England v Wales: Post-Match Reaction

Now the dust has settled and the players have gone through ice baths and massages in order to get their bodies back into one piece, there is some frank assessment needed from both sets of English and Welsh management. It was far from the full-blooded Test match seen the same morning between the All Blacks and the Wallabies in Auckland, but then it was never going to reach that level of precision. After weeks in the gym and on the training field, a run out was what both teams needed.

No one was keener to stress that point than England coach Martin Johnson, who stated that the match had given England “plenty of context for what to work on in training this week”. England wanted a full-on, full-blooded Test match, and whilst nothing will be set in stone following the match at Twickenham, the team “needed realistic pressure”. Alex Corbisiero added to this point, stating that “For us it was the first game back after a tough pre-season, and it was good to get some of the rust out of the way.”

They certainly did that, with Wales dominating the proceedings in the second half following the try from Manu Tuilagi. Tries from Shane Williams and George North brought them close to the lead, whilst captain Sam Warburton’s effort in the corner was ruled out by the TMO. That’s a level of pressure than England won’t have felt in training or in the trial match at the Stoop. The fact that the two tries came from substantial overlaps is also a concern, but highlights how hard England were having to work at the breakdown in order to keep Wales from powering through the middle. George North’s finishes were some of the easiest he’ll come across in international rugby, and the fact the Delon Armitage’s calls for men to come over for North’s first try fell on deaf ears will no doubt come up in the post-match analysis.

Of the England players, the most impressive performers were Wilkinson, Tuilagi and Matt Stevens, who Johnson all praised. Assessing Tuilagi’s debut as “pretty good” was probably an understatement, but why build the hype up around the man who is apparently “the future of English rugby” when his performances speak for themselves. One wild high tackle on Shane Williams aside, the Leicester centre looked impressive, busting holes in the defence and then pleasing the crowd with some big hits himself.

Wilkinson was at his best in terms of game management, his two drop goals intelligently taken when firstly nothing was on, and secondly when captain Lewis Moody was down on the ground with the attack rapidly coming towards him. Johnson was keen to emphasise that Jonny was “world-class”, and that England were fortunate to have him, but remained coy on whether he was first choice. There were occasions where he seemed to be searching for space all on his own, unable to create the fluidity with Riki Flutey in the centre that we’ve seen in the past. As for Stevens, both Johnson and his fellow prop Alex Corbisiero were both full of praise for him, given his impressive performance in the scrum.

There were other debutants for England apart from Tuilagi, namely Mouritz Botha, and new favourite on The Rugby Blog, Charlie Sharples. He spoke afterwards of how the game had been brilliant for him personally, describing it as “A great experience, and although I didn’t get involved as much as I’d have liked to, it was just nice to be on the pitch.” When quizzed on which song he had lined up as debut number on the team bus, Sharples was unable to reveal what he’d be singing, not because of some secrecy pact, but because he simply didn’t know. “I’ll pull it out in the moment” were the bold words from the Gloucester winger.

England’s two main injury worries, captain Lewis Moody and Corbisiero, were also put to rest by both players. Moody stated that whilst he had tweaked his knee, “It’s nothing serious and we’ll assess it again in 24/48 hours.”, whilst Corbisiero stated that his hamstring problem was a minor one. “It’s just a bit of cramp so the guys wanted to take me off as a pre-caution, but it’s nothing serious.”

The major injury concern was slightly more tragic however, with Morgan Stoddart being carried off the field a sad sight for everyone watching. Both Johnson and England scrum-half Danny Care were keen to offer their sympathy, with Johnson describing it as “nasty” and that “it was never nice to see anyone suffer a serious injury, especially now with the timing.” Care shared this view, but offered some perspective. “It’s such a sad way to get injured, but it’s a contact sport and unfortunately it happens. You have to force it to the back of your mind, because the second you start worrying about it you stop playing 100% and that’s when you do get injured.”

Stoddart’s injury was a blow to Wales, adding to the disorganisation of losing Stephen Jones in the warm-up, but Wales rallied in the second half. In Sam Warburton they have a great young captain who looks set for a long future on the international stage. Rhys Priestland was very impressive at 10 with his goal kicking and range of passing, offering Wales a different option at 10 to the experience of Jones. Warren Gatland will be encouraged by the second half, and hoping the momentum will carry through to the encounter at the Millennium Stadium next weekend.

