Lee Dickson believes England have shown they have an exciting and first-class pack to take on the world.
Just five months after the demise at the World Cup had seen England sink to a new low, optimism is now blooming about the future following a very encouraging Six Nations.
Four wins out of five, including victory in France and Saturday’s success against Ireland, has given rise to a new belief in the national side under Stuart Lancaster.
The players are enjoying themselves and the new breed, that includes Saints’ Dickson and Phil Dowson, have breathed new enthusiasm into England.
With Dylan Hartley leading the scrum, England destroyed Ireland up front in impressive fashion.
For Dickson, it would have reminded him of a few Saints performances and he was bubbling with excitement after the 30-9 win.
Dickson said: “I knew our pack were a great bunch of forwards and on our day we could dominate other teams like that, but I think the win showed the world we have a very exciting, first-class pack.
“It was difficult conditions in the first half. Credit to Ireland, they did well at the breakdown and really nullified our quick ball.
“Our breakdown wasn’t the best in the first half, I’m afraid, but it’s the sign of a very good team that we reassessed at half-time and came out and really dominated the breakdown and dominated with our forwards.”
Dickson is one of a host of England players backing Lancaster to be given the job on a permanent basis.
He has been impressed by how Lancaster has galvanised the squad with a series of inspirational speakers helping them realise their responsibilities.
And ahead of the Ireland clash Dickson, whose father Steve is a recently-retired major in the Royal Signals, was touched by a speech given to the team from an Afghan war veteran.
“Stuart got speakers in, really inspirational speakers,” said Dickson.
“And we have short presentations before and after each game. It shows what every shirt means.
“Before the game, we had the talk from the war veteran and he was really inspirational.
“My dad’s in the army so I had a lot of respect for him and he came down to the changing room after the game so it was really good to have him around.
“He was shot in the face and has lost an eye but what an inspirational man – he’s brilliant to have around.
“He was there for the shirt presentations and he’s now just one of the lads. He told us how proud he was of us, and how proud it is to be English and he told us how our people in Afghanistan would be definitely cheering us on.
“The coaches have been bringing other people from other sports, like Gary Neville. They are an inspiration to us in their game and it’s great to see them here supporting and watching us.”
Dickson played in all five Six Nations games, establishing himself as the number one scrum-half after being ignored by Martin Johnson. It is a fantastic turnaround for the 26-year-old.
“It’s been tremendous to be involved,” said Dickson.
“I think now after the Six Nations I’ll reassess, but at the moment I’m still pinching myself that I’m starting for England.”