Thursday, September 13, 2007

Taking Chances

Andy Farrell

Andy Farrell, England
flanker centre fly-half
Argh...just realised that I'd passed comment on the delightful EU yet again, after my promise to myself to lay of the wretched institution, so I'd better do something as a penance!

Commenting on an England rugby team more than twenty-four hours in advance of a big game certainly ranks as taking a big chance. There's still plenty of time for further illness or injury to intervene.

The local Springbok supporting contingent are in good voice, those that have not headed to Paris in anticipation of a good stuffing of England. They have every right to be confident. They were stretched a little in their opening game, but still looked like the kind of force that England failed to demonstrate that they could be in their opener against the USA. Throw in England's problems with injury, illness and the suspension of their captain too and things do not look good for the defending champions.

I can't help feeling though, that England will dig deep and will deliver something tomorrow. Perhaps not a victory, but a performance that may settle jangling nerves about the games against Samoa and Tonga. England have fed well of adversity in the past, and under Ashton, much as some may argue with some of his tactics and selections, some measure of esprit de corps, so absent under Robinson does seem to have returned. The other thing that we can be confident of is that they will give it 110%.

Nobody will give more effort than improvised fly-half Andy Farrell. It seems like an almost impossible ask, to start your first ever game in rugby union's most technical position against one of the world's leading teams, in difficult circumstances. That said he has all the skills that are needed. During his rugby league career, he will have taken more ball at first receiver than many specialist union fly halves, some of his kicking from hand has drawn occasional praise from even his most severe critics, and in the other code he had a successful place kicking record as good as Wilkinson at times.

I'm sure at times there will be a lot of chopping and changing between Farrell and Catt during the game, but I'm sure Farrell knows that this is an immense opportunity to silence his critics, and he is certainly someone with the drive to seize the opportunity.

Many of the fan's on the various message boards seem to have realised that the team selected is the only option, and have swung behind it, which is good to see. I hope the likes of Guscott are wondering if there is an outside chance that they might just have to face the equivalent David Campese's famous walk of shame after England's 2003 victory.

Come on England, give it everything; expected defeats linger little in the memory, unexpected victories last a lifetime.

Update 7:00PM: Yes, yes, I know, the chopping and changing between Farrell and Catt has begun already well before kick off. Looks like Farrell at fly-half at set pieces, and Catt in the loose.

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