England look for positives in defeat

Richie McCaw

New Zealand were simply too good for England’s new-look side, and it was a similar story to several other encounters between the two sides. We started strongly, but a few errors led to an abysmal fifteen-minute spell and the match was effectively over. We couldn’t seem to create much out wide, whereas the All Blacks looked dangerous just by running at pace.

However, always optimistic, there do seem to be a number of lessons to learn from the game that can be taken forward into the Martin Johnson era.

The first aspect of note was the quality of England’s rucking, particularly in the first half. It has been a while since our players have hit the breakdown with such conviction, and it was most enjoyable to see Richie McCaw regularly going backwards and generally kept quiet by James Haskell and Tom Rees.

It wasn’t just in defence that England looked sharp up front – the forwards carried well in attack, with Andrew Sheridan standing out in particular. Luke Narraway was slightly unconvincing in this area, and Joe Worsley carried well when he came on so perhaps this is a change to consider for next week?

The lineout was also functioning well against some fairly formidable opposition, with a number of stolen throws throughout the game.

In the backs, Mike Tindall had a reasonable game, but neither he nor Olly Barkley ever appear to be much of a threat. David Strettle and Mike Brown looked fairly lightweight and got thrown around by the bigger, stronger men in black. Topsy Ojo took his two tries brilliantly, but didn’t get much quality ball to attack with (how many times have we said that about England’s backs recently?).

As for Charlie Hodgson, he’s the sort of player that I’d really like to see perform well. He seems like a decent sort of chap, but he didn’t seem to bring much control to the game and that shambles of a tackle on Ma’a Nonu isn’t acceptable at this level. He wasn’t even kicking, so it’s difficult to see what he brings to the side – it’s sad to say that that could (and perhaps should?) be his last England cap.

Next week, I’d like to see Haskell at Number 8 with Worsley restored at 6; Ben Kay should partner Steve Borthwick, who offers more impact than Tom Palmer; Barkley should step into Number 10 with Jamie Noon taking the centre berth.

When Andy Robinson was finally sacked, I never thought I’d ever be advocating a Noon / Tindall partnership, but for some reason it seems appropriate in these circumstances – perhaps that’s how Andy felt for so long!

What else can England take from the game?

7 thoughts on “England look for positives in defeat

  1. These are fair, xcept that Narraway looked good to me, and the scrum seemed to pivot backwards around Sheridan. I think Sheridan was honours even with his opposite number, but Stevens wasn’t holding his side. England’s backs need to attack with conviction. Strettle made a couple of solid tackles as well

  2. Watching the game as a unbiased Kiwi there was more than 7 points between the teams. It should have been 20 to 25 point differential. Your forwards contested to a degree but were poor. Your backs lacked any direction didn’t know what to do with the ball when they got it.I believe there is only one man that could save you Wayne Barnes

  3. My initial reaction to the loss was that we played well for 20 minutes and that’s something. Then i realised that is just because i’ve come to expect abject performances and this one was just short of mediocre. The All Blacks are also in a transitional phase and if they had been slightly more clinical they could have reached 50 points.
    Ojo’s two tries were well taken but pretty lucky. We were thrashed.
    Putting Barkley in at 10 next week wouldn’t be good for his continued development. He has played well at 12 all year. We’ve learnt nothing new about Hodgson, he’s missed crucial tackles throughout his career so why take him on tour if he is going to be subbed off for missing one tackle.
    Borthwick was the worst player on the pitch.

  4. Er, Rob there was more than 7 points between the teams. 17 to be precise which is almost 20. Also, the ABs are going to do much better when they realise that the main problem in the World Cup was that they were the poorer team against France and that the ref made one honest mistake.
    Anyway, England backs did lack penetration, not exactly shock news given the back 3 isn’t first choice (fair play to Ojo though) and Cipriani isn’t there. Care showed a lot of promise and should start next week. However, at fly-half we’re in big trouble next week. Andrew has made Hodgson’s place untenable so it will have to be Flood and give Barkely and Tindall a change to develop. Not all doom and gloom though as I thought Rees and Haskell did well too.

  5. Luke Narraway was full of intent, but I was just saying he was fairly ineffective in carrying the ball – he doesn’t seem to be big and heavy enough to make real inroads and got smashed back a few times.

    We certainly have a dilemma for next week at fly-half. Agree with Spike that Barkley should be left at 12, so that only leaves Flood if Hodgson isn’t picked again. He’s also been playing mostly at 12 though and is fairly lightweight.

    I remember in the World Cup when we had a similar headached, and Andy Farrell donned the 10 shirt – maybe Jamie Noon could give it a go?!?

  6. Tee Hee Rob, my unbiased Kiwi friend, I am glad to see your grammar and numeracy skills are matched only by your appreciation of Wayne Barnes. You lost against the French mate. We were in the final. Nah nah nah nah nah.
    As for England – once Hodgson is out and Danny Care gets a full start, maybe with Flood at 10 and Olli “the Fist” Barkley at 12 then I suspect things may look a little brighter.

  7. Now that the team for the second game has been announced (pretty much as predicted), I have a quick question for Rob Andrew: did you really need to see last week’s game to realize that the Blacks were going to bully us around in the midfield? Tindall and Noon will certainly defend more robustly, but the Blacks will simply switch their focus to exploiting Flood (only marginally better than Grayson defensively), Tait (like Strettle, only useful if you can give him decent ball with some space) and Care. To me this shows huge tactical naivety – not just that he’s made this selection, but that it happended reactively.
    Bloodbath – the sequel. Except this time I can’t see us even getting one try.

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