Tag Archives: indiscipline

Leicester 17 Bath 12: Mass brawl mars Tigers" win as THREE are sent off in five minutes

Leicester 17 Bath 12: Mass brawl mars Tigers' win as THREE are sent off in five minutes of mayhem

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UPDATED:

15:40 GMT, 1 December 2012

Three players were sent off in five minutes of mayhem as Leicester bounced back from last week's defeat at Wasps to beat Bath in the Aviva Premiership at Welford Road.

Bath duo Francois Louw and Matt Banahan and Leicester's Brett Deacon were all shown red cards for foul play between the 60th and 65th minutes.

The dismissals proved a turning point in the game because Bath, who had just lost Simon Taylor to the sin-bin, saw their 12-6 lead – gained through tries from Stephen Donald and Tom Biggs – eroded as the hosts scored 11 points in five minutes.

Aggro: Tempers fray as Tigers' Anthony Allen is treated in the foreground

Aggro: Tempers fray as Tigers' Anthony Allen is treated in the foreground

Adam Thompstone crossed for Leicester's try, with the rest of the Tigers' points coming from the boot of George Ford.

It was a much-needed win for Leicester after last week's defeat at Wasps, while Bath, who beat leaders Harlequins last week, will be kicking themselves for their indiscipline.

Both teams were boosted by the return of some of their internationals, Leicester able to recall props Marcos Ayerza and Martin Castrogiovanni, with Horacio Agulla, Paul James and Louw back for Bath.

It was an emotional return to Welford Road for Argentina back Agulla, who joined Bath last summer, and there was added spice to the match for Leicester fly-half George Ford, whose father Mike is the Bath defence coach.

Last season Ford got the better of his father, who was then at Newcastle, in a one-sided game, but Bath were a much tougher proposition and they led 5-0 at half-time thanks to a fine solo try from their New Zealand fly-half Donald.

Off you go: Francis Louw (left) is sent off by ref Tim Wigglesworth

Off you go: Francis Louw (left) is sent off by ref Tim Wigglesworth

They were good value for it, too, for they ran hard and were adventurous when attacking and defended resolutely in their own 22.

Leicester created chances but were far too wasteful and Ford turned down several kickable penalties after missing attempts in the ninth and 15th minutes.

Donald missed a long-range penalty in the third minute and then Bath threw everything but the kitchen sink at Leicester, whose defence was rock solid.

But Bath drew first blood in the 13th minute after a fine break by full-back Nick Abendanon. From the ruck, Donald threw a couple of dummies before running straight over full-back Mathew Tait for a terrific try, which he failed to convert.

Ford missed penalties either side of the Bath try before putting Leicester in a great attacking position with a fine touch kick, but they wasted the chance with the referee penalising them for crossing when surging to the line from the line-out.

They passed up another chance to score from a line-out two minutes later and their lack of precision told again when they had a try chalked off for a forward pass.

It came after a brilliant counter-attack which twice involved Tait and winger Thompstone down the left, and when Leicester switched the attack to the right lock Graham Kitchener put Niall Morris over with a long floated pass only to see the video referee adjudge it to have gone forward.

Up above: Graham Kitchener claims the ball in a lineout at Welford Road

Up above: Graham Kitchener claims the ball in a lineout at Welford Road

After last week's defeat at Wasps, Leicester boss Richard Cockerill slammed his side, saying not one player deserved to wear the shirt. He demanded an improvement and, while there was commitment in spades, Leicester paid the price for poor basic skills, another chance going begging in the 34th minute when Anthony Allen threw a long pass to Thompstone that ended up in touch.

Whatever the Leicester coaches said at the break had an effect because they started the second half at a gallop and, when they won a penalty 40 metres out, Ford made no mistake.

Bath found themselves down to 14 men when number eight Taylor was sin-binned for obstruction on Tait in the 50th minute, and five minutes later Ford put Leicester ahead for the first time at 6-5 with a tremendous penalty from 46 metres.

The lead, however, lasted just two minutes because Bath hit back with their second try, winger Biggs cantering over after great work by Donald and Banahan.

Donald added the conversion to put Bath 12-6 ahead but there was another twist moments later when Bath flanker Louw was sent off for use of the elbow.

