2013 in review: England

england huddle
England’s 2013 began with such promise, entering the Six Nations off the back of the titanic win over New Zealand at the end of the previous year. The first game against Scotland saw the men in white stick to the adventurous style of play that had paid dividends against the All Blacks, but sadly after that the promise shown in these games was not capitalised upon. The rest of the Six Nations campaign saw England revert to type, taking in scrappy wins over Ireland, Italy and France before culminating in that chastening day at Millenium Stadium, when Wales ran amok to snatch the title from English hands.

A summer tour to face a second string Argentina taught us little, while the Autumn campaign was again a mixed bag – the first half against Argentina was the best rugby England had played since the opening game against Scotland, but then they fell away so catastrophically in the second half that it looked for a while a different team was on the pitch. The win against Australia certainly showed progress, given their loss in the same fixture last year, and they again battled valiantly against New Zealand before ultimately succumbing to their superior clinical ability.

Biggest success

The strength in depth developed in the pack this season has been hugely encouraging. In pretty much every position, there are at least two (and sometimes three or four) players who can do at the very least a good job at international level. Loose-head prop, hooker, second row, blindside flanker and number eight are particularly impressive, when you consider that Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Geoff Parling, Tom Johnson (or Croft if not injured) and Ben Morgan are currently all second choice in those positions. That’s three, potentially four, Lions who are not guaranteed a start.

Biggest disappointment

If the forwards have been great this year, the backs have sadly not lived up to that standard. Other than the continued excellence of Mike Brown, there has been little to shout about in terms of English back play. Some positions, such as centre and wing, have been decimated by injury, but there is still a tendency from all the English backs (apart from Manu Tuilagi, when he plays) to crab laterally across the pitch rather than run straight. This starts with Owen Farrell who, for everything that he does excellently (which is a lot, incidentally), still has plenty to work on when it comes to going forward with the ball, and making decisions.

The only other thing worth mentioning here is the slight lack of ambition shown in giving some newer players caps. Certainly in the Argentina game over the autumn there was the opportunity to give the likes of Luther Burrell a go – after all, at some point these players are going to have to be tested to see if they are good enough, and coming off the back of a good win against Australia, to face comfortably the weakest Rugby Championship side, seemed like a good time to do so. The centres remain an issue – Twelvetrees will be given time, but Joel Tomkins is not England’s future at 13.

Player of the year

Mike Brown was was the standout player of the autumn, while at various stages Launchbury, Lawes, T Youngs and Wood have all been excellent. One player, however, has been a pillar of consistency; a bastion of England’s spirit. That man is the captain, Chris Robshaw.

It is easy to overlook Robshaw’s contributions to games, because he rarely does anything that particularly stands out in the memory. But when you actually watch him, it is astonishing to see how hard he works on the pitch. He is consistently the first man charging after kicks, even if they’ve gone out, to prevent a quick line-out, and puts in more tackles than most. His work at the breakdown is also often overlooked by virtue of his being ‘not a real 7’.

Really though, it is his consistency that sets him apart. No other player (barring perhaps Tom Wood, when he has the right number on his back at least) performs at so consistent a level every time he wears an England shirt.

Emerging player of the year

There are frustratingly few contenders for this award. It’s easy to forget that Billy Twelvetrees only made his debut at the beginning of the season, but he spent large parts of the Six Nations on the bench and looked out of sorts this autumn. Marland Yarde looks to have bags of potential but got injured just at the wrong time. This award, then, can only really go to Billy Vunipola – but not just by default.

Vunipola junior’s move to Saracens has certainly benefited him – he seems fitter, and having been forced to play at blindside for a while, his work-rate has improved too. What stands out though is, of course, his ball carrying. On the summer tour to Argentina he was unstoppable, and in the autumn there were several glimpses of what he is capable of. With a rejuvenated Ben Morgan for competition, the future is bright for England at the back of the scrum.

What to expect in 2014

Some new players will be blooded this year. Injuries have opened the door, especially in the backs, and the likes of Christian Wade, Marland Yarde, Henry Trinder and Luther Burrell, if they themselves can stay fit, should all be given a reasonable shot at proving they can cut it at the top level.

