Best of the Weekend: Six Nations begins with a bang


France break English hearts in Paris

A fantastic late try from Gael Fickou was enough to see off a valiant comeback from England, and secure a dramatic 26-24 win for France at the Stade de France. Les Bleus got off to the perfect start when a combination of clinical French attack, and a lucky bounce of a ball, allowed Yoann Huget to dive over in the corner, with the game just 32 seconds old. The home side used this early momentum to their advantage, and soon raced into a 16-3 lead, leaving England fans fearing the worst for their youthful side, who struggled in all areas for the first 30 minutes of the game.

The English comeback started just before half-time, when Danny Care took a quick tap penalty, catching the French defence flat-footed, and found Mike Brown in enough space for the fullback to nimbly work his way over, cutting the deficit to eight. Points from the boots of Owen Farrell, Care, and Alex Goode, and a debut try from Luther Burrell, gave England a 24-19 lead with just seven minutes left to hang on.

With the momentum England were playing with, it seemed as if they had done enough to take an invaluable win back home, but the aforementioned Fickou try stole the game at the death, and gave French coach Philippe Saint-Andre some much-needed breathing room. Yannick Nyanga may have stolen the show for France, but there were certainly noteworthy performances from Joe Launchbury, Billy Vunipola, Courtney Lawes and Farrell, and England can hold their heads high going into round two of the championship.

Wales rattled but victorious in Cardiff

Although we are reminded every year not to underestimate Italy, a host of pre-match predictions that Wales would run away with this game suggest that that advice is not always taken, and a resilient performance from the Azzurri in their 23-15 loss to Wales will have given Warren Gatland a lot to ponder this week. The home side did get off to the perfect start however, with Alex Cuthbert going over for an early try, as he exploited the inexperience of debut wing Angelo Esposito, in a try very similar to the one Huget scored for France. Centre Scott Williams added a second try later in the first half for Wales, and fears that Italy could be blown away were beginning to resurface, as the home side took a 17-3 lead into the halftime interval.

Fortunately for the neutral onlookers however, the Azzurri turned in a superb second half performance led, surprisingly, not by talismanic captain Sergio Parisse (who was still excellent), but by young centre Michele Campagnaro. The Treviso centre scored two tries, the first a chase through from a Leonardo Sarto kick, and the second an intercept, after he picked off Leigh Halfpenny – of all people.

Despite the heroics of Campagnaro, it was not quite enough to pull off a memorable victory for the visitors, but they should be pleased with their performance, and look forward to kicking on next week against France.

Wales meanwhile have a lot to work on ahead of their trip to Dublin, but the class in their XV is undeniable, and this game against Italy could simply have been a case of shaking off the rust before they move up the gears later in the championship. Taulupe Faletau’s dominance at the breakdown, Rhodri Jones’ late impact in the scrum, and Richard Hibbard’s manful defence were all significant positives for Wales.

Ireland comfortable against Scotland

Ireland turned in the most dominant performance of the opening weekend, as they cruised to a 28-6 victory against Scotland, although much of the disparity between the two teams can also be attributed to the shortcomings of the Scots in Dublin. Scotland did defend resolutely in the first half, but were also unable to get anything going in attack, and an Andrew Trimble try late in the half meant that Ireland took an 11-3 lead into the interval.

Ireland moved through the gears in the second half and the visitors just couldn’t live with them, and a try from Jamie Heaslip early in the second half ensured that the home side were well and truly in the driving seat. Any slim chances of a Scottish comeback were then put to bed when Rob Kearney powered his way through for Ireland’s third and final try of the game. Ireland can now focus on the challenge of Wales, but the performances of Peter O’Mahony, Chris Henry and Jonathan Sexton will have done wonders for Irish self-belief, and they will be quietly confident when the defending champions come to town on Saturday. Scotland meanwhile will have to pick themselves up and prepare for a clash with England at Murrayfield, and unless they can turn in a much-improved performance in six days time, they could be in for another long day at the office.

