Another England defeat quashes Christmas cheer

It was another bleak day at Twickenham, where England did everything they could to make life difficult for themselves against the All Blacks and were lucky not to lose by more.

Nick Kennedy

Indiscipline cost the Home side as four players were sin binned, and New Zealand barely needed to change out of second gear to complete an impressive Grand Slam tour at the end of a long season. This was surely a symptom of the lack of leadership that we have debated at length on these pages, and there must be some changes before the Six Nations.

The All Blacks were actually quite poor with numerous errors and five missed kicks by Dan Carter, and if they’d been playing at their most effective, it would have been a lot worse. South Africa’s record of the largest winning margin at Twickenham probably should have lasted only a week.

On a positive note, Nick Kennedy stood out for England, disrupting the opposition lineout and winning high quality possession to leave people wondering why he was dropped two weeks ago. James Haskell was as busy as ever and full of heart, and Delon Armitage was comfortable at the back under a fair amount of pressure.

Other than that…not a great deal to be excited about. The Southern Hemisphere teams have proven they are a long way ahead of England, and instead of being excited about the Six Nations and the Lions Tour, I’m now slightly dreading them both.

No doubt optimism will return though as a slight change to the coaching setup or the unearthing of a promising new player leaves us all heralding the dawn of another new era before being ultimately disappointed.

Are there any other reasons to be cheerful on this cold December morning?

12 thoughts on “Another England defeat quashes Christmas cheer

  1. Well we are now down to 6th in the world rankings behind Wales and the World Cup draw is being done today. Let’s just hope we get the argies!

  2. Well fellow readers and contributors, I will merely repeat what I’ve said before about the world rankings. All that really matters is how good we are when the plane lands in Chokerland in 2011.

    We are crap now, that’s an irrefutable fact, but we have nearly 3 years to sort it out, some good young players, a few positives from the series just gone (Armitage, Rees and Care I would say) and some players to come back from injury and fitness and form and a leader who hasn’t had the results yet, but is honest and has high standards.

    England have a track record of slumping pretty low before they rise again (though not normally at home half way through the season, granted). However, there is still time for us to build a team to perform well in 2011 and not worry about who is in our group.

    So come on Johnno, no pressure!

  3. I am a South African rugby supporter and agree with Rob’s point of view completely. Three years is a long time to develope and nurture a team to optimum performance. For four years, Jake White had his focus solely on the 2007 World Cup. There is no reason why English rugby can’t lift itself to new heights in 2011.
    Better still, why not take advantage of two excellent advisors out there, namely, Eddie Jones and Jake White. Both these men have a wealth of experience and talent to offer. I would rather see two evenly matched teams battling it out on the field than a repeat of the English and Springbok match a fortnight ago.
    Finally, I got the feeling in the AB game that the English players were more intent to play the man than the ball. Don’t try prove to the man that you are a “bruiser”. Show the man that you can take the ball from him and hang on to it.

    Chin up. What, what.

  4. Positivity is great, but reality check guys – what do you think is going to happen in the next three years? Review some of the posts on here over the past week – poor structure to the domestic season, too many games for the top players, ineffective academies and an elite coaching team with a limited range of experience and no proven track record. Granted, the coaching team could surprise us, and Johnno may even make some upgrades to the staff, but the other factors are stacked against us. None of these things mean we won’t ever win another RWC, it just makes it more difficult. It means the coach needs to be a genius and he needs time – certainly more than three years.

    For me, the coaching focus in the elite squad needs radical change. We were technically poor in each of the three games, and that needs to be addressed. Just take one aspect – kicking from hand. Firstly there were too many wayward kicks where players miscued and completely missed their intended targets. They need quality coaching and practice at that. They need a master like Alred to work with each of them, honing their skills to the point where they can put the ball where they want it 95% of the time. And secondly they showed tactical naivety with the targeting of kicks. No looking to check the oppositions positioning, no probing into the areas where it caused the opposition some difficulty. Just give it a hoof. They need to be taught how to read the situation, and what tactics work in different situations. And if you think they must be doing that anyway, then they are not spending enough time on it and are clearly not achieving the required level of proficiency.

    Johnno made some comments again about not doing the basics right, and I agree with him. But does he know how to get them to do the basics very well? The jury is out.

  5. In addition to all the comments above which highlight the weaknesses in the current team perhaps there could be a review of the quality of refereeing with published rankings of decisions overall, against/for individual teams and against/for individual players.
    It should provide an extra discipline in ensuring a higher standard of (impartial) decisions… or at least silence those of us that see bias in every decision that does not favour England!

  6. I don’t see your point Tim. What would that prove? Are you trying to say that England’s dismal Autumn series was because of refereeing? Assessing referees is difficult and subjective at the best of times, but how do you ‘rank’ decisions when no two are ever the same?

    If the stats show that England are giving away a lot of penalties, that’s because they do a lot of stupid, unnecessary things, not because of referees.

    I’ve not watched every single game of this autumn series, but I can’t recall any bad decisions that have changed matches, has anyone else? Granted, only Alain Rolland knows why he felt the need to chuck cards around like a Vegas dealer on Saturday, but let’s face it, the result wasn’t affected.

