Meltdown

It feels like a bit of a strange World Cup for the Irish at this point – we are still over a week from our first (of many we hope) peak while the tournament goes supernova around us. We haven’t even managed to get the usual pat-on-the-head platitudes about being the best fans, since the general atmosphere has been fantastic.  Minnows have been largely competitive, and then there have been the headline games. The Japan-South Africa and New Zealand-Argentina games on the first weekend were fantastic, but last Saturdays epic was one of the truly great World Cup games.

We were going to write a great piece about England’s great capitulation, but Graham Henry covered it all so comprehensively, his piece was unimprovable. Henry was scathing and unsparing. England were poorly selected, afraid to play rugby and choked in the last 20 minutes, making terrible decisions both on and off the pitch. It was a great article. What came through was Henry’s absolute disdain for what we call the ‘rugby of fear’. Not for Henry the usual hoo-ha of ‘cup rugby’, which is translation for ‘kicking to the other team and hoping they make mistakes’. You go out to beat the other team by playing them off the park. If you have lineout and scrum dominance, he said in so many words, why on earth are you not playing rugby with the high quality first phase ball? It’s anathema to him.

For the record, we cannot understand the decision to go down the line at the end. Whatever about the match situation, whatever about the relative percentages of a rolling maul versus a moderately difficult kick for a 7-from-7 kicker, the fact is – a draw virtually ensures England qualify. At the very least, it means an injury-ravaged Welsh side need to win twice.

But whatever of the erroneous final decision to decline the kick at goal, the choking began well before that. You could say it began the moment Ben Youngs departed the pitch and England suddenly began to clam up. ‘All the good stuff was coming through Ben’, they seemed to say, ‘What do we do now?’ Indeed, you could argue the choking began even before kick off, with Lancaster’s selection. We were critical of it, and our concerns came to pass. It was a selection of fear. A team picked not to lose.  A selection to put doubts in the minds of his own players. A selection the Welsh will have picked up and said ‘these chaps are worried’. It was hardly surprising that those doubts seeped from Lancaster into his players’ heads in the fateful final half hour.

Demented Mole wrote a great analysis of Australia a couple of weeks back, noting in particular the decisiveness of Michael Cheika’s actions as head coach. It raised a key point. Coaches’ decisions will not always be correct, but in acting decisively they will partially mitigate even those they get wrong. The best coaches act decisively. Joe Schmidt, for example. Say what you want about Ireland being boring or mechanical, but the coach is absolutely decisive in how he has set them out play, and how he picks the team. But Lancaster lacks decisiveness, and you struggle to see what England are trying to do. Even over the complete RWC cycle, its tough to map out what England have been building towards (bar Japan 2019, as Lancaster is so fond of pointing out)

The Wales selection seemed like throwing away two years of work on a playing philosophy on the eve of his biggest gamem and his team have a well-earned reputation for lacking decisiveness in clutch situations. What does he do now? Persist with the new game plan, or go back to the old one? Can he decide? He somehow wound up with a team on the pitch with around 2/3 of the cap total he had planned four years ago, another symptom of squad mismanagement.

Worse still was how England managed to make things worse, not better, in the post match interviews. In the immediate aftermath, Robshaw appeared to implicate the kickers Farrell and Ford for the decision to go down the line, before changing his mind and taking all the responsibility himself. Lancaster then appeared not to back his captain, after four years of four square support for every decision Robshaw made on the pitch. Farrell said he would have kicked if asked. Mike Brown just sounded disgusted his forwards had given away so many penalties while he was busy doing everything at full back. It all contrasted so badly to a Wales side that was steadfastly unified in the face of extreme adversity,  led outstandingly by Captain Sam Warburton and his brave Lieutenant Alun-Wyn Jones. One side had enough clarity of purpose to attack an opponents weak point (one paced outside centre) with four half backs on the pitch – and it wasn’t England.

