Of Grand Slam dreams – part one

So, England didn’t manage to achieve the 6 Nations Grand Slam. I can’t pretend that I’m sorry for two reasons.

Firstly, it was England. (Need I say more?)

Secondly, in my view, Grand Slams should be special, rare occurrences achieved by truly great teams. And this English team is not great – they’re just better than the other northern hemisphere teams.

In today’s match Ireland won the battles all over the park – they were the best team by a very long way.

I want to briefly touch on one area that intrigued, even puzzled me – the choice of centres. Ireland fielded the ‘Apostrophe Boys’ (O’Driscoll and D’Arcy) – surely the best centre combination in world rugby for most of the last decade. England selected Hape ( a convert from rugby league) and the giant winger Matt Banahan. To be fair, Hape has been a regular choice and has played reasonably well. Banahan is an awesome winger – as a relatively wee fella who played on the wing, I can’t imagine what it’d feel like to mark him – but he’s not an international centre. So to pitch an inexperienced individual and a new combination against world class opponents seemed a bit ‘dull’ (to use Brian Moore’s term).

Maybe there’s a wider lesson here – that you can’t simply switch people between roles, without taking account of their experience or the need to learn new tricks. Also, in terms of talent management, are there no specialist centres available to England to cover for Tindall’s injury?

As well as a performance failure, I think there were management issues affecting England’s lost Grand Slam dream.

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