Interestingly, a man who has played a bit part role in 2013 could prove crucial to next year. Toby Flood’s future is yet to be resolved, and if, when he makes his mind up in January, he decides to forego his England career with a move to France, it means Lancaster will have to identify a different back-up to Owen Farrell. George Ford, Henry Slade, Freddie Burns and Stephen Myler all have claims to be that man, so it will be fascinating to see which way he goes, if it comes down to it.

Ultimately, I would expect more excellence from the pack and another year – initially, at least – of varying levels of mediocrity in the backs. It takes time to build a coherent back-line and so many of these players are still naive at this level, that they are not likely to be able to reproduce the fluency of the All Blacks and the Wallabies any time soon. A Six Nations win would be a huge bonus; another second place finish might be more realistic. Any kind of positive result on the summer tour to New Zealand would be an incredible confidence boost, but it could be a year too soon.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

61 thoughts on “2013 in review: England

  1. I think people write off the Ireland win far too easily. Yes, it was scrappy and the weather was awful, but to get a first (competitive) win in Dublin since 2003 was a huge, huge monkey off our backs. I wouldn’t have cared if it was by 1 point, or 3-0.

  2. I do think we are particularly harsh on this England side. No, they are not the best to watch, but they have a lot of quality are improving.

    Imagine if Wales had beaten Australia this Autumn? They’d have been called world beaters and potential world cup winners. Our England side beat them and we hear, “Oh well that’s a poor Aussie side.”

    I really feel for them.

    The back line has a long way to go, but let’s not forget that potentially our three most potent attacking weapons in Tuilagi, Wade and Yarde were taken from us by injury. Add to that B.Youngs injury issues meaning he was not on form to start. That’s a big loss.

    Take Cooper, AAC, Genia and Folau from the Aussies and they’d look worse.

    We are not the finished article, but it has been a pretty positive 12 months IMO.

      1. I don’t feel like I’ve been too harsh here. Ultimately it comes down to a fantastic pack and poor backs. 8 out of 10 wins is great, but I feel like they do need to add another string to their bow in the backs. Don’t think you can deny that.

        1. Absolutely. But to be winning games, and even pushing NZ pretty close, with poorly-performing backs, it’s pretty exciting to think about what we could achieve if/when they do finally click. A decent 13 and proper wingers will help.

          I reckon the pack and its replacements is pretty much now as it will be in 2015.

          1. Completely agree with that. I’m just nervous they’ll stick with the same tried and tested people who have proved themselves to not quite be up to it.

            1. Players like Ashton and Strettle perform well for their club, but don’t seem to step up for England (Strettle never, Ashton not for at least a year). I just hope Bomber uses some common sense and gives other players ago – my main concern is that Ashton’s try-scoring will continue for Saracens and that’ll make him “unignorable”. I’d rather see May, Nowell, Varndell, hell – even Banahan in the form he’s in! So gutted we’ve lost both Wade and Yarde…

            2. Feel like I should point I wasn’t suggesting you’ve said otherwise Jamie.

              My comments about the reaction to the Aussie win certainly wasn’t directed at you; more at posts on here on the back of that game.

              Completely agree about the backs; but I do think injuries have really effected us. If Wade, Yarde and Tuilagi had all played three games this Autumn we could all be saying very different things at the moment. The real shame is that all three are unlikely to be fit this 6N as well.

              I agree in regards to the tried and tested comment. With the injuries to the wingers, I am certain that Ashton will find himself in the 14 shirt come the France game, probably with Barritt in the 13 shirt as well. I hope I’m wrong.

              1. I actually wouldn’t be too unhappy with Barritt at 13. The “problem” with the Barritt/Manu axis is that they’re both boshers, and so it was one-dimensional… Having 36/Barritt would provide us with a playmaker and a bosher who is also very good in defence, and indeed organises the defence as well.

                1. Barritt doesn’t have the pace for 13, or the power to offset a lack of real pace, like Manu has.

                  Organising a defence really isn’t that difficult. People treat Barritt like’s he has some special clairvoyant gift, when all he does is set the line and call it up. I agree he’s a good defender, but finding someone else to say “set” and “in”, isn’t diffiucult. We should be focusing on someone who can actually pass, offload and run decent angles.

    1. “Imagine if Wales had beaten Australia this Autumn? They’d have been called world beaters and potential world cup winners.”

