all about keeping that going.
JH: How do you see the final weekend going?
I think Ireland will win in Paris, so that will give them some sort of positive increase on their points difference. And I just don’t think that Italy are the team that rolls over and surrenders anymore, in Rome, so I don’t see England scoring whatever it might be that they need.
Yes, it will mean that Ireland win the Championship, and that’s great and a wonderful send-off for Brian O’Driscoll, but, when you look back at it, England will have won and lost the same number of games, so I think they’ll be happy with that.
They’ve improved game on game since that defeat to Wales a year ago, and they’re going to have to continue. New Zealand will be a real test for them in the summer, and then they’re into more really tough Autumn Internationals, then it’s the Six Nations, and then the build-up to the World Cup.
From here on in, it’s full on. This is now the build-up to the World Cup.
BT Sport’s Martin Bayfield is among a host of volunteers who abseiled down from the 29th floor of BT Tower on Monday. He is raising money for Sport Relief and the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund via BT’s MyDonate, the online fundraising site. Martin was recruited for the abseil by Premiership Rugby. To sponsor an abseiler visit www.bt.com/bttowerabseil.