By Kath 11/2/08
February 11 2008
Hail Caesar! Long Live Caesar! As many waited in the wings with knives drawn and the young pretender looking on, Wilkinson once again rose like a Phoenix from the ashes demonstrating why he is still England's number one fly half. England once again played well in the first half as they did against the Welsh and then became complacent and sloppy in the second half.
RBS Six Nations Championship 2008
Italy 19 v England 23
Hail Caesar! Long Live Caesar! As many waited in the wings with knives drawn and the young pretender looking on, Wilkinson once again rose like a Phoenix from the ashes demonstrating why he is still England's number one fly half.
England once again played well in the first half as they did against the Welsh and then became complacent and sloppy in the second half.
The first half consisted of two converted tries, two penalties, plus a missed penalty for England and two penalties for Italy. During the first half England showed skill, speed and flair and they looked like an International side, not Rugby World Cup Finalists but an International side.
A robust start to the match with Jonny Wilkinson showing what a swift kick up the bum can do to a player (in the form of criticism that is)! He showed skill, talent and once again stamped his authority as England's number one fly half. The opening try from Paul Sackey was from a wonderful piece of play and then a reverse offload from Wilkinson which was a pure bit of brilliance.
England's Paul Sackey runs in their first try - Picture by Empics.
Wilkinson also had a hand in Toby Flood's acrobatic try along with Jamie Noon who has answered many of his critics today with a very solid display of rugby. He put in some crunching tackles and a tap tackle to save an almost certain try. Also during the course of this match Wilkinson racked up over 1000 points for England, which is a remarkable achievement.
England's Toby Flood scores second try against Italy - Picture by Empics
The second half ??..........and out came the Pub Team!
To be fair to pub teams, some are better than the display we watched in Rome. You have to ask what is going on at half time for the change to be so dramatic?
In fact the second half seemed a very nervy affair at the beginning as the Italians pressed England into mistakes. I would say that England now have a big psychological problem with second half starts and the constant kicking ball down the middle has to be a instruction from the management to play like this. Second half consisted of a penalty for England, two penalties and a converted try for Italy.
The England pack again like last week did not give the platform in the second half and quite honestly the England team looked tired! Both last week and this, the change seemed to happen when Mark Regan was substituted and the pack was shuffled. I know Mark is getting on a bit (sorry Mark) but his presence in the front row seems to be make a difference. He may argue and get up the opposition noses but so did Brian Moore!.
Italy pressed England all the way through the second half and substitute scrum-half Simon Picone's late try had Italy dreaming of victory and if their line out had worked, England could have been looking at another defeat.
Some of the new recruits especially in the pack have not raised their game, they looked pedestrian and not international calibre. Players gave away needless penalties, the lack of discipline in this side is unbelievable. If you are told to roll away by the ref., what do you do? No, not England players they lie around like melons!
Much later in the second half Wilkinson was replaced by Danny Cipriani - Not fair to Cips., some will cry with the pack going backwards. He has to start somewhere! The fact that he looked a bit bemused when he came on, made a couple of mistakes one resulting from a charge down which gave Italy their only try of the match. He will remember this match and if he is as good as they say he is then he will grow from that dreadful experience.
I know they say never go back but let us think back to the Woodward era and that 2003 side. The discipline, the fitness, the strength, the solidness, the focus, the quality players. Johnson, Backy, Dallaglio, Hill, Leonard, Woodman, Dawson, Robinson, Greenwood could you see those players allowing England to crumble as they did last week and this. It is true what they say, you don't know what you have lost until it is gone!
Brian Ashton is a very nice man but the management needs a slicker approach. England are sloppy, some are overweight and out of condition, they lack discipline and focus. The clinical strong England needs to found again but I don't think we will find it under this management!
Italy had approx., 67% of possession in the second half, if that had been France, then it would have been 'Goodnight Vienna'
The final word goes to Caesar! Wilkinson said: "We are on the right end of the score line. It's not easy at all against Italy. All teams will find that. They are full of talent, they can attack, defend and have power as well. They are a great side. We almost threw it away but we didn't."
England's Jonny Wilkinson converts their second try and in doing so reaches 1000 points for England during the RBS 6 Nations match at Stadio Flaminio, Rome, Italy. - Picture by Empics