Best of the Weekend: Experimental England Fails To Excite

Elliot Daly

Samoa put up stern resistance against England

In Eddie Jones’ most left-field squad since taking the helm (Lions-influenced Argentina tour notwithstanding), Twickenham was left a little underwhelmed. It was a chance for fringe players to take their chance, the squad as a whole to expand elements of their game against an opposition that should have been – and eventually were – put to the sword. It wasn’t quite such plain sailing though. It never is against a team with the passion and physicality of Samoa.

True, certain players did throw their hat into the ring, but others weren’t able to reproduce their impressive club form on the international stage and the way the team gelled – perhaps expectedly – won’t have swayed Jones from keeping to the tried and tested come the start of the Six Nations.

It started deceptively well, with Mike Brown cantering over in the second minute and Alex Lozowski adding another soon after. Then Samoa roared back with a try of their own and had their hosts at sixes-and-sevens at ruck time. The brutality of some of their clear-outs completely killed any momentum that England had. Bath man Charlie Ewels crashed over ten minutes before halftime, but that would be it for the hosts until the tremendous Elliot Daly grabbed the first of his two tries in the sixty-first minute. That initiated a late flurry that helped England to a 48-14 win that would have been a minimum expectation before the game, but during it felt a long way off.

Questions will be asked about whether Jones has wasted an opportunity this Autumn in not playing with combinations and giving more players more of a chance to assert themselves as legitimate back-ups/potential starters. However, the fact remains that he has bred a winning culture that we can hope lasts through to the World Cup in two years time. For now, they have a tilt at a third successive Six Nations and possibly the biggest test of their credentials yet, with Scotland and Ireland on an upward trajectory and Wales finding an attacking verve that may cause problems yet.

Warriors make history

It hasn’t been the easiest of starts to the 2017/18 campaign for Worcester, but how they have found some form. After a comfortable first win against Saints last weekend, they have now beaten Tigers at Welford Road for the first time in 122 years of trying, seeing off their Midlands rivals 31-27.

Exeter also got a vital win at the top of the table, edging Saracens 20-18. There were also wins for Wasps 17-13 against London Irish, Bath 38-14 over Harlequins and Sale 18-15 at home to Saints. Gloucester also continued their majestic run of form, overturning Newcastle – themselves on the slide – at Kingston Park 29-7.

Scotland destroy the Wallabies

Scotland put down a marker to the rest of the Six Nations teams by steam-rolling 14-man Australia 53-24. After giving the All Blacks a scare last weekend, their European rivals are sitting up to take notice after putting half a century of points past the Wallabies, and that Calcutta Cup encounter at Murrayfield is starting to look very exciting.

What happened elsewhere?

Jess Breach scored another mountain of tries for England Women in a 69-19 win over Canada. France managed a draw at home to Japan, despite being outscored three tries to two, whilst Wales slipped to a 33-18 loss to New Zealand, despite being on top for large parts of the game. Ireland joined England in a 100% November, beating Argentina 28-19. Italy weren’t able to match last year’s historic victory against South Africa, succumbing 35-6. Glasgow also maintained their perfect Pro14 start and La Rochelle kept up the pressure on Montpellier at the top of the Top14.

Try of the weekend

Elliot Daly‘s second effort against Samoa was a lesson in poise, elegance and how to turn on the after burners in electric style. A classy try in a classy outing from a classy player.

Hero of the weekend

How Worcester’s coaching team have taken them from a side looking down the barrel of playing catch up in a season long relegation scrap, to history makers in a win at Leicester is a miracle.

Villain of the weekend

I found all the talk in the build up to the Samoa game about the lack of money available to England’s opposition a bit confusing. It was obviously a game of the haves against the have-nots, but any criticism levelled at the RFU and England’s players was mis-directed, in my view. It should be World Rugby putting the structures in place to aid unions like Samoa (and unions like the RFU should be willing to help as much as is needed), but it should also be about Samoa looking after the funds they do receive as well. Either way, it is the players and fans that seem to suffer the most.

Discussion Points

– Who will start for England in the 6 Nations?
– Who put their hand up at the weekend and who failed to take their chance?
– Can you see a way back for London Irish now?

by Joe Large

20 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: Experimental England Fails To Excite

  1. Starters for England. Same as before, barring injuries, although backrow is a bit up in the air. Vunipola, Robshaw and Itoje I guess.
    No one really put their hand up, hence the answer to question 1.
    They’re doomed Captain Mainwaring. Although now I’ve said that, they’ll come in and turn over Glos next weekend. Just can’t really see them getting any traction now that the International window is over. Worcs made the most of it.