Gael Fickou’s late winner against England is the Try of the Week, not only because it was a fantastic team try, but also because of the situation in the game, and the composure shown by the young centre. Credit must also go to Yannick Nyanga for starting the move, and Dimitri Szarzewski for holding onto the ball just long enough to draw his man, before executing the simple pass to Fickou.

Hero of the Week is Michele Campagnaro. At just 20 years of age, the centre stole the headlines at the Millenium Stadium, turning in a well-rounded and polished performance. Not only did he score two tries for the Azzurri, but he was also at the heart of their defensive effort, and played with a maturity which belied his young age. Honourable mention must also go to Nyanga, who was head and shoulders above every other Frenchman on the field at Stade de France, and was critical to ensuring Les Bleus emerged victorious on the day.

Stuart Lancaster is the Villain of the Week for his use of the bench against France. With England leading, and controlling the tempo of the game, Lancaster took off some of his most impressive performers in Care, Lawes and Vunipola, and the disruption and loss of tempo seemed to open the door for the French, who took full advantage of the opportunity. Using the bench in the right way has become a real art in recent years, but unfortunately for England, Lancaster’s use of it on Saturday seemed misguided to say the least. Ross Ford deserves a mention for his abject performance against Ireland, as the hooker struggled throughout the game with his lineout throwing and hooking at the scrum, and was a real Achilles heel for the Scots at the set-piece.

by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

47 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: Six Nations begins with a bang

  1. Oh for crying out loud. While Lancaster’s substitutions were at times a bit daft Lawes was injured and Billy V coming off had no impact because Morgan had an absolute stormer. Given that he was also dealing with a side disrupted in the opening 10 minutes by injury and a noticeably tiring team, giving him Villain of the Week is ludicrous. I’m not saying he was without fault, but there are some reasonable explanations for some of his decisions. Ford definitely the Villain

  2. Care was failing to get to the breakdown towards the end, he’d put his all into the game and needed to come off we had a sequence of at least 3 breakdowns without him. Goode and Barritt were forced subs. Mako went no worse than Marler in the scrum (Cole was the one in trouble usually), but made a huge impact in the loose. Same can be said of Youngs, even with the potentially dodgy throw.

    Not only had Lawes taken a knock, but Attwood was needed to shore up the scrum in the final minutes to try and avoid giving away easy 3s.

    1. Mako was terrible in the scrum when he came on. Youngs is a hooker not a centre. Their work in the loose should be a bonus but if they can’t do the day job we need to either pick players who can or leave the 1st choices on in tight matches. Their professionals they should be able to do 80m

      1. Guys like Billy V are able to do a full 80, does it regularly for Sarries, but if you are instructed to managed your energy reserves so they run out on 60mins because we have a planned replacement I don’t have any issue with this.

  3. Agree with Chuckles – Morgan was massive, as was Youngs (around the park). I’m not sure Care should have come off but Dickson didn’t do anything wrong. However – villain of the week for me has to be Goode. Watch the last 10 minutes again, he was woeful. He is not a test player, the pressure is too much for him and he lacks any kind of aggression or conviction. Choosing to tackle neither in a 2 on 1 is inexcusable. But he had a chance to put that right after the re-start when Morgan stormed up the field and gave us a position whereby we could have still worked up the pitch and won the game … maybe Care would have steered us home? Instead we have a ball from Farrell to ….. yup, – Goode. Again. Dropped, knocked on, given away. Shameful.

    With Burns called back up I hope we will have a 10 on the bench in Scotland, and some pace would be nice too, maybe Spencer or Eastmond rather than Goode?

    1. And yet SL keeps picking Goode and will do again I wager, so why shouldn’t he be the villain. Not only will Goode be in the 23 I bet he’s being considered for the 15 shirt.

      Youngs was utter toss. Lost line outs cost us against NZ and cost us on Saturday. All his endeavour in the loose came to nothing.

  4. Yes, sorry, don’t know what I was thinking. Alex Goode absolutely Villain of the Week, an utterly woeful performance and directly responsible for England’s loss, as he had about 3 chances to stop the French match-winning try but was too afraid of contact to do it.

