England to consider more young guns for New Zealand tour


England coaches Graham Rowntree and Mike Catt have confirmed that they are considering several young players, stretching as far as those currently in the Under-20 squad, for England’s tour to New Zealand in June. With their resources set to be stretched thanks to several players’ likely participation in the Aviva Premiership final, Rowntree insists England will not hesitate to include any young players they deem ready.

“We’re looking at a big pool of players, right down to the Under-20s,” said England’s forwards coach. “We’re looking to the future and planning for after the World Cup. What will be will be – they’re not great cards that we’ve been dealt, but we’ll get on with it.”

England have not been afraid in recent times to fast-track youth into the squad if it is deemed that they are good enough to compete for a place. Bath’s Anthony Watson and Exeter’s Jack Nowell were the most recent to reap these benefits, following their ascension to the senior squad not long after leaving the Under-20s set up.

“One thing we’ve shown in the last couple of years is that we’ll throw guys in if we feel they’re good enough, regardless of age,” pointed out Rowntree. “It’s a major, major plus for us, this. We can have a look at a good group of players. Over the last four months the group has expanded because people have come in and taken their chance.”

One man many have been calling for to be included in this ‘expanded group’ is Steffon Armitage, particularly after his virtuoso display for Toulon in their Heineken Cup win over Leinster. But, with a wry smile at the topic surfacing again, Rowntree is adamant that they will continue to honour the foreign-based players selection rule.

“Our stance is quite clear – we want to promote those guys playing in England for obvious reasons. Whilst they are playing well, we’re quite content with that. It’s his decision completely. I’m comfortable with our stance on the matter.”

So Armitage will certainly miss out on the summer tour, and another worrying certainty is that a lot of these players will have played a huge amount of top level rugby by the time the planes jet off to New Zealand. With Saracens in the Heineken Cup semi-finals and Northampton, Bath, Harlequins and Wasps all featuring in the Amlin equivalent, there is a danger the players could be a bit burnt out. Mike Catt, however, isn’t worried.

“The more these guys, especially the younger players like Billy Vunipola, can be exposed to those big-game scenarios – the next step before international rugby – the better and quicker they’ll develop as rugby players.

“We want English clubs to be successful and Saracens have done that. Billy has been out for six or seven weeks with his ankle, so it’s great that he can get back into the international frame by playing in those big games.”

There is no tougher place to win in international rugby than New Zealand – England themselves haven’t triumphed there since 2003, and it just so happens that both Rowntree and Catt were part of that side. So there are no men better-placed than these two in instruct the players in how to get one over the world’s top-ranked team.

Rowntree says that where once New Zealand were streets ahead in their attacking play, the field is now more levelled. This will be key if England are to have any chance of winning on Kiwi soil.

“We’ve shown significant strides in how we’re playing, none more so than what these guys [pointing at Catt] are doing in terms of our attacking shape and our ‘all court running game’, as I like to call it,” he said. “But that’s going to have to be at 100% on top every other facet of our game. You have to go over there with confidence, and I think we’re doing that more than ever with the group of players that we’ve got.”

England seem settled, but there is no doubt that, as we head into a punishing business end of the season, there will be casualties along the way. That, allied with the players missing in the domestic final, could leave England an understrength side going into the first test in NZ. The danger is that they lose that opening test heavily, and never recover. Rowntree, however, believes that the group of players at England’s disposal is confident in their chances of turning over New Zealand on home soil.

“You could say that we had a perceived understrength team that nearly won the Six Nations championship, given the number of caps we had, and new guys we capped,” he points out. “We’re confident now more than ever in the group of players we’ve got.”

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Mike Catt and Graham Rowntree were speaking at an event for QBE, the business insurance specialist, who are committed to supporting the development of rugby through the QBE Coaching Club. Visit www.QBErugby.com

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

68 thoughts on “England to consider more young guns for New Zealand tour

  1. I imagine a few of the u20 RWC winning side will play in the Babarians game- Matthews, Stooke, Slade, Cowan Dickie, Devoto etc.

    Of the current u20s I can only imagine Scott Wilson of the Falcons tight head is being seriously considered for the senior tour, especially with Dan Coles uncertain availability and the need to take three THs. I would imagine they would take this squad-ish:

    Corbisiero/Waller, Marler, Vunipola, D Wilson, Thomas, Cole/S Wilson

    Hartley, Youngs, Webber

    Lawes, Launchbury, Parling, Slater, Attwood

    Wood, Haskell, Johnson, Robshaw, Kvesic, Morgan, Vunipola

    Care, Youngs, Dickson

    Farrell, Ford, Cipriani/Myler

    Twelvetrees, Eastmond, Barritt, Tuilagi, Burrell

    Yarde, May, Nowell, Watson, Wade/Ashton

    Brown, Foden

    Corbisiero, Cole and Wade I’m unsure of their returns from injury.

    1. Aren’t Webber and Parling still injured themselves? I haven’t heard anything about them lately, in terms of them returning.

      Wade I do believe should be back, but if he has enough time to get any games for Wasps is a different matter. Cole I think is expected to be fit and Corbs I have no idea about, I really worry about him as he is a great talent but the amount of injuries he has is a massive problem.

      Other than that I think you’ve got the squad pretty much spot on.

      1. Going on what I’ve seen in the news this week Parling should be back this weekend. 4 games and the playoffs should be enough match fitness for him I think.

        Mike Ford said Webber is fit for this weekend but as it’s a huge game he will be brought back for Worcester next week. The gap between our third and fourth hooker is quite large so need Webber back ASAP!

        1. Think you’re doing Jamie George a bit of a disservice there. He’s been excellent this season, and given that Webber has been out injured for large parts of it, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him travel to NZ. After that though, I agree.

          1. Sorry forgot about George- yes I agree he is not far off at all. In the unlikely event of two of Saints/Tigers/Bath being in the final then George will have to be in the first test 23 I would guess. Perhaps bring him along to give him game time in the crusaders game.

        2. Ah! I haven’t seen any team news this week, would be why I wasn’t aware of Parling and Webber’s return. But good news either way.

          Agree about Jamie George, really come on this year and may well be considered ahead of Webber in the pecking order.

    2. That looks like a good set of picks to me. A few others I hope are in the reckoning:

      – Fearns and Garvey. Both cover more than one position and both are form picks over Kvesic, Morgan and possibly Johnson. OK Morgan does have ‘credit in the bank’ but that doesn’t mean players in better domestic form couldn’t offer more.
      – Sam Dickinson must be in the mix as well, not sure how Ewers has gone recently.
      – Rokoduguni. Really rate him, express pace, big unit, the ability to make defenders look stupid with subtle movement of the hips and he scores tries! Don’t know what the situation is with Nowell’s shoulder injury, but even if he’s fit he seems a yard short on pace for an international 14 and think I would go with Rokoduguni ahead of him.
      – Brookes, bit of a long shot as he’s still got a bit more time to run on his ban, but it’s time to find another tight head who can scrummage. Thomas’ performance against Saints was a joke, it was a 2nd/3rd/choice makeshift Saints tight 5, a less experienced opponent and he got obliterated. 2nd yellow card in 2 games for being unable to scrummage. Will Collier maybe another option but think he’s still injured. Either way, we need an anchor, not a human pretzel.