  2. I said at the start of the season that if Worcester could avoid too many injuries they would do ok. The saints game was the first game we’ve been able to field a near full strength squad. Still need a decent long term fly half though.

  3. For all those bemoaning England and lauding Scotland need to look at a few things.

    Scotland did play well but roundly beat a team of 14 men but they did ship a hat-full against both Samoa and Australia where England did not, England may have failed to inspire in attack but are very resolute in defence but that being said Johnny May and Elliott Daly look deadly with ball in hand and will chase anything.

    The Worcester comment annoy’s me it isn’t in 122 years of trying, its only been in a few games of trying, this type of stat is always a misnomer.

    As for your ‘Hero of the week’ comment I was always expecting Worcester to fire when they had their best players back such as Francois Hougaard and Bryce Heem.

    1. yes they played 42 minutes against 14 men, but quite a few of those scores were from poor defending. Take Jonny Gray’s canter through a massive gap at the side of a ruck. Or John Barclay breaking out of a three-man tackle.

      You could argue Maitland’s try was nothing to do with the sending off as he identified (from deep) where the forwards were hanging out, and he’d have burned Kepu too.

      Huw Jones’ try again was down to laziness of Australia and not the man advantage.

      Scotland would’ve still won that game, maybe not by 30 points, but they’d have won.

  4. Whilst the AIs for England felt most underwhelming I would say that Jones probably got out of it what he needed for the most part.

    Resting players – Farrell (twice), Mako, Itoje, JJ and Watson got rest weekends. Itoje and Lawes also had two games on the bench however disappointingly for Jones they both ended up on before half time!

    Experience – players like Genge, Williams, Ewels, Underhill Lozowski and Slade all got valuable minutes at test level.

    Positions tested – he’s looked at Maro and Lawes at 6, Slade at both 12 and 13 plus Watson at full back.

    Throw that in with three wins, all pretty comfortable really, and I’m betting Jones is as happy as he could be.

  5. Really pleased that Kepu received a Red Card, although I suspect he can feel a little unlucky.

    Unlucky because this action happens a lot during games, and largely goes unpunished. Hopefully this will shed some light on this type of “work” at the breakdown.

    1. I only saw it once, in real time, but I thought Yeandle´s leap onto Schalk Brits when he was in no position to defend himself might have merited something similar, and possibly swung the game Exeter´s way. Kepu certainly wasn´t “unlucky”. Refs should be on top of these cheap blind side hits.

      1. Andy,
        “Unlucky” in the sense that it happens far too often, and is not punished – as in your example during the Saracens-Exeter game (although I didn’t see it, so i’ll take your word for it).

  6. Similar team that started v Australia to start the 6N, with decisions to be made with regards to who starts at fullback and on backrow. Brown showed he can still play well at this level, pace, strength and grit, which could see him start 15 and Watson move to the wing.
    I think one of the only players to put their hand up was Simmonds; carried well and made lots of tackles. A very useful back-up to Billy and Hughes, or across the back-row. Other than that maybe Lozowski. I think Slade failed to take his chance, he played 2 full matches and didn’t impact the games enough. He showed some nice pieces of skill but other than that, didn’t distribute or bring the back three into play enough. He isn’t an out and out 13 and having him with Ford and Farrell in the team is too limiting.
    Unfortunately for Irish theyre losing too many games by a narrow margin. One of these should have been turned into a win.

  7. Calcutta Cup be dammed. I’ll settle for doing the Welsh over at the Principality Stadium. Calcutta Cup can wait until 2019, hey I can Dweam, along with the triple crown and Grand Slam. Oh and beating New Zealand in the World Cup.

    Hrrrm I think I am still drunk from Saturday I’ll shut up now.

  8. I was about to respond with a similar comment to Mr B regarding the England and Scotland matches.
    If you didn’t know the two scores of these matches and the details of cards/sending offs etc, you would assume Scotland walked away with an easy victory over a full Aus squad. You would also assume that England only narrowly beat a very physical Samoa. Neither are the case though.
    Aus have quite a few players out (as do Scotland) and played the majority of the game with 14 men (deservedly!!). But Scotland still allowed Aus to get some good scores.
    England look their most convincing in the last 20 minutes of each game. Better fitness levels? Better bench players/finishers? Possibly both but, one thing is certain, England have conceded the least amount of points of the home nations over the autumn series. Even with some new combinations and additions to the squad.