      Conversely Jacob Wales get called crap for not being able to close out these games yet England are praised for coming close in them e.g. there’s a lot of praise on here for “living with the ABs” and how this implies that if only one thing clicks (the backs) then England will be off and challenging for the WC. That is a massive “if” so I don’t think it’s unfair that the tone of the article is more negative than positive.

      1. I knew using the word Wales in a post would draw a comment from you Brighty!

        Any reasonable rugby fan will understand that England are not near the ABs, that’s quite clear. They are quite far ahead of anyone right now.

        I don’t agree that the predominantly negative tone of the article is fair though; I think England have made great strides this year. The back line is still clearly a major question mark, but outside of the ABs and Australia (who’s backs coincidentally didn’t impress at Twickers), is there a back line out there that is particularly impressive?

        Not for one second am I saying Englands is better than anyone’s I should say. But I don’t remember seeing much flowing rugby coming out the Welsh back line this Autumn?

        Again, I don’t want to fall into the trap of pointing fingers elsewhere to mask Englands issues. We have a back line that is not functioning; I just don’t think it (England’s year) is as bad as some are suggesting.

        1. I guess it depends on what you think is a fair assessment. I’m sitting here remembering a 2nd successive 6Ns title but really I think there was more negative than positive for Wales this year, despite winning a title.

          England got shamed in the MS, stuttered against some other teams and don’t look like they have a coherent plan to get better back play. That’s why I think that it’s more negative than positive because this puts England largely where they were two years ago if you ignore the off field shenanigans. Yes, Lancaster sorted that out but I can’t see where he’s sig. improved the on field? England were reaching WC semi’s and 6Ns slam deciders before he came along.

          1. “England were reaching WC semi’s and 6Ns slam deciders before he came along.”

            Not with a team with less than 200 caps they weren’t. Lancaster’s put together a new England side almost from scratch, and it is in the nature of English rugby that this means the forwards will solidify as a unit first. Sometimes, indeed often, you have to do something wrong before you can figure out how to do it right. While it’s true that putting together a functioning, free-flowing backline is something which has eluded Lancaster so far, he doesn’t exactly get ages and ages to do so. Sometimes you have to try things and see how they stick. The Ashton experiment failed, but that doesn’t mean it was foolish to attempt it. His club form is still good and it was possible that he would regain his old England form. He hasn’t, and is unlikely to be a key player for England going forward because of that. This is the process working. Had we not been suffering from injury so much we would have been able to try more options. Bomber did what he needed to do this year and little else, but with a Lions tour going on that’s not terribly surprising. 2014 is the real do or die point. If he can’t get things together next year then I’ll certainly be calling for his head, but I’m willing to give him until then to do so.

        2. “I don’t remember seeing much flowing rugby coming out the Welsh back line this Autumn”

          I think you can still get the Arg game on the BBC website? We weren’t magnificent but there was a fair bit of flowing backplay in that match – also we had decent spells in the Aus and SA games. Not good enough, but decent. Better back play than England’s. I know, that sounds confrontational. It doesn’t matter that Wales had better back play than England’s but in the context of this discussion it does I think show where England should be and hence again I think it’s fair to say that this is more negative than positive for England – just as losing against SA and Aus makes the Welsh season more negative than positive.

          1. I don’t think the back play demonstrated by Wales against Argentina was anything more than England put together against – Wales just managed it for more than a first half. And I would honestly can not remember any significant back play against SA, and against Australia there was nothing outside of throwing the ball to North. Again, comparing the two is really besides the point.

            I disagree that SL has taken them forward on the field. I honestly believe this pack is streaks ahead of what we had two years ago, particularly when it comes to depth.

            Coherent and fluid back play is a pipe dream if you’re English anyway…

  3. Well said Jacob. I think England have the possibility of becoming a very good side.

    The future looks bright as well when we look at some of the younger lads who are starting to make a name for themselves – Ford, Slade, Nowell, Hill, Wallace, Kruis, Fraser (if he stops getting injured), Catt, Watson, Devoto and slightly further out Cowan-Dickie and Clifford – its notable that quite a few of our prospects have come through the under-20 side that won the world championship

    On the down-side the back line really needs to be sorted out, but I do feel that a lot of our back line issues stem from having not just a fly-half who crabs across the field but a scrum-half (Youngs) who does so as well.