What really struck us was Richard Wigglesworth having a pop at Will Carling for calling Lancaster’s England a “classroom-oriented environment” where the players are treated as “schoolboys”. To us, it sounds fair enough, but it was the contrast between Carling’s England and Robshaw’s England that stood out. Bum Face was appointed England captain after a handful of caps by young coach Geoff Cooke, taking over a side considered to have a disciplinary problem (sound familiar?), who hadn’t tasted success since the Beaumont Slam in 1980, with a few wooden spoons in between. However, between Cooke and Carling, they had fashioned a side that won the a Grand Slam in 1991 (the first of three for Carling) then went mighty close to winning their home World Cup later that year. Carling might have been able to work with Moore, Ackford, Skinner, Guscott, etc, but there was no doubt who was running the show – Bum Face would learn on the job, but he and his coach fashioned one of the Northern Hemisphere’s great sides in the same period of time that Robshaw and Lancaster have led England to this point.

It feels from the outside that the whole show is in danger of falling apart, with the camp seemingly coming apart at the seams, and there’s some serious work to do this week if England are to avoid a calamitous early exit. They now face a strong, coherent and settled (remarkably, considering how long Cheika has been in the job) Australia side, and you can be sure Cheika won’t be letting his side drop their intensity. England will rally; they never roll over for anyone, and it will be another huge, close game which will most likely be decided in the last 20 minutes. But increasingly, it feels like if it comes down to the wire late in the match, Lancaster’s England, like Kidney’s Ireland in 2013, will find a way of losing.

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72 Comments

  1. ORiordan

     /  September 29, 2015

    It shouldn’t really be a surprise that Lancaster set out trying not to lose, because he has never won anything of note (a Triple Crown and Churchill Cup are the highlights…)

    It seems the RFU went for a solid English yeoman type and all round good bloke hoping he would come good rather than someone who had shown he could win.

    Just compare Lancaster’s CV with Schmidt’s and Gatland’s…

    • Lancaster seems to be reflected in his captain – Robshaw seems to be a thoroughly decent bloke and a solid player, but lacking in the aggressive competitiveness Wales had in Warburton and Ireland has been lucky to have in O’Connell and O’Driscoll. Does developing as a player amid national success make it harder to find that competitive focus?

    • HappyDays

       /  October 2, 2015

      Australia are more than a dark horse for this World Cup with a strong leader following a plan and making intelligent gambles. Cheika has been given the job too early due to the McKenzie crisis so he won’t be sacked if he doesn’t win the cup and probably if he doesn’t get out of the pool. That’s a liberating dynamic that had licences daring but clear thinking.

      I think that he let that second bledisloe game slip dleiberately against NZ. He had done enough to chink the glass like frailty of the all black psyche when it comes to the World Cup. The following week was time to experiment and NZ know they beat an experimental team easily. They didn’t beat the Australia first team and they know it. More chinks.

      Australia to win at 8-1 anyone? I’ve put down 100

  2. On a Ragga Tip

     /  September 29, 2015

    Will it matter about that decision against Wales? Lose: can’t lose against australia. Draw: still can’t lose against Australia. Win: maybe can afford to get beat by Aus. The diff is in winning – were / are a draw and loss so different to Eng? What you think? Why are you so certain that a draw would have guaranteed qualification?

    • SportingBench

       /  September 29, 2015

      There are more permutations with England going through on a draw based on Aus missing the bonus point against Fiji and I suppose the assumption that a beat up Wales with a tight turnaround are going to find a win and 4 tries pretty hard against Fiji also.

    • You’re right in that a win over Australia would most likely win the group for England, but against that a draw would have pretty much eliminated Wales: that would have left them needing to beat Australia to get through, something which Wales almost never do.

  3. SportingBench

     /  September 29, 2015

    I am still baffled by the kick to the corner at the end. Forget the lineout being so badly executed, the thing is that the bonus point against Fiji meant a draw wasfine for England. If they were really playing hard-headed “cup rugby” then coolly taking the 3 points and the draw justifies everything including the selection calls. Not to do so was just idiotic. I previously thought there was an overreaction to the Fiji performance based on 5 points equals a good job but that now seems like luck rather than a plan.

