Tag Archives: inexperience

Paul Lambert defends Aston Villa youngsters

The kids are alright! Lambert defends Aston Villa youngsters despite recent hammerings

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UPDATED:

12:27 GMT, 28 December 2012

Paul Lambert has refused to blame Aston Villa's youngest-ever side for the club's recent beatings, saying the club's experienced players have done no better.

Villa have conceded 12 goals in their past two games and are in desperate need of a return to winning ways against Wigan on Saturday.

Lambert makes no apologies for looking up the Premier League table, rather than down it, despite the fact that Villa have let in more goals than anyone else and are the joint lowest scorers.

Standing firm: Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has the crowd behind him

Standing firm: Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has the crowd behind him

But he remains committed to the policy of blooding youngsters – the current average age of Villa's team is 23 – and he is remaining true to his recruitment policy.

'Over the last few years this club has had loads of experienced players and the situation hasn't really changed,' said Lambert.

'Experienced players won't always take you where you want to go. I know that from my own experience.

'I have a belief in the way we are doing it. In the long term this club will be great.

'There's no point me saying we are down there because of inexperience. This club was battling against relegation last season.'

Hard knocks: Villa were hammered by Chelsea and Spurs in their last two games

Hard knocks: Villa were hammered by Chelsea and Spurs in their last two games

Villa's eight-goal thumping at Stamford Bridge was the worst defeat in the club's history.

Conceding four without replay at Villa Park against Spurs on Boxing Day was a marginal improvement.

Yet the Holte End remained steadfast in their support of the team, staying behind to chant Lambert's name.

Villa are in the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup but their backing did not go un-noticed in the home dugout.

'It's the first time in years that I've seen that reaction from a crowd,' added Lambert.

No answer: Spurs winger Gareth Bale ripped Villa apart with a hat-trick

No answer: Spurs winger Gareth Bale ripped Villa apart with a hat-trick

'I think they see the bigger picture. Normally, when you are three down at home there is an evacuation. I think they can see the big picture.

'The fans have been fantastic and one thing you can say about this club is that the crowd have never not been behind it.

'My job is to rectify it, the fans I can't thank enough. For anyone who was there…well I've not seen that.'

Lambert is again short of options due to a lengthy injury list.

Ron Vlaar, Gabby Agbonlahor, Andreas Weimann, Nathan Baker, Charles N'Zogbia and Darren Bent are all sidelined for Wigan's visit.

Shaun Murphy beats Luca Brecel in UK Championship quarter-finals

Young Brecel's not so pretty on the pink as Murphy ends Belgian's fairytale run

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UPDATED:

01:08 GMT, 7 December 2012

Shaun Murphy dodged a Belgian bullet as Luca Brecel ran into pink peril and bowed out in the quarter-finals of the williamhill.com UK Championship.

Seventeen-year-old Brecel was twice on the brink of a famous victory at just his second major tournament.

But the rising star missed crucial pinks in the 10th and 11th frames to allow Murphy to capitalise both times.

Eye on the ball: Shaun Murphy had to dig deep to get the better of Luca Brecel

Eye on the ball: Shaun Murphy had to dig deep to get the better of Luca Brecel

The second steal clinched a 6-5 victory for the 2008 UK champion, setting up a semi-final tomorrow against Stuart Bingham's conqueror Ali Carter.

Murphy pointed to strong words at the interval from his manager Brandon Parker as a key factor in his victory.

'Brandon gave me a good talking-to at the interval that would have rivalled one of Sir Alex Ferguson's half-time talks, and it really knocked me into shape,' Murphy said.

'It's lucky there were no hairdryers in that dressing room. I think I'd have got one. Without Brandon's words I would have lost the match.'

He would have gone out anyway if Brecel had been able to put away his chances.

'I thought I'd lost the match a couple of times, I really did think I was out,' Murphy said. 'I think the adrenaline and maybe a little bit of inexperience cost him in the end. He over-hit and under-hit a couple of shots, and I'm just relieved.

Nerves of steel: 17-year-old Brecel has been the talk of the UK Championship

Nerves of steel: 17-year-old Brecel has been the talk of the UK Championship

'The sense of relief and sense of pleasure is probably twice as much as if I'd won 6-0 with four maximum breaks.'

Murphy can see a future champion emerging, and pointed to shades of Stephen Hendry in Brecel's temperament.