There’s plenty to talk about, from the performance of Manu Tuilagi on debut, to Morgan Stoddart’s horrific injury. Did both sides look like they’d spent too much time in the gym? Which fringe players put their hands up for World Cup selection? Let us know your thoughts.

by Ben Coles

19 thoughts on “England v Wales: Post-Match Reaction

  1. Althought not a bad first performance from england with some people sticking there hands up with assured personal performances, certain players i feel highlighted themselves as incapable of playing at test level. Namely Dylan Hartley, i was at the game and every time i glanced around the pitch i spotted hartly slowly jogging around at times even walking which is appaling where is the urgency, the passion to perform and make a difference on the pitch. Also at certain times hartley looked alarmingly slow paced, for instance just before Armitage’s great sweeping run down the england right, Toby faletau hacked the ball down field as it popped out the side of a ruck, he then easily paced around hartley who intitially was the closest england played to the ball, and it looked as if he was going for a gentle jog rather than busting a guy and securing the ball. Look at any of the southern hemisphere hookers and they are all leaders of the pack in terms of commitment, acting as extra back row. Yesterday hartley was constantly standing out in the middle of the park instead of completeling his primary job of securing quick clean ball. I also feel corbisero and croft looked a little off the pace considering how highly rated these two players are supposed to be by the england management. There were strong performances from haskell, shaw and stevens in the pack who i feel have to be dead certs for the worldcup 22.

    1. By far the worst player on the pitch for England was Danny Care. He posses the unique ability to turn quick ball into slow by always taking at least 2 (and sometimes 5) lateral steps before almost lobbing the ball to wilkinson. No wonder other bloggers have commented on the lack of space for england’s midfield!!

      I have watched a re-run of the game twice, and Care made is so easy for the welsh defence to close down the space. As he jogged sideways, they simply drifted with him! Look at the difference in service when wigglesworth came on.

      It is not as if Care jogged sideways THEN flicked on inside pass to a runner, as a means of keeping the welsh guessing….

  2. I must say having watched Ireland v Scotland and England v Wales there seems to be a big difference in the preparation of the teams. Either of these two teams would have easily beaten Ireland and Scotland who looked like they had only begun to do work with the ball during the week and never really got into gear.

  3. There were worse performers than Hartley. Hardly saw Banahan, Flutey, Palmer, Cueto and Stevens (who had been made out to be the greatest prop to ever live by some recently)
    Really the whole team was rusty, better off waiting until next weekend at millennium stadium or the Ireland game before saying players shouldn’t be going to the world cup

    1. I agree with most of that apart from Banahan and Stevens not being involved. Having been at the stadium i though Banahan had a really encouraging game. And it is always hard to tell what is going on in the rucks and mauls with the forwards and if Stevens played well enough to recieve a special mention by Jonno at the end of the match he must have done quite a lot right.

  4. A few positives, but not many for me.

    The difference in quality between northern/southern hemisphere appeared huge.

    In terms of England, i thought Shaw played very well. I wonder if he’s a better option than Palmer, although that would be harsh on Palmer he’s done nothing wrong.

    Haskell performed strongly – is he now a better option than Easter at 8?

    Wilkinson certainly gave Jonno something to think about – although surely the partnership between youngs and flood will see them through?

    Tuilagi has got to start every game now at centre in my opinion.

    Sharples looked, well, sharp when he came on.

    Armitage too instilled confidence that he’s back on form. Fantastic try saving tackle on Warburton.

  5. I thought the Wales team looked far fitter than England in the last 20 minutes, which could bode well for their chances in the World Cup.In my(Welsh)opinion, Sam Warburton was outstanding – let’s hope he keeps the captaincy.