  4. Have you guys seen the article in the ‘Telegraph’ yesterday, I thought it was a really excellent piece of analysis of the game and underscores a lot of the points you have made above http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/rugby-world-cup/11894139/England-vs-Wales-Six-areas-where-Warren-Gatlands-side-overhauled-World-Cup-hosts.html

  5. Amiga500

     /  September 29, 2015

    If they’d have scored off the lineout, how different would the headlines be?

    • connachtexile

       /  September 29, 2015

      +1

    • ORiordan

       /  September 29, 2015

      I wonder if Japan’s decision to go for glory and the win rather than a draw had an effect, even subconscious, on Robshaw’s decision?

      Trevor Hogan on OTB made the point that because England had been well on top for three quarters of the game, they would have viewed a draw as akin to a defeat while Wales probably wouldn’t have had the same opinion.

      Mind you, Robshaw does have a track record of going for the corner rather than a penalty…

      • The headlines would of course have been different, but I thought Keith Wood countered that very well on TV3: if you kick to the corner you need a go-to move with at least a 70-80% chance of success; throwing to the captain at 2 for a maul is not such a move (contrast with Japan); therefore regardless of the outcome it was a bad call, in fact it was barely a call at all.

        • ORiordan

           /  September 29, 2015

          Exactly. Plenty of pundits would forgive the decision to go for the corner but not the decision to throw at 2.

        • I think salmson makes all the right points here. It’s so important to factor in what had happened up to that point. Farrell had split the posts with pretty much every kick, so he would surely have fancied it. And I don’t recall an especially impressive English rolling maul at any point in the game.

  6. England were under huge pressure going into and during the Wales game, but it will be nothing compared to what they’re feeling now and what is going to only increase until the final whistle this coming Saturday. For that reason I believe they will fail to overcome Cheika’s Oz, thereby exiting the RWC 2015 at the pool stage. Which is kind of a pity, ‘cos in my dreams I had us whacking them in Twickenham in the semis, before going on to beat NZ in the final.

    • SportingBench

       /  September 29, 2015

      Funny as my dreams had us winning against England by a point in the semis with Henderson doing to Laws what Ferris did to Genia to end the game from a 5 meter scrum. I had the whole thing played out in my head

      • SportingBench

         /  September 29, 2015

        We win the final by 7 with Bowe going the length of the pitch on an intercept. He has redicovered a yard of pace in this version

  7. mikerob2015

     /  September 29, 2015

    Woodward raised the point about the scenario of going for a draw or a win should have been discussed previously between the England management and captain. Now I don’t know if he is just being wise after the event or if he actually did this when he was coaching in the RWC but an ice cool head might have thought in terms of:
    50% the kick goes over and it is a draw with a few minutes to go
    15% we score from a line out
    35% we don’t score from a line out and Wales are winning with a few minutes to go

    Now adjust the figures as you see fit, but I think 50% for a kicker in form is pessimistic and the England captain and coaching team should have a view of their success rate scoring from 5m line-outs. Decision making for a pool game isn’t the same as an win-or-out or a knock-out game but even with a knock-out game, there will be extra time so judgement is needed about going for a win in normal time or a draw and extra time.

    • Good point. I’d have rated that kick, given how Farrell was kicking at an 80%. That’s not your draw probability though, because you still have time to get the ball back. Given the way the Welsh had been defending mauls, a try was probably less than 50%.

      • mikerob2015

         /  September 29, 2015

        Yeah, I realised after I posted that my percentages were rubbish but the point still applies about applying some rationality and clear thinking to the decision process.

        • locho

           /  September 29, 2015

          i think it’s generally accepted that a 5m lineout results in a try 15% (1 in 7) of the time, but it would be good to get stats on a 5m lineout resulting in a score either drop goal or penalty from following phases.