'He's just not bothered. And as long as he can keep that, that's what the best champions in the game forever have all had in common,' Murphy said.

'When everyone else is under pressure and feeling it, they just waltz through it like it's a walk in the park. Hendry never used to show any nerves at all and Luca looks like he's got the same attributes.

'He doesn't seem to show any nerves, he doesn't seem to feel any pressure just until the last minute, and it was lucky for me he did.'

Elsewhere at the Barbican, Mark Davis joined the semi-final line-up as the most successful season of his 21 years as a snooker professional reached a new high.

The 40-year-old Hastings man reached his third ranking event semi-final of the campaign with a 6-4 victory over the 2003 UK champion Matthew Stevens.

Into the last four: Davis

Into the last four: Davis

Davis had never made it so far in one of snooker's majors before this term, but he began his run of success at the Wuxi Classic in June, followed it up with another semi-final showing at the Australian Open in July and now has a final in his sights in York.

He fired breaks of 101, 80 and 70 in seeing off Welshman Stevens, earning himself a shot at Mark Selby, who fought back from 4-0 down to beat Neil Robertson 6-4.

The key frame was the 49-minute ninth, which after an intense battle Selby took, and when Robertson left him a cheap opening red early in the next frame the Leicester man made a match-winning 101 break.

Selby punched the air in celebration after potting the red that made victory safe, tying up victory at 12.05am.

Selby, 29, will go back to No 1 in the world should he beat Davis to reach the final, having relinquished top spot to Judd Trump in November.

Selby said: 'It's a special win. The way I finished off was pleasing but at the start of the match I was terrible, pathetic, and I deserved to be 4-0 down.

'Until 4-3 I didn't really start playing the way I'm capable of playing. I finished off well and it's surprising to come out on top.'

Everton 3 Southampton 1: Pressure mounts on Adkins as Toffees wrap it up early

Everton 3 Southampton 1: Pressure mounts on Adkins as Toffees wrap it up early

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UPDATED:

16:11 GMT, 29 September 2012

Everton's impressive start to the season continued – as did striker Nikica Jelavic's goalscoring run – against a Southampton side whose top-flight inexperience was exposed at Goodison Park.

David Moyes' team equalled their best points haul of 13 from six Barclays Premier League matches from the 2004-05 season to cement their place just three points behind leaders Chelsea.

Jelavic scored twice to take his tally to 10 in his last 11 league matches after Leon Osman had cancelled out Gaston Ramirez's early opener.

With a rebel Jel: Nikica Jelavic (right) just wanted more after netting the leveller

With a rebel Jel: Nikica Jelavic (right) just wanted more after netting the leveller

Match facts

EVERTON: Howard, Coleman, Heitinga, Jagielka, Baines, Mirallas (Oviedo 79), Neville, Osman (Distin 90), Pienaar, Fellaini, Jelavic (Anichebe 75).

Subs Not Used: Mucha, Distin, Gueye, Vallios, Duffy

Goals: Osman, 25, Jelavic 32, 38

SOUTHAMPTON: Gazzaniga, Richardson, Fonte,Yoshida, Clyne (Mayuka 81), G Ramirez, S. Davis, Ward-Prowse, Lallana, J Rodriguez (Reeves 81).

Subs Not Used: K. Davis, Hooiveld, Guly, Chaplow, Puncheon.

Goals: Ramirez 6

Referee: Lee Probert

Att:TBA

Premier League results, fixtures and table

The feeling on Merseyside, which is
becoming increasingly apparent further afield, is that Moyes has
assembled the best squad of his 10-year tenure.

Their statistics this season seem to
give some credence to that suggestion as Everton, the perennial slow
starters, managed just two wins from their first seven league matches
last year and did not win a league match until October the campaign
before that.

After such an impressive start the
players were having to deal with the prospect of handling rising
expectations but they were not so adept at dealing with Southampton's
set-pieces.

From Adam Lallana's corner Ramirez was given the freedom of the penalty area to nod in the simplest of headers.

It was the Uruguay international's
first goal in English football following his club-record 12million
summer transfer from Bologna and the first time Everton have conceded in
the opening 45 minutes of a Premier League game this season.

fast start: Southampton's Uruguayan midfielder Gaston Ramirez celebrates after his opener

fast start: Southampton's Uruguayan midfielder Gaston Ramirez celebrates after his opener

Knockout blow: Everton's Nikica Jelavic (left) and Southampton's Frazer Richardson battle for the ball

Knockout blow: Everton's Nikica Jelavic (left) and Southampton's Frazer Richardson battle for the ball

Southampton were to regret Jay
Rodriguez's inability to hit the target – let alone test Tim Howard –
when he outpaced the Toffees defence soon after.