      1. As a Bath fan I too am big fans of Garvey, Fearns and Roko. Garvey especially has been outstanding this season and I rate him over Johnson- but I was just going on what Lancaster will probably do. Morgan will definitely go as Vunipola is 90% likely to be in he AP final so we need an 8 with experience. Morgan also seems to forget about his Glocuester form once he pulls on an England shirt anyway…

        Same with Roko- at the start of the season he was outstanding and is working his way back to that form. I rate him over Nowell and definitely May who I think is overrated, but again, just going on who SL will prob ably pick.

        1. Morgan is the Ma’a Nonu of England/Aviva Prem!

          Would also love to see Roko get a go for England, think he’s a winger that’s got everything.

          1. The difference being that Ma’a Nonu isn’t part of a pack whose tight 5 are getting beasted on a regular basis. I can understand the difference between Morgan’s club and test form much more easily than I can Nonu’s… who mostly seems not to care about Super Rugby and knows he’s got a secure spot in the All Blacks team at the moment.

            1. Billy Vunipola was behind a pack that were second best to Ulster, the go-forward he created from unstable and retreating scrum ball was incredible. Morgan wasn’t on the pitch on Sunday (made 4 tackles, missed 1, carried 3 times for 12m), whilst his novice Fijian opposite number rampaged all over the field (17 carries for 69m) for Man of the match. That’s not what I call helping your tight 5 out!

              Needs to make sure he really delivers for England to keep the form players out. Haskell and especially Fearns offer excellent coverage of all positions, so a specialist needs to be special!

        2. As a Bath fan, I too would love to see Fearns and Garvey involved.
          Not over Kvesic though – Kvesic is a special talent and needs to be involved.

      2. Think both Dickinson and Rokoduguni will both go, if we name a slightly bigger squad as we’ve got the midweek game as well.

        Not so sure about Fearns or Garvey, not that I don’t think they’re good enough just not sure there is another room in the squad for them.

        Agree about Thomas at tighthead that is a real worry especially as he will be the problem be on the bench in New Zealand, but unfortunately I don’t think we have anybody else at the moment.

  2. Depth at tight head is the obvious issue so that’s where I think the greatest potential for a few uncapped young players to make the plane will be. I couldn’t see too many other changes to the pack considering the World Cup is so soon. Maybe George, Dickinson, Ewers and an outside chance to look at Wallace as Armitage will never be picked for as long as he is showered in Euros. Kevisc is more likely. Garvey and Gibson would however be my picks as they certainly match up to the colossius work rate around the pitch that Wood and Launchbury provide in the loose – should anything happen to them. Stand outs from U20 pack would be Itoje and Conlon but its too soon for them.

    The backs will have the most amount of new faces with Watson looking set to join Nowell on the senior stage. Wade and Yarde may finally play a game together (SL deemed the plan in the autumn but injury changed this) and agreed, Roko will probably get a chance. It would be nice to see Benjamin play after a good run of form but yet again injury looks like its cost him. No doubting his try scoring credentials. For all Bath fans, it’s not Eastmond but the deemed “Most naturally gifted 13 since Greenwood” quoted from Catt, Joseph who should get his chance again. Superb in SA on debut a few years ago but form & injury has stunted his growth. Devoto may travel and play Baa Baas and maybe Crusaders but possibly too soon for a World Cup spot. Daly would also warrant a call up – over Foden who has been in Daly’s pocket every time they come up against each other. Daly’s potential weighed to Foden’s ability is an utter mismatch – alongside Ashton & Barritt, Foden is next. 9’s as you are but Wigglesworth must surely be knocking at the door. Finally, 10. Cipriani. Myler is a great club 10 but not international, lets be honest and consider the style we want to play. Burns needs a summer off and lots of hugs – class is permanent and Leicester will take him to the next level but he has burnt-out after last season. Slade, too soon. Unless you want Andy ‘boot it’ Goode back, England’s wild child is the answer and deservedly so. Steve Black has done wonders with him and Sale’s form is no coincidence. It was right that SL left him out of the 6 Nations but now is the time accept the reborn maverick back from exile.

    Just to add, it’s great to see SL utilising the U20’s as a springboard and motivational tool for young aspiring players to play senior international rugby. The debate between fans on selection for 6N, NZ and WC is great but imagine the selection headache after the WC with the U20 maturing and the riches in depth England will have. Future looks bright!

  3. I’m not sure that there will be too many opportunities for the U20s to play for the senior side. If you think that there aren’t too many “Old Guard” over 30s players in the current England setup, who are the U20s really going to replace?

    I also don’t get the criticism of Nowell. Barring the first couple of minutes of the France game I thought he’s been pretty good. Of the players available to cover the wing in Wade’s absence he’s certainly looked the brightest.

  4. “One thing we’ve shown in the last couple of years is that we’ll throw guys in if we feel they’re good enough, regardless of age,” pointed out Rowntree… i.e. apart from Geo Ford. Who’s going to be fly1/2 for the 1st test with Farrell likely absent due to the Prem final? Brian Ashton already warned of a scenario like this.

    ‘One man many have been calling for to be included in this ‘expanded group’ is Steffon Armitage’ Ho, hum. How’s his exclusion actually protecting English rugger with all these ‘foreigners’ already in the Prem, not to mention England’s SH contingent?

    ‘Rowntree says that where once New Zealand were streets ahead in their attacking play, the field is now more leveled’… Double take! Doesn’t he watch S15 ‘basketball’ rugger (from which the AB’s are picked BTW) & was he snoozing during the Ellis Pk test? And “We’ve shown significant strides in how we’re playing“. Coming from an ex Leicester route 1er, that’s a bit rich, esp with England’s midfield’s inability feed the wingers whose try count is paltry. Does Rowntree think that’ll suddenly change in NZ?! Talk about talking it up before his team’s even left yet. And ‘Mike Catt, however, isn’t worried’. Really?

    The author says ‘with the players missing in the domestic final, could leave England an under strength side going into the first test in NZ’. Isn’t it also making excuses, as I was accused of doing when I mentioned the Norovirus being a factor in England’s win v NZ prev? In fact isn’t it down to England’s mismanagement?

    However as 1 blogger opines, the NZ tour is ‘meaningless’ anyway. Apparently because only the 6N’s & AI’s count as the WC is being played in England. Hmmmm. Well even Stuart Lanc disagrees with this theory. As he recently stated in the e/Std, ‘it’s (the NZ tour) vital to his teams WC prep’.

    Another erudite blogger to the W of England reckons that the S15 is ‘basketball’ rugby & so he doesn’t watch it. Well, this level headed view will be tested soon enough. The AB’s are picked from the aforementioned S15 & it didn’t seem to have hindered their record too much last yr. Perhaps he could also have watched the Ellis Pk test last yr for some more ‘basketball’ rugby. Seemed pretty effective to me.

