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Eddie O'Sullivan keeping up to speed
Inpho/Donall Farmer
If It Walks Like A Duck...?
3 March 2007, 10:46 am
By Chris Byrne
A win for England over France at Twickenham on Sunday and the championship is back on for Ireland, providing of course they have done the business the previous day in Murrayfield.
Now the bookies have no doubt they will. And only the most partisan of Scot would disagree. But there are a few who will still make a case No ALT tag specifiedfor a home win in both venues.

And one of those who is prepared to take on the bookies with hard earned cash is Shaun Edwards, the former Rugby League great who is now coach at London Wasps. Edwards is one of those rare breed of coach who believes in writing a regular newspaper column and in his piece today in The Guardian he admits to having put a few bob on England to help revive Ireland's championship hopes by beating France. Furthermore, he is tempted he says, to have a smaller bet on Scotland and if he collects there then Eddie O'Sullivan's Triple Crown ambition will be gone before England tog out.

Given that France are three-to-one on (1/3) and Ireland seven-to-one (1/7), you have to admire Edwards' bravery, something he never lacked on the field. But reading his article today it's clear that Shaun Edwards does not subscribe to the "If it walks like a duck. Quacks like a duck. Then it must be a duck." theory.

No ALT tag specifiedIn England's case, Edwards applauds the, 'adventurous' response to the defeat in Dublin (it was in fact annihilation rather than defeat) and makes special mention of the selection of 35 year old Mike Catt as the man who could turn the tables on France. He talks of a cross-code game between Wigan-Bath, where Catt impressed him. That was back in 1996 and Bath lost by 80 odd points.

Yes of course, concedes Edwards, Catt may have lost a yard or so of pace since then (haven't we all) but the sharpness of the mind can deceive the limbs. And with age has come, 'a shrewder tactical approach'.

Well, he will need all of that to influence affairs in Twickenham on Sunday. In the autumn of his career, Catt is still a fine player - at Premiership level. And he can look back on a great career with nothing but pride. But even he admitted to being surprised by the role given him for Sunday, "It was a surprise to me," he said, "as it was to everyone else in the rugby world. Not many people would have thought I would still be here at 35, captaining England."

The sharpness that Edwards talks of, may deceive his (Catt) own limbs, whether it can deceive French limbs is another thing. And whether he should have been asked to try is another matter altogether.

The situation north of Hadrian's Wall that has enticed Edwards to go toe-to-toe with the bookies revolves around pride. Just in case we didn't know, he reminds readers of the importance of pride in a completion like the RBS Six Nations. After the Italy defeat, Frank Hadden apparently has resisted going back "to the tried and tested", opting instead to "stick with the side he knows best, making just one change."

The tried an trusted we assume must be the side that beat Wales 21-9 rather than the one that lost 42-20 to England and it would be naive No ALT tag specifiedto think that the Scots will roll over and be tickled on Saturday. Eddie O'Sullivan and Brian O'Driscoll will have burned the ears off the team reminding them of the difficult task that lies ahead of them. So complacency will not be a factor from an Irish point of view.

But the reality is that the stories this week emanating from Scotland have been about players abandoning the Scottish provincial system for greener pastures and despite Frank Hadden's protestations to the contrary, it has to impact on the squad as they prepare to face the best side in the championship.

And while there will be no lack of pride or passion in either English or Scottish camps, that alone may not suffice. The reality is that the club game in Scotland and to a lesser and varying degree in England, does not complement the respective national squads. The Scots are deep in debt, the regional sides are struggling. Struggling in the past to attract crowds, now struggling to keep their players.But at least the SRU did try the system that has worked so well here and has been the norm in New Zealand for years.

In England however, the clubs rule the roost. There are non English qualified players taking up key positions. Those qualified to play for England are turning up for Ashton's England camp battered and bruised.

No ALT tag specifiedEdwards, in making a case for the inclusion of his player Tim Payne, talked of how the Wasps prop, "regularly hits between 35 and 40 rucks a game." Presumably he was doing that last Sunday against Wasps. Therein lies England and Brian Ashton's problem.

Pride will carry a team so far. But only so far. In Scotland, circumstances has them 10/11 with the bookies for the Wooden Spoon. In England's case, it's the system that has them looking down the barrel of a gun on the international stage.

So really, someone should explain to Shaun Edwards that if it walks like a duck. Quacks like a duck. Then the chances are, that it is most likely, a duck.

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