          Either way the kick was a 50% probability and with at least a minute left there was time to get a restart and work another score for win/draw depending on the result of the kick.

    • osheaf01

       /  September 29, 2015

      If it’s a knockout game, you take the draw and extra time. Every time.
      Farrell was kicking like a dream, he would not have missed.

  8. Mary Hinge

     /  September 29, 2015

    Still think England will beat Australia who will beat Wales and the Taffs will still not make the quarters – despite last Saturday’s heroics.

    • If Wales beat Fiji with a tbp (which Australia failed to do) they’re pretty much home and hosed for the quarters (and all the pressure in on England and Australia), as today’s full metal jacket Wales selection suggest.

    • If England do beat Australia and lets assume its by less than 7 pts, so losing BP for Oz and Wales to beat Fiji and England to beat Uruguay respectively with bonus BP then with those assumptions Australia would need to beat Wales by more than 7pts (or win by less than 7 but score 4 tries but Wales don’t score 4 tries) which would put both of them on 14pts and its the result between tied teams that counts first not points diff so Wales would go out and England win the group, if Wales stay within 7 then they would end up with 15, same as England which would mean they win the group by virtue of beating England………..the mind boggles…..interesting times ahead.

  9. Yossarian

     /  September 29, 2015

    Robshaw said “we wanted to win at home” in the aftermath of the game. Irrelevant in the context of a world cup where a draw keeps you in a strong position. shows the muddled thought process where denying a pool rival a 4-1 points split vs a 2-2 points split mattered.

    comparing the decision to Japans again isn’t quite the same. Japan where always unlikely to get out of the group. A heroic draw/defeat don’t compare to a historic win.

    Lancaster seemed to lose the courage of his (negative) convictions. why take off Burgess and move farell to 12 and change the 9/10? was he going to try and go expansive in the final 15mins after the style up till then had given him a 10 point lead?
    his lack of time as a frontline coach has him subbing by numbers at times instead of allowing a feel for the game to decide when/if changes should happen.

    • Exactly right on Japan. The comparisons are bogus. Japan were playing to make history, England are playing to get out of the pool of death.

  10. Topsy

     /  September 29, 2015

    The England team selected would have won had they been left to do the job they set about doing from the start. Youngs and Farrell were doing what was required, were not tiring and the combination shouldn’t have been changed when it was.
    It wasn’t an exciting selection and they may not have played enough with the quality of ball they had but they still would have won.
    The problem is that Lancaster made an assertive decision to change his side for the match and then bottled it from a winning position during the match. Perhaps he felt that they were so on top that they would kick on?
    Anyway, still bad management. I just disagree that he got it completely wrong from the start.

    • In fairness to Lancaster the substitutions of both Youngs and Vunipola were injury enforced. Of course against that it was Lancaster’s fault he had Wigglesworth instead of Care on the bench…

      • Yossarian

         /  September 29, 2015

        didn’t think youngs was injury enforced? would explain it. seemed bizarre call.

        • Lancaster said he was carrying a knock before the break but they left him on as long as they could. He still had the wrong lad on the bench, mind.

      • Topsy

         /  September 29, 2015

        Hadn’t realised Youngs was injured either. Couldn’t understand it at the time

    • Whether Lancaster got it wrong from the start will be debated from now till kingdom come. The fatal error, if one can describe it as one, would seem to me to have been his rejigging of the backline for the last quarter while in the lead. Putting on Ford and moving Farrell out to 12 reminded me in the heel of the hunt of his misguided decision v FRA in the 2014 Six Nations to replace Danny Care with Lee Dickson, a match which up to that point the Charioteers were well on their way to winning.

