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Exeter 19 Northampton 30: Chiefs scalped as Saints go fourth

Exeter 19 Northampton 30: Chiefs scalped as Saints go fourth in Aviva Premiership

PUBLISHED:

17:58 GMT, 5 January 2013

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UPDATED:

17:58 GMT, 5 January 2013

Northampton climbed to fourth place in the Aviva Premiership as they became the first side to beat Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park in the league this season.

Tries from Ken Pisi, Soane Tonga'uiha and Gerrit-Jan van Velze steered the visitors to victory, with Stephen Myler kicking three conversions and three penalties.

Kicking king: Stephen Myler booted three penalties

Kicking king: Stephen Myler booted three penalties

Exeter, who either side of Christmas narrowly lost at Gloucester and were then denied a home victory over Bath by a late converted penalty try, made just one change among their backs with Ian Whitten starting in the centre in place of Jason Shoemark. In the pack Ben Moon started at loosehead prop with Neil Clark at hooker.

Dean Mumm switched to the second row and was joined by James Hanks while Tom Johnson and Ben White made up the back row with skipper for the day Richard Baxter at number eight.

Breaking through: Saints' Phil Dowson barges past the Chiefs' defence

Breaking through: Saints' Phil Dowson barges past the Chiefs' defence

The Saints, who went into the game one point above Exeter, named an unchanged back division while Tonga'uiha came in at loosehead prop, Paul Doran Jones at tighthead, Mark Sorenson at lock and Calum Clark at blindside flanker.

Going down: Neil Clark of Exeter takes on the Saints' defence

Going down: Neil Clark of Exeter takes on the Saints' defence

Both sides committed unforced errors in the opening minutes but 10 minutes into the game full-back Luke Arscott found a gap on his 30-metre break and then passed outside to wing Matt Jess who was taken to ground just outside the Saints 22.

Exeter were rewarded for their possession advantage and when flanker Phil Dowson was penalised at the breakdown and fly-half Gareth Steenson drilled the penalty kick through the uprights to put the home side in front.

On the run: Dowson gets tackled by Whitten

On the run: Dowson gets tackled by Whitten

But Northampton hit back as Arscott's poor kick from deep was collected by fly-half Myler who put full-back Ben Foden away on the counter-attack and he slipped past his opposite number before offloading to wing Pisi.

The Samoan international jinked to
avoid centre Phil Dollman's try-saving tackle attempt to touch down
behind the posts. Myler added the simple extras and then added a
long-range penalty on the half hour.

The fly-half, who saw his next attempt hit the upright, then added a second penalty from out wide on the left.

Exeter
reduced the arrears as Steenson added a penalty after England hooker
Dylan Hartley was sent to the sin bin as his side led 13-6 at the break.

Exeter
started the second half looking to take advantage of the extra man
against a seven-man scrum which they wheeled, allowing Steenson to
reduce the deficit further with his third penalty.

Myler
cancelled that out with a 38-metre kick before Arscott was stopped
short, but the home side cut the arrears to four points with Steenson's
fourth penalty just before the Saints were restored to full strength
with Hartley back on the field.

Exeter
were then forced to defend their line and when the Saints were awarded a
penalty close to the line they opted to kick to touch.

From the line-out and resultant drive Tonga'uiha got the touchdown and Myler converted. The
Saints line was put under pressure, and with the referee playing
advantage replacement centre Sireli Naqelevuki powered over for a Chiefs
try which replacement fly-half Ignacio Mieres converted.

Under pressure: Exeter's Lee Dickson of kicks for touch as Hoani Tui charges down

Under pressure: Exeter's Lee Dickson of kicks for touch as Hoani Tui charges down

Northampton,
from another catch and drive, crossed for their third try after referee
Greg Garner referred the matter to TMO Geoff Warren, with number eight
Van Velze getting the touchdown and Myler adding the touchline
conversion.

Huddersfield 1 Bristol City 0: Sean Scannell strike leaves Robins in trouble

Huddersfield 1 Bristol City 0: Scannell strike leaves Robins in trouble

PUBLISHED:

17:22 GMT, 3 November 2012

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UPDATED:

19:13 GMT, 3 November 2012

Sean Scannell's first-half goal sentenced Bristol City to their fifth successive defeat.

