Beware the big-hitters
Miles Harrison expects England to build on their Wallaby win but is wary of the talented hard men of Samoa.
Last Updated: 20/11/10 9:13am
England finally fulfilled their potential with a resounding 35-18 win against Australia but need to keep their focus against hard-hitting Samoa.
Confidence is high and all the talk has been of man of the moment Ben Youngs and of course that try from Chris Ashton.
Samoa may have narrowly lost to Ireland but they have the talent and the passion to compete at the highest level and Miles Harrison believes England cannot afford to take them lightly as Samoa can threaten from anywhere.
After England showed potential in Sydney and then showed bravery against the All Blacks, have they finally come of age with that win against Australia? And, how about that Chris Ashton try Miles?
MILES REPLIES: I think 'come of age' might be exactly the right term, certainly when you consider the young men who finished off 'the try' against the Wallabies. Youngs, Lawes and Ashton seem to believe that all things are possible and if they play like they did against Australia last week, then all things could well be possible. Yet, all sides need the right blend and, on last week's evidence, Mark Cueto clearly has plenty more to give at this level. Consequently, it is a fairly safe assumption that Ashton and Foden are being seen in the best possible light, not only because of their own ability, but also because of the presence of Cueto. That's when youth really works, when it doesn't have to do it all on its own. It also looks like Toby Flood seems to feel that he belongs at international level now and so he should. His was a controlled display that gave great confidence to his team and, of course, to his half back partner, Youngs, too. Likewise, Tom Palmer is another example of a player looking like the international that you felt he always could be. In summary then, 'coming of age' is a term that should relate to all levels of experience within the team.
What are the dangers for England in this game?
MILES REPLIES: Well, aside from the obvious like Mapusua and Tuilagi, the lurking danger is that England do not clear their minds of the euphoria of last week. They need to concentrate on the matter in hand this week, which is a Samoan side that always demands and deserves respect. The England management have been talking of the different mindset required for this match and that is England's main challenge, finding that mindset, in a game that people will expect them to win. If they do that, then last weekend will be used as something to build on and will not be seen as an exhilarating one-off.
A few changes for England with Matt Banahan in the centre the most interesting?
MILES REPLIES: Yes, I think so - although I'm looking forward to seeing Hendre Fourie get a full run. But, back to Banahan... it will be interesting to see how he goes at centre where he has had limited experience but has looked good there this season. He could be a handful, even for the likes of the hard-tackling Samoans. What he needs to show too though is the full range of skills that a No. 13 requires - that distribution and off loading game that we saw so clearly when Bath played Leeds right at the start of the season. The England management have certainly seen something that they feel is worth developing. If Banahan makes a success of it, then suddenly England have another very useful option at centre, a position lacking strength in depth at the moment.
We always talk about the breakdown and how important that area is and England have made two changes in their back-row. What do you make of the inclusion of James Haskell?
MILES REPLIES: England have been getting much quicker ball of late and last week the work at the breakdown was of the highest standard. Haskell is a very different sort of player to Croft - certainly England lose a bit of line-out presence but Haskell should be able to show a strong physical presence at the breakdown - but he will have to go some to match Croft who played a superb game last week, excelling in all aspects, even in those physical areas where perhaps he has previously been considered inferior to Haskell.
Samoa have some fantastic talent in their backline - you've mentioned the likes of Seilala Mapusua and Alesana Tuilagi but they've also got David Lemi of Wasps. How do they knit all their explosive talents together?
MILES REPLIES: On the evidence of that try against Ireland, they can knit them together very well indeed. There are clear dangers coming England's way but, in Lemi, there is a danger that is almost impossible to predict. He is one of those players who can conjure a score from nothing. I love watching him and England need to make sure that the view they get of him is not from on the floor as Lemi puts the ball down over the England try line! He can be there one minute and gone the next.
Samoa also have a strong scrum - they should be pretty competitive against England?
MILES REPLIES: Yes, and I hope we get the chance to see that contest develop. There was too much whistle again at the scrum last week, both in Twickenham and Dublin, and it was very frustrating to watch. Having said that, the lack of meaningful scrums allowed England to show that there is plenty more to their game than scrum power - but it would be good to see the scrum being what it is meant to be and that is a way of influencing the outcome of the game and not merely a way of re-starting the game. Samoa have been working hard on their set-piece because they know how important it could be this weekend.
Can Samoa bring England crashing back down to earth?
MILES REPLIES: I don't see it. Both history and current form suggest that England should win. I expect to see this England team build on what happened last week. OK, it would be wrong to expect the full-on pyrotechnics of a week ago but the confidence that win has given the team should give them a massive boost and the encouragement that they are on the right track, playing exactly the right kind of rugby.