Leicester took advantage immediately, Thompstone scoring after Leicester had driven to the line from a line-out. Ford missed the conversion.

Worse followed when Michael Claassens conceded a needless penalty, pushing Allen in the back during a Leicester counter-attack and allowing Ford to kick an easy penalty.

And then Banahan was also sent off for a high tackle on Allen. Allen was left prostrate on the ground for several minutes while the medics attended to him before being carried off on a stretcher. Leicester flanker Deacon was also sent off after the incident for appearing to throw a punch.

The madness continued when Donald was sin-binned for also appearing to throw a punch, before Ford put Leicester 17-12 up with his fourth penalty 12 minutes from time.

Ronaldinho becomes free agent after quitting Flamengo

Premier League clubs on alert as Ronaldinho quits Flamengo over unpaid wages

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UPDATED:

10:22 GMT, 1 June 2012

Home boy: Ronaldinho has walked out on Flamengo over unpaid wages

Home boy: Ronaldinho has walked out on Flamengo over unpaid wages

Former world player of the year Ronaldinho is a free agent after walking out Flamengo claiming the Brazilian club owe him 12m in unpaid wages.

The forward has been with the club in his homeland for two years since leaving AC Milan, but on Thursday a judge ruled in favor of his request to have his contract terminated.

'His contract has been terminated,' Ronaldinho's lawyer Gislaine Nunes said. 'Flamengo has already been notified. Now we are demanding a very high amount in compensation, of course, which he has the right to receive by contract.'

Ronaldinho said suing Flamengo was the last thing he wanted to do but had no other option.

'I waited as long as I could, but it got to a point that it was enough,' he told Brazil's UOL website. 'I decided to contact my lawyers and end this cycle. I'm sad for the friends that I left there, for the fans who supported me.'

Club president Patricia Amorim responded: 'We didn't expect an attitude like this. Now the case is in the hands of our legal department, which will take the necessary legal measures to defend the interests of Flamengo. The club is greater than any person and it's going to be like this forever.'

The club said in a statement that the player made the decision to leave after 'missing practice for four days.'

The figure of 12m is wildly inaccurate, according to Flamengo chiefs.

Pedigree: Ronaldinho enjoy incredible success at Barcelona

Pedigree: Ronaldinho enjoy incredible success at Barcelona

'That amount is absurd,' said Rafael De Piro of the club's legal department. 'We will take a close look at the lawsuit before making a decision. We've forgiven Ronaldinho's acts of indiscipline during all this time.'

Last month, Flamengo's biggest fan group published a letter on its website criticising Ronaldinho and accusing him of being unprofessional for his alleged appearances at parties and nightclubs.

Ronaldinho was under heavy pressure because of his poor performances and the team's disappointing results this year. Fans and even team coach Joel Santana had been castigating him, and there had been talks about the player possibly leaving the club for some time.

The spat with Flamengo escalated on Wednesday, when the club's vice president of football, Paulo Cesar Coutinho, was caught on camera telling fans that Ronaldinho wasn't playing well and that president Amorim was going to suspend the player.

The 32-year-old Ronaldinho said he wasn't going to play because his mother was sick and recently underwent surgery to remove a tumor in the southern city of Porto Alegre.

'My mind was in Porto Alegre, there was nothing I could do,' he said. 'Now I will take some time off to take care of my mum. That's the most important thing right now.'

Ronaldinho's agent and brother, Roberto de Assis, had been complaining recently that the club wasn't paying Ronaldinho everything that he was owed contractually.

Italian job: The Brazil star also played in Serie with AC Milan

Italian job: The Brazil star also played in Serie with AC Milan

Ronaldinho became one of the most high-profile acquisitions by a Brazilian club when he joined Flamengo at the beginning of last year after a decade playing in European football, where he thrived with Barcelona and in Serie A.

He struggled in his first few months with Flamengo and was jeered by fans, but bounced back and was instrumental in the title in the Rio de Janeiro state championship in 2011.

He then helped Flamengo earn a spot in this year's Copa Libertadores and regained a spot in the national team, but began poorly again throughout this year.

Euro 2012: Mario Balotelli backed by Italy"s Cesare Prandelli

Italy boss Prandelli puts faith in Balotelli after striker's pledge not to get sent off at Euros

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UPDATED:

10:53 GMT, 25 May 2012

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has expressed his faith in controversial Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli.