  5. Villain of the week for me (and if I’m honest for most of the last few years for me) is Inverdale and the BBC who allow him to spout such biased rubbish. This week we had such delights as he and Clive talking at halftime about how “England could run away with this now” despite being 8 points off it, which then brought “8 points is nothing” which just isn’t true, as France nicking it at the death showed. Capped off wonderfully at the end by the English contingent trying to rain on Castaignede’s happiness with the ridicolous “in many ways, do you think England will take more from this than France?” question.

    On that last one I’ve seen a few fans (but thankfully the minority) trying the old “this loss is better for England than the win would have been”. I tire of this relatively new idea in sport that desperate and heroic losses are somehow the bedrock on which future brilliance is built. That may be true if you’re an awesome team and need a bit of a jolt to avoid complacency (e.g. All Blacks) but a win would have done wonders for that England team. New combinations would have confidence going forward, new caps would be feeling great in training, etc. A win would have done more for that team than a loss including the very basic fact that they would be 2 points higher up the table. Nobody at the end of that match would have been going “yeah, it’s a win, but it’s a shame they didn’t get the character forming benefit of the loss” so to now argue the reverse is hilarious.

    Many positives for England in that performance, but the positives start and end at the performance, not the result. Perhaps a villain of the week would be an idea, rather than a person – the idea that time-planned substitutions (I don’t buy Care being knackered, it was 60mins on the dot) are ever, ever, ever the right idea.

    The Wales match confuses me – I was there, it was boring (not helped by me deciding to go on cheap seat tix at last minute so was surrounded by clueless “who’s he with the ball now?” daffodil headed tools who annoyed the Italian fans near us by deciding to cheer the “plucky” Italians when the scores became close). We won, happy with that, move on, hope the score difference doesn’t come back and bite us but it probably will. However, the media seem to be reporting it as a “thriller”?

    Saw an excellent appraisal of Scotland on Twitter – excellent ingredients, terrible recipe. Unfortunately they spent 20 mins doing that Scottish thing of looking like they might score an excellent try and then the next 60 mins looking at the breakdown with a “ooh, that looks a bit nasty in there” despair while Ireland enjoyed 110% possession.

    Minor heroes of the weekend for me – don’t remember getting annoyed/confused by a single ref. Must be a first for an entire weekend of rugby.

    1. Give it a rest Brighty the rest of us have to deal with Jiffy’s oh so balanced commentary and analysis for Wales.

      Whilst there can be times when a good performance/ loss is acceptable this was not one of them. The match was there to be won and England went defensive rather than go for the kill. No England fan should be happy with that.

      And you are absolutely spot on with the predetermined subs. Another 5 or 10 minutes with Hartley and Care could’ve been enough (Morgan was awesome so no issue there).

      Now for the final part of my disagree/ agree, agree/ disagree reply sandwich: I agree with the Troll Invadale over who learnt more. France were terrible for 70 minutes, but we’re so clinical that 10 minutes resulted in 3 tries. I’ll reserve judgement on them until I see them play. Apart from the sublime Fickou try France created little, we’re dominated but benefited from England mistakes.

      1. Benjit, I see Inverdale as different – Jiffy is the “colour” commentator, much like Phillip Matthews, Castaignede, Guscott, Moore, etc. Inverdale is the chair but still turns it into a ridicolously pro-England program.

        I don’t agree with the idea that England took more from the game. Factually I disagree – France learnt that they need to improve their fitness significantly, that Fickou should start, that Bastareaud is not unstoppable and so they need an alternative, that Picamoles is an extraordinary player who can lead them, that their new outside half is a fine player and so is their scrum half, that dropping concentration (probably fitness again) for the period before/after halftime is a known killer and now they see what happens, that they can play expansive rugby with the right selections, that their pack can mix and match with with the big boys, etc. Exactly who learned the most seems debatable to me.