The former Crystal Palace attacker rounded off a smart move from Simon Grayson's side on 43 minutes to net what proved to be the winning goal.

City came closest to grabbing an equaliser deep into added time but Alex Smithies pulled off a superb save to keep out Stephen McManus' header.

On target: Sean Scannell (second left) celebrates his winner for Huddersfield

On target: Sean Scannell (second left) celebrates his winner for Huddersfield

The Terriers, without the suspended Jack Hunt and injured strike duo Jermaine Beckford and James Vaughan, made four changes with Scannell, Oliver Norwood, Calum Woods and Paul Dixon getting the nod.

Match facts

Huddersfield Town: Smithies, Woods, Dixon, P Clarke, Lynch, Norwood (Robinson, 80), Clayton, Hammill (Ward, 73), Southern, Scannell (Gerrard, 88), Novak Subs not used: Bennett, Wallace, Arfield, Lee

Yellow card: Woods

Scorer: Scannell, 43

Bristol City: Gerken, Foster, Fontaine, McManus, Briggs, Skuse, Pearson (Woolford, 80), Elliott (Kilkenny, 64), Adomah, Baldock, Stead (Taylor, 75) Subs not used: Heaton, Wilson, Nyatanga, Anderson

Yellow cards: Fontaine, Adomah

Referee: Salisbury

Att: 12,561

Latest Championship table, fixtures and results

City, missing hamstrung top scorer Steven Davies, also shuffled their pack.

Liam Fontaine and Marvin Elliott returned from injury, Dean Gerken made his first npower Championship start of the season while Sam Baldock and Albert Adomah joined former Huddersfield man Jon Stead up front for struggling City.

The only real chance of an extremely quiet opening 40 minutes came from a free-kick after nine minutes after Stead was fouled on the edge of the box.

Adomah stepped up with a right-footed effort that drifted wide of Smithies' goal.

And there was very little to worry the Bristol City backline until two minutes before the break when Lee Novak's cut-back from the left wing was perfectly timed for the onrushing Scannell to mark his return to the starting line-up with a finish past Gerken from six yards out.

The visitors nearly drew level on the stroke of half-time when Cole Skuse's half-volley deflected off Peter Clarke and bounced wide.

There was another good chance shortly after the interval with Gerken forced into a fine save at his near post from Woods.

At the other end Huddersfield-born Stead had his first real sight of goal but his curling shot could not test Smithies.

The young keeper did have to be at his best just after the hour mark to deny Baldock on the line and keep his side's lead intact after the ball fell to the former West Ham forward.

Winger Adam Hammill had already seen one effort fall just wide before letting rip with a left-footed effort that fizzed over Gerken's crossbar on 68 minutes.

Ryan Taylor and Martyn Woolford were then introduced as Derek McInnes' men searched for a goal to end their miserable run of defeats.

Their next opportunity came from the right foot of the former York winger, who tried his luck from the edge of the box but his rising effort went over the bar as City continued to press.

Woolford then produced a lovely inviting ball across the box which was inches away from connecting with Baldock in added time and then in the final move of the match McManus looked to have grabbed a dramatic leveller but Smithies, at full stretch, got a hand to the Scot's effort.

Harlequins 25 Northampton 23: Quins book Premiership final spot with last-gasp try

Harlequins 25 Northampton 23: Quins hold nerve to book final spot with last-gasp try

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UPDATED:

16:09 GMT, 12 May 2012

Harlequins have reached the Aviva Premiership final for the first time in their history after a dramatic late win over Northampton at Twickenham Stoop.

Joe Marler scored the all-important try with just three minutes left on the clock as Quins piled all 15 men into a rolling maul to send the England prop crashing over.

It was a heart-breaking finish for the Saints, who had lead for the majority of the match and looked to have the game sewn up when stand-in skipper Lee Dickson crossed to put them eight points ahead with just 13 minutes left on the clock.

Roar: Chris Robshaw (centre left) and his Quins team-mates celebrate their dramatic victory

Roar: Chris Robshaw (centre left) and his Quins team-mates celebrate their dramatic victory

Pure delight: Harlequins fans celebrate after the TV match official awarded their side a late winning try

Pure delight: Harlequins fans celebrate after the TV match official awarded their side a late winning try

England wing Chris Ashton was replaced in Saints' starting XV late on by Russia international Vasily Artemyev. Ashton, who joins Saracens in the summer, failed to recover from a back injury suffered as he performed his infamous swallow dive in scoring against Worcester last weekend which, perhaps fittingly, was his last act in a Saints shirt.