The veteran tactician has dropped the 21-year-old on several occasions because of the player's indiscipline in the Barclays Premier League.

However, Prandelli now sees the City striker focused and deterrmined to help the Azzurri at the European Championship.

Won't be reckless: Mario Balotelli says he will not get Italy reduced to ten men

Won't be reckless: Mario Balotelli says he will not get Italy reduced to ten men

'When I heard Balotelli say that he will not leave Italy down to 10 men, I believed him 100%,' Prandelli said to Gazzetta dello Sport.

'There is a great atmosphere in the team and there is a big awareness that something significant can be achieved.

'The players know this is an exceptional opportunity for them, they are taking responsibility and they will not fail.'

Balotelli is among six strikers included by Prandelli in his preliminary squad.

Faith: Prandelli believes in Balotelli

Faith: Prandelli believes in Balotelli

Joining Balotelli in the party are Milan's Antonio Cassano, Roma's Fabio Borini, Mattia Destro of Siena, Udinese captain Antonio Di Natale and Parma's Sebastian Giovinco.

Prandelli revealed he may consider taking all of his selected forwards to the European Championship.

'All of the six strikers have truly touched me,' he said. 'They have quality and are modern strikers.

'They all deserve to be here. If we keep all six, then we will sacrifice a defender.'

Danny Care set for England recall for South Africa tour

EXCLUSIVE: Time to take Care! England outcast Danny set for recall ahead of South Africa tour

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UPDATED:

22:01 GMT, 25 April 2012

Danny Care is on course to emerge from the doghouse and make a return to the England squad for the summer tour of South Africa, following a positive meeting with coach Stuart Lancaster.

The 25-year-old Harlequins scrum-half was banished from the squad in January, following two alcohol-related incidents in quick succession — the second leading to a court appearance and driving ban. Since then, Care has been arrested and cautioned in Leeds for being drunk and disorderly and arrested over an alleged sexual assault, which he vehemently denies, before being bailed pending further police investigations.

Despite this build-up of off-field controversies for the Yorkshireman — who missed the World Cup through injury — he is on the verge of being welcomed back into the England ranks, having been overlooked throughout the Six Nations.

Half back in the squad: Care could go to South Africa

Half back in the squad: Care could go to South Africa

Sportsmail has learned that Care had a meeting with Lancaster last week and received indications that his superb form and improved behaviour have forced him into contention for a Test recall.

DUTY OF CARE

Born: Leeds, Jan 2, 1987

England debut: May 2008 v Barbarians, Twickenham.

First England cap: June 2008 v New Zealand, Auckland.

England appearances: 32.

Tries scored: 3.

Points: 18.

Having been appointed initially as interim head coach of the national team, Lancaster tried to tackle the problem of indiscipline which blighted the World Cup campaign under Martin Johnson.

He illustrated his commitment to a clean-up operation soon after being given the job by taking firm action against Care, who he knows well and admires after coaching him at Leeds.

Even when the player’s problems continued, Lancaster expressed disappointment but also a firm belief Care was by no means an innate trouble-maker with an alcohol problem. He sought to support Harlequins in their attempts to help Care change his ways.

The club have been encouraged by his response, particularly in the last month, and his over-riding focus on his game has been reflected in outstanding form.

In top form: Care has performed well for Harlequins this season

In top form: Care has performed well for Harlequins this season

It appears he has earned another England chance and is set to gain a place in the enlarged squad of 40 for the tour of South Africa in June, featuring three Tests and two midweek games. Lancaster will announce his provisional selection on May 10.

Providing he avoids any further disciplinary lapses or injuries, Care should have a chance of pushing for a Test return.

He has 32 caps, with his most recent appearance coming in Cardiff last August, before a broken toe forced him out of the World Cup.

In his absence, Lee Dickson of Northampton emerged as the prime challenger to Ben Youngs for the No 9 shirt. However, Care’s pace and adventurous streak would be suited to the hard grounds in South Africa.

In the shirt: Lee Dickson played as scrum half during the Six Nations

In the shirt: Lee Dickson played as scrum half during the Six Nations

Lancaster is preparing to supplement the senior squad from the Six Nations with a batch of young players for his first, daunting southern hemisphere expedition.

