England v Argentina: 5 things we’ve learned

1. The centre conundrum
England’s centres looked like amateurs against Australia, so it will have been encouraging at least to see that Billy Twelvetrees shook off that torrid display and produced a performance that will give England hope. Joel Tomkins, on the other hand, was a bystander for most of the match and although he was solid against a poor Argentinian attack, he produced nothing going forward and New Zealand may be looking to target the Sarries man who seems a little out of his depth. Could it be time to throw the uncapped Henry Trinder or Kyle Eastmond in at the deep end?

2. Unimpressive Farrell = unimpressive attack
After the Six Nations and during the Lions, it would have been an absurd idea to think that Owen Farrell would not be confident in himself, but that’s exactly what seems to have happened. His kicking is less accurate, his decision making isn’t right and his passing and organisation has been uncharacteristically shoddy. The thing is, this seems to have spread its way through the backline. During the last two matches, England have taken the ball standing still, not hit hard lines and just seem so unimaginative in attack. Farrell will have to get back to his old self if England have any chance of pushing the All Blacks on Saturday.

3. Ashton is still not good enough
In Chris Ashton’s mind, scoring a try may have shut up a few critics, but in reality, it hasn’t. His defence is still like a turnstile, and even though he did cross the whitewash (and it may not have even been a try), he still butchered a try-scoring opportunity which you would expect most international wingers to take. Foden may have done enough to keep his starting position but you feel that Christian Wade or Marland Yarde will be replacing Ashton who who could be made to look very silly by Julian Savea, Ben Smith or Charles Piutau.

4. At least the pack is playing well
There is a lot of competition for places in the England pack at the moment and this can only be a good thing. Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes may have done enough to keep out Geoff Parling as Lawes’ physicality may be needed against Brodie Retallick on Saturday, and England’s robust back-row looks nearly world class. Tom Wood is in the form of his life at the moment, Billy Vunipola looks like a test veteran and it seems nothing can keep down Chris Robshaw. England may even cause the Kiwi front-row a few problems if they pick their strongest options – Alex Corbisiero, Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole.

5. England can’t afford to switch off
All this means nothing though if England suffer a repeat of the Argentina match and fall asleep after half time. New Zealand are the best side in the world for many reasons, one of them being because they put in a full effort for the whole 80 minutes. If England do switch off at any point during the match, expect them to be put to the sword ruthlessly.

By Calum Gillon (@C_Gillon)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

21 thoughts on “England v Argentina: 5 things we’ve learned

    1. The long obvious truth is that there are many better out halves than Farrell but he is much better equipped as a centre and always will be. Get him into more space where inventiveness is not as essential but good handling, physical presence and his kicking will be maximised. Also the scum halves around continue to take several time consuming steps before passing! Get it away in one movement please!
      Irish purist.

      1. I’d be interested to hear what outside halves are better than Farrell?

        Also the scrum half stepping was started by Gregan a decade ago. People bring it up every now and again but if it utilised properly the idea is to draw a defender or two round the ruck and actually give the back line more time. Very hard to execute but can be very effective.

  1. I think Farrell is better off with a crash ball man outside him, which Twelvetrees is not. The annoying thing is, as a Sarries fan I see how good Farrell is, but he just doesn’t seem to produce it for England. He’s not as bad as a lot of people make out, and he does a lot more than people see. A lot of tackling, and breakdown work for example. He likes the physical side of the game, which a lot of 10’s don’t get involved in. With Twelvetrees in there I would be very tempted to play Flood at 10, because they have a better understanding of each other. Or play Burrell at 12? I can’t see Twelvetrees and Tomkins working as an effective unit going forward. People will disagree but I think they are very similar players. Twelvetrees is a good distributor, has pace, power and good defence. Tomkins is the same, but with Twelvetrees there we’ve only really seen Tomkins doing defensive work. I would say either one of them has to go, and either Burrell or Eastmond comes in for Twelvetrees, and Trinder or Joseph comes in for Tomkins. Twelvetrees or Eastmond with Trinder or Joseph, and Burrell with Tomkins would (imo) be more effective partnerships in the midfield.

    1. If you remember last year when england were playing well they had alex goode playing as a second 10 coming in the line to be a play maker. Im a big fan of twelvetrees but he doesnt seem to be doing this playmaker role. Farrel is a class player but if twelvetrees isnt going to play this flat playmaker role the flood has to come in. Its a shame burns isnt on form. I agree burrell or eastmond could add some extra edge to the team but might be a bit late to think about big changes for new zealand! Although gatland did it in final test of lions tour so maybe it could work…. Il back what ever decision lancaster makes. Think he is a quality coach, just got to get the backline moving forward with the pack (who are up there with new zealand’s quality) and then we will take the next step he is talking about.

  2. I’m not sure I agree with how bad people are suggesting Farrell was. We either need to accept that he is what he is, or play someone else. If we are on the front foot he can throw a pass and get things moving ok. The first half this week proved that. But when we are up against a defense is rallying and putting out attack on the back foot slightly; his natural instincts tell him to use his boot or use the forwards. Nothing really wrong with that; but if people want a 10 that can spark a backline that is retreating into life then Farrell is not, and will never be that man. Burns potentially can, players like Cooper can. Farrell can not.

    Either we accept this fact, or change.

    I’m personally not massively worried after Saturday. Tuilagi obviously gives us an option that no Englishman can replace. Tomkins is going ok but obviously without Tuilagi we lack something. But that is no different to any other nation. Did Wales look as threatening in attack when Davies went off? No.

    The replacements are fine but there will always be world class players that are difficult to replace.

