England seemed to take a backward step in their second consecutive defeat to France, which raised worrying doubt over their attacking credentials.
Brian Ashton’s men have now played two Test matches without scoring a try since the meaningless rout against Wales two weeks ago. They lost this weekend by 22 points to 9 in a fiery game riddled with errors.
England appear to have very little in their armoury in attack, and even the weapon of Jonny Wilkinson’s boot looked slightly shaky. The side looks too one-dimensional in attack, as they opt to drive their forwards into the opposition and commit defenders. Unfortunately, most of the forward drives against France committed more attackers than defenders, and created no space for the backs.
Discipline also was a problem, with Simon Shaw sin-binned on the stroke of half-time, and numerous penalties and free-kicks conceded unnecessarily. There were mistakes at the lineout, with sloppy ball being palmed backwards, whilst out wide the backs often dropped the ball and rarely seemed to expect a pass.
On a slightly positive note, Andy Farrell had his best game in an England jersey – he was brutal in defence making several big hits, and we saw a glimpse of his ability to offload in the tackle.
England have now lost 15 of their last 16 away fixtures – a worrying statistic given none of their World Cup games will be played at Twickenham. Ashton has much to contemplate in the final weeks before England meet the USA on September 8th. He is famed for his credentials as an attacking coach, and he will need to be very creative in a short space if England are to make a respectable defence of the World Cup.