- Charlie Hodgson won 38 caps for England
- Hodgson is Premiership Rugby's leading points scorer
Former England and Saracens fly-half Charlie Hodgson previews Saturday's final match of the 2017 RBS 6 Nations Championship.
What a result for England against the 'Auld Enemy' on Saturday. If I’m honest, although I expected the result to go in England’s favour, I never predicted that score line and last Saturday’s match was a further marker of how far they have come and what a tough team they can be.
England toyed with the Scots at will. The midfield combination of George Ford, Owen Farrell and Jonathan Joseph was a delight to watch and you can bet that Alex Dunbar and Huw Jones at 12 and 13 respectively will not look forward to analysing that performance in a hurry.
I have not seen an international centre partnership look so out of sync with one another in defence as these two. They looked like they had just been thrown together and were on completely different wave lengths. Whilst Dunbar was watching the play around him, Jones seemed more bothered about the threat out wide and as such, gave Joseph a perfect hole to run at.
Of course, it is Joseph that earns the plaudits for making the breaks but lots of credit must be given firstly to the other players that also run brilliant lines around him and secondly to Ford and Farrell who chose the right pass. To be able to execute this under the most intense pressure and pace is a very difficult skill and those guys should be very pleased with how it went.
An unbelievable result
Make no bones about it, winning back-to-back RBS 6 Nations Championships is an unbelievable result.
To think that this team was in the doldrums following their early exit at the 2015 World Cup, so they have done remarkably well to turn things around and conquer Europe two years running."They look incredibly tight and look like they want to work very hard for each other."
I know they will not be truly happy unless they beat Ireland this weekend but they should be immensely proud of what they have achieved in such a short space of time. England have a group of players that first and foremost, want to get better each day. They look incredibly tight and look like they want to work very hard for each other.
One of the most difficult things about international rugby is recreating that ‘club’ feel and I know from experience that if this isn’t there, then it becomes much harder during the times of poor performances and results. Players start to solve problems on their own and therefore become much less effective in doing so. Eddie Jones and the coaching staff must be congratulated for the impact they have had on this team.
New Zealand's record
It’s also important to acknowledge the run of 18 consecutive wins and equalling New Zealand’s record.
I know there will be plenty of critics that will say it is not as good as the All Blacks' achievement, as England have not played the southern hemisphere teams as much, however, in my opinion, every other European team raises their game when playing England so winning 18 from 18 should not be sniffed at. It is a brilliant achievement and I really hope they go one better on Saturday."I am running out of superlatives to talk about this England team but winning this weekend would be massive."
The team to stop the All Blacks in their tracks were of course, Ireland. You can guarantee that they would like nothing better than to stop England from winning the Grand Slam and from breaking the world record for consecutive wins. Combine this with St Patrick’s day celebrations and the England boys have got one hell of a challenge ahead.
I am running out of superlatives to talk about this England team but winning this weekend would be massive. Winning in Dublin alone is a tough ask but when you consider what is at stake and how much pressure these players will be under, they could go down in history as one of the greatest English teams should they conquer the men in green on Saturday.
It will be interesting to see the reaction from New Zealand should England win. Not only for England moving forward but for the forthcoming Lions tour. I imagine the squad will have a fair representation of English players and if they take this energy, ability and fight on tour, it will make for an exciting few weeks down under.
Amazing, passionate crowd
Whenever you play any Irish province or the international team in Dublin, you can bank on there being a good reception. You will find some of the most amazing, passionate people in the crowd and they do everything they can to make you feel unwelcome.
Once the game is over, everything changes but for those 80 minutes, they do their best to make your life hell on the field. Maybe they saved their special treatment for me but that is certainly how I remember it.
Cornerstone of the pack
One of the fundamentals of the game now is the set piece and the one person that is the cornerstone to this England pack is Dan Cole.
He is the only player that has started in every game of the unbeaten 18 games and his contribution should never be underestimated."Dan Cole is showing how valuable he is for this England team right now."
Prop is certainly a position where you get better with age and experience, and Cole is showing how valuable he is for this England team right now.
As a fly half in my former days, I understood and still do for that matter, that if I got the ball on the front foot, my job would be much easier. When I watched the scrum going forward and winning penalties, it was a real energy boost and I will forever be grateful for the work that was done in front of me.
A quiet, unassuming bloke with a dry sense of humour, Coley is a very important cog in this England team and no doubt the work he does in the engine room is appreciated by everyone else in this side.
Good luck to everyone involved with this England squad. It is a very special time to be a part of this team and long may this success continue. I sincerely hope you quieten the Aviva stadium on Saturday evening.