What an opportunity for England that is heading their way in Paris on Saturday. Grand Slams are just so difficult to achieve and our boys in white have come up just short so many times.
For the game itself let’s start with the cliché. Which French team will turn up this weekend? For years we all said that as France went from blindly brilliant to poor. These days however they are much more consistent. Sadly for northern hemisphere rugby that is consistently poor.
Loads of theories as to why and maybe my old mate ex French coach Philip St Andre has it right. The French Top 14 like the England football league has far too many overseas players in key roles.
Also the French league is a grind – rugby takes a massive physical toll and I am sure anyone reading this that has played knows this only too well. The bruises take days to heal and the aches, pulls and tears can sometimes not even be healed before you play again. The few top French internationals who do start for their clubs have an astonishingly long season that ends in June and starts with pre season friendlies in July. To make matters worse The French coach gets his players for much less time than his other Home Counties counterparts. So perhaps understandable why Les Bleus are not the threat they were.
So an easy win in Paris right? Hmmm – rugby is not like that is it. The mental will to win when your backs are against the wall can often turn a game on its head. In 2007 World Cup when I captained England we were totally written off after being thrashed by South Africa. But we ended up in the final by drawing on every bit of cussedness and put in an hugely dogged and monumental shift in the quarters against Australia. Winning that game gave us back our confidence and we got to within a grass blade away from winning a second world cup.
In saying that I do believe the Grand Slam is England’s to lose and if we play with composure we will win. Any headless stuff, red cards or string of penalties could swing momentum to the home side.
Speaking of momentum to me that is what nearly caused an upset in the England v Wales game. Up until the last 10 minutes England were supremely in control after playing the best I have seen for a long, long while. Suddenly a yellow card and a whole raft of subs totally changes England’s defensive line up and Wales gets s sniff. They could have even snatched it at the end which would have been one of the best ever come backs from a rugby team but if you saw the game you will see what I mean with the Wales boys visibly putting up their heads and upping the pace. England maybe were a bit complacent thinking they had the game sewn up so a lesson there for Eddie
So back to the sofa this weekend for me for Super Saturday. It won’t be as mad as last year but for all the teams there is still pride and final position to play for. As for England – a bit of history beckons.