England’s collapse shows they still need more leaders

England Rugby

Thirty minutes into the game on Saturday and England were writing history. 31-0 up; the biggest ever lead in the first half of a Calcutta Cup match.

What unfolded after that moment threatened to write history in another way. No side has ever come back from more than 24 points to win an international test match, but England tried their hardest to help Scotland on their way.

Although they were saved from that particular humiliation – instead, at 38-38, it was the highest scoring international draw of all time – make no mistake this was a horror movie of a second half. A collapse of such epic proportions, England’s cricket team would have blushed.

It is the Jekyll and Hyde aspect which dumfounds and frustrates so. The opening 30 minutes were stunning, England once again getting off to a blistering start and scoring their first try after 66 seconds. The forwards were demolishing the Scottish pack, Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler a pair of stampeding rhino; while the backs found space and cut the opposition line at will. He may not have even been on the pitch, but it felt like the team was channelling Joe Cokanasiga’s spirit, offloads flicked out the back of the hand with Fijian flare.

Then Stuart McInally’s charge down and breakaway try changed the momentum and in the second half, the hosts hit the self-destruct button. Whether it was an arrogant assumption that the game was already won, or disbelief in the face of Scottish brilliance, I don’t know.

By the closing stages of the match, it felt more like a game at Murrayfield than England’s fortress – the travelling contingent in raucous voice, cries of ‘Scotland’ ringing loud; the English, meanwhile, a stunned and slightly nauseous silence. It was a quite extraordinary game; for the neutral it must have been brilliant.

Scotland were as night and day in the two halves as their hosts. Missing a clutch of their best players, exposing their supposed fatal absence of quality replacements, the sheer belief and refusal to accept defeat is to be applauded. That will be invaluable for Scotland – who up until that moment were looking at a very ordinary and disheartening campaign.

But while Scotland will take belief, England will be rattled. Not just at the manner of their capitulation, but the fact this seems to be a recurring theme.

As far back as 2016, when England themselves won the grand slam, there were glimmers of this flaw. 16-0 up at the break against Wales, they conceded three second-half tries, just managing to hold onto to a nervy win.

In South Africa last summer, England collapsed from a dominant position in both their losses. 24-3 up in the first, 12-0 up in the second, they lost 42-39 and 23-12 respectively. Against New Zealand in the autumn, they were 15-0 up, before going on to lose 15-16.

Eddie Jones has credited this fatal flaw as a psychological one, ‘it is 100% mental, there was no physical difference in the second half’, he said in the post-match press conference.

‘It’s like we have some hand grenades in the back of a jeep and sometimes they go off when there’s a lot of pressure,’ he later told the BBC. It has since been reported he is planning to bring an expert in to help address these issues.

This is not a simple issue to fix. And what complicates things is the message that has been sent to England’s World Cup opposition. Not matter what the scoreline, no team will believe they are beaten against England. If Scotland can turn it around, England’s poolmates France and Argentina will certainly believe they can too, let alone top opposition like Ireland, Wales, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand.

Why this issue seems to have escalated recently is that England have become too reliant of Owen Farrell – and to a lesser extent, Ben Youngs. When the halfbacks have an off game, or even just an off half, the whole team collapses around them.

Since being given the chance to run the show from 10, Farrell has repaid his coach in kind – in the face of the disheartening implosion against Scotland, we should not forget that England were very good in the Autumn, and were brilliant against France, Italy and Ireland. They scored 24 tries this Six Nations. Their level slipped for a half against both Scotland and Wales. The issue is that when it goes wrong, it goes really wrong.

The added responsibility of the captaincy seems to be contributing to this. Very few teams ever place the burden on their creative fulcrum. It made more sense when Farrell was stationed at 12 and the creative onus shared; England have also clearly missed the wider leadership of the likes of Dylan Hartley, Chris Robshaw, Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola.

Now, when problems start to arise, as both their chief-creator and valiant leader, Farrell seems to feel like he has to single-handedly change England’s fortunes. It leads to rash decisions and poor judgement, shoulder charges, intercept passes and charged down kicks. On Saturday, for the third time in recent memory, he was lucky to escape a card.

That Jones decided to sub his captain on 70 minutes – rather than just shift him out to 12 – to make room for George Ford was a telling moment.

