Sunday, 17 March 2013

Can England Rugby re-build?

Although it hurts - Well done Wales!

The English dream of a grand slam in Cardiff turned into a nightmare.  When we finally opened our eyes at the end the score was Wales 30 England 3, the biggest winning margin Wales  have ever achieved against us in the six nations. From the moment the 80,000 strong crowd started to sing Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of my Fathers) the writing was on the wall.

A week ago I appraised the England team after a poor performance against Italy in the post

 - my reassessments after the Wales match are in bold.

The front five, always the corner stone of a good England team, are a young and hopefully improving unit but they are not destructive or frightening like their forebears.  The raw material is there but they will have to improve a lot if we are to be world beaters.
We were destroyed in the front five, repeatedly being penalised at the scrum for collapsing and other mysterious misdemeanors. This is where we lost the game and Graham Rowntree (forwards coach) should take responsibility for this national embarrassment.  The front row aren't technically good enough and our second row look light weight.

The Loose forwards are a concern, Tom Wood plays out of position and we lack a real openside wing forward.  The captain Robshaw has been inspired defensively but does not give us enough "go forward".  The lack of a credible number eight is perhaps the greatest weakness of the team.  I would play Wood at blind side, Croft at open but that leaves Robshaw without a berth.  This area is a big problem.
A manful effort from Robshaw but he could not stem the tide alone.  The other two Wood and Croft were invisible.  Without a proper number 8 or openside we are going to struggle.  But the main problem for these loose forwards was the fact that we were out gunned in the front five and the rest was history.

The half back pairing of Youngs and Farrell are good enough and there is cover as well.
This pairing were just not precise enough, Farrell defended bravely but passed erratically and didn't have the skills outside him.  Youngs struggled all afternoon at the base of a beaten pack. 

In the Centre we have plenty of grunt but no finesse.  Our inability to cross the line against Italy was a national embarrassment as we butchered chance after chance.  Tuilagi is obviously a presence but without some brains inside he can be marshaled, as the Italian's showed.
Out classed by their opposite numbers.  Tuilagi missed a great chance off a set move in the first half and Barritt defensively sound but one dimensional in attack.  Actually these guys rarely had the ball so dominant were Wales.

Finally the back three are talented but miss-firing, both Ashton and Brown are suspect defensively as the conceded tries show.  Goode is okay defensively but lacks pace and guile in attack.  We need more pace at fifteen and better defense on the wings. 
Goode was dull as normal, Ashton will now be dropped after his woeful display of non-tackling and Brown was good enough considering he is playing out of position.

So quite a bit for the coaching staff to digest, once they have replayed the video they might spot that we urgently need to find:
1. A frightening front row
2. A more balanced back row built around a specialist number eight
3. Some skills in the centre to go with Tuilagi's bulk
4. An all new back three

Highlights here if you dare watch -

Full player ratings from the Telegraph

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