Everton turned the game on its head in a 14-minute period which exposed all the flaws characteristic of a newly-promoted team.

Kevin Mirallas swung over a
right-wing cross and although Jelavic threw himself at it he succeeded
only in diverting it back to Osman who smashed the loose ball into the
roof of the net from close range.

Jump to it: Maya Yoshida (centre right) and Everton's Marouane Fellaini (centre) vie for posession

Jump to it: Maya Yoshida (centre right) and Everton's Marouane Fellaini (centre) vie for posession

The goalscorer returned the favour
when his through-ball sent Jelavic running through the inside-left
channel but Paulo Gazzaniga's woeful positioning made it all-too-easy
for the Croatia international to fire a shot across him.

Southampton's goalkeeper redeemed
himself slightly by brilliantly clawing out the striker's header
destined for the top corner but was powerless to prevent him nodding in
Seamus Coleman's cross to the far post.

We're flying: Leon Osman notched Everton's third goal which effectively ended the game before the break

We're flying: Leon Osman notched Everton's third goal which effectively ended the game before the break

The visitors have the leakiest
defence in the top flight and it was easy to see why as they were so
open in the second quarter of the game they appeared to be in disarray.

Everton should have had the game
wrapped up before the break; their confidence was highlighted by
Mirallas' attempted overhead kick before Marouane Fellaini hit the
crossbar with a header.

The Belgium international almost
clinched the result early in the second half with a long-range effort
tipped just wide by Gazzaniga before Osman and Mirallas also tried their
luck from the edge of the box as their toothless opponents offered
little in the way of resistance.

Three 'n' easy: Osman nets the killer third for Everton

Three 'n' easy: Osman nets the killer third for Everton

Crunch: Kevin Mirallas feels the full force of Nathan Clyne's challenge

Crunch: Kevin Mirallas feels the full force of Nathan Clyne's challenge

However, without the fourth goal to
kill off Southampton Everton were always a hostage to fortune and
Ramirez's clip past Howard but past the far post from a narrow angle was
a warning of that.

But luck seemed to be on the hosts'
side as Leighton Baines almost caught Gazzaniga unawares with a hanging
cross-shot which the goalkeeper had to backpedal to tip over.

For Southampton manager Nigel Adkins, a Birkenhead-born Liverpool fan, it proved to be an unhappy return to the region.

As far as Everton are concerned their
progress could not be more serene and with trips to struggling Wigan
and QPR up next there is every prospect of it continuing.

No strings: Nikica Jelavic (centre) netted a brace to keep Everton in sight of Chelsea at the top of the table

No strings: Nikica Jelavic (centre) netted a brace to keep Everton in sight of Chelsea at the top of the table

Wigan 40 Castleford 16: Lauaki at the double against patched-up Tigers

Wigan 40 Castleford 16: Lauaki off the mark for Warriors against patched-up Tigers

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UPDATED:

21:50 GMT, 27 July 2012

Tongan powerhouse Epalahame Lauaki was
Wigan's unlikely hero with his first tries for the club as the Stobart
Super League leaders opened up a five-point gap on second-placed
Warrington with a comfortable win over a depleted Castleford.

Lauaki had managed just one try in 27
Super League appearances for Hull in 2011 but he romped over for his
first for Wigan – on his 23rd appearance – after only four minutes and
two minutes later doubled his tally to give his side a dream start.

Sam Tomkins of Wigan Warriors gets past Grant Millington (L) and Jordan Thompson (R) of Castleford Tigers

Sam Tomkins of Wigan Warriors gets past Grant Millington (L) and Jordan Thompson (R) of Castleford Tigers

Winger Iain Thornley then marked his debut with a third try to put Wigan 16-0 up inside 10 minutes but they were made to work for the rest of their tries by a patched-up Tigers side hit by the withdrawal of three players on the day of the game.

The Warriors, who had scrum-half Matty Smith making his home debut, produced a mixed show on their first appearance at the DW Stadium since crashing out of the Challenge Cup and succumbing at home to Bradford in Super League.

