LONDON (AP) — Emboldened by a "watershed" win in Ireland, England is on course to regain its position as the king of the northern hemisphere and put itself in perfect shape to challenge for the World Cup on home soil in 2015.
England is the only side capable of winning the Grand Slam in the Six Nations after following up victory over Scotland with a hard-fought 12-6 win in Dublin on Sunday. The last time the English were victorious in the Irish capital was in 2003, when Sir Clive Woodward's team clinched the Grand Slam before going on to capture the World Cup in Australia the same year.
England captain Chris Robshaw believes the team has just "put down a marker" with its biggest away win under coach Stuart Lancaster. "This was a victory that felt like a watershed moment for this team," Robshaw said in his column for the Daily Telegraph newspaper. "We had not won in Dublin in the Six Nations for 10 years and for this team to do that has given us massive self-belief."
The latest England team is arguably the most exciting since the country's World Cup-winning lineup. England finally has youthful and truly talented backs in 21-year-old flyhalf Owen Farrell, who is drawing comparisons with Jonny Wilkinson, and centers Manu Tuilagi and Billy Twelvetrees.
Farrell, in particular, is earning rave reviews and was England's matchwinner against Ireland by kicking four penalties. "Farrell is brilliant at the moment," Robshaw said. "He's got a great repertoire of skills, but he's got a great team around him who keep pushing him to get better. We're not going to get carried away."
Winning in Ireland has always been seen as a benchmark for future success and England did it in adversity, holding out when down to 14 men following the sin-binning of flanker James Haskell. In that 10-minute period midway through the second half, England came out 6-3 up.
Defense coach Andy Farrell, the father of Owen, described England's performance during that spell as "a masterclass," with Lancaster adding: "I'm not surprised by their character." "What I'm most pleased with is their composure and technical discipline," Lancaster added. "We'd been rocked a bit, lost a couple of scrums and lost a man to the bin but we managed that period so well and came out on top."
Up next for England is France, reeling from a surprise loss to Wales on Saturday that wrecked the pre-tournament favorites' chances of winning the Six Nations. However, Robshaw remains wary of a "France backlash."
"We just want to get back to Twickenham and our fantastic supporters now and kick on," he said. "It is all about France now."