    On a more personal note though, I hope that whatever team England picks does go out to NZ & play an all round & attacking game which is conclusive of the whole team & take it to the AB’s. IMO anything less, such as the euphemism for ‘game management’, kicking for territory, will be meat & drink to NZ & they will relish this.

    Finally a comment from The Rugby Paper columnist Nick Cain 22/7/13 when he was speaking about the nxt Lions tour to NZ, but could equally apply to this England tour. ‘‘The Lions are the enemy & behind the ‘Kiaoras’ & smiling welcomes there will be a hard-bitten desire to see the best of British & Irish brought to their knees & given a thorough kicking (metaphorical, of course). The old adage for visiting international players is that until you get the recognition of the New Zealand public, you are an also-ran. The sense of All Black rugby superiority is ingrained & the idea that the 2017 Lions are something special will be eroded from the moment they set foot in the land of the long white cloud’’.

    So there you have it. It seems that any England ‘young guns’ will be in the thick of it soon enough… & will need to be become ‘mature guns’ plenty quick. But we’ll see.

  5. In reply to ‘Don P’

    The sacrifice of one man for the betterment of others, is worth while looking at the bigger picture. Steffon Armitage would be an extremely useful player in the England squad but he is not available for the entirety of training camps, tournaments and can’t be managed it terms of recovery and conditioning. Agree with you ‘Don p’ that this can be overlooked for his immense talent.

    However, SL has changed the environment of English rugby benefiting those who work hard and behave as senior internationals, rewarding the players who play in England. Hard to argue with that. If international selection was broadened to foreign leagues, any long term development will be almost impossible to facilitate. If Armitage is selected, then why can’t other players go abroad and get selected? And this why…

    So, for example – The majority of the England squad play in France with the top clubs paying substantial amounts of money for their players so its understandable that they want them to play as much as possible. Contracts similarly of Armitage’s, will be signed and then SL is left without the majority of his squad available to train and develop/improve their game plan, strategy and philosophy. It’s a team sport so how can you improve and progress when you don’t have your entire team available? Unable to control recovery and conditioning, SL receives players who are tired and vulnerable to injury. So in the short run, performance isn’t going to be good.
    Long term, the ‘young guns’ are being forced through too soon in the absence of senior England internationals which can cause psychological/emotional issues and their development is stunted by not having these top class players to learn off. The English clubs will then import MORE foreign players to cover the abscenties, weakening the league as a whole. This SL with a chaotic system to negotiate and a limited player pool.
    Does this scenario sound familiar? Wales and their decline?

    We select England based players, the system is organised and negotiable, players are monitored, rested and conditioned between clubs and the national side. AND the talent pool is forever widening! That’s why NZ have the same policy – a team you compare to as the measuring stick of top class rugby so then why do you argue against a system that the best team in the world supports?

    Teams with the majority of their senior players playing abroad aren’t going well in international rugby either, I.e. Argentina, Somoa, Fiji. And now Wales’ decline can also be correlated.

    Allowing the selection of one overseas player, opens the door. If Armitage can be selected, then why can’t Farrell, Lawes, Launchberry, Tuilagi, Brown, Cole, Hartley, ect go to France, be paid more and get selected.
    The short and long term success of England and the premiership will be compromised. Our policy IS protecting English rugby.

  6. S.Armitage was good but he wasn’t amazing, he was very noticeable when working and has some great attributes, but he also spent a lot of time taking a breather on the wing in what was a pretty broken up and slow game for the most part.

    I think the NZ crowd are actually a little worried about this upcoming tour, they’re getting really chippy right now.

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  8. DanD

    Well a few, incl Stu Barnes, may disagree with you. Barnes reckons SA’s skills @ br’down will be needed in NZ as Robshaw ain’t the best in this area & England were exposed there in the 6N.

    Mind you if SA were picked (not likely), but only asked to play in the Canter game, he might well decline anyway.

    Make little diff to me other than I like to see players I admire play, but if there is a br’down weakness in NZ, you can bet yr tin of boot polish it’ll be xposed.

  9. Merlin

    Yes I’ve heard this argument before & NZ do enforce similar policy, however they are somewhat flex, e.g. by letting Carter have a sabbat in Fr & giving McCaw & Con Smith similar ‘hols’. And NZ rugby is weakened anyway as many players go abroad like Rene Ranger & Sitevatu, who went too soon IMO. I’ve also been castigated for my opinions prev on this issue BTW. You know, being 1 eyed in effect.

    But I come from a diff posi on SL (& his ex Leicester & rugby L coaches). He talks a convining game & doubtless gets out out of bed in Cumbria a the cr o’ dawn & all that, but I see him (& them) as rigid in their thinking on England’s style of playing; i.e. lack of m/field creativity & there4 a lack of wingers tries. Others reckon this doesn’t matter (eh?!), but I do. As England are going to be shorn of players for the 1st test, then an ‘excetional circumstance’ has been surely created(?). Henec give SA a go IMO. You & others are free to disagree of course, but NZ is an unforgiving place, so I wouldn’t want to lose the br’down out there. Suicidal methinks.

    Also, as I’ve mentioned, I think it’s fingers in the dyke stuff as mkt forces have already weakened the Prm’ship.

    1. I think the key thing with the first test issue, is that the first test match in NZ is far less important than the WC.

      If SL has give, to use your earlier example, game time for the sake of the first test match, then Farrell would have had less game time. Farrell will be our first choice 10 at the WC, and therefore should be given as much game time as possible. Anything less than that would be detrimental to his development. Whilst you need to balance that against strength in depth, SL has been somewhat hindered by 60 Cap Flood leaving for France.

      How is the Armitage situation similar to the NZ old guard taking sabaticals? I’m really confused by this comparison. We are talking about playing pulling on a national jersey whilst not playing the domestic rugby in that country. Both NZ and England have the same policy on this. Carter didn’t play for NZ whilst in Perpignan, so no exception was made here.

      The stance in clear from the RFU, if Armitage wants to play for England then he has to play in the Premiership. Case closed.

  10. Quick question, Don. Have you watched the England games in the Autumn and this 6N? I just say this because you’ve mentioned watching S15 games when they’ve clashed, and fair enough, much more fun to watch a game you’ve got a rooting interest in.

  11. Totally agree Jacob!

    The comparison makes no sense – NZ have central contracts that enable them to decide when to rest players from club duty, where they play and sabbaticals. Its nothing to do with their overseas policy.

    Depending on what you believe, if the RFU were keen to help Bath to acquire S. Burgess by fronting funds to buy out his contract (Although, and rightly so, prem clubs complained and Bath funded the entire move), could they not buy out SA three year contract with Toulon? He signed before the news broke that the salary cap was being increased and if England set-up want him that bad, the RFU has the money and would be dependent on SA – which is important considering in all this conjecture, the one person who hasn’t said anything on the matter is SA. Let’s put this entire subject to bed! Either he comes back and plays for England or if not, that would be the end of the matter.