        Also for me it was the wrong time to try and claim England won anything from that game – it didn’t look like a factual appraisal to me, rather it looked like an attempt to claim England beat France at something in that game (i.e. they beat them at finding out more useful stuff going forward) so it just sounded like sore losing to me to claim that despite the win England were somehow better off than France.

        England have many, many positives to take from that game but the result isn’t one of them.

        1. Not disagreeing with you on the result as I said above. Should have won but didn’t. Very unhappy.

          Still not convinced that France learnt much. If Fickou had started would he have had the same impact? Eng kept Fofana quiet. I guess we’ll find out. If England continue to play attacking rugby and actually get points for every visit to the 22 and win the next four matches then I’ll feel slightly better. Here’s hoping Wales can deny them the GS.

      2. Bit of a difference between bias by Inverdale the anchor man and Jiffy the national analyst. Its the national analysts job to be biased, that’s why there’s at least one from each team!

    2. Brighty, I am not sure that I would agree that the question of “England taking more from this than France?” is so ridiculous.

      England came back from a long way behind, and pretty much dominated most of the game. Sure, they made mistakes, dropped the ball, missed tackles, but so did France. The game showed incredible character within the England team, and considerable intent to play the ball, in fact probably more than was necessary, but as I said last week, I would rather this intent that the “steely desire” to grind out a win. Truly.

      I do wonder what France really learned about their team?
      Domingo is a great scrummager? Picamoles is a monstrous performer? Fickou has massive potential? They learnt nothing new apart from, perhaps, what a great ball carrier Nyanga is.

      9/10 didn’t work well – they miss Parra. Bastareaud is a flat track bully. Lineout is not great (ironically England dominated the lineout for much of the game). Two lucky bounces for the first two tries, and a succession of English mistakes to allow them to win at the end.

      I do understand that there was also great skill involved in the winning try, BUT if it wasn’t for England they would not have got the opportunity to score, and whilst the kick may have been converted anyway, I would be very disappointed if my U13s allowed someone to run under the posts like that.

      What did England learn?
      The new boys all went well. Farrell can play well. Ditto Danny Care. Billy V is not a “flash in the pan”. Ben M is better in white than in Cherry and White. We have wingers who can beat players. Remember the talk last week of the French forwards aiming to dominate the English pack? France had the better scrummage, but only marginally so, outplayed everywhere else.

      I didn’t see the TV coverage (as I was at Stade de France) but Clive’s stated position sounds very reasonable in retrospect. The fact that England didn’t run away with it, doesn’t invalidate the fact that they “could have”.

      I can assure you that for most of the second half there were no French around us (including two well known recent Internationals) who thought France would win.

      The manner in which they won – to me – is really, really pleasing. They won with a succession of well executed skills, an element of “backs to wall” abandon, and just briefly the ability to shake off the “game-plan”. Perhaps this is teh start of the return to the “old” France. The type that M. St Andre used to play in.

      1. “Remember the talk last week of the French forwards aiming to dominate the English pack? ” – serious question though, where did that talk come from? I saw a lot of English commentators thinking that was the idea given the 6/2 bench split but I actually think this was good coaching from France and not an attempt to smash England up front – England have a huge pack, fit and mobile. France have some big players but fitness is obviously an issue. England are not renowned for expansive back play (I think we can all agree that’s a fact rather than a slur) so France sensibly pick boys to cover a) where they are weaker and b) where England are stronger. As it turned out it looked like a good decision – they needed their fresher pack to keep them close enough once they started blowing and that last try was heavily influenced by their fresher forwards. Conversely their backs were pretty much all fine so a 5/3 split would have been a waste.

        1. With Bastaraud’s fitness think they got a little lucky with the 6:2 split, also aided by England only having 4 usable forwards on the bench! It was a gamble, they needed to counter the mobility and fitness, it worked, congrats to them for it.

          1. I’m not so sure it was just luck – they guess that Bast wasn’t going to need his fitness that much as the game would be thrown around the forwards.

    3. “GO LEFT!!!!! NUMBERS!!!!!!!”

      An entirely objective and neutral bit of commentary.

      Then you’ve got Keith “Don’t see an issue with Healy stamping on Cole” Wood.