Among those in contention to make the trip is rookie Leicester fly-half and IRB World Young Player of the Year George Ford. Yet his director of rugby at the Tigers, Richard Cockerill, suggested an early promotion to the senior England ranks would not be in Ford’s interests.

‘George clearly has a lot of talent but he still needs to develop physically and at some stage he needs to have a pre-season to do that,’ he said.

Too soon George Ford has been tipped to be in the England squad

Too soon George Ford has been tipped to be in the England squad

‘If England take him on tour it is only good experience if he comes out of it in a positive fashion. If lots of big people run at him, like has happened to other young players, it might have a detrimental effect but that is up to Stuart Lancaster.’

Cockerill also raised the possibility of the other Youngs brother at Leicester, hooker Tom, being called up by England, adding: ‘If you look at the pecking order for hookers — there’s (Dylan) Hartley and (Lee) Mears, (Rob) Webber is injured, (Chris) Brooker is injured, there’s Jamie George and then Tom Youngs. Tom may well come into the top four because he is available.’

Wales captain Sam Warburton must wait to see if he can lead the Grand Slam winners to Australia in June. The Cardiff flanker had hoped to find out this week whether he would need surgery on his damaged shoulder, but he has been told it will be another month before he can receive a clear prognosis.

Nomination: Owen Farrell is up for the Discovery of the season award

Nomination: Owen Farrell is up for the Discovery of the season award

‘The specialist told me I have to go back for a final consultation in a month’s time,’ said Warburton. ‘That is when I’ll know one way or the other. It is very frustrating because I have not been able to let the coaches know one way or the other. There have been big improvements but it’s difficult to tell with a nerve problem. I will just have to wait and hope.’

England and Saracens fly-half-cum-centre Owen Farrell has been included on the Premiership Young Player — or ‘Discovery’ — of the Year award shortlist, along with Luke Wallace (Harlequins), Christian Wade (Wasps), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Matt Kvesic (Worcester) and Jonathan Joseph (London Irish). The winner will be announced on May 8.

Roberto Mancini tells Mario Balotelli to heed warning from Cesare Prandelli

Listen up Mario! Mancini tells Balotelli to heed warning from Prandelli over behaviour

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has urged striker Mario Balotelli to take heed of Italy coach Cesare Prandelli's warning.

Balotelli was left out of the squad for Italy's international friendly defeat by the United States this week with Prandelli publicly citing the player's indiscipline as a reason.

The 21-year-old has been sent off twice for City this season and missed eight games through suspension, although three of them were a European ban hanging over from last year.

Advice: Roberto Mancini has told Mario Balotelli to listen to his national team boss

Advice: Roberto Mancini has told Mario Balotelli to listen to his national team boss

Mancini has already asked his maverick forward to focus fully on his game for the closing months of the campaign and he hopes Prandelli's remarks reinforce the message.

Mancini said: 'I think it is correct. We know that Mario is a top player but he should improve his behaviour.

'For the national team it is important. When you go to play in the European Championship and you only play three or five games, you should have good behaviour.'

Balotelli impressed as he scored the opening goal and produced a disciplined performance in the Barclays Premier League leaders' 3-0 win over Blackburn last weekend.

It is such displays that leave Mancini in no doubt about Balotelli's ability.

Mancini said: 'Mario is the best Italian striker, for sure – 100 per cent.'

Never a dull moment: Man City striker Balotelli has been told to behave

Never a dull moment: Man City striker Balotelli has been told to behave

Balotelli has scored 13 goals in all competitions this season while fellow strikers Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko have also struck 21 and 18 times respectively.

As well as that prolific trio, City could also have the striking option of Carlos Tevez as they look to claim their first title since 1968 in the coming months.

Tevez is now back in training following the end of his dispute with the club and had a run-out with the reserves earlier this week.

But the Argentinian, who has not played for City since September and spent more than three months away without permission, is still short of match fitness.

No nonsense: Cesare Prandelli left Balotelli out of the Italy squad this week

No nonsense: Cesare Prandelli left Balotelli out of the Italy squad this week

Mancini believes the 28-year-old is at least another fortnight away from a return.