    If we can sort those 2 positions out, I think a lot more would click into place

    1. I don’t see why Care is being left out for Youngs – he is playing well for Quins and does more than just kicking and running sideways.

      1. He does for Quins, but stick him in an England shirt and all of a sudden he starts taking a couple of steps before passing and crabbing like Youngs.

        It must be something to do with the coaching in the England set-up

      2. Care will get near an England shirt when he learns two skills:
        – decision making under pressure
        – box kicking

        Everyone knows he can make breaks but that is nowhere near enough at international level. I wouldn’t mind seeing him on the bench, as he can make great impact. But, I wouldn’t want him to be starting a big international match, I doubt his ability to control a game.

        On crabbing from 9, it’s actually an important skill when utilized correctly. If a 9 just passes the ball straight away, offering absolutely no threat to the fringes then you are making the oppositions back rows job very easy. I never really understand why people moan about it – as long as it is utilized correctly.

        1. People moan because England

          A. Over-use it
          B. Don’t utilise it correctly

          Care seems perfectly able to control a Quins game, he just seems to go into headless chicken mode in an England shirt

  4. Echo the above sentiments really.

    This England have something about them that can challenge the top teams. The AB’s were more clinical, but on another day that could have been an England result.

    Farrell is still learning, he’s a young player developing and has shown how far he has progressed in the last year. (However I still would prefer to see him play at 12 inside Tuilagi)

  5. I’m often accused of being too harsh on England, so much so in fact,] that a number of people actually thought I was Welsh!

    But after 10 years of false dawns, mismanagement and the media talking utter bollocks about the abilities of the squad then I am simply more cautious than most people and tend to highlight the problems that lots of observers choose to ignore in the name of “gettting behind the team”. But blindly supporting gets us nowhere and for years, England had terrible selections and a gameplan so awful it made me want to cry vinegar.

    I still get endlessly frustrated by the cheerleading coverage given to the England team, particularly by Sky, that is rarely very honest and accentuates the positives far too much; but this team under Lancaster at least seems to know where it’s going and has a strategy, which is very positive.

    The pack is the best thing as many have said already, and can hopefully start producing quicker ball, which is still a major problem. Watching a rerun of the 2003 final the other week I was astounded at the contrast at how quick the ruck ball was back then compared to now. The breakdown is getting better, but is still a long way off.

    The backs are the serious problem, specifically 10-12. Farrell needs to be given the confidence to take the ball to the line more or at least stand flatter, and Burns should be given every chance. Also, whisper it, but now he’s stopped being a professional international prick, Cipriani could be worth another go.#

    12 remains the black hole that England must fill. Twelvetrees could be the answer, Barritt never will be, Burrell and Eastmond need to be looked at. Ashton is slagged off all over the shop, but it’s hardly been a good year to be a winger in an England shirt. Lancaster needs to commit to the backline he wants now, and I don’t mean in terms of personnel as injurues can always happen, I mean in terms of approach. If Barritt continues to be his first choice 12 then I think I might punch something or someone.

    1. For me, it’s Ashton’s defence which is the biggest problem. In all his tests this year, he made 31 tackles and missed 13. If you were to take away the Argentina game (as their attack was pretty weak), that figure would drop to 25 made, 12 missed – missing almost 1 tackle in 3.

      1. I have a recurring nightmare in which Lancaster picks Barritt and Tomkins in the centre.

        In my dream it makes me cry

  6. Fell away so catastrophically against Argentina? That makes it sound like we let them back in the game to the point that they almost won it.

    I like this site as it generally doesn’t go in for the negative England hyperbole that you get on ESPN or BBC Sport. But that comment is just plain ridiculous.

    We also learnt a lot from the Argentina tour. Such as we have a whole clutch of promising young players who are capable of playing heads up rugby.

  7. We tend to forget that, when Lancaster was first appointed there was a very large body of opinion to the effect that the appointment was one or two years too early for the world cup. That he would need more time. Well we are about halfway there and I still think that’s a fair comment.

    The current crop of injuries are an opportunity to try out some new names and combinations. Other posters have pointed out there’s no shortage of youngsters to try, and if we lose the odd game or two as a result then so be it. Lets give the man the time to do with the backs what he has done so well with the forwards.

