Lions’ hopes lifted by England win over All Blacks
Lions’ hopes lifted by England win over All Blacks
The 38-21 victory at Twickenham shook up the established rugby order, giving the English renewed hope of success at the 2015 World Cup that they will host.
In the short term, however, the result and dominant performance will have reignited belief among the home unions that the British & Irish Lions can end a 16-year barren streak when they tour Australia next year.
With Wales also pushing the Wallabies mightily close Saturday, losing 14-12 after conceding a last-minute try, Australia coach Robbie Deans has seen close up what his side will be facing in June and July.
“I think we have seen from the two encounters that the Lions series is going to be huge,” Deans said. “These (Australia) players have earned some respite, a good break, but I’m sure at the back of their minds that it’s looming.
“It won’t be just them that’s excited about it. It’s going to be a great series.”
Saturday’s results may have altered the thinking of Warren Gatland, the New Zealand-born Wales coach who will also lead the Lions to Australia.
Many pundits have been predicting the Welsh will provide the biggest contingent of players to the Lions, having won the 2012 Six Nations and also been the only British team to reach the semifinals of last year’s World Cup.
However, they have now come unstuck in their last 16 matches against the southern hemisphere giants — a run that includes eight straight losses to Australia — and the team’s composure in critical moments has been found wanting.
Suddenly, it is a young England side — under the calm, progressive stewardship of Stuart Lancaster — that appear to have the brightest future, with the likes of flyhalf Owen Farrell and locks Geoff Parling and Joe Launchbury coming of age against the All Blacks.
While the autumn test matches have given Gatland some pointers, it will be the Six Nations tournament across February and March that will finalize his decisions.
“No-one’s pencilled in,” Gatland said. “Of course, there’s people who you’ve been keeping an eye on, and England winning (against New Zealand) was a great result for them. We’ll have a good look at that. I thought Ireland’s performance against Argentina was excellent last week, and a few players put their hands up there.
“So, really, the autumn is just an indication, and then you see what happens in the next couple of months and the Six Nations becomes very important, not just for players performing but for confidence levels and players coming out of teams doing well.”
Wales emerged from the autumn reeling from a seven-match losing run, and the nature of the loss to Australia — coming after lacklustre defeats to Argentina, Samoa and New Zealand — can only dent the confidence ahead of the Six Nations.
“To lose again in the last minute like that, it’s devastation,” said Wales scrumhalf Mike Phillips, after seeing Kurtley Beale score the winning try for the Wallabies with 20 seconds remaining. “We would rather lose by 50 points, I think. But we have got to take it on the chin.”
England, on the other hand, is in jubilant mood after a first win over the All Blacks since 2003. Some are calling it the rebirth of the England side after a mediocre run since winning the World Cup that same year.
“It was a great, great victory for the English team,” said Clive Woodward, the coach of that World Cup-winning team. “The score line absolutely reflected the performance and it was a great, great day to be at Twickenham.
“It was a real David and Goliath effort. They came out and threw the kitchen sink and New Zealand got completely rattled.”
Gatland will announce his Lions squad in the northern hemisphere spring, after the Six Nations. The representational team last won a series in 1997, in South Africa, with losses since in Australia (2-1 in 2001), New Zealand (3-0 in 2005) and South Africa (2-1 in 2009).
Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot
ST. PETERSBURG: Russia scored three goals in a 15-minute span early in the second half to set up a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday, moving the host nation to the brink of the World Cup’s knockout stage.
Mohamed Salah won and converted a penalty for a consolation goal on his return from injury but Egypt’s first World Cup in 28 years could be over in barely five days following a second straight loss.
Ahmed Fathi poked the ball into his own net — the fifth own-goal of the tournament — to put Russia ahead in the 47th minute. Then Denis Cheryshev and Artyom Dzyuba scored in quick succession to leave Russia on course for a victory that followed up a 5-0 opening-night win over Saudi Arabia.
It was Cheryshev’s third goal of the World Cup, putting him tied with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring chart.
Russia’s place in the round of 16 will be assured if Uruguay wins or draws against the Saudis on Wednesday. Those two scenarios would also eliminate Egypt, which started with a 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
The hopes of 100 million Egyptians were raised when Salah was selected in the starting lineup, the Liverpool forward making his comeback after 3 1/2 weeks out with damaged ligaments in his left shoulder after a tangle with Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final.
Salah trotted out for his pre-match warmup to roars from Egypt fans, who at times appeared to outnumber their Russian counterparts. They shouted every time Salah’s face flashed up on the big screen and when his name was announced before kickoff.
Yet from the start, it was clear that Salah was staying out of anything too physical and there was no concerted effort from his Egypt teammates to pick him out each time. He didn’t touch the ball until the seventh minute.
He did win the penalty — confirmed by the video assistant referee after Salah was pulled down by Roman Zobnin. He converted it in the 73rd minute, but it wasn’t enough. Egypt is still without a victory in six World Cup matches.
Russia is nearly assured of advancing from the group stage for the first time since the Soviet era.
Cheryshev, who entered the World Cup as a fringe player, is proving lethal in front of goal, with his latest a side-footed effort from close range from Mario Fernandes’ cross in the 59th. Dzyuba’s goal was more direct, the striker chesting down a long ball from defender Ilya Kutepov, beating his marker and curling home a low finish.