Mancini said: 'I think he needs a minimum of another two weeks. In these two weeks it is important he plays two or three games with the reserves. He needs to play on a big pitch.

'For him it is like pre-season, after three months it is not easy to play.

'At this moment he can't play. Maybe in two weeks he could be ready.'

Mancini accepted Tevez's apology for his conduct last week and says that matter is now closed.

When asked if the pair had met and put their problems aside, Mancini said: 'Yes, we did everything.'

QPR 0 Fulham 1: Pavel Pogrebnyak goal settles derby

QPR 0 Fulham 1: Pog strike enough to beat 10-man Rangers as Diakite sees red

Pavel
Pogrebnyak's early goal earned Fulham the west London bragging rights
as indiscipline once again cost struggling QPR in the Barclays Premier
League clash at Loftus Road.

The
clubs' once-amicable relationship is far more tense nowadays due in no
small part to Bobby Zamora's defection to join former Whites manager
Mark Hughes at Loftus Road.

The
now-QPR manager suggested Fulham lacked ambition following his
departure last summer and was reminded of his comments by the raucous
visiting support when Pogrebnyak rounded goalkeeper Paddy Kenny to break
the deadlock in the seventh minute.

Early bird: Pavel Pogrebnyak is congratulated by team-mates after netting in the seventh minute

Early bird: Pavel Pogrebnyak is congratulated by team-mates after netting in the seventh minute

MATCH FACTS

QPR: Kenny, Onuoha, Ferdinand, Hill, Taiwo (Traore 72), Diakite, Mackie, Taarabt, Barton, Wright-Phillips (Buzsaky 83), Zamora. Subs not used: Cerny, Derry, Gabbidon, Bothroyd, Smith.

Sent off: Diakite

Fulham: Schwarzer, Kelly, Hughes, Hangeland, John Arne Riise, Ruiz (Duff 78), Murphy (Baird 74), Dembele, Dempsey, Pogrebnyak, Johnson (Etuhu 81). Subs not used: Stockdale, Orlando Sa, Senderos, Frei.

Goal: Pogrebnyak 7

Booked: Riise, Dembele, Pogrebnyak

Referee: Phil Dowd.

QPR's hopes of exacting revenge for their 6-0 defeat in the reverse fixture were made remote in the 33rd minute when debutant Samba Diakite received his marching orders for a second bookable offence.

It was the third home league match out of four a Rangers player was dismissed in the first period and they were made to pay as their poor form continued.

QPR have now only won once in 14 league games as their almost 29-year winless streak against Fulham continued to the delight of 3,115 visiting supporters.

After a bright start from the Rs, Fulham found the back of the net in the third minute.

Mousa Dembele, playing again in an unusual central midfield role, put through John Arne Riise on the left, and his cross was nodded home off the underside of the bar by Johnson.

Seeing red: Rangers debutant Samba Diakite (right) is dismissed

Seeing red: Rangers debutant Samba Diakite (right) is dismissed

The
effort was ruled out for offside but the visiting support did not have
long to wait to celebrate a goal as Dembele once again proved the
catalyst.

The
Belgium international's exquisite back heel played through Pogrebnyak,
who showed superb composure to round Kenny and slot home.

The
goal was the recent addition's second in as many games, although it was
tempered somewhat by his booking for celebrating with the Fulham fans.

QPR
looked shell-shocked as they saw Clint Dempsey fire wide, before Kenny
stopped the American prodding home by grabbing hold of a Pogrebnyak
cross.

Handle with care: Clint Hill challenges Pogrebnyak (right)

Handle with care: Clint Hill challenges Pogrebnyak (right)

The Rs were struggling to get a foothold in the game and their
frustrations saw Diakite pick up a booking for a late challenge on Bryan
Ruiz in the 20th minute.

QPR were only fleetingly impressing and somehow failed to capitalise on defensive confusion in the 26th minute.

Mark
Schwarzer parried a 20-yard Shaun Wright-Phillips effort into the path
of Zamora, whose goalbound attempt was clawed away by the Fulham
goalkeeper before Adel Taarabt inexplicably fired wide.

Perhaps fortunately for the Morocco international, the linesman had already raised his flag for offside.