    For me, Twelvetrees is our only 12 options that has all of the relevant attributes to be a world class 12, and surely that is our aim? Even if is isn’t there yet, he can kick, tackle, distribute, carry the ball to the line, offload. He does have it all; give him time. Burrell may well have all of this but right now Twelvetrees has proven he has over a longer period of time.

    1. My issue with the centre pairing is I don’t see the value in picking a completely different style of player to Tuilagi. Yeah things will be much better when he’s back, but if we are to have a game plan that involves a hard running direct 13 then why try to come up with something completely different (or come up with nothing seems closer) for the AIs when Burrell could have done the job just fine?

      1. I guess they see Burrell as a 12. I get your point about that and I do agree. But whilst Burrell can play like that, he is actually a bit more and is more similar to Twelvetrees IMO. I may be wrong to be fair as I have only actually seen Burrell a handful of times.

        The fact is, no Englishman is anything like Tuilagi. Not in quality, and there are very few that are even similar in style. It is probably the only position that we do not have much decent depth. That and wing but I think we are sorting that issue slowly…

  3. If Farrell isn’t kicking his goals why is he there? His kicking improved against Argentina but he was still so poor. 12Trees was distributing for most of the game so we saw nothing of his running game. Would anyone else like to see flood start?

    1. Dallaglio made a very interesting point on the QBE AI launch, Flood has been capped 50 times and England have lost half of the matches he’s played in, it’s time to move on.

      I agree with this, Flood continually shows good club form, decent cameos from the bench, but has repeatedly failed to lock down the shirt when given the chance.

      We saw progress from Farrell in a Lions shirt, he’s never going to be Dan Carter, but until Burns/Ford (or even Cipriani) find more consistency he’s the best option we have. When he was instructed to attack the gainline for the Lions he did a reasonable job, he commented at the time that this is not what he is used to being instructed to do!

      1. I would say flood won alot of his caps when England were at a poor level. I think he could potentiall get something going, or maybe it could even push Farrell to get back into his best form. I thought Farrell looked great at times for the lions, playing flatter and fizzing passes but I’m pretty sure robshaw has been distributing better than him so far!

  4. The trouble with outside centre is that the best players make it look quite easy (Davies, Smith, O’Driscoll) as they all do the simple things very well. They appear to have time in the wider channels in both attack and defence,a nd that is why they’re the best players.

    The reality is that it is really a very difficult position because they are massively exposed in defence, and you are reliant on the space creating skills of those inside you, allied with an instinctive eye for space, in order to make a difference in attack.

    Tomkins has the defensive nous, and we have to trust that he has the running instinct needed, he just needs to click with those inside him.

    I think there is a danger of being overly harsh on him after two games, and whilst Trinder may have been (and Tuilagi certainly is) the primary choices, I don’t think he has done too much wrong.

    By the way, it wasn’t that long ago that some on these pages were calling for Tuilagi to be dropped, or moved to the wing.

  5. So … Eng’s 10 doesn’t distribute, the backs are passable but their pack is awesome. Is this some sort of 90s revival? :-)

    I think SL is a bit stuck here – needed to give Tomkins at least two goes to get it right but now it hasn’t worked. The gamble didn’t pay off but surely he won’t put a debutant in against the ABs? A debutant coming into a dominant and settled team is one thing, but here it’d be one coming into a backline that is debatable from 10 to 14?

    1. However we did regularly score tries in the 90’s as we had a game plan!

      SL has to stick with Tomkins for the next game. You can’t throw someone else in there at this stage.

  6. i like farrell. i dont care about the boring england tag. it wins world cups and gets us to finals. Like jacob said, farrell moves the backline ok when we are on the front foot and is sensible when we are not.
    if you want to hanker after someone like cooper to create that ‘spark’ so we can watch the odd youtube video and bow out of world cupquarter finals then go ahead.

    But i am loving watching an england pack that is powerful and precise with a ten behind who seems relatively smart at a young age. i think his kicking percentages will get there and his distribution will improve. in the same way that wilkinson developed attributes throughout his career and is still doing (not a comparison by the way).

    twelvetrees excites me hugely. hes got something about him very similar to mike catt in the way he distributes, kicks, holds defenses and know defends himself (a quite recent development)

    i think for the first time in a while there is a team that just needs continuity in selection, which is something the england management have done alot of whe they shouldnt have. i just hope they get that chance now.

    There are some players that wont ever be replacable. even in the 2003 team there was hill, greenwood, jonny and a few others whose absence were recognisable.

    tuilagi is one of those special players, but i think thats the same for most great 13’s.
    smith, bod, aac etc

  7. According to the BBC tuilagi may now miss the 6 nations, so not sure there is any reason not to give someone else a go against NZ. If Tuilagi was coming back quick I could see the reason to persevere with the safe Tomkins but now we may as well go for broke, play a genuine attacking threat like Trinder if he’s fit, so he’s at least had a go before the 6 nations. Damn these tricky centres. Can’t greenwood just come out of retirement?

    1. Interestingly, Trinder was named in the Gloucester team to play Japan tonight – make of that what you will. I’m not sure if he’s still in line to play – I assume he is and, if so, he won’t be playing for England this weekend I wouldn’t have thought.

  8. I think Tomkins may relish the AB’s challenge.

    If he gets a sniff of a chance of using his talents as shown at club level, then he’ll do well at international level.

  9. When are northern hemisphere sides going to realise that what makes SA and NZ great is that they move the ball wide, at pace and attack in from the wings. In GB and Ireland we do the opposite and NEVER seem to learn that we can’t win World Cups that way or play exciting 15 man rugby.

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