They lost centre Darrell Goulding to injury in the first half and also lost their way after establishing that early cushion.

Castleford coach Ian Millward was forced to field a patched-up side after losing his new half-back pair of Jamie Ellis and Rangi Chase, with forwards Stuart Jones and Oliver Holmes filling in at centre and stand-off respectively.

They looked in danger of being over-run after Wigan's early scoring burst but went on to play their part in an entertaining encounter.

The impressive Thornley twice got away down the wing but demonstrated his inexperience by failing to make the most of the opportunities and the visitors took advantage of the let-offs.

The game was held up for 10 minutes so that Goulding could have treatment on the pitch following a head collision before being carried off on a stretcher and it seemed to distract Wigan for a time.

Castleford pulled a try back three minutes before the break when winger Rhys Williams was put into space by Jordan Thompson and wrong-footed Sam Tomkins.

Nick Youngquest added the conversion but there was just time for Wigan to score a fourth try through makeshift centre Liam Farrell after they had kept the ball alive following the sounding of the half-time hooter.

The Tigers battled their way to another try early in the second half when Holmes got the first touch to Ryan Hudson's grubber kick to the line and Youngquest's second goal cut the gap to just eight points.

But Wigan's evergreen centre George Carmont produced a strong finish to claim his side's fifth try on 57 minutes and Tomkins took an inside pass from a busy Thornley to go over on 66 minutes.

Tomkins then got Charnley over for his 31st try of the season and, after gallant Castleford pulled another try back through Jones, Tomkins grabbed his second after collecting Harrison Hansen's pass by his bootlaces.

The England full-back kicked a fourth goal to take his points tally for the match to 16.

England v Belgium: Big Match Dossier

England v Belgium: Big Match Dossier – Hodgson's three Ts leave squad no doubt that discipline is key

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UPDATED:

21:29 GMT, 1 June 2012

Discipline has been on the agenda in the England camp with players warned about their responsibilities in regard to the three Ts: tackling, tweeting and tactics.

Former referee David Elleray addressed the squad at the team hotel on what to expect from the officials in Euro 2012.

It included a timely reminder about tackling, a few days after Steven Gerrard's challenge on Tom Hogli in Norway which the referee claimed would have been a yellow card in a competitive game.

Lucky boy: Gerrard launches into a tackle on Tom Hogli

Lucky boy: Gerrard launches into a tackle on Tom Hogli

'We have to be slightly more careful at international level,' said Gerrard.

'It has changed, though, and it's something you have to adapt to as a player, especially myself as a tackler.'

Hodgson has told the England captain he may also have to curb his attacking instincts to compensate for the loss of injured midfielders Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard.

'The manager has spoken to me and said I might have to play deeper and more disciplined,' said Gerrard.

There will be no ban on England's players using Twitter or other social media sites but they will be expected to tweet sensibly and not divulge sensitive information, such as team selection.

Inexperience starting to show
Changes: Fabio Capello

Injuries to Barry and Lampard and call-ups for Phil Jagielka and Jordan Henderson means the overall experience of the squad will be down by 130 caps.

It also means there are 14 changes to the party Fabio Capello (right) took to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Walcott and Ox set for impact roles in new cautious approach

Hodgson started his tenure with a satisfying clean sheet and yesterday his focus remained fixed on the defensive unit, scrutinising his back four as the strikers practised their finishing at the other end of the Wembley pitch.

It is a matter of priorities for Hodgson.

Short on time, he has worked hard on organisation to the surprise of no-one who knows him.

Our goal threats

Premier League goals in 2011-12 from
England's wide boys.

Theo Walcott 8

Ashley Young 6

James Milner 3

Alex
Oxlade-Chamberlain 2

Jordan Henderson 2

Stewart Downing 0

Making England hard to beat against the clock is bad news for flair and adventure.

Stewart Downing and James Milner, the preferred wide men against Norway last week, are more reliable in possession and offer greater defensive cover than Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

But on Friday Hodgson made it clear that Henderson was another option for him wide on the right, where the 21-year-old has experience for Sunderland and Liverpool.

Downing has not scored in the Barclays Premier League for more than a year and Milner not since January.

Despite his improved goal threat, the signs are not good for Walcott, who may have to resign himself for the time being to the role of a substitute, sent on to use his blistering pace as a weapon against a tiring team.