    And if we’re going to pick on refs, how about we give them a fighting chance first? The South started playing the ELVs while the North carried on under the old rules. Then the following season (and let’s not forget that North and South don’t even have the same seasons which complicates it further) the North starts playing some, but not all of the ELVs. Would you want to have been an IRB ref for the last season or two? I know I wouldn’t.

    As for the other comments re structure of the season etc, said it before but the Elite player system has only been in place 5 minutes and we will see the benefits over the next 2 seasons. We should see a much fresher team in the 6N and we have to, otherwise there will be question marks over Johnno, much as I hate to say it.

    I still believe that fitness is the bedrock that will help with a lot of the other areas. I believe we’re struggling to keep up with the game through lack of fitness which is what’s causing us to give away penalties left right and centre. We then pile mental pressure on ourselves and make poor decisions and kick badly.

    If I was Johnno my main priorities would be to get the squad back to 2003 levels of fitness and to improve tactical thinking. Many people post-Woodward have been quick to slate him for having too many meetings, but this squad needs a bit of that right now to improve their decision making.

  7. As an All Black fan, and therefore a foreigner in those questions regarding England, I don’t see Johnson able to use these (not that many) three years to build the required depth that you used to enjoy say, from 2000 to 2003.

    All of a sudden, I think that’s a bit too much for him, provided his slow start as head coach. If England does not manage to improve, come the 6 Nations, Johnson’s days as England coach may well be over.

  8. Alan from SA said
    Finally, I got the feeling in the AB game that the English players were more intent to play the man than the ball. Don’t try prove to the man that you are a “bruiser”. Show the man that you can take the ball from him and hang on to it.

    Perhaps he does not remember an infamous England vs SA match not too long ago where SA did exactly what he said you should not do. Words such as “pot” “kettle” and “black” come to mind

    PS … and you were lucky not to lose to Wales this time round, a bit of humility might not go amiss.

  9. Hello Peter. I feel compelled to reply to your comments and clarify a few issues.

    Firstly, I am against all forms of foul or dirty play in rugby. The comment which I made was pertinent to that particular match and it is my personal opinion that the English could have possibly performed better if their focus was on the ball. If the referee had been more observant, he might have issued more yellow cards for straight, swinging arms (same player in two successive games)

    Secondly. a winning team can afford to be humble. A losing team has to eat ” humble pie” unfortunately. I was very disappointed with the Boks performance against both Wales and Scotland. The Bok performance against both these opponents was sub-standard and not a true reflection of their ability. They certainly didn’t make the same mistake against their arch enemy England. England needed to be shown in no uncertain terms that the loss they suffered in the 2007 world cup was no fluke.

    Thirdly, a win is a win! No good crying about spilt milk. Almost, nearly and all these other terms just doesn’t cut it.

    Finally, take note of this brief history of matches played between South African and Wales.

    A little history on SA vs Wales
    1906: South Africa vs Wales 11-0 at St Helen’s Ground, Swansea
    1912: South Africa vs Wales 3-0 at Cardiff Arms Park
    1931: South Africa vs Wales 8-3 at St Helen’s Ground, Swansea
    1951: South Africa vs Wales 6-3 at Cardiff Arms Park
    1960: South Africa vs Wales 3-0 at Cardiff Arms Park
    1964:Â South Africa vs Wales 24-3 at Kings Park Stadium, Durban
    1970:Â Draw 6-6 at Cardiff Arms Park
    1994:Â South Africa vs Wales 20-12 at Cardiff Arms Park
    1995:Â South Africa vs Wales 40-11 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
    1996:Â South Africa vs Wales 37-20 at Cardiff Arms Park
    1998:Â South Africa vs Wales 28-20 at Wembley Stadium, London
    1998:Â South Africa vs Wales 96-13 at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
    1999:Â Wales won 29-19 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
    2000:Â South Africa vs Wales 23-13 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
    2002:Â South Africa vs Wales 19-8 at Newlands
    2002:Â South Africa vs Wales 34-19 at Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
    2004:Â South Africa vs Wales 53-18 at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
    2004:Â South Africa vs Wales 38-36 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
    2005:Â South Africa vs Wales 33-16 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
    2007:Â South Africa vs Wales 34-12 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
    2008: South Africa vs Wales 37-21 at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
    2008:Â South Africa vs Wales 43-17 at Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein

    Cor Blimme.

  10. Alan, what exactly has that got to do with anything? I mean well done and all that but that has nothing to do with what we’ve been discussing. Slightly ironic in light of your comment that winning teams can afford to be humble.

  11. Alan, I agree with your initial post. I too thought the English team (pack in particular) were so focused on just trying to smash their opposite men that any thought of tactics, gameplan and skill were sorely missing. They were very quick to square up at the earliest sign of provocation and i do think it contributed to their downfall.
    There’s always a place for trying to dominate physically but not to the detriment of the other facets of a successful side.
    It seemed to me at the time that we (England) are not yet able to focus on all elements of the game at the same time.

  12. Hi Stuart. I initially made a comment that the aggression shown on the field in the AB game could have acheived better results if it had been better focused.
    My last jab at Peter was intended to make his realise that luck has very little to do with professionl rugby, especially when you see the above stats.


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