Ashton's absence meant that five England players were unavailable to Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder, with Tom Wood and Courtney Lawes both injured and skipper Dylan Hartley and Calum Clark – uncapped but a member of Stuart Lancaster's Six Nations squad – both suspended.

MATCH FACTS

Harlequins: Brown; Williams, Lowe, Turner-Hall, Smith (Hopper); Evans, Dickson; Marler, Gray, Johnston; Kohn, Robson; Fa'asavalu (Guest), Easter, Robshaw (c).

Replacements not used: Buchanan, Lambert, Collier, Vallejos, Bolt, Clegg.

Try: Marler. Pens: Evans (6). Con: Evans

Northampton: Foden; Artemyev, Pisi, Downey (May – blood), Diggin; Lamb, Dickson (c); Tonga'uiha (Waller), Long, Mujati (Doran-Jones); Sorenson, Day; Craig (Harrison), Wilson (Nutley), Dowson.

Replacements not used: McMillan, Roberts, Myler.

Try: Dickson. Pens: Lamb (6)

Referee: Andrew Small.

Attendance: 12,192.

For Quins the only notable absentee was Danny Care, recently recalled to the England squad. His shoulder injury gave Karl Dickson the chance to start opposite his brother, Lee, who was captaining the Saints in place of Hartley.

Quins took an early lead as referee Andrew Small marched a penalty into kicking range for Nick Evans after Lee Dickson had prevented his brother from taking a quick tap after the original infringement.

Saints clearly looked rattled as Ryan Lamb sent the restart straight into touch, but it was his fine tap tackle on Sam Smith, who was galloping into open space after breaking the through the Saints line, that seemed to galvanise his side as they were gradually able to assert some dominance up front.

Saints were level just after the 10-minute mark as Lamb slotted a penalty following an infringement at the breakdown. Evans and Lamb then exchanged penalties midway through the first half, with the game settled into a scrappy pattern.

Quins were desperate to try and play the expansive rugby that has earned them so many admirers this year, and they finally broke the Saints strangehold up front thanks to two barnstorming breaks from flanker Maurie Fa'asavalu.

A sustained spell of pressure on Saints' try-line followed until Evans eventually took the three points after No 8 Roger Wilson was pinged for coming in at the side and sent to the sin-bin.

Quins director of rugby Conor O'Shea would have been cursing his side's sloppiness within a minute of that score though, as Marler was penalised for holding on, allowing Lamb to restore the three-point advantage going into half-time.

In vain: Lee Dickson dives over to score Northampton a try during the second half at the Stoop

In vain: Lee Dickson dives over to score Northampton a try during the second half at the Stoop

Wilson returned to the pitch minutes after the restart. Quins had failed to scored during the 10 minutes he was off, but they nearly did so as soon as he returned.

Ben Foden just beat his fellow England full-back Mike Brown to a Tom Williams cross-field kick in the corner. But when Jordan Turner-Hall crossed after the lineout was taken quickly, Small decided to pull the game back, much to the anger of the home crowd.

The natives were unhappy again minutes later when Small went back for a penalty a full 30 yards behind where the Quins had possession in the Saints 22, but their spirits were lifted as Evans made no mistake to level the scores at 12-12.

No stopping Quins: Maurie Fa'asavalu powers over a tackle by Saints scrum-half Lee Dickson

No stopping Quins: Maurie Fa'asavalu powers over a tackle by Saints scrum-half Lee Dickson

Whatever O'Shea had said to his troops during the break seemed to be working, and the Quins were soon in the lead again as Evans kicked from in front of the posts after some tigerish work in the loose from No 8 Nick Easter and Fa'asavalu.

But yet again Quins were sloppy from the restart. Saints secured possession on the 22 and no sooner were they there they had a penalty – as was the pattern of the game. Lamb scored with ease to even up his personal dual with Evans as the clinical east midlanders continued to defy the possession and territory stats.