      I like the lack of objectivity, if all we want is neutral then get Lynagh and co in.

      1. I love that sort of thing when it comes from the pundits but dislike that the man orchestrating the whole show demonstrates English bias when directing the conversation. He did it last year after the Mill Stadium and he did it again on Saturday when Castaignede was trying to enjoy things. It was also, as I said above, the wrong time to try and claim England were better at France than anything as it just sounds like sore losing when done immediately after final whistle. Take time to reflect, take the many positives for England out of the match, but don’t summarise the match as “in many ways England learnt more than France, goodnight, thank you for watching”.

        1. That’s a fair point, I wonder how this was covered on French TV though, bet they were sticking it to Les Rosbifs.

          1. I suspect French TV did stick it to England Matt but they’re French TV, with French viewers. Inverdale was representing the BBC so is meant to be the anchor for the Eng/Wel/Ire/Scot (and Manx etc.) audience with Guscott/Clive more than able to put the English point of view across.

        2. Comedy gold as well on Sunday during the halftime break of the Ire v Sco match when he declared that England were due to play USA in the Davis cup. Then had to apologise 5 minutes later when a viewer text in to point out that, in fact, it was GB taking on USA, not England.

          Aaaaaah John you will keep doing it wont you… :)

          1. “So anyway, let’s talk about England…”. From what I have heard he developed a deep hatred for all things Welsh while at Swansea Uni in the 70s. Fair play, being an English rugby fan and player in Wales during the 70s must have been pretty painful.

            1. Just be thankful that Saint Johnny isn’t still playing for England. it used to get very uncomfortable watching Inverdale getting all red faced and sweaty talking about him.

  6. Would love someone to explain to me what SL did wrong?

    Lawes, May, Nowell all got injured. How is that SLs fault? No bench in world rugby accommodates for two injuries to wingers. And the comment about taking Lawes off in this article just shows a real lack of attention to detail, or the game at all.

    Vunipola can not do 80 minutes. Simple. He put his all in and has to come off. Put with that the fact that Morgan played very well, then what did SL do wrong here?

    Care for me, was exactly what I expected. Class act around the break down with his sniping runs. Useless box kicks and lacked control. Absolutely correct decision to get Dickson on when the game got close.

    All in all, I’m gutted England lost. But we did play well, plenty of positive. We should win against Scotland and Italy, and I also expect this England side to win all of their home games. So I see no reason why we shouldn’t get 8 points from this Championship, giving us a good chance of winning the thing.

    1. Nowell had cramp as did Farrell who staid on. He also keeps picking Goode despite his obvious flaws. This is a big fail for SL. His lack of killer instinct is infecting the team. We are so he’ll bent on being respectful that we don’t ever look to destroy the opposition. We should have been well ahead on the second half.

      1. Completely agree on Goode, I’ve said that a hundred times. In defence of SL (not my opinion), Goode has been on form for Saracens…

        Yes Nowell and Farrell had cramp, but only one could come off at that point, and Nowell obviously had it worse, so not SLs fault.

        On your comments above re: Youngs being awful, agreed. But why is that SLs fault to bring him on? We are talking about a hooker with three Lions caps, two of which he starts just 8 months ago? Him having a nightmare is not SLs fault in the slightest.

  7. Youngs may have been good around the park when he came on but if that’s all we are judging him on then he should be applying for a job in the centres.

    It is imperative that a hooker should be able to throw in accurately at the lineout. He cannot. And against France as against New Zealand, a lost lineout in a crucial phase of the game has lead eventually to a try being scored and the game being lost.

    I would prefer for England to send Youngs back to his club with instructions to work on his throwing and give Webber the bench spot – he is better technically and is still a handful in the loose

  8. I believe Youngs has only recently switched from centre to hooker … maybe it’s time he switched back, he can’t be any worse than 36 while we wait for Tuilagi’s return. By the way – is the rumour true that Tuilagi may be back for Wales game?

