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).
Sublime Mohamed Salah leads Liverpool to stunning 5-2 win over Roma
- Liverpool move onto 38 goals for this season’s competition — 11 more than any other team
- Salah is now on 43 goals for the season in all competitions
LIVERPOOL: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah put his former side Roma to the sword on Tuesday night with a scintillating performance as the Reds ran riot at Anfield, taking a commading 5-2 lead into next week’s second leg in Rome.
The Italian side had no answer to the Egyptian superstar’s sublime skill as he scored two world-class goals and set up another two for Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
Firmino added the fifth as the Merseyside club romped into a 5-0 lead to put the English side within touching distance of the Champions League final.
Salah’s display was as exquisite as Roma’s defending was naive, with Liverpool scoring all of their goals in a breathtaking 33-minute spell either side of halftime amid a cauldron of noise at Anfield.
But two consolation goals in the final nine minutes from Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti has given Roma hope of recreating their heroics from the previous leg against Barcelona.
In the latest virtuoso performance of his stunning first season at Liverpool, Salah curled a shot into the top corner in the 36th minute and doubled the lead in the 45th with a dinked finish that is fast becoming his trademark. He is now on 43 goals for the season in all competitions with potentially five games left.
The Egypt forward was not finished there, taking advantage of Roma’s high defensive line to provide crosses for Mane and Firmino to score almost identical goals in the 56th and 61st minutes, respectively.
Firmino glanced home a header from James Millner’s corner in the 69th to leave Roma’s players on the floor — literally in the case of their distressed goalkeeper, Alisson.
Liverpool moved onto 38 goals for this season’s competition — 11 more than any other team — but cannot begin preparing for the final in Kiev on May 26 quite yet.
Dzeko chested down a long pass to make it 5-1 in the 81st and when Milner handled a shot from Radja Nainggolan, Perotti converted the penalty in the 89th.
Bayern Munich play Real Madrid in the other semifinal, with the first leg in Germany on Wednesday.
Roma knows all about Salah, who scored 15 goals and set up 11 more in the second of his two seasons at the Italian club before joining Liverpool for 42 million euros (then $47 million) in June.
He’s obliterating those figures at Anfield this season. His double saw him surge past Cristiano Ronaldo’s 42 goals for Manchester United in the 2007-08 season, for example.
Salah won English soccer’s Player of the Year award on Sunday. At this rate, the Ballon D’Or could be his next year.