  12. Steffon made a very clear statement this season about his opinion, he re-signed with Toulon. He knows the terms, he knows how England work, and that’s what he chose.

    I don’t want the RFU paying for anything for one club that isn’t matched by a payment to the rest.

  13. McMurphy

    I do & did watch the 6N. To clarify, I watch the SH S15 usually early am.

    A clash, as I recall, was during the H Cup. I switched over (& back) e.g. when Payne was sent off as I assumed game over & as such lost some interest. Depends on the actual game/teams involved.

    Also tried to watch Leinster’s games, esp when Joe S was in charge. Had their b/line playing better than any Int’l line up in Euro for me.

  14. Jacob

    It’ll matter (at least to SL according to his views expressed in the E/Std recently) if England get flogged by 30. Put a dent in their confidence surely?

    Regds the Flood issue, SL HASN’T blooded Geo Ford, so it’s down to his choice. Besides Flood likely knew he was out & had no future other than being on the bench, so he in effect said, ‘Thnks, but no thnks’. He has to pay the milkman & so under the circumstances, looked to his future.

    The policy of protecting English rugby is unlikely to work if SL doesn’t rotate players better, esp when he seems to favour some like the limited Farrell. Mkt forces, with Fr money just across the channel, is pretty tempting.

    1. SL hasn’t blooded Ford because he had Farrell and Flood. So essentially SL has had this 6 nations to blood Ford in. Arguably Ford could have had more game time, but Farrell is miles ahead of him in terms of his current level of ability (and only one year older), so played instead. They were going for the title so decided that was more important that blooding Ford in case of the first NZ test – seems fair enough to me.

      SL is completely right that the NZ tour is important, and getting beaten by 30 would be awful.

      It was me on here who has commented that the NZ tour is less important than the AIs and 6 nations, and nothing SL has said is disagreeing with that. I have never said that the NZ is not important, it is, It’s vital in our WC cycle with only 9 matches (other than warm ups), to be played between leaving NZ and starting the WC.

      My point simply was, the AIs are more important, and so are the 6 nations matches.

  15. merlin

    So why didn’t England do the same yrs ago? I’ve been thru this b4, but England players in Fr COULD have contracts negotiated to release them for Int’al duty… & it’s no further than c.Newcastle, so distance is relevant. NZ on the other hand would find it a bit harder to recall guys from Euro or Jap, esp with accompanying jet lag. But in any case they need to make their reps as ABs 1st to be more mktable in the 2nd place. And they do lose plenty anyway, esp following a WC.

    England & SL just seem so generally rigid in some of their thinking to me. At least NZ gave some latitude to Carter … as an e.g of some flex thinking. Direct comparisons don’t always work as you say tho.

    SA will never play for England IMO, so it is already in bed. Shouldn’t be tho.

    1. You have mentioned this a few times now, that France are closer than Newcastle. At one point has SL, or anyone, said that France was too far away?

      SL has insisted the England team play in the Premiership. The reasons are obvious and not debatable. Simple. End of discussion.

      What about the Carter situation is comparable? He did not play for NZ during his time abroad.

  16. Jacob

    ‘Arguably Ford could have had more game time’ (You said it! Surely there’s no argument about it, is there?), ‘but Farrell is miles ahead of him in terms of his current level of ability’. IYO. Why? Plenty commentators disagree with you about Farrell.

    And how do you know about GF unless he is given game time @ Int’l level? Besides, the injury scare, which Brian Ashton warned about, has occurred to Farrell. Talk about tempting fate. As I prev mentioned regds SL’s rigidity in his thinking, this is surely a blindingly obviously e.g? Some forethought is required by SL (& you?), not hindsight.

    Regds the Fr thing. No one.

    1. Who is suggesting that right now Ford is out-performing Farrell at Premiership level? Anyone who says that has absolutely lost their mind. Ford is currently begin out-performed by arguably 3/4 fly halfs in the Premiership. Selecting him for England right now is based on potential. In the 6 nations we were going all out to win it. So at 10 we picked our best player for the position. Can’t really argue with that. All the game time Cruden and Barrett have got for the ABs in recent years has only ever come when Carter is injured – so why is it wrong when England do the same?

      Also – Farrell is back in training today so no worries there! There is always a risk of injury, it’s rugby. As I’ve said, SL did not play on losing Flood now, so it slightly scuppered his plans for the 10 shirt.

      Every game England play SL calls it vital. And they are all vital. England only play 12-13 internationals a year, so yes, they are all vital. In order of importance for England it has been clear. WC> 6 nations> AIs> Summer tours.

      Where have you explained the Carter point? I’d like to hear how it is comparable to the Armitage situation.

  17. Jacob


    ‘My point simply was, the AIs are more important, and so are the 6 nations matches’.

    More important than ‘vital’? To whom? You? And why, with a WC looming?

    And I already answered the Carter ?

    You love to see things in black & white tho don’t you. Part of yr rigid mind set? Seems to permeate England’s thinking too… which may partly explain why they’re still only ranked 4th?

    Another quid please.

    1. Don,

      Perhaps disagreeing with you (or indeed anyone) and not changing your view because of the ranting of others, is not a rigid mindset, but instead a difference of opinion?

      Just a thought.

      To consider your linkage of Jacob’s opinion and England’s position in the IRB ratings, and follow that bizarre analogy, you may want to consider that just because New Zealand are No1, and you are from New Zealand, it doesn’t make you right either.

  18. Blub

    I don’t think I’m actually ‘right’ all the time as I & it seems to me most bloggers, can usually only express at best opinions. I guess that’s what the site’s set for, but some seem more factually based opinions than others. When I’ve, e.g., opined that Farrell is ltd (along with certain rugger commentators), another blogger here said that it was ptless blaming Farrell, as that he plays a certain type of game, so it was down to SL & coaches. This made sense to me as it wasn’t a take I’d considered before.

    I do find it diff to explain or have understood ‘valid’ pts at times. E.g. when I pt out that England are No. 4 & NZ No. 1, it’s to illustrate that the latter are doing & have done more ‘right’ than England to get there & it baffles me that this doesn’t seem to be understood; either by bloggers or indeed England (altho I don’t expect the latter to spend time purising these blogs) . This is esp so when I’ve consistantly criticised England’s mid field for a, to me, fundamentally glaring weakness in not creating tries for the wings. I back this up with support from W Greenwood, J Robinson & S Barnes e.g., but others here seem to think it’s not an issue. And I don’t need to blow the AB’s trumpet for the sake of it, as their record stands scrutiny with any team.

    Howvere, I do find SL’s thinking ltd in sticking rigidly to Farrell when he should, according to Br Ashton, have given Ford, or whomever, 6N game time due to potential injury to the former. This seems so obvious to me, i.e., to go to NZ with only 1 fly1/2 with ‘exp’, as to be almost inviting calamity. Jacob thinks not however. To me this view beggers belief. If I were totally selfish, I’d think that this sit is gr8 for NZ, but, altho I hope NZ clobber England, I do want to see a decent contest with the best 2 sides on the field.

