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