Out of form: Stewart Downing (right)

Out of form: Stewart Downing (right)

Needing a few goals: James Milner (left) and Stewart Downing (right)

So, even bookies don't fancy us

Ladbrokes have England priced at 16-1 to win Euro 2012, which is their longest price ever ahead of a major tournament they have already qualified for.

Hull 24 Bradford 18: Bad week for Bulls

Hull 24 Bradford 18: Bad week for Bulls rounded off by defeat

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 30 March 2012

Crisis-club Bradford ended their difficult week with a closely-fought defeat against Hull at the KC Stadium.

The Bulls battled gamely, but Tom Briscoe's try with 10 minutes left proved decisive, in a match that could be the four-time Super League champions' last before they are plunged into administration.

Bradford's future is in grave doubt after it emerged during the week that they need to raise 500,000 by Friday to keep the tax man from their door.

Crunch: Danny Tickle of Hull is tackled by John Bateman and Manase Manuokafoa of Bradford

Crunch: Danny Tickle of Hull is tackled by John Bateman and Manase Manuokafoa of Bradford

Administration, or even a winding-up order, hangs heavy over the club with the desperation of their plight illustrated by a call to their fans to donate 100 each to reach a final 1million mark by the end of next month.

Any of those generous Bulls supporters who were hoping to get an immediate on-field dividend on their investment were denied a result but not a battling performance to at least show their players retain the stomach for the fight.

A memorable John Bateman try had levelled the scores at 18-18 with 14 minutes left, but Hull stole ahead through Briscoe before Danny Tickle landed a late penalty.

It meant the Black and Whites joined Warrington at the top of the Stobart Super League table with a fifth successive win, built on a Richard Horne double to overcome an otherwise weak forward display.

Hull were without forward duo Mark O'Meley and Sam Moa, who returned to Australia this week on compassionate grounds, leaving coach Peter Gentle to hand debuts to duo Liam Kent and Chris Green off the bench.

Not getting through: Phil Joseph and Jamie Langley grab Hull's Martin Aspinwall

Not getting through: Phil Joseph and Jamie Langley grab Hull's Martin Aspinwall

Their inexperience was felt in the
opening period as they relied on the razor-sharp finishing of Horne and
Willie Manu to take a 12-6 interval lead.

Horne
was in the right place at the right time to run onto a
perfectly-weighted pass and burst through the Bulls defence before
racing 40 yards to cross on eight minutes.

A Hull mistake gifted Bradford their first score when Jarrod Sammut clasped onto an ill-advised pass at close quarters and, while he was trip-tackled with the try-line gaping, the Bulls recycled the ball to see Keith Lulia over.

Manu restored Hull's six-point advantage on 20 minutes, expertly wrong-footing a pair of defenders to score under the posts, but for the remainder of the half Hull remained marooned in their own half.

Despite their territorial advantage Bradford failed to find a second try before the interval with Brett Kearney going over untouched only for his run to be ruled out after an earlier obstruction.

The Bulls were rewarded five minutes after the interval when, after Hull gave away two penalties to advance them down the field, Briscoe dropped a routine kick into the in-goal area and Karl Pryce fell on the loose ball.

Consoling: Bradford players stand in solidarity despite defeat

Consoling: Bradford players stand in solidarity despite defeat

The home side resorted to kicking for territory, a tactic aided when Kearney needlessly gathered a ball drifting out of the in-goal before turning into a crunching Manu tackle.

With some field position to finally work with Hull found a third try to edge them back ahead, Danny Houghton making the crucial yards with a scurrying run before Horne barged over for his second.

Tickle landed his third conversion to make it 18-12 with 22 minutes left.

Bradford had shown little creativity until they produced a try to remember and level scores with 14 minutes left.

The move began with a series of tired-looking offloads in the centre of the park which, somehow eventually opened up the defence before Lulia raced 30 yards and drew two defenders before a clever pass sent Bateman over.

Just four minutes later Hull regained their lead, with Briscoe finishing a slick move in the corner, and while Tickle missed the kick he landed a late penalty to ensure a fifth successive win.

Scott Parker sure Spurs will finish in top four

We're on a bad run but we'll finish in top four, says Spurs star Parker

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UPDATED:

07:39 GMT, 26 March 2012

Scott Parker has dismissed suggestions Tottenham's inexperience will see them crumble in the race to finish inside the Barclays Premier League top four.