    Often all this blog stuff is open to interp of course & we don’t appear to want to change our minds, esp when I guess it seems that all I really want to do is put the boot into England. My tone is direct, as I’ve said before (or as you once opined, ‘priceless’). However, what I have to say, I try to back up with some substance rather than just unsubstanitated opinion.

    E.g, my take on Engalnd’s win v NZ, in what seemed to me anyway, somewhat of a self conglaulatory orgy from some England coaches & supporters when they played a team that was not fully ‘fit’. This drew more criticism than Lord Haw Haw in WWII. My pt was that 1 swallow didn’t make a summer esp when the win wasn’t entirely merited IMO. People (esp the Welshman who launced his ‘level headed’ attack for my being a whiner & later a key board warrior & even a groundhog etc. Crikey! And he ain’t even English!) only heard criticism it seemed, but subsequent events didn’t prove ‘that’ game to be quite as ‘pivotal’ as Dallaglio said. I still think that England & bloggers here read too much into SL & theie team’s ability… & it’s to their dertiment, not mine… well verbal excrement apart that is.

    Still, in the end it’s only my opinion, but maybe the tour will put things into perspective.

    Anyway thnks for yr thought..

    1. Don, you’re absolutely correct. England’s performances in New Zealand over the (our) summer will put much into perspective. Whether it will “prove” anything is not so clear cut, but for sure – irrespective of results – there will be much learned.

      As you dredge up the excuses around New Zealands last Twickenham defeat, I assume this same line of thinking can be used – for consistency – to explain anything that happens in New Zealand.

      That is; if England lose, or lose heavily, we can excuse that because of the effects of the end of season play offs, or indeed anything else that comes up in the mean-time. As opposed to anything that the victors did.

  19. Don,

    Thanks for the reply. The reason I asked is that I honestly found it hard to see how you could consistently pan England for rigidity when I have seen clear evidence of progress in their game style, both with Farrell’s play himself, plus the promotion of players taking responsibility for gameplanning. If you have watched the AIs and 6nations and don’t see the evolution, then we’ll have to agree to disagree.

    However, your criticism of England’s rigidity is an interesting question. What I would counter with is that I see it as consistency. Maybe as a NZ fan you are spoiled in that you haven’t had a bad period for a long time, and so don’t quite view the situation as I do having shaken my head at what happened to Ashton, and then most of the Johnson era.

    SL and team inherited a hot mess, there had been a lot of discarding players, changing combinations as well as picking players on past achievements rather than current form. He came in and has set that right. And while not blooding Ford may be an error, to criticise SL for not bringing in youth and new caps is crazy. What about Tom Youngs, Launchbury, Vunipola, Farrell, Twelvetrees, Eastmond, Yarde, Wade, Burns?

    SL and his coaches seem to me to be viewing each set of fixtures as a block, and saying to the players ‘You are in this block, so don’t worry about not performing in one game and get sent back to the clubs.’ I agree that when a player like Ashton is performing badly that can seem like rigidity, but after the last 6N, he was dropped, and the next set brought in. This approach has some downside, but I think more has been achieved than you give credit for.

    And that’s where I personally get frustrated with your posting. You give England zero credit, writing off their wins as undeserved and constantly criticising the mangement and players. It may be that you really see England as a bad side, deluded about their ability and about to be put in their place by your boys, but I would like to give you this challenge.

    Write a post where you talk about the things about the England team you admire, the good things you’ve seen come out of the past couple of years.

    Over to you, sir!

  20. Blub

    IMO the NZ tour is important to England & their belief. They may see it as they have something to prove in that they’ll likely need to be better for the WC than their present posi indicates. The tour provides opportunity to do this.

    People, esp coaches & players, often mention there what will be/what was learned, but hardly ever mention speciffically what this is/was. To me these specifics are important, rather than gereralisations. This ought to be important in England’s case (esp depending whether they win or lose in NZ; likewise in NZ’s case), with a WC in mind.

    Yr use of language & take on my ‘dredging up the excuses around New Zealands last Twickenham defeat’ is interesting & a prime e.g. of my (SH?) & yr (NH?) differing views of said event. To me you hear (see) only criticism about this. As for me, well I’ve already explained myself above. It is is strange to me that you still persist with the ‘excuses’ tack. We’ll have to agree to diff on this. NZ had an unbeaten season last up when they were fully fit, but if that doesn’t tell you something it’s not my/our loss I think.

    As for yr comment; ‘I assume this same line of thinking can be used – for consistency – to explain anything that happens in New Zealand’, is also odd to me, ‘consistency’ notwithstanding … unless of course England too catch the Norovirus in NZ. Now that would be the mother of all ironies wouldn’t it?

    1. I would suggest Don, that that would be more of a coincidence.

      The irony would be if they caught the said virus, and their followers did NOT use it as an excuse to justify to themselves why a game of rugby was lost.

  21. So if NZ go unbeaten they’re clearly fully fit, if they lose a game they clearly weren’t, as they couldn’t possibly lose a game otherwise…

    This is why I’ve tried to stop discussing things with you (and not just this topic).

  22. McMurphy

    Despite the name, oviously not an Irish fan then.

    Regds England’s ‘rigidity’, it’s due to e.g. SL’s sticking rigidly to OF, having a midfield which which doesn’t create tries for the wingers who don’t score many & have to run in/across field as they get concertinaed into touch & by ignoring S Armitage for NZ for a policy deemed to protect English rugby.

    I never particularly believed that ‘SL and team inherited a hot mess’ either. If they hadn’t gone out to Fr in the last WC, the whole thing would’ve likely taken a diff slant. Johnno’s record wasn’t that much better/worse than his 2 predecessors & yet MJ copped huge flack IMO because of the aforementioned WC. Ok so Tinders, after more than a decade of loyal svce, got elelphant’s 1 night & stuck his mush into a former g/friend’s knockers & biffed a some Hobbits with a couple of the guys(?), Haskell bungy jumped & Tui jumped into the drink. It surely wasn’t systematic tour behaviour & Tui’s leap was after it was all over anyway. Besides some relief of WC pressure rather than 24/7 eating, sleeping etc rugger may have a degree of benefit. Not that I nec advocate bungy e.g. Yikes! Much press scapegoating for me.

    You say that ‘to criticise SL for not bringing in youth and new caps is crazy’. Well I agree, but where did I say this? Presonally I think that age isn’t nec so relevant. E.g. I would have kept Nick Easter on for a bit as he’s a thinker & a capable No.8 who never seemed to do much wrong for me. On the other hand I’d like to have seen Danny Cip get a run out, but don’t ever see this happening under SL. BTW NZ had Brad Thorn @ 36 in for the last WC, hence my view that age is relative. ‘If they’re good enuff, they’re old enuff’.