    1. Dunno but hope so!

      I’m not part of the 12Ts supporter club – I think he’s had his chance and failed to show anything of note

      Would love to see a centre combo of Burrell and Tuilagi vs Jamie Roberts and Scott Williams

  9. I think the Dickson/Care one is 20:20 hindsight. You can understand the coaching team looking go with a safer option better known for his ‘game management’. We do already know however that Dickson/Farrell is a chalk/cheese pairing, so have to question the selection strategy.

    Goode was enforced, but do you pick Goode the villain or the villain that selected the villain?

    Nowell did pick up a knock, but I though he was fit to continue. He seemed to have run it off, was running pretty freely just before ‘the wall’ came on (check coverage on 64 mins). I’ve not heard anything on him being an injury doubt, really think they should have given that another couple of minutes to determine if he could see the game out. Asking a tired pair of legs on his first cap to move out of position to the wing was a recipe for disaster.

    Lawes was injured, fair enough

    Vunipola is asked to empty the tank in the first 60 and Morgan did well, fair enough.

    Hartley, think we’ve got to look more at Youngs’ failings than the decision to use him. (we can’t have it both ways, i.e. the “why was Thomas on the bench if we couldn’t use him?” ).

    Marler. Vunipola seemed on a par with Marler in the scrum, wasn’t a bad decision to use him and he made some great ground at close quarters. In general I would like Cole, Marler and Vunipola to focus on no other aspect of their game than becoming better scrummagers, then work on the ‘points of difference’.

    I would make Goode my villain, playing 75 mins of rugby without making a single tackle, flapping at a tackle that resulted in a try, deciding not to make a tackle that may have made another try more difficult to score (along with the subsequent conversion) and turning over possession 5 times is sufficiently villainous for me.

    1. Matt my issue with the subs is that SL or any of his coaching team seem to have no intuitive feel for the game. Fine to have a 60m strategy but don’t religiously stick to it when circumstances change. We had the momentum why change anything? Last year the changes helped swing the game as it changed the momentum our way. But Saturday’s match was completely different.

      “Safe options” will get us respectable 2nd places in the 6n or a qtr final in the world cup. We should have more ambition than that.

      1. Not suggesting that use of the bench (or the selection of it) was a plus or anything. But we do need to separate out:
        – Changes we had to make (injuries and players following instructions to have nothing left after 60)
        – Reasonable changes that did not work because the player coming on did not perform (coach looks like a genius if the player comes on and does something special, and looks like an idiot of he chucks away ball at a 5m lineout for example). The player needs to be accountable for his performance, which because Youngs is a Lancaster fave he won’t be. For all his reading on leadership he needs a refresher that having clear personal favourites is a common leadership weakness.
        – Bad decisions (putting Burrell on the wing when Nowell appeared to be on his feet and OK)

        I’m not a fan of safety first conservative options either. But I can sympathise with a decision to bring on Dickson because they are worried over Care’s fitness and concerned over the counter attacking opportunities he was providing. Solution should be to get Care to practice, practice, practice a rote skill so we don’t need a ‘safe’ option on the bench.

  10. For me it boils down to the personnel on the bench. Hartley looked completely shot when he came off, but you need your reserve hooker to hit his man in the lineout, and Youngs did not deliver.

    It has become customary to have your 3 backs on the bench, two replacing the half-backs, and one “utility player”, capable of covering multiple positions, taking into account the starting players and where they may be able to cover also. Goode does not fit that description, he is an intelligent player, but time and time again is found wanting for pace and physicality, and that’s not even at international level only.

    That said if England can replicate that performance against Scotland things will work out differently and they should hopefully grow in confidence.

    Ireland v Wales is going to be huge.

  11. Interesting point Benjit – it may well be this ‘fluffy’ attitude towards Ashton, Goode and possibly now 36 that is diseasing the team. I love that they’re a tight squad with an enthusiastic jaunty attitude – almost personified in Goode’s ‘prancing horse’ antics at Fullback – we’re creating a cliche of well meaning losers if we’re not careful.

