Lawrence Dallaglio column: Step by step, England are heading in right direction

The start to Jamie George's England captaincy has gone very well, all things considered.

This has been a far from perfect start to the Six Nations for England, under a new skipper and with a pledge to launch a new era — but two wins from two matches, I will take that. Ultimately, I do not really care how England win: it is simply about the winning itself.

Of course, everyone wants England to elevate their game to a place where they can challenge the very best — and they are not there yet — but it is clear that they are taking steps forward and, for the time being, that is good enough.

The over-riding emotion at the final whistle of the tense 16-14 win over Wales on Saturday was relief.

England started well, but failed to claim any points from a dominant opening 10 minutes. The art of Test rugby is converting pressure into points. England had two or three early line breaks, and yet it was Wales who scored first.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

That is a big lesson for England to heed.

England are trying to maintain their DNA of a strong set-piece and smart tactical approach, while also expanding their attack and turning their defence into a weapon. George Ford managed the game better than most in the second half, as England came through for victory.

This was a match low on overall quality, but interspersed with flashes of brilliance from individuals. Wales flanker Tommy Reffell was outstanding and Ben Earl for England was not too far behind.

Wales could easily have spoiled the party were it not for Rio Dyer's knock-on. But, lo and behold, England went up the other end and nailed the decisive penalty.

Earl's try was a hugely enjoyable moment in the match. The Saracens star has spoken candidly about his aims to become one of the best players around — and the key for any player who wants to be world class is consistency.

Earl is starting to build that, and it is very encouraging for both him and England. Credit to him for driving his way up the pecking order. He has worked extremely hard and is now a quality Test player.

Back-row forwards are judged on how many times they can affect the outcome of a game. On both sides of the ball, Earl is having a significant impact. He is not the traditional No8 in a size sense, but he generates power through pace and physicality, and now nothing is stopping him playing effectively in the role.

Win one more of the next three games and England can start looking up

If England want to play on the front foot, they need big ball-carriers. England have really struggled at the gainline in the last couple of years, hence so much tactical kicking to try to gain momentum.

To get where they want to, England still need to add more power to their line-up. They need one big ball-carrier in every row of the forward pack, then several more behind the scrum, too.

If a fit Ollie Lawrence, for example, were to walk back into the England line-up tomorrow, then the team would quickly look very different.

England have not won the Calcutta Cup since 2020, so they are overdue victory against their next opponents Scotland. But they must improve markedly to be able to achieve that in Edinburgh on Saturday week.

England seem to be improving, but the jury will be out until the end of this championship. Lose the next three matches and England might not have progressed much at all.

Win one more, at least, in the next three, and they can start looking up.