On his knees: Saints captain Dickson is left aghast at the final whistle while Quins celebrate

On his knees: Saints captain Dickson is left aghast at the final whistle while Quins celebrate

The pendulum then swung back Saints way again as Lamb intercepted an Evans pass to race towards the posts. We was hunted down Brown but George Lowe was caught offside in the next phase and Lamb converted a simple chance.

Evans then missed a tough kick from the touchline before Dickson scored the game's first try with just under 15 minutes remaining. A sweeping move starting from within their own half involving Artemyev, Foden and James Downey left Dickson with a simple finish after some sublime offloading.

Putting the boot in: Harlequins' fly-half Nick Evans kicked six penalties and a conversion

Putting the boot in: Harlequins' fly-half Nick Evans kicked six penalties and a conversion

Lamb missed a relatively simple conversion, which would later prove crucial, and when Evans reduced the arrears after the visitors were pinged for coming in at the side of a ruck, a nerve-jangling final seven minutes was set up.

Winning a penalty five minutes from time, Quins and England captain Chris Robshaw opted to go for touch, enabling the home side to set up a rolling maul, which the entired joined in an heroic attempt to keep their Premiership dream alive.

Can't catch me: Sam Smith skips past the tackle of Saints No 10 Ryan Lamb

Can't catch me: Sam Smith skips past the tackle of Saints No 10 Ryan Lamb

There was an anxious wait as Small went upstairs to confirm the score, but as the big screen read 'try' the crowd were sent into raptures.

Ten points separated the two sides in the table, and Quins will see their place in the final at Twickenham on May 26 as just reward for a season in which they have lead the table from the off.

Courtney Lawes out of England"s South Africa tour

Blow for England as crocked Lawes is ruled out of South Africa tour

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UPDATED:

10:01 GMT, 1 May 2012

England have been dealt a blow in the build up to this summer's tour of South Africa after hard-hitting Courtney Lawes was told he won't be available for the five-match series.

Lawes has been sidelined for the past two months after developing a shin problem during an England training camp.

Blow: Lawes will miss the summer tour of South Africa

Blow: Lawes will miss the summer tour of South Africa

The Northampton forward , who missed
the start of England's Six Nations campaign with knee injury and two
games of England's disastrous World Cup through suspension, has been
told to rest by specialists.

Lawes is the third Saints forward set to miss the tour, with Tom Wood (foot) and Calum Clark (ban) also out.

Hearts 0 Rangers 3: Playing out the season is Little comfort for Gers

Hearts 0 Rangers 3: Playing out the season is Little comfort for Gers

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UPDATED:

15:49 GMT, 22 April 2012

Hearts failed to claim back-to-back Old Firm scalps as Rangers grabbed all three points with a 3-0 win in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.

The Edinburgh side headed into the match at Tynecastle boosted by last weekend's win over Celtic, which allowed them to book their place in the William Hill Scottish Cup final against city rivals Hibernian.

Double trouble: Sone Aluko (right) congratulates Andrew Little after scoring his brace

Double trouble: Sone Aluko (right) congratulates Andrew Little after scoring his brace

Match facts

HEARTS: MacDonald, McGowan, Zaliukas, Webster, Grainger, Skacel, Black, Barr (Templeton 68), Driver (Glen 68), Beattie, Elliott (Santana 46). Unused subs: Ridgers, Novikovas, Robinson, Prychynenko.

Booked: Skacel.

RANGERS: McGregor, Whittaker, Bocanegra, Goian (Kerkar 76), Wallace, Aluko (Perry 76), Edu, Bartley, McCabe, Little, McCulloch. Unused subs: Alexander, Healy, Bedoya, Hegarty, Mitchell.

Goals: Aluko 29, Little 35, 88.

Booked: Whittaker, Goian, Bartley.

Referee: Calum Murray.

A Sone Aluko goal and an Andy Little double sealed the win for administration-hit Rangers, while a penalty miss from cup hero Craig Beattie only added to Hearts' despair.

Rangers made three changes from the side which defeated St Mirren in their last outing a fortnight ago for the clash with the Jambos.

Steven Whittaker and Lee Wallace both returned from injury to start the match and Rhys McCabe was drafted into the side in place of injured skipper Steven Davis.

Hearts made one change from last week, with match-winner Beattie given the nod ahead of Scott Robinson.