    I too have a horrible feeling me may see Goode trot out with 15 on his back … doesn’t bare thinking about. Can anyone else see a statement from Robshaw “taking the positives from a narrow victory over a dire Scotland that are ‘always hard to beat in Murrayfield’ …..” ? “We need to learn and then raise the bar for next week blah blah blah”.

    I think Ireland will take Wales and hopefully Saint-Andre will leave his team as is, as I think they will struggle against Ireland & Wales. Looking forward to 2 great games at Twickers … no Goode though eh SL??

    1. I fear that too Ruck. SL needs a wiley experienced old head in his coaching set up, think of what Eddie Jones did for Jake White and SA. Has Henry finished with Argentina yet?

      The ONLY positive from losing to France is that the triple crown is still up for grabs and should be our only focus. The championship may be out of our hands for now, but to be top of the British Isles would at least show some progression.

      1. Benjit – completely disagree.

        Why do the coaching team need another voice? Jones and Henry aren’t perfect.

        Antipodean former national coach; “Don’t take the scrummie off, Stuart”
        Stuart Lancaster; “Really? Oh OK, thank God you’re here, never occurred to me. Hear that boys, why didn’t you think of that?”
        AF; “Wow, thats brilliant”
        MC; “Wish I had all that experience, and could have thought of that – i’ll write it down for next time”
        GR; “Remind me, which one is that?”
        etc, etc

        So if we were to Win the triple crown, that would signal progression? Is it that simple?

        1. Maybe not another voice, but a different voice/experience. This lot have won next to nothing as coaches (a Churchill cup, promotion to the premiership, a part claim to a rugby premiership and participants in a Lions series win …. that Dingo lost!). Aside from the experience under Gatland (coaching marmite) none of them have even worked under anyone who you could describe as a top coach, none of them have coached outside of England to my knowledge, only one of them has coached at a World cup (unique because of the 3 months of prep). Individually I don’t think any of them are bad, collectively I’m not convinced its right in terms of skills or experience.

          The rubgy intellect and experience of a Cotter, Schmidt, Mckenzie or even Kirwin type character is what we lack. Lancaster deals with too many intangibles and lacks those who can do the tangible stuff on the pitch.

        2. Yes Blub it would be progress. The triple crown is a trophy and would constitute the first meaningful success. Currently SL & Co have only a solidarity series win against Argentina, excluding one off test matches to show so far.

          And as for your pithy hypothetical conversation above, SCW was clearly of the opinion not to bring on needless subs so perhaps ano experience d/ wise counsel would have done likewise.

          1. Benjit, I am sorry if you found the tone “pithy”. I guess that is not a compliment.

            My point, clearly poorly made, is that what will Jones/Henry (or SCW) add? Perhaps making certain changes was wrong – although I am not convinced that the decision was wrong, irrespective of how the replacements played. If it was wrong, I am not sure it needs another senior coach to make that point. Another senior coach will more likely add uncertainty to the collective coaching team.

            As for the Triple Crown, if England lose to Italy, but beat the other three, this is progress? Because although they only win 60% of the games, they get a Trophy? The answer is clear of course, but to be clear about the point, is that progress is not necessarily measured in silverware, but in performance (including the ability to win tight games like in Paris).

            If England reverted to 90’s style big forwards, and good kicker to win their remaining games (which I don’t believe they will of course), I would see this as regressive, and to be honest wholly enjoyable – even if it brought them the 6N title.

            1. I have always thought that this coaching team is very green. Lancaster recognised that himself when he tried to recruit Wayne Smith and then went for Mike Catt?!

              In tight situations I think some experience would help. Look at what happened with Johnson. It’s not too late. Eddie Jones came in 12 months before the 2007 world cup and transformed them from a team of potential to one that delivered.

  12. The ball was in play on Saturday for 46 minutes. The 2003 team averaged around 23 minutes. The average across all games currently is about 32 minutes. That is a ridiculous amount of rugby. Can we please put any talk about substitutions being pre-planned or poor coaching decisions to rest? The bench was poorly stocked, but our stocks are poor. That is the limit of the mistakes Lancaster made.

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