  8. Ashtons defence is bad, but it’s not even that which I think is the biggest problem. In this England side, without the guile of the ABs, we’re not just running in overlaps. So we need people who can beat defenders. Ashton can’t. He beat 1 defender in the AI series. Yarde beat 4 or 5 in just the Aussie game. I’ve rarely seen Ashton step a defender or get round a guy on the outside. He’s very good at tracking, but that’s not the game England are playing, so we need guys who can create stuff on their own, and be the player that needs tracking.

    1. Wow – thought I’d double-check that fact and you’re right. That’s atrocious. Brown beat 15, even Wood beat 3… Wade and Yarde both have that “something from nothing” quality, as does Eastmond. I agree that we have to get players like that into the squad to give us options.

  9. I’d have gone for Cole as player of the year.

    I don’t understand being impressed with someone’s work rate or commitment. Any single player not operating at 100% commitment or work rate shouldn’t even be in the team. So working hard is the bottom base line. Being excellent, skillful, extraordinary – this is what international rugby players need to be. Robshaw has at times shown some of those attributes, but not more than Cole for me.

    1. Oh, and I am amazed the MS 30-3 wasn’t the biggest disappointment. It was a Grand Slam match that in the end wasn’t even a contest. It ended up as a walkover for Wales – their biggest winning margin since turning pro I believe. I can’t see that as less disappointing than general back play.

      1. Completely agree. One of the most disappointing days of my life; let alone the year.

        It was a real shame, as I was convinced that would be an epic match up.

        On your comments on Robshaw; I think he is better than that. He was brilliant at the start of the 6N, and really unlucky that his form tailed off so badly late in the season.

        I don’t think Cole has had a good year at all, in the 6N he looked quite poor and never hit his top form to even challenge Jones for the 3 shirt on the Lions tour.

        I would go Launchbury as my player of the year. Most consistent player we have by a mile, and had been brilliant ever since he has come into the England set up.

        1. Launchbury is a very good shout. Reminded me as well of how good I thought Parling was in the 6Ns and for the Lions. I never rated him before (all that rubbish about him being some sort of lineout psychic) but this year I’ve seen him play really well. Clever at the breakdown (committing/not-committing), good broken field decision making and well executed and hard tackles. You know what, I’m going to change my mind and go for Parling.

          1. Parling is a great shout as well – the only reason Launchbury edges it for me is the Autumn. Oh, and I’m a Wasps fan!

      2. …….’I am amazed the MS 30-3 wasn’t the biggest disappointment’

        That’s a very Welsh view Brighty. Wales happen to have a pretty good team at the moment so losing to them is only as dissappointing as a loss to any other team. Wales tend to suffer from their obsession with beating England. To most English fans, let alone the wider population, games against France or any of the 3 SH sides are more important. It always comes as a shock to Welsh supporters that we dont roll over in anguish if we lose to Wales occasionally.

        Maybe this is why Wales find it so difficult to raise themselves against SH opposition. Given a choice most English supporters would take the 2012 win against the ABs over the loss to Wales any day.

    2. Robshaw had 2 MotM performances in the 6N. Lancaster then did Robshaw and Wood no favours by picking an unbalanced back row and 2.5 England back rowers (Croft was only doing half the work of the other 2) got completely outworked by an excellent Welsh unit. Robshaw has hanging back to make fairly plodding kick returns in the absence of an 8.

      That game aside he’s been excellent, he’s worked on his pace over the summer and has been part of an England trio that were excellent in the Autumn. They took Australia apart in that area (look what they did subsequently against the much vaunted Irish and Welsh back rows) and had the upper hand in the back row battle against the ABs.

      I would pick him for player of the year (definitely not Cole, who got obliterated by Domingo and Jenkins)

      1. Matt, I can see that and it’s a better basis on which to pick a player than his commitment and work rate. Now we’re down to opinions and I prefer Cole. Being murdered by Adam Jones is no crime, most people are.

        MotM performances in the 6Ns don’t interest me – as has already been said on here, too much cheerleading from the BBC. It’s the same when Wales play at home and BBC Wales commentate on the matches. You’d swear we were the Harlem Globetrotters of rugby if you listened to them.