Rangers could have had a penalty in the opening five minutes when Darren Barr appeared to handle a Maurice Edu header in the box but referee Calum Murray did not point to the spot.

The visitors continued to push forward and Little squared into the path of the on-rushing Lee McCulloch in front of goal but he connected awkwardly and goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald was able to gather.

Jump for joy: Aluko celebrates his goal

Head for heights: Hearts' Darren Barr (right) challenges Rangers' Steven Whittaker

Heady heights: Aluko celebrates his goal (left) as Hearts' Darren Barr (right) challenges Steven Whittaker

Kyle Bartley then saw his volley cannon off former Ibrox defender Andy Webster on the line, before McCulloch's shot flashed across goal and wide.

Rangers surged into the lead after 28 minutes when they were handed a free-kick just outside the box for a foul by Webster, which was hotly disputed by the Hearts player.

Aluko stepped up for the set-piece and sent a superb curling effort past the grasp of MacDonald to leave the net bulging.

Rangers could have doubled their lead when Whittaker supplied a cut-back for McCulloch and, with only the goalkeeper to beat, he looked on in disbelief as MacDonald just managed to tip the shot wide.

The honours went to Little instead when he collected a Wallace cross at the near post and scooped a left-footed effort past MacDonald and into the net with 35 minutes gone.

Jump to it: Marius Zaliukas challenges Rangers' Lee McCulloch

Ouch: Hearts' Andrew Driver is led off the pitch at half time

Ouch: Marius Zaliukas challenges Rangers' Lee McCulloch (left) and Andrew Driver is led off the pitch (right)

Hearts made their first change at the break when Stephen Elliott was withdrawn for the introduction of Suso in the second half.

The home side had failed to create much in the way of goal-scoring opportunities in the first half but Beattie was not too far away shortly after the re-start with a shot that fell just wide of Allan McGregor's left-hand post.

The former Celtic striker had another chance when he picked up Ian Black's pass only to blast well over the crossbar from 15 yards, failing to trouble the Rangers goalkeeper once again.

Penalty woe: Hearts' Craig Beattie fails to score from the spot

Penalty woe: Hearts' Craig Beattie fails to score from the spot

Hearts were determined to haul themselves back into the game and Rudi Skacel forced a decent save from a full-stretch McGregor with a powerful long-range drive.

The Jambos should have pulled a goal back when the referee pointed to the penalty spot for an Aluko trip on substitute David Templeton just inside the area after 75 minutes.

But Beattie, who had been the hero with the winner from the penalty spot against Celtic last weekend, saw his spot-kick crash off the crossbar on this occasion.

Frustrated: Hearts' manager Paulo Sergio

Frustrated: Hearts' manager Paulo Sergio

There was no way back for Hearts when Wallace found Little in plenty of space in front of goal and all that was required from the Northern Irishman was to slot into an empty net to put the gloss on the win with two minutes to go.

Bath 6 Northampton 26: Saints move into play off places

Bath 6 Northampton 26: Saints move into play off places

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UPDATED:

20:31 GMT, 31 March 2012

Bath's hopes of snatching a Heineken Cup spot next season are fading fast after Northampton shrugged off the midweek suspensions of skipper Dylan Hartley and Calum Clark to claim a comfortable win at the Recreation Ground.

Saints duly moved back into the play-off places thanks to a first-half penalty try converted by Ryan Lamb, who added two penalties and a drop goal before the break.

Stephen Myler converted a catch-and-drive try credited to former Bath hooker Andy Long to seal the victory.

Stopped: Carl Ferns of Bath is tackled by Alex Walker

Stopped: Carl Ferns of Bath is tackled by Alex Walker

Stephen Donald kicked two penalties for the home side, whose season is petering out with owner Bruce Craig already seeking a new man to take charge of the playing side from Sir Ian McGeechan.

All Black Donald resumed training only last week after seven weeks out with knee ligament damage, but found himself immediately restored at fly-half as Tom Heathcote was ruled out with whiplash.

Dan Hipkiss made his first start since September, partnering Matt Carraro in the centre, after Olly Barkley was dropped from the squad. Matt Banahan, similarly left out for the trip to Harlequins, returned on the right wing.