On the run: Bobby Zamora (right) shields the ball from former Fulham teammate Danny Murphy

On the run: Bobby Zamora (right) shields the ball from former Fulham teammate Danny Murphy

Taarabt,
though, was looking QPR's most dangerous player and fired inches wide
from 20 yards, before the Cottagers returned to the attack.

Nedum Onuoha was forced to put the ball out for a corner as Dempsey
threatened, before Kenny palmed away a fierce Danny Murphy effort.

The
home side's afternoon was made all the more difficult in the 33rd
minute when Diakite became the latest Rangers player to earn a
first-half red card.

QPR
had been reduced to 10 men in two of their previous three home fixtures
and the Malian followed suit, receiving his second booking of the
afternoon for another foul on Ruiz.

Arms race: Jamie Mackie (left) under pressure from Fulham's Moussa Dembele

Arms race: Jamie Mackie (left) under pressure from Fulham's Moussa Dembele

Debut dismissal: Diakite (right) lasted barely half an hour

Debut dismissal: Diakite (right) lasted barely half an hour

Barton
fired over as half-time approached but Fulham returned to the attack
after the break, with only pressure from Onuoha preventing Ruiz getting a
shot away inside the opening minute.

Taarabt rained in shots from all angles as he attempted to force an
equaliser, before Rangers captain Barton saw an effort deflected behind
and Dembele picked up a booking.

The
second period was a much calmer affair as Martin Jol's side welcomed
the hosts on, which almost backfired when Mackie latched on to a Taarabt
ball to fire just wide.

Left-back Riise was booked for a foul in the build-up and then saw
opposing number Taiwo limp off and replaced by Armand Traore.

Under pressure: Shaun Wright-Phillips (left) challenges Fulham's Moussa Dembele

Under pressure: Shaun Wright-Phillips (left) challenges Fulham's Moussa Dembele

Fulham
made sweeping changes in a bid to sure things up heading into the final
10 minutes, but were fortunate not to concede in the 83rd minute when
Wright-Phillips somehow curled wide when one-on-one with Schwarzer.

Substitute
Chris Baird was booked for clipping Zamora's ankles as the clock wound
down before fellow replacement Dickson Etuhu ran through the middle to
shoot just wide in the 90th minute.

Fulham
continued to press in stoppage-time and Dembele saw the last shot of
the afternoon blocked by Onuoha after he had neatly turned the defender.

Six Nations 2012: How will England cope with Scotland

Lancaster's new bombers! But how can this rookie coach and his team master Murrayfield

Mission impossible. At first glance, that’s what England face. Stuart Lancaster’s novice side will be pitched into the unfamiliar fervour of a Calcutta Cup encounter at Murrayfield and faced with a staggering gulf in Test experience.

On the surface, there appears no conceivable way that the visitors can satisfy the mass of objectives placed in front of them at the outset of this RBS Six Nations. In arguably the most hostile territory of all for Englishmen, a newly formed team must immediately connect. They must withstand the ferocious Scottish reception for the Auld Enemy, provided by established opponents and a partisan mob in the stands.

They must try to provide the antidote to the calamitous World Cup campaign by playing with skill, courage and audacity, without the merest hint of petulance or indiscipline or what could be interpreted as a lack of respect. They must satisfy the positive demands of their interim coach, while still doing whatever is needed to seize the win which will give impetus to Lancaster’s quest to earn the post on a long-term basis.

Challenge: England will face a tough task at Murrayfield against Scotland

Challenge: England will face a tough task at Murrayfield against Scotland

Rookie captain Chris Robshaw must set the tone for all the actions which will give substance to the strong messages from Gary Neville and Hugh Morris, Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and former soldier Simon Brown.

England’s raw line-up must ignore barbs from Scotland coach Andy Robinson about arrogance, and the destabilising impact of losing Toby Flood, Courtney Lawes, Manu Tuilagi and Tom Wood. And putting aside these short-term factors, they must provide hope that the home challenge at the next World Cup will be strong.

There are plenty of agendas besides the obvious, perennial quest to beat the northern neighbours. Lancaster declared during the week that he has assembled ‘a team for now and for the future’, but the reality is that addressing both priorities at once is all but unachievable. Soon after he took on the salvage operation following Martin Johnson’s resignation, the former Leeds coach spoke of the job requiring him to keep several plates spinning in the air at once. Today is the day when warding off the sound of shattering crockery may prove too much.

