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