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Tom Curry stands out in England’s ugly win with confident Ireland up next | Nick Evans | Sport


England will not care in the slightest that their victory over Scotland was one of the ugliest in recent memory. In fact, I felt that they were set up to play the kind of game they did and the conditions only reinforced it was the right way to go about things. I have said a number of times that England are the best wet-weather team in the world and, though it was scrappy, they got the job done.

The key to their victory was their ability to win the battle for middle earth. In that middle third of the field they came out on top and a lot of that was down to the work they did at the breakdown. Two years ago that was a problem area for England but on Saturday Eddie Jones in effect picked three openside flankers and it paid dividends. They were able to force Scotland to play from deep and feed off the turnovers which gave them the opportunity to kick at goal or into the corners. With the weather the way it was it turned into a game where not having the ball was key.

I thought Lewis Ludlam showed up well, Sam Underhill had another excellent game and Tom Curry was outstanding. He looked that little bit more comfortable at No 8. He is not playing the role in the traditional manner yet. He was more like an extra No 7 against Scotland but the more he plays there the more he will develop. I’ve heard Eddie compare him to Rodney So’oialo. I played with Rodney and I can see some similarities. Curry is a good ball carrier. He’s a big strong guy. We haven’t seen it all that much in these last two matches but he’s powerful, he’s got good leg drive and he makes yards after contact. He drives through and he’s got good body height. We probably haven’t seen him with ball in hand as much as we would have liked but Eddie has identified he is more natural at doing that than, say, Underhill and I guess that’s why he’s the guy they want to move to No 8.

Rodney had to do that as well. He was a great seven but with the options New Zealand had at the time there he had to move to No 8 and he had to adjust his game a little bit. You probably expect your No 8s to carry a bit more but that’s something Tom will just have to get used to. I’m sure he’s got the ability to do it.

Against Scotland he, Ludlam and Underhill were constant nuisances, waiting for that opportunity. England had numbers on their feet and I felt that their decision-making was good. It wasn’t as if they had everyone going into every ruck, they were very particular about where and when they wanted to do it, targeting the wide breakdowns and making the right decisions in between the 15s. They weren’t putting too many in. They wanted numbers on feet because you could see with the conditions, especially when Scotland were kicking, you could see the scrum-halves, Willi Heinz and then Ben Youngs, marshalling the back row.





Willi Heinz impressed at scrum-half.



Willi Heinz impressed at scrum-half. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

That is probably what told in the end – England’s ability to keep the suffocating stranglehold on the breakdown and control that better. Yes, they kicked the ball out on the full a lot but, when the crucial moments came, they executed when they needed to. I thought England on the whole got the win they deserved. Neither side played particularly well but England took their chance and Scotland didn’t. Scotland had their opportunities but again, as in the Ireland game, they struggled to get over the line five metres out. England waited for that one opportunity – it was a great kick in behind by George Ford to put the pressure on. They had the set-piece dominance and two phases later they got the try. And that was it – a one-score game.

England fought and ground out the victory and that’s what you have to do sometimes, especially away from home. They’ll acknowledge they weren’t really able to get into their shape on the pitch due to the weather but they did win the territorial battle. If they looked a bit vulnerable anywhere, it was in the set piece. It didn’t function as well as it could early on but it did towards the end. It was a good old-fashioned Six Nations match and both teams will try to move on from it as soon as possible.

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The great thing is that England have two weeks now to prepare for Ireland. They can hone what they want to do in attack. They will have to be much more accurate and clinical against a confident Ireland side. But I’m sure we’ll see a lot more understanding of the shape they want. Ireland impressed me against Wales. They looked more fluent in attack than in their first match against Scotland and seemed far more threatening. One does not expect Wales to get overrun like that in terms of physicality but CJ Stander and Tadhg Furlong led the charge in that regard. It was a bit of a statement really, they won the physical battle and scored four tries and they’ll be off to Twickenham with their tails up.

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