After showing his gambler’s hand, Lancaster was asked if he would accept an ‘ugly 6-3 win’ in his first Test at the helm. His long pause for thought was not one which Johnson would have taken, and sums up the inherent danger for England. /02/03/article-2096146-11945330000005DC-942_468x345.jpg” width=”468″ height=”345″ alt=”Main man: Chris Robshaw will captain England against Scotland on Saturday” class=”blkBorder” />

Main man: Chris Robshaw will captain England against Scotland on Saturday

There is a surging sense of optimism and energy provided by the newcomers, the new management, the new captain and the new desire to run free, at least in theory. But there is not yet proof of attacking cohesion or forward clout, strong leadership under pressure or an ability to adapt to the nuances of weather and opposition form and refereeing decisions.

Sure, Lancaster would — on balance — settle for the ugly grind to victory, but that is not what the broad blueprint dictates. Had he been asked whether the swagger without the result would be acceptable, he might have answered in the affirmative too. If ever there was a case of a result not being the be-all and end-all, this is it, despite the passions evoked by this fierce historical rivalry.

England cannot feasibly hope to achieve all the objectives, tick all the boxes, so a bottom-line compromise would be narrow defeat to a more streetwise side, but one punctuated by regular and lengthy bursts of creative class or resolute defence. If they cut loose but are edged out by Scottish goal-kicking, that cannot be regarded as a disaster.

Of course, defeat in Edinburgh would set in train a tense week in the lead-up to facing Italy in Rome, knowing that a loss there too would start to sound the alarms. But England cannot afford to think in those terms and the management must stay true to their philosophies and their chosen men.

Key: The Saracens influence will be crucial to England's chancesKey: The Saracens influence will be crucial to England's chances

Key: The Saracens influence will be crucial to England's chances

With the injured on course to return soon, the onus is on the likes of Charlie Hodgson, Brad Barritt and Mouritz Botha to prove that the sudden Saracens influx is not a fleeting one. There will also be scrutiny of Robshaw’s every move, with Wood originally identified as the captain-in-waiting and the most suitable candidate for the No 7 shirt.

Scotland are so well stocked in the back row that they have seen fit to leave arch poacher John Barclay on the bench. Robinson’s side are bound to harass England to distraction at the breakdown and Richie Gray will put pressure on their lineout. They will expect parity in the scrum and assured goal-kicking from Dan Parks, but for all their superior experience, what Scotland lack is the predatory instincts provided for England by Chris Ashton, Ben Foden and David Strettle.

The longer Robshaw and Co can resist the likely onslaught and stay in touch, the more the chance grows of an away win, especially as debutant Owen Farrell has the youthful composure to take his shots at goal. While meeting all targets is impossible, victory is not.

However, the nation will surely unite behind a display of unity and purpose and bold intent, which may have to suffice. The heart says England’s brave new world deserves a fast start, but the head fears that Scotland’s experience and nous will just about hold sway.

England v Scotland

Clermont Auvergne 30 Leicester 12: Tigers left to rue indiscipline

Clermont Auvergne 30 Leicester 12: Fofana at the double as Tigers lose unbeaten record

Former European champions Leicester surrendered their unbeaten record in this season”s Heineken Cup, and their position at the top of Pool Four, to Clermont Auvergne.

Leicester were second best for most of the game and now need to win the return clash at Welford Road next weekend.

At full stretch: Fofana scores a try for the home side

At full stretch: Fofana scores a try for the home side

The Tigers, who had won their previous two pool games against Italian outfit Aironi and Ulster, paid a heavy price for their own indiscipline.

Hooker George Chuter and England centre Manu Tuilagi were both sin-binned in the 50th minute for dangerous play, leaving the Tigers with 13-men for 10 minutes.

Stiff word: Leicester centre Tuilagi is sent to the sin bin

Stiff word: Leicester centre Tuilagi is sent to the sin bin

Clermont made the most of their two-man advantage to record their 35th consecutive home victory in front of a partisan 18,000 crowd at the intimidating Stade Marcel Michelin.