    You’re prob right about my views of England, as I see their style of play completely diff from many here. I see Ireland’s potential in their backs under J Schmidt as a positive, compared with England’s ‘direct’ style. Why pick Tui otherwise? I know others thinks he offloads, but it’s about the qulity & timing of same & basically he’s a bosh merchant. And will he (if picked of course) prevail in June?

    But to get back to yr other ? about positives for England. Well, a tuffie I guess for me, but I’ve mentioned Mike Brown as a real deal @ f/back (why wasn’t he in a yr or 2 before?) & I like Chris Wade. Electric. Alas, seems he won’t tour. For me positives are more in the past e.g. Wasps for me played better rugby than a lot of I’tal teams in their glory yrs with their all court game. Players I’ve esp admired incl Dickie Jeeps, Jeff Butterfield, Bev Risman, David Duckham, John Spencer, Peter Winterbottom, Peter Dixon, Fran Cotton, Phil Blakeway, Paul Rendall, Geoff Probyn, Roger Uttley, Chris Ralston, Peter Neary, Will Greenwood (TV talking head persona notwithstanding), Sinbad & if I’d seen him, likely Prince Obelensky. Not that I’ve nec seen ALL of these guys, but from what I’ve also read & heard.

    Best of for now. ‘You give England zero credit’. Blimey! Mmm. Have to give that some more thought.

    Over & out 4 now.

  23. Blub

    I’ve been over this, but suggest what you like if it makes you feel better, altho subsequent events seem to back me up, not you. It ain’t my loss, but surely yrs by clinging to yr ‘belief’.

    You must be really looking forward to June in order to substantiate yr opinion. I know I am.

    1. Don,

      I think you are becoming muddled. What do you understand to be “my belief”? I am most interested to understand how this “belief” could possibly be a cause of “loss” to me.

      And to what subsequent events do you refer?

      Yes, I am very much looking forward to June, and I have absolute certainty that my opinion (which I suspect you may be muddled over) will be substantiated.

  24. Don,

    Thanks for the reply. It does give me more perspective on what I have seen as your relentless England bashing. my laptop has gone tits up so I apologise for the lack of reply, I don’t want to seem rude. I will say more when I’m not looking at a screen about 2 inches square.

    (But just for the record, part English, part Irish)

  25. McMurphy

    Yr Irish 1/2 must be smiling then. I think Smokin’ Joe Schmidt will be gd for Ireland. From what I understand, a cool, tactical thinker who’ll get their b/line purring (as prev with Leinster) like clockwork.

    Regds my ‘relentless England bashing’. I just see it as being realistic I guess. For yrs I have, as I see it, endured the ‘English’ (mainly media incl ex In’als, coaches) talking themselves/their team up & for all the recent ‘going in the right direction’ stuff, England are still ranked 4th (the odd temp blip apart) & have been for the past decade. How’s that actually improving in reality? Esp with a WC beckoning.

    I think this talk frankly is largely bs, when I stil see fundamental issues, which I’ve already doc’ed & which I think will be exposed in NZ. But we’ll see.

    If that’s ‘relentless England bashing’, then it’s ‘relentless England bashing’. Or is it just a diff (SH v NH) perspective?

    1. Don,


      I’m pleased with the Irish performances recently, yes, but the midfield is about to be gutted – No O’Driscoll and I think D’Arcy is on his last legs. But with Murray, Sexton, Best and Carney, good spine. But I think they will have an O’Driscoll hangover and the timings are bad for the WC, so unfortunately I feel they will underperform again.

      Let’s be clear about your views on England – yes, I agree there has been a long stagnant period and there have been issues in midfield for a long time.

      I think you’d have to be very one eyed to say England’s game hasn’t changed and improved in the past 18 months. that is opinion, yes. We differ. It isn’t a NH/SH perspective, neither of us are spokesmen for half the globe, it’s just different pov. Some of your comments definitely have merit. but since every opinion you hold about England is negative, based on them, it’s hard to understand why they beat anyone. You clearly have some good rugby knowledge, and personally I’d like to be able to have a conversation about those weaknesses *if* I felt that you would give England credit for when they do change and improve. But based on some of the comments I’ll highlight here and your own admission that saying anything good about England is a ‘tuffie’, I’m not sure how productive those converstaions would be.

      Where I see your relentlessness in criticising England as being a bit comical is that. for example, in response to this post about England’s coached not being afraid of capping new young players, your comment was ‘except Ford’ (as if Owen Farrell is some grizzled old vet)

      In response to people talking about Burrell’s emergence as a promising player you respond that England’s wings haven’t scored enough tries and burrell has achieved nothing (as if the lines and busts he has made and the tries he has scored mean nothing)

      In response to England beating Australia you call the result ‘dodgy’ (as if NZ aren’t the kings of scoring tries off borderline obstruction runs).

      In response to any mention of Eng beating NZ in 2012 you assert the result would’ve been different if NZ were fit.

      In response to people calling Tuilagi a proven line breaker you assert he runs sideways, say he isn’t proven at international level, but then in the next breath call him a bosh merchant (as if the NZ selection of Nonu is only based on his silky outside breaks and elusive qualities)

      Everytime I’ve seen you comment about England it has been doing them down. Literally every time. Even when you say Brown is good, it’s accompanied by a ‘why wasn’t he in there 2 years ago’.

      you seem to take any optimism and enjoyment by the England fans here as something to be fought – heaven forbid an England fan should enjoy their team’s performances.

      That’s what I mean by relentless negativity. And that’s why I have tried to engage you here – to find out if I might gain anything from talking with a knowledgable rugby fan, or if I’m just going to get frustrated.

  26. Blub

    You’re getting more like Matt than Matt.. & I think you think too much.

    What have we been discussing for the last 10 yrs?

    Yr ‘belief’, in answer to yr ?, is that England had a merited win v NZ in 2012 of course. That belief! Remember?

    Yr ‘loss’ (& England’s if they share yr ‘belief’), is, obviously, that England will likely be clobbered in June by clinging to a bs ‘belief’ such as yr’s.

    ‘And to what subsequent events do you refer’? Well, e.g. the Italian game following the AB match in 2012… hardly an upward shifting of gears, or thereafter… & that’s not to mention the 30 pt hammering by Wales the following yr. Those ‘events’. Too up ‘n’ down & lucky that NZ was off… in fact, a 1 off u might say.

    But at least we can agree that we’re both ‘very much looking forward to June’, when, presumably, you’d prefer that England had a team virus b4 each match as it would clearly have zero effect on their performance… according to yr ‘logic’ at least.

    But this has all been written prev.

    1. “more Matt than Matt” ….

      Blub, please take this as a compliment. This is what I aspire to be every day.

  27. But surely thinking is good, Don?

    Of course, you are right that I believe that England merited that win. I guess that I struggled to really accept that you believed otherwise. Bless you.

    Your retort around “my loss” makes no sense at all, and after that I think that the use of the word “logic” is really ironic, correct? I like that.

  28. I support the best team in the world therefore I am right and everyone else is wrong. I will be proved right in June when the best team beats the 4th best team.