Bath saw nothing of the ball in the first 10 and then conceded a five-metre scrum.

Referee Martin Fox awarded Northampton two penalties for collapsing the drive before going under the posts for the penalty try, converted by Lamb.

Travelling up: Saints are back in the play-off places

Travelling up: Saints are back in the play-off places

From Northampton's next attack it took a last-ditch tackle by Carraro to deprive Chris Ashton and the cover was back to shove Christian Day into touch at the flag.

Bath managed to win the line-out but could not escape the Saints stranglehold and the pressure was rewarded by a 24th-minute penalty from Lamb.

It was 30 minutes before Bath finally had a chance of gaining a toehold in the game, with Donald missing a straightforward penalty before succeeding a minute later with a more difficult attempt.

Donald then almost set up a try by gathering his own grubber kick, but Ryan Caldwell could not get his pass away and, with no advantage gained from an offence back at the line-out, Donald kicked a penalty from nearly 50 metres.

However, Northampton finished the half strongly with Lamb first dropping a goal and then knocking over a penalty from wide on the right to make it 16-6.

Crunch: James Downey of Northampton is taken down

Crunch: James Downey of Northampton is taken down

Caldwell burst away from a ruck on the 22 as the game restarted and forced Ashton to infringe at a ruck, but Donald was wide with the 40-metre penalty.

A minute later, Donald's flat pass put Banahan into space and he kicked ahead for the chasing Carraro.

Ashton got there first but appeared to palm the ball dead. Although the TV match official was able to rule that no Bath player had managed to ground the ball, Ashton escaped sanction.

With Nick Abendanon running dangerously from full-back, it was Saints' turn to feel the pressure, especially when Mark Sorenson was sent to the bin for a cynical infringement.

Abendanon looked as if he would score after rescuing a faltering attack but Ben Foden cut him down just short of the line.

The seven-man Saints pack wilted at a scrum but Donald was wide from 45 metres, his third missed penalty.

When presented with a similar kick, though, Lamb edged his side 19-6 ahead and Bath's cause was further undermined when replacement flanker Guy Mercer was sin-binned on the hour.

Just three minutes later a jubilant Long came up with the ball after the Northampton pack drove over from a line-out and Myler added the conversion to take the lead to an unassailable 20 points.

Six Nations 2012: Five big questions for the new-look England to answer

Five big questions for the new-look England to answer in the Six Nations

1) Will any of the World Cup old boys be missed

England have lost former captain Lewis Moody, stand-off Jonny Wilkinson and hooker Steve Thompson to retirement, while Mike Tindall, Mark Cueto and Nick Easter have all been dropped from the squad.

That's a world of experience which would come in handy at a cauldron such as Murrayfield, but these are players who, in general, were on the way out and who contributed to England's World Cup downfall.

Moody was not a specialist open-side flanker but neither are Chris Robshaw, Calum Clark or Phil Dowson, one of whom will replace him.

Old guard: Former skipper Lewis Moody has quit international rugby

Old guard: Former skipper Lewis Moody has quit international rugby

The disgraced Tindall will be replaced for the short term by Brad Barrit at inside-centre with Owen Farrell outside him. Farrell, who is likely to move to 12 when Manu Tuilagi returns from injury, has the early, mental hallmarks of a young Wilkinson.

Dylan Hartley will bring all his experience to the hooker's job and a back three of Ben Foden and two from Chris Ashton, David Strettle and Charlie Sharples will add more pace in Cueto's absence and perhaps greater finishing power, too.

Great of the past: Jonny Wilkinson is no longer part of the England set-up

Great of the past: Jonny Wilkinson is no longer part of the England set-up

Easter, playing well for Harlequins, will be missed most in the short-term at the back of the scrum. With next choice James Haskell in Japan and captain designate and open-side Tom Wood injured, the back row appears a little light.

That said, it is unfair to refer to the new England as totally inexperienced. 'The likes of Hartley and Tom Croft have 30-odd caps, while myself, Dan Cole, Tom Palmer, Chris Ashton and Ben Youngs have enough now to know how it works,' insists Foden.

'Toby Flood is injured, but he has 40-odd caps, as does Charlie Hodgson, and any likely new caps have old heads on their shoulders. Inexperience shouldn't be a problem.'

