In his latest TRU column, Newcastle full-back Simon Hammersley talks about England’s performance against France, the impressive Mark Wilson, a new contract and the Falcons’ aims as the Gallagher Premiership returns
I probably didn’t expect the scoreline but England had a set game plan, like they did against Ireland, and were pretty ruthless. They really do look incredibly efficient at the moment.
England have a real balance in the side with Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell both right footed and the likes of Henry Slade and Elliot Daly using their left. They seemed to have options all over the place for the kicking game.
It was clear they wanted to target the inexperienced back three with two centres on the wing and a winger at full-back. It was impressive how clinical they were. With someone like Jonny May, you almost don’t need those kicks to be as good because of his pace. He seems so much faster than anyone else on the pitch!
There was one try which England kicked down the middle and it is rare to not have anyone in the backfield covering those kicks. I imagine that back three had not played together at international level and you know teams in the Six Nations love a good kicking game. They were always going to be exposed and England managed to do it so well.
Going forward, the success of the kicking game in the first two matches will be what England might build their game around.
‘You saw Jonny May make the kick and somehow, Wils seems to be the man next to him!’
He [Mark Wilson] has been impressive. The amount of work he gets through in terms of tackling, slowing down ruck ball and the odd carry here and there has shown what he does for us, but he has just taken it to the next level when he’s played for England. I thought in that Ireland game, especially, he was so physical. I think he made nearly 30 tackles which is outrageous.
We were also joking at the club that for one of the tries, you saw Jonny May make the kick and somehow, Wils seems to be the man next to him which was great to see for a 6! He has been fantastic and hopefully he has made a statement to be in the World Cup squad and hopefully, the World Cup team.
All eyes will be on Cardiff
They are all big games, but Wales v England will be huge. Wales are on one of their longest winning streaks so although they haven’t necessarily played well in the first couple of games, they have managed to get two wins. They will go into the game with a lot of confidence.
They will know the England game plan a bit clearer than say Ireland did in that first game. I imagine it will be very tough and very physical as well. If England play like they have done, I would have thought they will be on the winning side again.
Staying with the Falcons with a century in sight
It was [signing a new contract] an easy decision for me. I have really enjoyed it up here and living in Newcastle is great. We have a great bunch of players and good coaches so it was the best option for me to continue here so I can keep developing myself.
I obviously had that year where I had my knee injury, but other than that, I tend to stay away from injuries and manage to churn out the games. If I was to get to 100 games [currently on 96], I would be really pleased with the achievement.
Wils has obviously also extended his stay which is huge for the club and it is great from him because he has shown loyalty to Newcastle. He has got to the England set-up being with Newcastle and he is happy to continue.
Chris Harris has also re-signed in the backs so I think the club has shown a real ability to keep hold of the players which have been around the Falcons for a while. There is a great atmosphere and we have a great bunch of boys so it is positive for us.
The Gallagher Premiership returns
I haven’t played for a few weeks and we also have a few others coming back into the fold so we might be a little rusty, but everyone else is firing! The boys are really excited. We had a good win down at Sale in the Premiership Rugby Cup and showed a great 20 minutes against Northampton last week.
We were disappointed after that, but to be honest, I thought Northampton played some really good stuff so you have to credit them. In terms of the Premiership itself, we start with a couple of away trips at Bath and Exeter Chiefs, but it is time for us to get out there and start looking upwards and climbing up the table if possible.
‘We are still searching for that full 80-minute performance’
As a team as whole, we have looked at our next block of fixtures. Although every team in the Premiership is pretty tough to play against, I think we can get ourselves out of trouble. If we can get something from our next away fixtures, we will be on our way. It is just a matter of playing consistently.
TEAM NEWS: Gary Graham returns to Newcastle Falcons’ side for Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership trip to @bathrugby a fortnight after making his international debut for Scotland https://t.co/Zm5XJ6y2O5 pic.twitter.com/asQaBLngr2— Newcastle Falcons (@FalconsRugby) February 15, 2019
I have said previously, there has been 20-minute or 40-minute areas where we have played some good stuff in attack or defence or both. We are still searching for that full 80-minute performance.
That Northampton game pretty much demonstrated it. We were absolutely flying for the first 20 minutes, but we just took our foot off the pedal. We are going into the Bath game with a bit of confidence that when we click in attack, as we showed last season, it is pretty deadly. We just want to be strong defensively and not slip off those tackles which we might have done too much recently.