RUCK takes a comparative look at the 2003 World Cup winning England team to see how the class of 2015 measure up heading into this tournament.
Man for man. Position for position. The first teams from the 2003 World Cup winning squad are pitted against their modern days counterparts, with RUCK presiding over proceedings as judge and jury. In Parts 1-3 we examined the forward pack, and the class of ’03 exerted their dominance with a 6-2 victory. Can this year’s troop claw it back? We start with the playmakers…
Matt Dawson v Ben Youngs
The man whom should be credited with the assist to Jonny Wilkinson’s World Cup winning drop goal, Matt Dawson always seemed to have an ace up his sleeve. Capable of scoring from both tries and his boot, Dawson was renowned for his quick thinking which always gave the opposition a tough task of trying to second guess him. One of only two men, along with Lawrence Dallaglio to have won both the World Cup and Sevens World Cup, the tricky Number nine has cemented his place in English history with his tenacity.
Whilst Dawson looked as if he was always trying to think one step ahead, Ben Youngs seems to rely on instinct. The Leicester Tigers man is a true natural talent of the game, and one of the best young scrum-halves in the world right now. His decision making, speed, pass accuracy and all round flair make him a standout creative man, and a truly vital cog in this England team. Youngs has the potential to become an England great and keep the side energized for years to come, and he could spark some electric scores in front of home support this Autumn.
The ‘Question of Sport’ captain has his place in English folklore, but Ben Youngs is Matt Dawson 2.0.
RUCK verdict: Ben Youngs – 1-0
Jonny Wilkinson v George Ford/Owen Farrell
What more is there to say about Jonny Wilkinson? His God given abilities were there for all to see, and for this team, he was England. Without him, there would not have been an historic first World Cup win in 2003. Fact. His points kept the side ticking over, and he never, ever missed. Jonny Wilkinson was born to kick an egg shaped ball between a H shaped set of goal posts, and he may well be the greatest ever Fly-half in the history of rugby. Not only was he supremely talented though, he was driven. Wilkinson didn’t rest on his laurels, he fought hard and tirelessly in every department for his side and was a natural leader on the pitch. What most appealed to the general public however, was his humbleness, and during that World Cup, a legend was born.
Both George Ford and Owen Farrell have been included here, as it still remains a bit of a mystery which one Stuart Lancaster will favour as his first choice fly-half. It is however a welcome conundrum to have, as each are gifted Number 10s. Injury to Farrell had left the door wide open for Ford in recent months, and the Bath youth has impressed. In the short time that he has been afforded since his debut in March last year, Ford has scored two tries and kicked 114 points from his boot for England. Farrell has also scored two tries whilst racking up 190 from the boot, meaning both players score a rough average of nine kicked points per match. At 22 and 23 respectively, Ford and Farrell both have a huge role to play for their country in the years ahead.
However, as good as they both are, and will be in the future, at present even combined they do not come close to emulating the sheer individual brilliance of Jonny Wilkinson.
RUCK verdict: Jonny Wilkinson – 1-1
So, we’re all square in the playmaker department. That brings the aggregate score so far to 7-3 in favour of the old boys. Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments section below!
Also, don’t forget to join us for Part 5, where we will take a look at the centres.