        It’s a fine line for me – Robshaw is a fine player but for me he’s nowhere near* the best backrow player in the B&I’s whereas Cole is pushing Jones hard for the best tighthead title so for me that makes him England’s best player.

        * as in “near” being 2nd or 3rd. Excellence is taken as a given at international level, being the best means being extraordinary.

        1. Cole wasn’t “murdered” by Jones, Marler was (if you can call it that, what with the binding on the arm and all). Cole and Jones both play 3, so they don’t face each other.

          1. Yeah, sorry, I got that wrong. Still, being handled by Jenkins is still not a crime. When he’s on form, as he was in that match, he’s hard to handle. Hibbard alongside him makes a huge difference as well. I think England suffered because Marler isn’t up to much – enabled Jones to help out on the hooker so Hibbard and Jenks could do one on Cole. Corbisiero was sorely missed in that match.

            1. Absolutely agree. I’m not saying we would have won giving how well Wales played, but I’m pretty confident that if we’d have had Corbs at 1, a balanced back row of Wood, Robshaw and Morgan, and Brown at fullback with an actual winger in his place (anyone would do – Monye, Sharples, May, Strettle) it would have been a closer game.

        2. I guess it comes down to preference. Though Warburton has the potential to world class player, I don’t rate him because he hardly plays due to injury and his form is very inconsistent when he plays. I feel Warburton rarely plays to his potential. Yet, he is considered one of the best backrow players in the B&Is. Lydiate hasn’t shown the form of a few years ago before his injury, but he is considered one of the best backrow players in the B&Is. Croft has great potential, but he is often injured and has inconsistent form, but one of the best. Heaslip has been really inconsistent, but one of the best. I think there is too much focus on potential.

          Whereas, Robshaw plays consistently well with arguably less “talent.” Robshaw is not a world class player, but that level of consistency at the international level is exceptional and he should be mentioned with the best in the B&I.

    3. What about excellent work rate & extraordinary commitment?!

      I hope you’re enjoying the special day anyway Brighty, happy 60th anniversary. Not surprised you want to take your mind off Wales and talk about England today

  10. Delighted with the performance of the pack in the Autumn, back 5 in particular were looking as good as any unit in world rugby. Marler looks to be doing well under the new scrum laws, Hartley is taking his game to a new level and we have 2 quality options at tighthead (still worry that Cole plays too much rugby at Tigers). It looks like a pack that can mount a serious RWC challenge.

    My main frustration has been the repeated capping of players who are not cutting it (and capping players out of position at the expense of superior specialists in that position), leaving us in the unenviable position of having to discard a lot of players and find alternatives 2 years out from the RWC.

    Every side I watched this Autumn (including Japan, Fiji & Italy) produced better quality back play than England. “We want to use our defence as an offensive weapon” is fine, but please can we concentrate on trying to create try scoring opportunities from something other than charge downs or turnovers close to the line. My concern is that England don’t seem to be aspiring to anything beyond a 2011 vintage Sarries gameplan, Sarries have moved beyond that because they came up short against teams that matched them physically, England must move beyond it as well.

    Expect 2014 to be a hard year, key players out for 6N, 4 consecutive games against the ABs (the first with a weakened side) and the need to develop options/depth is many of the back positions. Hopefully we’ll come good by the end of the year. I’m optimistic we’ve got enough good raw material to work with, the foundations to build on with a great pack, but concerned we’ve not got the right mix of coaches to take the game forward.

  11. Agree about the ‘excellence of Mike Brown’, but ‘there has ”nothing” to shout about in terms of English back play’.

    And why do they still ‘crab laterally across the pitch rather than run straight’? Is Lancaster & his crew just so lacking in coaching ability? Are they only any good @ TV sound bites?

    Yarde looks a green horn to me. Should’ve got yellow for that sooo late (& no arms) tackle v Oz. Lucky, but dumb. Too early to make a balanced judgement yet, but… can he sidestep or just run straight up the line?… & can he remember to carry the pill under the o/side arm?

    If Robshaw’s ‘work at the breakdown is also often overlooked by virtue of his being ‘not a real 7?, why not shift him to blind side? Presuamably his ‘true’ posi. Leave a place for the forgotten Seffon Armitage then, but Lancs will never allow that.