    We won in 2013 and therefore it’s obvious the only reason we lost in 2012 is coz we woz ill.

  29. Blub

    Not when it’s as muddled as yrs when you ‘believe that England merited that win’. It’s this sort of thinking, in denying a truth, i.e. that yr team is unlikely to be affected when playing with a virus, that seems to permeate English rugby thinking & begs the ? as to why yr lot have only lost 75% of the games v the ABs. Why do I or NZ need to make excuses, when they’ve already expunged that loss, away from home & with their aforementioned record?
    It’s just that I detet bs merchants who talk themselves up – like you.

    As I’ve said before, you only talk the best game in the world, ‘bless you’ indeed (knicked this from Stephen Joines did you?), but we’ll see who talks most soon enuff.

    And I don’t believe you’re looking fwd to the June tour. Put a few bob on an England clean sweep did you? If it comes off, you’ll never need work again.

    1. Fact: NZ’s preparation in 2012 was impacted by a virus
      Fantasy: Had they not had they virus they would have won. The only bowel loosening that was happening in the game was when Tuilagi got the ball (or even the threat of him getting the ball creating space for Barritt).

      Fact: NZ won (fairly narrowly) in 2013 against a side missing some key players that didn’t play as well (behind the pack) as the year before.
      Fantasy: Winning in 2013 proved that without a virus NZ would have won in 2012.

      You accuse a number of England fans for being delusional, denying fantasists for actually believing we won a game in 2012 and that win was merited. But I think our opinions are based on fact, so you may need to find a mirror to locate the fantasist. Nor will what happens June change history, nor will it prove or disprove that England can win a world cup. I’m looking forward to enjoying it for what it is, a test against the best. The probable smug gloating to follow with the ‘logical’ conclusion that the 2003 win in Wellington was clearly a fluke and should be expunged from the record books hopefully won’t take too much of a shine off it.

  30. Matt

    Dunno what the prob is. I agree with yr ‘fact’ regds the virus. It happened, as you acknowledge, but where did I ever say; ‘Had they not had they virus they would have won’? That’s not my fantasy. Whilst I can’t recall my exact words, the gist was that the virus made A diff to NZ that’s all & logically therefore the win by England was not ENTIRELY merited… that’s it.

    Regds yr 2nd ‘fact’, I also agree that ‘NZ won (fairly narrowly) in 2013’. However in respect of yr contention; ‘Fantasy: Winning in 2013 proved that without a virus NZ would have won in 2012’, is yr take on the 2013 match, not mine. As I recall, I stated that without the virus NZ won. Again, that was it.

    People sometimes seem to read what they will into things… & I don’t entirely exclude myself from this.

    After all this marathon of 2ing & froing don’t tell that we were really in agreement all along?! Blimey! I need a pint.

  31. Matt

    Dunno what the prob is. I agree with yr ‘Facts’; ‘NZ’s preparation in 2012 was impacted by a virus’ & ‘NZ won (fairly narrowly) in 2013’.

    However regarding yr ‘Fantasies’; ‘Had they not had they virus they would have won’ & ‘Winning in 2013 proved that without a virus NZ would have won in 2012’, where did I ever express these contentions?

    Altho I don’t recall my precise words, my gist was simply that the virus, which you acknowledge, had AN effect on NZ’s game & therefore England’s win wasn’t ENTIRELY merited… that’s all. The 2nd ‘Fantasy’ is yr take on what I said. All I actually stated was that without the virus in 2013, NZ won.

    People could & did read what they perceived into my blogs… & I don’t exclude myself of being completely objective in this matter either.

    Please don’t tell me that we’ve really been in agreement all along regds this marathon of a subject. Blimey, I need a pint!

  32. McMurphy

    Much food for thought. Tried a reply yesterday, but got wiped, so here goes again.

    Regds Ireland, agree with Murray, Sexton, Best and Carney, good spine, but, for me too early to say the team will underperform again. They may have an O’Driscoll/Darcey hangover but JS @ Clermont Auvergne told an underperforming, ‘jinxed’ team to team to forget all that bizzo & stick to their game plan. I.e. perform on the field & the result would take care of itself. Made some sense to me, esp as Cl Auvergne finally won the Top 14 comp in 2010 after 11 finals appearances! He also dun good with Leinster. Had their backline purring like a Roller. We’ll see, but some room for optimism yet I think.

    Out of time like Chris Farlowe, more 2 follow.

  33. Hah. I think I’m just conditioned after years of honourable failure to assume underachievement at the WC. Christ – the Georgia game? So maybe I’m pessimistic. But O’Driscoll is definitely gone, D’Arcy and O’Connell may well not make it, and they are very thin at other positions.

    Having to bed in a new centre pair before the next WC is a tall order. But that said, he does seem to have the knack of making sure he doesn’t ask players to do things they can’t so maybe my pessimism isn’t warranted.

  34. McMurphy II

    Concerning England, hadn’t realised it was ALL bad from me. I just called it as I saw it.

    Sometimes all our rugger opinions remind me of a time when I was in high school & saw a Punch cartoon of Gladstone & Disraeli in Parliament slinging mud at each other. Opinions here likewise sometimes degenerate into personal mud slinging contests with name calling & 1upsmanship thrown in. Hands up, it’s a fair cop Guv. I’m as guilty as anyone.

    However, as I live here, I see mainly English rugger & as prev stated elsewhere, I come from a perspective of England’s, mainly media, talking themselves up; esp after that ancient chestnut of the AB win in 2012 . Perhaps this coloured my perspective on England’s abilities & fans opinions of same, many of which run counter to mine.

    Justin Marshall once summed up England for me when he said; ‘You know what you’re going to get from England’. I.e., route 1 through the fwds & kicking for the corners. At least that was my reading of it & there’s nothing wrong with that up to a point, but once held up front where do they go? I & others (e.g. Greenwood, Barnes, J Robinson, Br. Ashton), see things diff. One e.g., as a fundamental issue, is the midfield’s inability to set up tries. Others here disagree (mind bogglingly for me). I hammer this because it is, I believe, a vital skill & I think this will be exposed in June. Others (& yrself?) seem to see it as an e.g. of ‘England bashing’. I find this frustrating as it’s not intended that way, I may be somewhat defensive in reading stuff into others’ views esp if they espouse endless stats & minutiae to refute my beliefs, although I see this as (mainly) missing the point, or the bigger pic.

    I am aware though that England is the most successful team in the H. Nations to date. They usually compete up front i.e. @ scrum, lineout & in the loose. However, what depressed me most in the England v Wales match in Cardiff 2013, was when I saw (& this epitomised England for me), Farrell kick the 1st ball he got at the start of the game to heaven. I dunno, but they surely need more than that.

