England: Time to stop talking rubbish and play

Steve Borthwick

What made the dire performance against Italy even harder to swallow were the words of captain Steve Borthwick and other members of the squad. Contrary to what Borthwick said, England didn’t do “some great stuff” and the quality of their performance was as limited as their ambition in attack.

Statements such as “we’re a really close group”, and “we’re making real progress behind the scenes” were wearing thin during the autumn, and by now they are so tiresome that it’s almost comical.

The performance against Wales in Round 1 showed a degree of promise, with three tries scored and some suggestion of a gameplan. Our hopes were raised momentarily, but then quickly flattened once again with the dross in Rome that showed that there isn’t really any direction or determination to play.

This weekend’s match against Ireland feels like something of a last chance. Another sub-standard display and the long-suffering supporters may just lose interest, and abandon faith in a side that treats the public as fools by attempting to disguise a dodgy performance when interviewed about the game.

If England resort to their limited kicking gameplan and execute it badly, they’ll be taught a lesson by an Ireland side looking for redemption after defeat in Paris. It could feasibly be a 20-point winning margin for Brian O’Driscoll’s men if they play to their potential and England do not as usual.

England need to play. The forwards need to hit the breakdown at pace to produce quick ball. Danny Care needs to offer quality service to Jonny Wilkinson, who needs to stand closer to the gainline. Then Riki Flutey and Mathew Tait need to run at pace, ask questions of defenders when they don’t have the ball, and run into space when they do. If that happens, opportunities will present themselves and the back three should be good enough to take them. I have no doubt that the public will be more forgiving of defeat if there is at least some exhibition of rugby.

But what happens if they don’t play? What happens if England stick to a narrow gameplan and lose at Twickenham? Will we get served the same tripe about making progress, and creating the right environment?

Will things just carry on as usual, with defeats in Edinburgh and Paris fairly likely? Will we have to wait until embarrassing failure at the World Cup before things change?

Steve Borthwick

4 thoughts on “England: Time to stop talking rubbish and play

  1. I agree. Some of the stuff they say just isn’t true and i’m worried that it is just going to carry on like this until the world cup. It doesnt look like the RFU will make any more changes to the management and coaches, so this is it for 2011.

    I really hope we see some tries this weekend and then maybe our fears will be unnecessary. it’s a crucial game for england. and ireland actually.

  2. Here’s my prediction for Saturday then….

    We will start brightly, much like we did in the Autumn against NZ when, much like now, we had been slagged off for two poor performances in a row. The first 20 minutes we will see some aggressive rucking, some quick ball for Care, and some points – be it from JW or from scoring some tries.

    This could last 20 minutes, or we may even make it to half time, but as is customary, we will then run out of steam and let Ireland back in. Their fitness looks better to me and they have a slight edge in physicality in the backlines – especially in the Tait vs BOD matchup.

    I predict it’ll be Ireland’s game by between 15 and 20 points, and we will score one or two tries, but no more. All in the England camp will come out with lots of guff about the improved performance, and Borthwick will deliver a bland deluded post-match spiel that he’s probably written two thirds of already!

    It could of course all be very different – there could be an early injury bringing Foden on to the field, rendering the above script obsolete. Let’s hope so….

  3. I’m fluctuating again between optimism and despair.

    The game against New Zealand in the Autumn is an interesting comparison. I’m convinced that they would have approached that game with damage limitation in mind, without REALLY believing they could win the game.

    They ought to believe that they can beat Ireland, and so I hope they’ll approach the game with a slightly different mindset and put on a better display.

    Of course, that could mean that the bright start for 20 minutes doesn’t exist, and we play conservatively, kicking for territory instead, and Ireland show us how to attack properly by running it back at us.

  4. Yeah, very true what you say about the NZ game. The key difference is, although we’ve been poor, we’re up against an Ireland side that’ll still be hurting from Paris, which could work in our favour. Even though I think that result was more to do with a ruthless French performance than a bad Irish performance, losing a year-long unbeaten run will always hurt.

    Logically, I expect Ireland to come back strong, but as you’ve said in other posts on here, there are a few youngsters in the Irish setup now, so it’s no certainty. And after Paris, I bet the Irish wished they only had one week to dwell on it instead of two. That too could work in our favour I reckon.

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