Fascinating, challenging and dynamic. This was the view of 2019 I shared in my opening…Read more
Twickenham once again becoming England's fortress
A fortress: Any place of exceptional security; stronghold.
Sounds uncannily similar to an intimidating 82,000 capacity stadium in south-west London.
England’s record at Twickenham under Stuart Lancaster in the RBS 6 Nations is eyebrow-raisingly impressive – they’ve only lost once at home since he took control as head coach in November 2011.
With only nine home matches until the start of next year’s Rugby World Cup on home soil, the fear factor which accompanied the 2003 World Cup-winning generation, who went 22 matches unbeaten at Twickenham between 1999 and 2004, is returning once again.
Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie wants Twickenham to become a fortress – that word again – as the World Cup approaches, making the most of England’s home advantage.
And at the heart of that are the hosts’ passionate fans, who once again were in ear-splitting voice in the 29-18 victory over Wales on Sunday, this time armed with 82,000 white flags, left on every seat in the stadium before the match, waving in unison.
“Walking out, everything was white, that’s our colour,” England fly-half Owen Farrell told O2.
“To walk out to a stadium of 82,000 people and white everywhere was pretty special, as was the noise.
“To have that atmosphere, it really makes you feel as if a nation is behind you – not just a stadium.”
It also helps enormously when Lancaster is presiding over one of the most exciting crop of players England have seen for a long time, with fierce competition in almost every single position across the pitch.
“Just think, we’ve got Corbs (Alex Corbisiero) and he’s not even fit and we still perform like we did against Wales,” said Lewis Moody, who stood alongside the injured England prop at O2 Inside Line Live at Twickenham on Sunday.
“That shows serious strength in depth and a real possibility to contend for that World Cup next year.”
England’s two-try show against Wales, complemented by yet more precision kicking from Farrell, 100% from seven kicks, ended Wales’ prospects of becoming the first team in RBS 6 Nations history to win three successive titles.
And Corbisiero described the victory as “redemption” rather than revenge, following last year’s 30-3 defeat in Cardiff.
“It was a tremendous performance, the boys will be loving that,” he said. “I know they were heartbroken at the end of the RBS 6 Nations last year, the defeat really stung.
“However, it’s a short turnaround – minds will be switched on to Italy.”
England travel to Rome level with Ireland and France on six points on Saturday.
Though Ireland have the points difference advantage – 81 compared with England’s 32 – they haven’t won in Paris since 2000,while England have not lost away to Italy since the inception of the RBS 6 Nations.
It’s all play for on Saturday.
Get behind-the-scenes news from Owen Farrell and his England team-mates with Inside Line, the weekly show from O2 in partnership with England Rugby, at www.O2InsideLine.com