2) So have we seen the last of the Ash Splash

Chris Ashton 's swallow-dive try celebration came to be seen by many as symptomatic of the arrogance of England's World Cup campaign.

Ashton could point to his status as joint top try-scorer in the tournament to justify his obsession with over-the-top celebrations, but his apparent unwillingness to bend to Martin Johnson's will and cut it out certainly did nothing to counter the impression that the England manager wasn't entirely in control of his squad.

Under Stuart Lancaster, however, humility is the new England buzzword.

End of the splash Chris Ashton may not be allowed to do his famous trademark celebration

End of the splash Chris Ashton may not be allowed to do his famous trademark celebration

And while Lancaster hasn't exactly banned the Ash Splash, he has made it clear that he does not consider it appropriate in all circumstances.

Whether the naturally exuberant Ashton is the best man to judge what circumstances are appropriate remains open to question.

But, as in the World Cup, if Ashton produces the tries that win a Grand Slam, then it will be hard for anyone to criticise him.

3) Are England risking too much on youth

For all that the World Cup campaign was a shambles, improving on England's record under Martin Johnson is almost certain to take time.

Johnson, after all, still won 10 of his last 13 internationals, which was enough to make England last year's Six Nations champions.

Although there will be significant changes from the last England team seen in action – the World Cup quarter-final defeat by France in October – eight of the men who featured then will still be running out to face Scotland at Murrayfield next Saturday, and that number would have been more had it not been for injuries to Toby Flood, Manu Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes, all certain starters.

Still part of the set-up: Ben Foden has been part of the England set-up for a few years

Still part of the set-up: Ben Foden has been part of the England set-up for a few years

'There's a core of players surviving from the World Cup who could be around for the next 10 years,' Tom Croft points out.

'We'll only be better for the painful World Cup lessons.' Ben Foden agrees and promises: 'We'll play without any fear and use our instincts much more.'

With three away fixtures in the Six Nations, the tournament will be a tough examination of Stuart Lancaster's new-look England.

If Lancaster does enough to hang on to the job, then a three-Test tour to South Africa in June followed by the Tri-Nations powers coming to Twickenham in November, promises to make it a tough 2012 for the coach – and his team.

4) Can Lancaster hang on to his job as coach

Stuart Lancaster has impressed the RFU power-brokers enough for them to put back the deadline for appointing a head coach for the three-Test tour to South Africa in June – and for Lancaster to feel happy to apply for the post.

But it's a difficult position for him because he is looking at the four-year build-up to the 2015 World Cup rather than just the next few weeks, although the Six Nations results will play a major part in whether he stays or goes.

Earning his stripes: Interim Head Coach Stuart Lancaster has a chance to earn the job full-time

Earning his stripes: Interim Head Coach Stuart Lancaster has a chance to earn the job full-time

Eyes on the the prize: Lancaster will aim to win the Six Nations to get a chance to get the job permanently

Eyes on the the prize: Lancaster will aim to win the Six Nations to get a chance to get the job permanently

Three wins out of five is probably the very minimum he needs.

'What happens after the Six Nations will be decided by others,' says Lancaster. 'I'd like to have the chance to carry on but I understand how important results are.'

5) Has the humiliation of the World Cup really sunk in

Interim head coach Stuart Lancaster has made humility and responsibility two of his prime messages to the newlook England squad and even imported sporting heroes such as Gary Neville and Kevin Sinfield from football and rugby league to hammer home the point.

The players appear to have understood this. 'We obviously got a lot wrong off the pitch at the World Cup,' admits prop Dan Cole.

'We must now put the wrongs right. We can't behave as we did off the field. We owe it to our fans, to our families and to each other.'

Disappointment: England have to realise how poor they were in the World Cup

Disappointment: England have to realise how poor they were in the World Cup

His teammates seem to agree. 'We need to be completely disciplined, not just in games but off the field as well,' says scrum-half Ben Youngs.

Back-row man Tom Croft is also on-message. 'We're representing our country so we must err on the side of caution,' he adds.

'We need to understand what is the right time and the right place, and we're desperate to change our critics' views of us.'

The players have been told in no uncertain terms that there is a zero tolerance policy for any off-field misdemeanours and the treatment of Danny Care – kicked out of the England elite player squad following a drink-driving offence – is an immediate example of the repercussions for those who fail to toe the line.

