SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Vunipola looked back to his best against Georgia

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Billy Vunipola looked back to his best against Georgia… he looks fitter than ever and in a game with little excitement, his England resurgence stole the show

  • That match went exactly to script other than I had England down to win by 50 
  • READ: Hat-trick hero Jamie George helps England to 40-0 win over Georgia  
  • Billy Vunipola who would have been my man of the match with impressive show 
  • Credit to Jamie George for becoming the first hooker to score a hat-trick 
  • There was a glimpse of why England’s mindset needs tweaking on occasions 

No surprises — or to be fair any great excitement — in the rain at Twickenham! That match went exactly to script other than I had England down to win by 50 points not 40 — but there were nonetheless a couple of cameos that caught my eye.

First, and with all due respect to Jamie George on the occasion of becoming the first England hooker to score a hat-trick of Test tries, was a very much improved performance from Billy Vunipola who would have been my man of the match.

I’ve been a little concerned about Billy recently. By his own admission he was not great at the World Cup and then he picked up yet another injury while all the time England have a phalanx of pretty exciting young back-rowers.

It was a very much improved performance from Billy Vunipola who would have been my MOTM

On Saturday, though, he was excellent. He looks really fit and he was doing everything at pace again, even the basic stuff: when to pass and off-load, when to pick up at No 8 and when to let Ben Youngs have the ball.

He loved the physical challenge posed by the Georgian forwards and piled into a couple of excellent tackles. It was the best I’ve seen from the Sarries man for a long time and it augers well for the rest of the tournament.

Secondly there was a little glimpse of why England’s mindset needs tweaking on occasions. I’m a big fan of Dan Robson, I believe he deserves a few starts to really state his case and he did well when he came on, scoring a try, but right at the end there was a telling moment.

Georgia, looking for a consolation try, pumped the ball into the corner with a cracking touch kick only for Elliot Daly to launch one of those spectacular jumps to bat the ball back, brilliantly as it happens. It was a real champagne moment in a game lacking fizz.

Robson, covering back, fielded the ball with oceans of time and space and did the ‘old pro’ of poking the ball into the non-existent crowd. Now after two years out of international rugby and with opportunities strictly rationed, why didn’t he use his blazing pace to launch an unexpected counter-attack and maybe finish the game on a high note and give us something to remember him by? He wouldn’t have thought twice playing for Wasps. I’ve seen him do it regularly.

England were leading 40-0 and had scored only two second-half tries. There was no downside to giving it a rip. There will come a big game in the next 12-18 months or so when England need to score a try in the last minute to win the match, why not anticipate that eventuality and rehearse? It worries me a little that England don’t recognise these little ‘moments’ in games like this.

He looks really fit and he was doing everything at pace again, even the basic stuff

Meanwhile, like many of you I suspect, the main excitement of the weekend came when I woke up to the incredible news that Argentina had recorded their first win over New Zealand by a thoroughly deserved 25-15 scoreline in Sydney.

It brought a huge smile to my face and also something of a lump in the throat later on when I saw their tearful coach Mario Ledesma, one of their great past warriors, being interviewed.

It was a remarkable victory for many reasons, not least because the Pumas hadn’t played an international rugby game for 402 days and many of their home-based players have had no rugby since March other than two warm-up games against invitation XVs.

In recent years I have been perplexed why Argentina refused to pick players based in Europe but there seems to have been a thaw. Nicolas Sanchez — who scored all 25 points on Saturday — and Juan Imhoff are back as starters, and it will make a difference going forward.

That match went exactly to script other than I had England down to win by 50 points




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