  6. I think wales looked better than England even with the loss. Wilkinsons boot was reliable as ever. He’s not dead yet. Phillips had an encouraging game for Wales. Good to see a lot of patience in attack for wales that they have been lacking recently. Good to see Delon Armatige (spelling?) back on good form. Although I can’t see him getting ahead of Foden still. Must be nice to have options though. Wales just lost Stoddart who was looking very promising for full back. Now I guess they’re stuck with Lee Byrne again. Every ball will be sent into orbit again then. Also good to see Ryan Jones fighting for his position. I think Faletau is good but Ryan Jones is the more reliable at the moment. I’m looking forward to next week.

    PS. England need to use Sharples more. Fantastic player.

  7. Wales certainly looked better in the last 20 – get the feeling England are gym fit but not match fit. Wales certainly did not look better for the majority of the first half

    Re England – I think we learned that

    1. Our front row options are in pretty good shape – although we lost dominance once Wilson came on
    2. Shaw is still a great player but only in 30 min bursts
    3. Moody should not be in the England team.
    4. Croft needs to get more involved
    5. Woods should be first choice
    6. Tuilagi is getting there
    7. Flutey should not be in the England team
    8. Banaha offers little apart from size and attempts to be a poundshop version of SBW

    1. Paolo –
      i agree with your observations but questions remain:

      1) the question re second row, is who should partner Lawes?
      Palmer, Botha or Shaw?

      2) If Tuilagi starts – who partners him?

      1. Jimmy

        would like to see more of Botha, I don’t think he showed his best on Sat

        I think Palmer and Lawes to start with Botha on the bench (although I would have preferred Attwood before the squad was chosen)

        Shaw is great but he really is a luxury now – I don’t think we should be taking players who can’t do at least 60 mins straight

        Your second question is the eternal conumdrum for England – with Flutey so badly out of form, I really don’t see who else there is. I guess Hape/Tuilagi?

        Or perhaps even try playing Tindall at inside centre – with the assumotion that he is there solely for the crash ball and that no-one is expecting him to catch and pass the ball

  8. Hutchoid – do you or anyone else know when the team for sat is being announced?
    what changes are to be made?

    i am suffering from non rugby hangover having had my appetite whetted on sat.

        1. Johnno didn’t really give away much as to how many changes would be made. I’d guess those who haven’t had a chance will start, so Simpson/Wiggy, Sharples, Fourie, Botha, Mears, Wilson, Hodgson, Hape, Doran-Jones could all be involved.

  9. Not many positives from an England perspective. All we learned was that they’re narrowly better than Wales and Jonny Wilkinson can kick drop goals, so nothing we didn’t already know.

    As for the Welsh, their youngsters seemed to do well, especially Rhys Priestland given he was switched to fly half so soon before kick off. All in all I saw nothing to suggest that either side will get beyond the quarter finals this time around, they’re are simply four better teams in the world than the English and Welsh.

  10. I am really gutted for Wales, loosing Stoddart is tragic (anyone see the picture in the paper, it is truly horrific, me thinks he will be out for a long time). I disagree with Toms view on what England gained from the match. The side we put out was quite experimental and speculative, so just the fact that our experimental side beat what is quite a settled welsh one was telling.

    The game showed us who deserves to make the cut. I though Shaw was fantastic… until about thirty minutes through when he slowed down to a snail’s pace. Flutey had his chance, and showed that he doesnt warrant inclusion. Wilco was excellent, an inteligent, if not flashy performance and he seemed to work well with Tuilagi. Stevens seemed to have the upper hand in the scrum, although that shouldnt be surprising seeing as the welsh front row is very weak. Haskell, after a rocky start settled into the game and had a solid performance, i would like to more of him at 8. Cueto wasn’t ever in the game, and there is a chance that he might have to step aside for Sharples if he doesnt up his game. Although, with Johnson it seems unlikely that Cueto will be dropped during the world cup.

    All in all, and encouraging, if rusty start for the english.

  11. For the next game i’d like to see:

    1. Sheridan (is he fit?)
    2. Hartley
    3. Stevens
    4. Lawes (is he fit?)
    5. Shaw
    6. Croft
    7. Wood
    8. Haskell
    9. Youngs
    10. Flood
    11. Sharples
    12. Hape
    13. Tuilagi
    14. Ashton
    15. Foden

    16. Cole
    17. Mears
    18. Palmer
    19. Robshaw
    20. Wigglesworth
    21. Wilkinson
    22. Banahan

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