    I know you (& others) say that England have improved since (before?) then. Perhaps they have, although I am not entirely convinced of this esp @ sustained test level, away from home. I see the June tour as the real yardstick for testing yr view/s (not particularly because it’s an NZ tour, but because it’s v SH oppo). Do you see Tuilagi or 12trees or Burrell @ this level (& in the end that’s what counts) having the slight of hand of their SH counterparts? Maybe, but Tui. e.g., in a recent comeback club game for Leicester, still ran across field & over people. All well & good in club matches (or maybe even the 6N). They are 1 thing, SH Int’ls, in the context I’ve mentioned, are another. For me it’s about getting into good habits, or at least out of bad ones and I just don’t see his getting away with this v an AB defence. He’ll likely be closed down & in d. quick time too. Of course he may not be picked, but I don’t see his being left out of all 3 games.

    You mentioned ‘It isn’t a NH/SH perspective, neither of us are spokesmen for half the globe, it’s just different pov’. I agree, we’re not global spokesmen (& I didn’t have time to contract Mori to run any polls for me), but I think there is a diff philosophy between, esp England’s & the SH’s fundamental way of playing & thinking about the game. I’ve seen NZ in the past mainly dominate through the fwds & have some ‘journeymen’ backs outflank an oppo pulled out of posi. They’ve had to adapt though & I think they have, esp since c. pro rugby. They play an all round game now with backs & fwds interchanging & exchanging passes & getting timing of same ‘right’… or choosing an approp (hopefully) alt option, i.e. running it or kicking it (meaningfully). England do run it more now I think, but when stressed they tend to, IMO, revert to form (as per JM’s comments). Going back to, say the days of Rob Andrew & Stuart Barnes, England in the end opted for the former, a kicking fly1/2. I think that this is significant in a diff in philosophies.

    On the other hand I could be wrong. And as a caveat, this last para is NOT intended as more ‘E’ bashing or waving of the Kiwi flag. It’s about a belief which I wish to air & of which I am open (no, I’m not coddin’ you) to objective debate. If this doesn’t come across as such, maybe it’s just ‘the way I tellum’!?

    Anyway, I’m pooped now & am off for a swim to recharge.

    Up ‘n’ under.

  35. Don,

    That was a long, honest and really good post to read. Thanks. I’m sorry I didn’t see it before. For some reason I’ve checked this thread but it never showed it. Then I flushed my cache and here it is, a week later.

    I will digest and get back to you, definitely some interesting stuff. But yes, living in a country where the press is as insuffereable as the British press must be hard. I find it hard believing that Stephen Jones, for example, isn’t a straight up troll. But I lived in Australia circa 2000-2003 and believe me, the Aus and NZ press are no better when you are an Eng fan. The Irish seem to get a much easier ride, though that’s more down to condesension than anything else.

    Hope you enjoyed your swim, er, like last weekend.

  36. I’ll try to address your points in order, as you raised a lot!

    Yes, sometimes we can get too heated, too wedded to an opinion, especially when the heat is up. And as I said, I can see how England press talking themselves up can be irritiating. But from what I’ve seen here, few of the posters or writers are as bombastic as that. mostly I think I tend to see people praising a developing squad. As you’ve said you don’t see it that way, but I don’t think it’s useful to lump us all together as one, perhaps taking your frustration of the press out on us poor fans! ;)

    With the route 1 England idea, I agree that has been England’s classic weakness – finding top class centres hasn’t been England’s forte. But I do disagree that Marshall quote sums up England now. I do think that England’s inability to set up midfield tries has been partially down to annoying injuries that first robbed England of a settled midfield, then, when 36 and Burrell began to settle, with injuries and loss of form for the wings, leaving them with rookie wings who haven’t been able to set the world alight. you may see this as an excuse, but I would still point out that England’s backs still made a good ammount of line breaks and scored a number of tries, notably from outside centre and fullback, and you can defineitly see the ideas behind a playmaking 12 giving options each side of the breakdown.

    on the question of the summer tour, do I see 36 and Burrell/tuilagi as having the same skills as their NZ counterparts? Well, no. Not yet. None of those guys is the complete player yet, but I would argue certainly Tui and Burrell have shown plenty of evidence they can be much more – my jury is still out on 36. I’d go back to Nonu for evidence of how a player can start as a bosh merchant and then add layers to his game. It was a good 4/5 years of internationals before NZ started trusting him to pass! And I do think it’s a little silly to harp on about the tui arcing run on his comeback (which I saw and agree wouldn’t work at international level) when we’ve plenty of evidence that isn’t his normal mode of play.

    This summer tour will tell us a lot about these backs, which is why I am very excited – though as I have 2 young kids and no sky, i may not be able to see them live. I wouldn’t expect England to win, but I would say that there’s a good chance of them nicking one test. You may not see that as good enough, as settling for second best, but for now, I’d be very happy for that – always assuming the other 2 weren’t blow outs.

  37. Dind’t intend to lump all together. Presonally I think I got off side with many/some here with the stuff about the AB Twick loss & in part, it’s reason, i.e. the Norovirus. My point, which many missed, or I didn’t make clearly enough, was that it wasn’t an entirely merited England win, that’s all. It wasn’t a complete denigration of England, but on the other hand, as it transpired, it was not a pivotal game as Dallaglio had said & that if England fans (or their team for that matter) thought similarly then it was to their detriment (as will be seen in NZ, or not, in June) in kidding themselves. I didn’t need to make excuses for the ABs, as a couple accused me of (amongst other things, not all rugger related), with their record. Besides, they’ve lost before (e.g. v Oz before the WC) & they’ll likely lose again at some point. Seemed to me a denial of a truth, which I seek, tho, as bs usually finds us all out in the end.

    I was interpreting Marshall when he was playing. I still think that England are more comfortable with a direct approach at heart. It’s not so much a ? of ‘finding top class centres’ as a distrust of creativity (high risk?) 1st as opposed to the bludgeon 1st through midfield. Creativity needs to come from the philosophy & coaching of the management as much as the skill of the individual. Injuries play a part, but only a part, I think it’s more fundamental than that tho. The wings ran E 2 W because tHey got ball too late & were hemmed in by the sideline & so had to run in/aross field. That’s still the REAL issue as I see it. The wingers were partly scapegoated IMO. Regds offloading, England probably do do so more now, but it’s also about the quality & timing of the offload. This still needs adressing I think, e.g., does it put a man into space & potentially set him up for a try scoring op, or ‘EFFECTIVE’ break? I exclude MIke Brown from being lumped with the midfield in this however, as he is effective, certainly in beating people & in making line breaks.

    All this ought to be seen in the context of a WC & v SH oppo too as I think they are harder to break down.

    Nonu; as ‘evidence of how a player can start as a bosh merchant’. Well he can do that, but he could always step in or outside & had/has acceleration off the mark. As you allude to, he has now dev an accurate passing game & latterly a kicking string to his bow. In his early career, he slipped over of knocked on too often for me, but I guess the AB selectors saw something more than I did back then.

    I ‘harp on about the tui’ because I still think it’s his 1st instinct to run over people. He needs to address this IMO. It is unlikely to be enough in June. Regds an ‘arcing run’, you sure I wasn’t reffing to Cipriani?

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