Saturday saw Spurs take a huge step to regaining Champions League football when they drew 0-0 at Chelsea, a result that kept them five points clear of their fifth-placed opponents.

But it was also a fifth league match without a win for Harry Redknapp's men and saw them slip three points behind third-placed Arsenal.

Defiant: Scott Parker is certain Spurs will achieve their objective of a top four finish this season

Defiant: Scott Parker is certain Spurs will achieve their objective of a top four finish this season

Having threatened to open up a 13-point lead over their arch rivals a month ago, there have been claims Tottenham are buckling under the kind of pressure the Gunners and Chelsea have long been used to.

Asked if that was the case, Parker said: 'No, not really.

'It's like anything in general life. You need to stay positive.

'We all knew we were on a bad run but we need to keep believing in what we are doing and hopefully it will turn.'

He added: 'At some point in the season, you are going to go through a bit of a bad patch it's just about how quickly you can come out of it.'

Saturday's performance suggested Spurs were destined to do just that ahead of what appears to be an easier final eight matches than their rivals.

Parker said: 'Our aim has always been top four and that is not going to change. We need to keep winning games.

'It's about results now. It's not about playing well.

Capital gains: Parker was pleased Tottenham managed to earn a share of the spoils at Stamford Bridge

Capital gains: Parker was pleased Tottenham managed to earn a share of the spoils at Stamford Bridge

'When you get to the nitty gritty at the end of the season, like it is now, you need to keep trying to get points on the board.

'With Chelsea being in fifth, we know we needed to keep getting points.'

Tottenham have not finished above Chelsea since 1996 but Parker believes his side are finally a match for their London rivals.

He said: 'We have got a good team and any team we have played against, any of the top teams, we have showed our quality and class.'

Spurs had long looked certain to be top dogs in London for the first time since 1995 but a dramatic reversal of fortune in the last month has seen them overtaken by Arsenal.

Redknapp scoffed at suggestions catching Arsene Wenger's men may be beyond his side, saying: 'I still think we'll finish above Arsenal – bring it on, Arsene!'

SIX NATIONS 2012: England front row outstanding, Ben Kay

Ben Kay: Young guns in the front row lead the way for Lancaster's England

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UPDATED:

22:02 GMT, 18 March 2012

England's scrummaging on Saturday was fantastic. People had been talking up the Irish scrum but England blew them away and Dan Cole took apart Cian Healy, who has been tipped to be the Lions loosehead. Mike Ross came off with an injury but by then he had already been destroyed by Alex Corbisiero.

What struck me was the comparative body shapes of the two front rows. England had so much more strength and athleticism. While the props played a major role in establishing dominance, it is also important to acknowledge the part played by hooker Dylan Hartley.

Fronting up: Dan Cole (left), Dylan Hartley (centre) and Alex Corbisiero (right)

Fronting up: Dan Cole (left), Dylan Hartley (centre) and Alex Corbisiero (right)

This was another sign of how England benefit from the set-piece focus in the Aviva Premiership. Coaches like Richard Cockerill at Leicester and Dorian West at Northampton have a real appetite for scrummaging, so other teams have to work hard at it too – more so than the sides in the RaboDirect Pro12.

England have become one of the best scrummaging nations in the world although their relative inexperience was exposed by Wales. At tighthead, Cole will beat anyone in a fair, one-on-one pushing contest. He and Corbisiero are still young and they are developing fast.

Ben Morgan had a superb game for England, with the scrum advantage putting him on the front foot. England were able to wheel around at will so it allowed him a free pick-up with space to attack.

Overall, England had a very good campaign. They showed doggedness to beat Scotland and Italy, and that bonded them as a team.

Colossus: Ben Morgan was outstanding for England

Colossus: Ben Morgan was outstanding for England

A sign of how a side are functioning comes from the backroom staff, because the players spend a lot of time with those guys. On Saturday I spoke to the kit man, masseuse and physios, who all said it had been as good an eight weeks as they’ve had.

England need to focus on being more accurate, as there have been a lot of handling mistakes which nearly cost them a win against France.

In midfield, Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi have been good individually, but they need to develop together as a pair.

England also need greater accuracy in the line-out.

Stuart Lancaster has created a positive atmosphere in the squad that everyone wants to be part of, so has done enough to get the head coach job.

Ben Kay is a rugby analyst for ESPN’s Aviva Premiership coverage

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.