    • Totally agreed. The irony of all the stick that Lancaster is getting is that his original selection was working up until the substitutions. Farrell isn’t anyone’s idea of an all-time great 10 but he was playing a blinder within the context of what the gameplan was asking of him. Moving him to 12 to accommodate Ford was like rolling out a huge welcome mat and neon sign saying “Come on in, Jamie Roberts!”

      The use of the bench has consistently been a weakness for Lancaster. He seems to make subs based on a pre-determined plan, rather than responding to what’s happening in the game. If Farrell was always going to be asked to play the full 80 anyway, which was obvious as soon as Goode was announced on the bench, there was no benefit in bringing on Ford at a time when winning depended on keeping things as tight as possible. A 10-12-13 of Ford, Farrell and Barritt is just the worst of all possible worlds. It doesn’t make any use of Ford’s ability to open a game – because Farrell and Barritt don’t have the skills as centres to do that – but it does leave the 10 channel wide open.

      England may squeak past Australia but if they can’t figure out how to use their bench properly, they surely won’t get much further than that.

      • I’m with Graham Henry on this. I think the selection was poor. Henry contends that games like this are won and lost in the final 20 minutes. England were on top in the first half but once things got clutchy they started to unravel. I firmly believe the team selection conveyed an attitude of dithering and indecisiveness and that this seeped through to the players.

      • Spikes

         /  September 29, 2015

        “A 10-12-13 of Ford, Farrell and Barritt is just the worst of all possible worlds.” I agree wholeheartedly. Burgess wasn’t setting the world alight, but I thought he was doing an OK job and he has a physical presence that has to be accounted for. The reset line made no sense.
        That said, I don’t agree with the vilification of Robshaw. No matter how good a kicker you are, that is not an 80% kick as some have suggested. 80% is a top drawer overall percentage, from all angles and distances. Perhaps a kick was the right call, but if so Farrell should have spoken up at the time, and then held his peace afterwards once the decision is made. You win as a team, you lose as a team. I do think the lineout call and execution was weak though.

  11. thelaughingcrow

     /  September 29, 2015

    I absolutely think the most telling thing here is the picture we can piece together about what’s happening in the dressing room:

    Lancaster aggrieved quite a few of his players with his selection
    Lancaster aggrieved quite a few of his players with his substitutions
    The post match statements by Lancaster blaming the decision making added fuel to the fire
    Robshaw blaming the kickers
    Mike Brown being angry at the world
    The hype was/is they’re now going out [inaccurate but that’s the hype]

    I’d say the dressing room is a pretty fractious, bitter place right now. Cant see them beating Australia, not a hope if this hypothesis is anywhere near the truth.

    • I agree. I reckon they’re goners already and probably realize it, which is why the blame game in Camp Chariot is already in full swing!!!!

      • ORiordan

         /  September 29, 2015

        If they do go out, you’d imagine it will be time for a metaphorical bottle of whisky and revolver for Lancaster, despite his contract until 2020.

    • Xyz

       /  September 29, 2015

      Don’t disagree with the reading but England never lack for a sense of the inevitability of their own great destiny. They’ll come out all guns blazing against Oz and I can see them winning.

  12. Billy

     /  September 29, 2015

    Not sure how you got the selection criticism right but fair play for giving yourself a pat on the back!

    Farrell was very good – not too many signs of him “choking” – by far the misunderstood concept in sport. Burgess nullified Roberts and crossed the gain line at will. The midfield was opened up once – a midfield that gives up one line break off 1st phase is not a disaster. I would not go as far as to say they were a success but far from a disaster.

    The result ultimately hinged on injuries suffered by both sides – England lose their two most influential performers to that point, Youngs and Vunipola, to vastly inferior subs. Wales lose Amos and his replacement, despite playing out of position produces a moment of genius to win the game. Wales did not look like scoring a try before or after that.

    In the 6N this year, Wales, at home, ran up a considerable lead before they stopped playing rugby and tried to defend their lead and ultimately handed over momentum, eventually losing. This is a mirror image.

    Robshaw ultimately made the same call as Leitch a week before – one is lauded, the other villified. Such is sport.