Leicester scored the first try of the game totally against the run of play when Clermont”s fly-half Brock James had his grubber kick charged down.

Toby Flood”s fly-hack deep into Clermont”s territory created confusion in the home side”s defence and saw scrum-half Ben Youngs run in at the corner to give the visitors an improbable 5-3 lead.

Brutal: Leicester were punished for their indiscipline throughout the match

Brutal: Leicester were punished for their indiscipline throughout the match

Scrum-half Morgan Parra calmed the home side”s nerves when he slotted over his second and third penalties to reclaim the lead midway through the first half.

The home side then stretched their lead when burly wing Julien Malzieu barged his way through some weak tackling and crashed over from short range to make it 16-5 at half-time.

After the break the Tigers were under extreme pressure and lost two players to yellow cards, hooker Chuter and centre Tuilagi, for dangerous play.

Down an out: Flood and Co were left to reflect on a disappointing afternoon

Down an out: Flood and Co were left to reflect on a disappointing afternoon

The pair were punished for high tackles on Para and Vincent Debaty respectively in the same attacking move and the Tigers never recovered. Clermont turned the screw when impressive centre Wesley Fofana crossed for the French side”s second try midway through the second half.

Fofana rubbed salt into the wounds with his second try before the visitors were awarded a consolation penalty try after Clermont collapsed a scrum in the shadow of their own posts.

Oxford 28 Cambridge 10: Bramham-Law puts the boot in bad-tempered Varsity Match

Oxford 28 Cambridge 10: Bramham-Law puts the boot in bad-tempered Varsity Match

Oxford won the Nomura Varsity Match for a second successive season at Twickenham after comfortably subduing Cambridge”s challenge.

And the Light Blues were fortunate to finish the game with all 15 players after their No 8 Dave Allen punched Oxford skipper John Carter.

Battered and bruised: Oxford captain John Carter with the spoils of war

Battered and bruised: Oxford captain John Carter with the spoils of war

Allen”s off-the-ball indiscipline was captured by television cameras, but referee Dave Pearson missed the first-half incident and it went unpunished.

Cambridge prospered by collecting a penalty try while former Sale back-row forward Carter was off the pitch receiving treatment, but Oxford”s win was never in doubt once he returned to marshal his troops.

Prop Will Kane, lock Karl Outen and fly-half Tom Mitchell scored tries for the Dark Blues, with wing Cassian Bramham-Law”s points haul including three penalties. Cambridge fly-half Steve Townend, meanwhile, kicked a penalty and conversion, but his team conceded 15 unanswered second-half points.

Varsity Blues: Oxford celebrate victory at Twickenham

Varsity Blues: Oxford celebrate victory at Twickenham

Oxford”s pack featured seven of the forwards on duty in last season”s encounter, while Cambridge – whose coaching team included Wales defence specialist Shaun Edwards – were captained by former Canadian international centre Matt Guinness-King.

Townend booted Cambridge into a third-minute lead, but Oxford soon stirred and they scored from their first attack when Kane powered over from close range for a try that Bramham-Law converted.

Bramham-Law”s opening penalty meant Oxford ended the first quarter in charge, yet Cambridge responded during a three-minute display of dominance.

On the attack: Sam Egerton of Oxford kicks the ball upfield

On the attack: Sam Egerton of Oxford kicks the ball upfield

Frantic Dark Blues defensive work denied their opponents a breakaway try, but with Carter off for treatment after taking Allen”s blow beneath his left eye, Cambridge pounced.

Pearson soon lost patience with the Oxford pack for pulling down a scrum near their posts, awarding Cambridge a penalty try that Townend converted.

Tempers continued to simmer as a feisty half drew to its close, but there was still time for another successful Bramham-Law penalty, which gave Oxford a 13-10 interval advantage.

Up and over: Oxford celebrate Tom Mitchell

Up and over: Oxford celebrate Tom Mitchell”s try

And Oxford took charge during the third quarter as a driving lineout provided the platform for Outen”s touchdown, before Bramham-Law completed his penalty hat-trick and there was no way back for the Light Blues.

England Sevens international Mitchell then ghosted over 10 minutes from time to complete Cambridge”s misery on a day when the Light Blues forwards were outgunned in most key areas.