    For me Christian Wade is the real guy to look at… if he ever gets the ball! And in d/quick time. Steps of either jet foot, hardly breaking stride or sweat. Needs a bit of space tho, otherwise what’s the point? ‘D’? Yet to be seen, but gotta getta go, surely?

    George Ford? looks a live wire. Good move out of the moribund Cocker’s hands? As for the rest? Dunno. Only tell when chucked into the deep end I guess. Like anyone.

    ‘The summer tour to New Zealand’ will indeed be ‘be an incredible confidence boost’ if it goes well, but I won’t be holding my breath I’m afraid. ‘It could be a year too soon’. Might it be a lifetime to soon? We’ll see… & indeed if I really was whinning regds the win v NZ alst yr… or whether ‘truth’ was a more approp adjective.

    1. Nope, you were whining. It was true that NZ was ill. Moaning about it though is whining. Take a leaf out of McCaw’s book and don’t use it as an excuse.

      PS. If you tell me that Hansen used it as an excuse (I didn’t hear him, but I think you said he did later?) then he’s also whining. He did a lot of whining when he was Wales coach so it wouldn’t surprise me.

      PPS. Being an excellent player/coach, or an ex-one, does not turn whining into truth. Whining is whining. Complaining you lost due to external factors e.g. illness, weather, referee, injuries is whining.

    2. I’m not sure how England beating New Zealand at the end of the latter’s season at home in 2012 has any bearing on them playing a fresh New Zealand away from home in 2014.

  12. Tuilagis injury is by far our biggest worry going into the six nations. Our backs may be a bit disfunctional right now but one of the reasons is that there is no real midfield target to hit over the gainline. The only option like him at centre is Burrell, however I think Twelvetrees deserves another shot- as he has all the tools to be a really top test 12 and for me is our best shot at 12 for the RWC.

    Burrell at 13 is a no for me- defensively is my main issue for that. He has had some shockers defending at 12 this season that have gone relatively unnoticed as he does make some big hits. You are more vulnerable defensively with your positioning at 13, and that is Burrells biggest weakness for me. Trinder to start alongside Billy until Manu is back.

    This leads me onto my main point which is including a bosher in the back line, someone who can really get over the gainline or break the line. Depending on how he gets on vs Quins, Saints and Tigers over the next 3 weeks, I would like to see Banahan in the 11 shirt for the 6N. He has been in really good form this season and has had some unfair press with regards to his England career. He was never going to be an international centre, and when he did get a run of games on the wing, I do seem to remember the likes of Hipkiss and Erinle starting alongside him. His one on one with Shane Williams will haunt him, however he was only 22/23 then and has become a much better player since then. With Yarde and Wade out, I would put him at 11 with Ashton or May at 14, and use him as your Manu substitute to distract players and create holes.

  13. brighty

    Did they have the squirts when they lost or not?

    Did they have the squirts when won or not?

    Prob a coincidence eh?

    Sure you’re not an English lover like yr countryman S Jones of the S Times?

    Ho! ho! ho! & M. Crimbo.

  14. Couldn’t disagree more Ray. This is nothing to do with Wales and it doesn’t make sense either to turn it yet again into a “Wales can only get up against England” thing, which is not true. England were going for the grand slam and instead got shamed. That’s got to be a massive dissapointment. To say it’s not really just because it was only Wales doesn’t make sense. It was the six nations title. If it doesn’t matter then maybe England shouldn’t bother taking part.

    1. I was merely commenting on the fact that Welsh and English attitudes to anglo-welsh games are very different and maybe coloured your response. I’ve lived and worked in both countries and the difference is undeniable surely you’d agree with that. I am not saying that wales can’t get up for SH games BUT there must be some reason for the poor record, there is no obvious reason so to dismiss the possibility out of hand is a little shortsighted. Surely you can see that a loss to say Italy or Scotland would have been far more dissappointing.

      1. Ray, what I meant was that for that match I don’t see that it matters who England were playing. It’s the biggest a dissapointment because of the margin of the loss and the fact it as a slam and title loss? Add in the style if the loss it’s easily England’s worst defeat in 12 months?

        1. It only matters to the Welsh Brighty, that’s really the point I’m making.

          Meanwhile wishing you a great Christmas and a healthy and prosperous new year

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