Armitage sharpens his spear


BAGSHOT, February 4 – England full-back Delon Armitage insists the team's desire to attack is more than just a glib phrase and can't wait to prove the point in Saturday's Six Nations opener with Wales.
After a November international programme where England were too often limited in their ambition and imprecise in their play, Martin Johnson has named arguably the boldest team of his 18-month tenure as England boss for this weekend’s clash at Twickenham.

Armitage and centre Riki Flutey both return from injury while Johnson’s selection of Mathew Tait at outside centre and Danny Care at scrum-half suggests England are ready to ditch a safety-first approach that wasn’t all that safe.

No-one is suggesting they treat Saturday’s match as a Barbarians-style game but there is a recognition that England must create and take more chances than they did in a November series that yielded one try in three games if they are to win their first Six Nations title since 2003.

"You mustn’t attack for the sake of it, but if it’s on, then go, play what you see in front of you and leave nothing in the tank," Armitage said at England’s training base on Wednesday.

"We’ve got that freedom now to play to our strengths rather than go out there, holding back, not trying things, worrying about the game plan and still losing.

"Having this freedom now is going to be brilliant for us. Everyone will be more relaxed and ready to play. We’ve got to go out there with freedom and the boys are really thrilled about that.

"As a back-three player, if you are given a licence to go, any player would tell you that is a golden key and I intend to use it.

"We’ve been promised good ball from the forwards and if we get that and use our pace, then hopefully we can cause the Welsh some problems."

One of those forwards is fit again No 8 Nick Easter who believes England now have enough experienced players to avoid a repeat of November’s lackustre first half against Argentina, when no-one on the field was prepared to change a malfunctioning approach until half-time.

"We have picked a side, now let’s use their strengths as individuals and play heads-up rugby. If someone sees something, ‘Bang’, it is on," said Easter.

"But that does not just mean giving it to the back three every time because that becomes too predictable. We have to be able to challenge in all areas.

"We are the guys out on the pitch and making those decisions. You can’t be looking up to the stands. You have to be good enough to change it. If I feel I can make a suggestion, I will."