    1. Yeah our defence still worries me.
      The plus is we are now scoring tries from anywhere which a few years ago just wasn’t happening. I really liked the sneaky tap and go Finn did for Jones try.
      I would say Dunbar was a loss defensively on Saturday but given he played Samoa I’m undecided.

      I have seen, and suffered through, far too many false dawns at my olde age. Let’s get the Welsh monkey off our back and then worry about the Auld Enemy.

      I would say better Bench than fitness to be honest but at least fitness is easier to equalise. Still played three lost one blooded some new caps, all in all a good Autumn International with a nice end.

      Well unless you’re Welsh and got the Boks outside of the International Window.

      1. The Scotland attack is fun to watch, Russell gives the defenders a headache because he has the ability to break the line. A big fan of Huw Jones too, who would’ve been pushing for Lions if he hadn’t gotten injured.
        Why doesn’t Taylor get more of a look in at centre? I would say he offers more than Dunbar but I only get to see him in the Prem.
        6N will be a 3 horse race, with England marginal favourites. We just need the French and Welsh to step it up again.

        1. Taylor was missing through injury, we do however have a abundance of riches at centre. Maitland can cover for Hoggy. The big worry is Finn we don’t have an able deputy as yet.

          To be honest I am quite content for the Welsh to be out of the picture for a while. Might teach some of their supporters humility. Getting as bad as Bok fans. Loud boorish and jerseys off and oot the pub when they loose.

          /rant on
          If I can wear that 90 Jersey and gracefully put up with the, mostly, good natured ribbing / condolences for twenty odd years then so can they.
          \rant off

    2. Majority? Kepu was sent off after HT, 43rd minute if I remember correctly. Would also argue that Scotland were missing far more players of note than Australia : Hogg, Talyor, Dunbar, Scott, Bennett, Laidlaw, Ashe, Hardie, R Gray, Nel, Dickinson and Ford.

      All the above being said, will Scotland win the 6N – unlikely. Will be in with a shout – absolutely. Scotland fans know their teams failings all too well so will approach with caution – but this team is showing a clear ability to score tries and will win more games than they lose this year.

      With Dave Rennie’s approach at Glasgow and Townsend’s game plan, Scotland’s fitness will be more than a match for anyone.

      Roll on Cardiff.

      1. Actually Kepu was sent off just before half time.
        What was nice to see was once they had the game in the bag, we never have it in the bag really, rather than close it down with the man advantage they continued to attack.

        Until we grind teams up and spit them out, when the opportunity is there, won’t get the respect.

        Same with grinding out wins when needed oh and the ever elusive consistency.

  9. Just saw BBC Sport Personality of the year announced, quite surprised at the lack of rugby players. Would’ve thought at least one of Warburton, Itoje and Farrell might be nominated in a successful year for home nations

      1. Spoty is just a BBC self congratulatory thing largely based around sports they have the TV rights to show. Not worth the time of day

  10. ‘Questions will be asked about whether Jones has wasted an opportunity this Autumn in not playing with combinations and giving more players more of a chance ‘. Haven’t they already been asked. Good to get x3 for every posi, but surely this policy of EJ’s focuses too much on individuals rather than getting a cohesive, innovative & effective style of play to WIN the WC. As Wales found last Sat, some guile is required as well. EJ has talked about an ‘English style’, but what is this exactly? Playing for territory, i.e., kicking the ball AWAY for a perceived advantage. Hoping to steal line-outs, or get turnovers in the oppo’s 22, then maul ’em to death? Believe that penalties or yellows will automatically follow? Well, maybe. After all he’s won 20 of 21 & got the ‘coach of the yr’ gong & they’re not to be sniffed at. However, are these enough to win the big 1? This article (& gauging a few other pundits’ views), implies not. Didn’t see much of the Samoa game myself I have to admit, but I deemed that the Oz v Scotland match would be more of a contest (might have been if the ref hadn’t wrecked it with the, by now, regulation card-a real concern for distorted footy these days!?), but from what I did see in replay, it seemed that England did enough to win comfortably.. on the score board at least. The ? I suppose is;’ will this Autumn have been enough to win the 6N’?

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