Scarlets 17 Northampton 29: Welsh dreams dashes as S Saints storm back to win

Scarlets 17 Northampton 29: Welsh dreams dashed as Saints storm back to win

Northampton produced a superb second-half fightback to end the Scarlets' Heineken Cup quarter-final hopes in a Pool One thriller at Parc y Scarlets.

The Welsh side needed to win to stay in the hunt for a best runners-up spot and had the better of the first half as a try from wing Vili Iongi plus nine points from fly-half Rhys Priestland helped them to a 14-6 interval lead.

But Northampton's renowned forward power changed the complexion of the game after the break as tries from Soane Tonga'uiha and Ben Foden, supplemented by Stephen Myler's 17-point haul, saw them secure a fifth win in a row in all competitions.

Down and out: Scarlets look dejected after their defeat to Northampton

Down and out: Scarlets look dejected after their defeat to Northampton

Much of the pre-match focus had been on referee Alain Rolland, who was taking charge of a game in Wales for the first time since sending Sam Warburton off in the national side's World Cup semi-final defeat to France.

The Irishman's name was roundly booed prior to kick-off, and he received further jeers as he took to the field, but it did not take him long to get back in credit with the home support as he sin-binned Saints centre Tom May for childishly throwing the ball at Gareth Davies after being called back for a forward pass.

Scarlets number eight Ben Morgan, named in England's RBS 6 Nations squad earlier this week, laid down an early marker in his battle with Red Rose back-row colleagues Phil Dowson and Calum Clark with two punishing early carries and strong defensive work as the hosts opened strongly.

Saints' ill-discipline allowed Priestland to open a 6-0 lead with two penalties, before Myler responded with a three-pointer of his own after Chris Ashton and Foden had trapped Liam Williams in his 22.

Priestland's third penalty arrived after Rolland reversed a call against the Scarlets for Clark carrying on after the whistle had gone, but the visitors were starting to turn the screw.

Falling short: Scarlets' Ben Morgan in action against Northampton

Falling short: Scarlets' Ben Morgan in action against Northampton

Breaks from Martin Roberts and Ashton sparked continuous Saints pressure but twice the Scarlets escaped desperate defensive situations, with May being held up over the line in the first of those instances.

Northampton's inability to make the most of those opportunities proved costly as the Scarlets grabbed the first try after 32 minutes.

Jonathan Davies battered back against the angle to lay the platform before Priestland dropped a superbly-judged cross-kick on Iongi for the winger to dot down.

Myler trimmed the lead to 14-6 with his second penalty, although the Scarlets could have taken a greater advantage into the break had George North, a prominent figure throughout, not thrown a speculative pass to a defender after some typical strong running.

But the Scarlets' good work was quickly undone as Northampton battled their way into the lead within nine minutes of the restart.

Video referee Seamus Flannery had already turned away an effort from Clark after a Saints maul had rumbled over the Scarlets line, but he was more forthcoming when it came to Tonga'uiha's close-range grounding.

Dogged: The Saints defence combine to keep out Scarlets' Jonathan Davies

Dogged: The Saints defence combine to keep out Scarlets' Jonathan Davies

Myler added the conversion before slotting his third penalty after a scrappy passage of play to give Northampton the lead for the first time.

Priestland responded with a penalty of his own, but the composure the Scarlets had shown in the first 40 minutes had briefly deserted them as Northampton's forward power took hold at the breakdown and the loose, with two further three-pointers from Myler putting the visitors 22-17 to the good.

The home side threw on the experience of Stephen Jones in an effort to wrest control back in their favour, but with their Heineken Cup hopes hanging by a thread the Scarlets were forced into some desperate efforts to attack from deep and after flirting with disaster one such attack almost produced a stunning score from distance.

North raced up to halfway before Morgan and Lou Reed took the attack on, but scrum-half Gareth Davies ignored a gaping overlap and the chance was lost.

Chances continued to come for the hosts in a barnstorming finish, with Foden's brilliant cover tackle denying Liam Williams in the corner.

And the England full-back made another telling intervention to finally take the game from the Scarlets' grasp as, with Northampton camped on their own line, he picked off Rhodri Williams' pass to go the length of the field.