    • Not really. For 2 reasons:
      – Japan had a pre-planned move to score from the lineout, while England threw and hoped
      – Japan had nothing to lose by going for it, whereas for England a draw as good as puts Wales out (especially given their injuries)

      One was a free play of sorts, one was a virtual knockout game. Very different.

      • Billy

         /  September 29, 2015

        Philosophically the exact same call. Execution ultimately very different. The idea that Robshaw should have taken a view on Wales’ ability to get a BP versus Fiji is just idiotic.

    • SportingBench

       /  September 29, 2015

      The context of the Leitch and Robshaw calls where entirely different situations in terms of the World Cup and qualification so although superfically similar in that they were kicks to the corner, the two calls were entirely different.
      Of course, if England drive the maul over for the try then it is less of a problem. It would still be the wrong call though. Tight games turn on a small number of apperently small incidents and the best teams deliberately or inadvertently try to have those incidents occur on their terms as that increases the chances of success. incidentally, Wales and Gatland are the masters of getting the game played on their terms which is why Wales do punch above their weight. This call was a panicked one, Robshaw was not decideing that the maul was the best chance of success, he was bieng pressured into it by the scoreboard and the crowd etc. A cooler analysis would have taken the kick as others have desconstructed above.

    • I cannot see how losing three backs, on top of those already injured, can be seen to have been a stroke of good fortune for Wales. You seem to have forgotten that Wales lost Scott Williams, the best footballer in their back division, as well as the two others.

      The fact is that England clammed up. The clamming up started with 30 minutes to go and gradually got worse from there. England ammased a 10 point lead largely on the back of a dominant scrum, they offered little other than that. Once the pressure came on they seized up. They stopped playing. If that’s not choking I don’t know what is. Burgess was ok, Barritt was exposed at outside centre. Farrell played well for sure, but he is not the man to unleash his three-quarters. England lacked conviction and belief in themselves; for me that started with the team selection which conveyed an air of dithering and a lack of clarity.

      • Gatland has announced his strongest possible team for Thursday, while Fiji will be missing Nadolo due to his been carded for high tackling v Oz and Matawalu due to injury. Wales to win, thereby sending England packing, I reckon.

        • Nadolo’s a loss but maybe Fiji will be better off without Matawalu. He’s strikes me as a last quarter mix-it-up sort of scrum half rather then one to run a game, some of the stuff he’s done so far has been great, but some of it was in pure brain-fart territory.

      • Billy

         /  September 29, 2015

        Well it was fortuitous as Williams was on the wing to set up the try. It may not be for the rest of the tournament.

        I agree England offered very little but neither did Wales, outside a pick and go game. England stopped playing and tried to defend their lead. On top of this they lost/subbed any ball carrying, tempo providing players. Both teams were horribly indisciplined.

        Teams who don’t believe in themselves don’t lead by 10 with 30 to play, neither do they opt to maul kickable last min penalties. A team lacking confidence would jump at the chance of a draw.

        • labrecha1

           /  September 30, 2015

          ‘Teams who don’t believe in themselves don’t lead by 10 with 30 to play’ yes they do, thats why they lost it in the last 15.

  13. Hairy Naomh Mhuire

     /  September 29, 2015

    If England do not qualify then it won’t be platitudes about Ireland having the best fans, rather World Rugby and our charming hosts will be on their knees praying that we go all the way! If we can get close to 90,000 in green v Romania then the passion and excitement required at the business end can safely be out-sourced!
    And in return we get our chance to host!

