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Monday, 20 March, 2000, 11:10 GMT
England yet to impress doubters

Vintage team? England, the 2000 crop
BBC presenter John Inverdale says England may be cantering away with the Six Nations Championship, but they have yet to convince their detractors in the southern hemisphere.

Seven names to ponder on.

Morris, Andrew, Carling, Guscott, Underwood T, Underwood R and Catt.

England's back line: Scrum-half Dawson....
Now that was a terrific back division wasn't it?

Except that it rarely made the pulse quicken in the way that Dawson, Wilkinson, Tindall, Catt, Cohen, Healey and Perry does.

Maybe it's the law changes that have re-shaped our expectations and enabled more free expression in the three-quarter line.

Stand-off Wilkinson....
Or maybe the modern crop of England backs are just more exciting per se.

Maybe adventure has overtaken pragmatism as the prime motivating force.

Maybe Woodward and not Rowell is the true architect of that much over-used phrase 'interactive rugby'.


After watching England bash the Italians on Saturday, there can be no doubt as to the potential of the current crop of England three-quarters.

Inside centre Mike Catt...
If only Brian O'Driscoll had a grandmother from Oldham.

What an addition to the side he would be.

The belief exists though, certainly in the Six Nations, that England have the flair players to create a try from almost nothing, anywhere on the field.

When was the last time the words 'flair' and 'England' appeared in the same sentence?

Centre Mike Tindall...
It used to be only when playing the French, that the watchword was never to kick the ball away because you never knew what was going to come back at you.

Now the same goes for Matt Dawson's team.

He is the catalyst and the man who sets the mood, but with so many young guns around him, playing with Gallic joie de vivre on occasions, the fear of failure is not a stifling influence.

Where once the attitude was safety first, now it's a case of going for it - and if things don't work out we'll try it again anyway.

Winger Austin Healey
Dawson and Healey - England's little and little - are setting the tone for an inevitable Grand Slam in Murrayfield in early April.

But watching the match standing next door to former Australian international David Campese was to feel an altogether different sentiment.

A constant thorn in England's side on and off the field, Campo was adamant that England's passing was simply not up to scratch.

Winger Ben Cohen...
Too many balls being delivered behind the man, too many passes at head height, this back division would be eaten for breakfast by any team from the Super 12s.

Well I'm not so sure any more.

And what might be quite a sporting bet at the moment would be for England to win the Test series against South Africa in the summer.

Were that to happen we really might be able to start talking about an England team on the threshold of greatness.

And full-back Matt Perry
For the moment, and even if they run in 40 points against the Scots, Campo and the critics will still be carping about the deficiencies.

But for Dawson and his loyal band, what better incentive do they need than to make Campese eat his words?

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