England’s South Africa tour continues to create problems
For the second week in a row, England managed to undo the good work they had done in the early parts of their fixture against South Africa. It is a growing concern that they are unable to react to the way a game is panning out and, equally worryingly, very few players are standing up on the field and taking control of the situation.
It seemed that Eddie Jones had identified a few areas of weakness by reinstating Joe Launchbury at lock and dropping Chris Robshaw from the flank when they flew out of the blocks courtesy of Mike Brown and Johnny May tries. However, key messages of discipline seemed to have been lost in translation as the hosts were allowed back in the game once more. The situation was so dire, in fact, that the tourists would not score again for the rest of the game.
The titanic Duane Vermeulen set the Boks on their way and, combined with the boot of Handre Pollard, they took a slender lead into the interval. England were at sixes and sevens and gave away a crucial penalty try that all but secured their defeat midway through the second period. Crucial substitutes (Danny Cipriani) were called on too late to stand any chance of overturning the 23-12 score-line and so Jones’s side were done.
After such a magnificent run, it now seems that England are in their worst form in recent memory. The manner of the defeats has been more worrying than the losses themselves as it seems that lessons are just not being learnt. As far as I can see, Jones has two options next week: win, or roll the dice and give the likes of Cipriani or Dan Robson a chance and just see.
What happened elsewhere?
Ireland showed how to react to defeat when they identified areas of improvement, acted on it and then went on to beat Australia in Melbourne. It was their first victory in the country for nearly four decades and the fans most certainly made it known. Although they won 26-21, they were outscored by three tries to two, but in contrast to last week, they starved the Wallabies of possession and were far more intense and ensured they drew out the penalties to win them the game.
In what was most certainly the most surprising result of the weekend, the USA secured their first ever victory over a ‘Tier One’ nation. They beat Scotland, who missed a late kick, 30-29 in Houston.
Wales ended a perfect tour with another victory over Argentina. The 30-12 victory with an ever-adapting team goes to show that they may yet be a force to be reckoned with in Japan next year.
An early red card for France probably cost them the game against New Zealand as they gave a plucky performance in going down 26-13. Meanwhile, Italy responded to last week’s defeat in Japan with a 25-22 victory.
The Pacific Nations Cup was won by Fiji after they defeated Georgia in the decider. In the World Cup qualification, Germany were the beneficiaries of the furore in Europe by beating Portugal in the playoff.
Hero of the week
When an emerging nation beats an established power for the first time, it can only be good for rugby in general. It will be interesting to see if the USA can carry that confidence forward into next year’s World Cup and cause some troubles in the ‘Group of Death’ with England, Argentina, France and Tonga.
Villain of the week
The fallout from England’s rut doesn’t seem to be confined to the media and speculation. When Ben Youngs walked out of an interview and Mike Brown and Joe Marler got into a heated discussion with fans, it showed that there must be some underlying disquiet in the camp. How Eddie Jones can claim that his side always win and lose with dignity after that is beyond my levels of comprehension.
Try of the week
It was a great week if you love to see rampaging props, which I think everybody does. Joe Moody, Tadgh Furlong and Cedate Gomes Sa all looked unstoppable, but Joe Taufete’e literally bashed through a wall of would-be tacklers on his way to a second try.
How do England’s backroom staff need to change to progress?
What about on-field personnel?
Can Ireland secure that series?
How can we ensure that results like that of the USA aren’t complete one-offs?
by Joe Large