  14. England were very much in control of this game until indiscipline clawed Wales back in.
    A 7 point games bites many sides in the ass -a damned if you do, damned if you don’t lead. Wales scored of a speculative 50/50 grubber, albeit brilliantly controlled by Davies to pick and place, but they hadn’t looked that threatening otherwise.
    And so Robshaw and co are really coping it some now.
    For mine -the worst off field call was Barritt at 13, but Joseph’s injury drove Lanky to this and Slade is too risky for a conservative coach in a crunch game. (why bring him at all -I mean you assume coaches have thought out these scenarios to death in the last 6 months)
    On field was not the decision to go for the corner, It was the short throw to the lineout. Short lineout = easy to defend so more likely to yield another ‘risky’ penalty out wild. The gutsy call would have been to throw long -I appreciate a long straight throw from the current English Hookers is about as risky as the original penalty kick.
    Anyhow -can you imagine Paul O’ Connell asking Farrell if he fancied the kick -why even sow seed of doubt in the kicker. Farrell isn’t lacking for balls.

    • SportingBench

       /  September 29, 2015

      Good point there on POC. I also imagine O’Gara would have required Robshaw to drag the ball away from his cold, dead hands in this situation

    • I’m not actually that certain a long throw was risky – Wales hadn’t been contesting

      • I’d think the risk of the throw to the tail was less Wales competing – notwithstanding Charteris – but the chance of a crooked one that leads to a Welsh scrum (…and I know some fairly shonky ones get missed). Mind you, England might have had a better chance with a scrum after a crooked throw. Almost anyway you argue it – the throw to the front was the worst option.

      • Locho

         /  September 29, 2015

        In modern rugby a team defending a 5m lineout very rarely compete it’s part of their defence strategy, it’s almost down to the metre when they compete and when not. You often here ex pros refer to this when a kick to the corner lands at 8-10ms out rather than on the 5m. What can seem like a minor difference can actually have huge impact as sometimes teams are coached to instruction e.g. dont compete here but do from here (Think of a blackjack dealer who’s not allowed another hit past 17).

  15. yes -I guess if the point was to go for a 5 pointer, then you’ve got to go long. That’s long and straight at 10 metres + when a hooker’s hand must feel like jelly.
    Interesting point re Charteris in that Telegraph analysis -You wonder how aware Robshaw is of that substitution and has analysis been effectively done by England on Welsh capacity to upset the maul.

  16. andrew097

     /  September 29, 2015

    It was not the worst decision to go for the line out but the throw to two made it easier to defend because you have the touchline to help. So you can say the execution was poor.
    Also how often have we seen Welsh teams struggle through games but keep themselves in for a chance to, win a game. I can thnk of a few its part of their rugby culture. I was surprised Farrel was selected but again when things are tight teams often revert to type. England did on Saturday

  17. Lancaster is a bit of a fantasy football coach – before the game starts he picked all his best options together and thought about what he wanted to get out of the game bit by bit, but he can’t build a cohesive unit. Playing Burgess – Barrett was not my ideal centre partnership but it worked overall defensively. However, it didn’t offer much support to the wings, who were running the tramlines for most of the game hoping in vain for a long pass into space or a handy grubber kick.

    The pack has a lot of individual players who get through an awful lot of work, some good carriers etc but somehow they manage to be less than the sum of their parts, especially at lineouts (albeit they were on top until Charteris came on).

    Lancaster cannot for the life of him get a bench selection right, and just like Deccie for Ireland it continues to cost him games. When Ireland were beating England in the Six nations this year and he brought on Wigglesworth and 12trees I knew we had won, because those are selections that add no impetus to the team and even drain energy from the players on the field. Ford is a better player than twelvetrees but still drained the energy from the team for the reasons outline above

  18. Adam

     /  September 29, 2015

    Were England really ‘afraid to play rugby’? There seemed to be plenty of it in the first half, including a try from a creative first phase backs move followed by quick ball. Do you have billy vunipola catching your kicks if you’re afraid to play rugby?

    What’s more worrying for England isn’t the tactics or the decision making. It’s the lack of experience and leadership. Robshaw clearly hasn’t got it, but he’s being let down by the senior players (lawes, wood, brown, barritt, Cole) who just aren’t showing the maturity or discipline you’d expect from the spine of the side.

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