Things began to spiral, yet no one tried to change the tactics until Ford’s introduction. With absolutely nothing to lose, Scotland were revelling in the chaos, wayward kicking was inviting Scotland to attack and the game got so fast and loose, any defensive structure disintegrated. Instead, England needed to hold onto the ball, slow the game down and dictate the tempo. Or play a proper territory game – kick the corners and challenge to Scotland play from their five-metre, rather than the halfway, line. Could England not see how to adapt, or was it just that they couldn’t?

This leadership vacuum is also not a new issue, it was why they brought in Will Carling as a ‘leadership mentor’, but it clearly has not been resolved.

England have concentrated pressure on Farrell and that is risky. I think the best option – if Farrell is to continue at 10 – is to give someone else the captaincy. Let Farrell focus on being England’s flyhalf, rather than rallying the troops and building relationships with referees (not his strongest talent anyway).

There is a case for Hartley being reinstated on the basis of his captaincy credentials, but I think that would be a mistake given the quality of Jamie George’s recent performances. The captain has to be picked on merit. That leaves Itoje and Mako. In my view, either would make an excellent captain. Itoje is no longer the callow youth being tipped for greatness, but the heartbeat of this England pack; he will be 25 during the world cup (Sam Warburton was made Wales captain at 22). However, my personal pick would be Mako – undisputedly world class, a two-time Lion, and he has both the temperament, experience (over 50 caps) and respect of his teammates.

Whatever the decision, England need to find a solution to this fatal flaw, and soon. There are no more competitive matches before the World Cup – just warm-up friendlies, and they will not offer anywhere near the same pressure cauldron to test the players mentality as the Six Nations or, indeed, a World Cup knockout game. We will just have to hope it is resolved by then.

By Henry Ker

59 thoughts on “England’s collapse shows they still need more leaders

  1. I think both England and Ireland are in desperate need of that talismanic,experienced old head who can gather the troops, calm them down and guide them through games. Clearly, talent is only half the recipe for success.

  2. I don’t think we need MORE leaders, I think we just need A leader with the temerity to say, “you know what lads, the boss’s game plan isn’t working, we need to change it up now.” without fear of reprisal from the higher ups, and with the rugby brain to change tactics according to how the opposition have adapted their game.

    I genuinely believe the creativity is driven out of the players with fear and they must stay on script at all costs.

  3. A well reasoned article.The simple solution on the face of things would be to take the captaincy away from Farrell and give it to someone else but appears too simplistic to me.Many including me have questioned Farrells ability to control the tempo of the game.If you watch Saracens play everyone takes their lead from Brad Barritt .all Farrell has to do is choose the timing.It is comparable to an orchestra ,The leader is the first violin and everyone follows him-the conductor calls the tempo.England do not have the luxury of a top quality 12 like Barritt unless Farrell plays there himself wheras EJ wants Farrell to play at 10.A telling comment made on this forum a couple of days ago was that England would have lost that match if he had stayed at 10-Farrell lacks the split second instincts of Ford and Cipriani.
    The lack of leadership can be put down to how the game is played today-players are so coached as to how to react in any number of situations that they have stopped thinking for themselves.I would advocate giving the captaincy to Itoje,he enunciates clearly wheras Farrell does not.
    As for the temprement issue-this could have been solved a long time ago.I was at the Premiership final 2015. when Farrell perpetrated an act of villainy that went unpunished-under the following seasons regulations he would would have got a straight red and a suspension of 8 to 12 weeks,mind you in my day retribution would have been dished out at the bottom of a ruck.A harsh lesson given out then would have probably solved the problem.You can bet your last cent that when we get to Japan item no 1 on the opposing coaches list is provoke Farrell!

    1. I see that you have the number 10 on yr back JS. Care to dust yr boots off & throw yr hat into the ring as England’s new WC pivot?

      1. Not really Don.I played good quality junior rugby at SH.I did have the good fortune to be coached by a ruthless Grammar School teacher who drummed into us that you play with your brain and not with your dick!

  4. England don’t need more leaders, but more astute tactical game readers, both on & off the pitch. This game misreading begins with Jones & @ this stage of the WC year, it could become a terminal issue for England in Japan. Also, as acknowledged by many here, it is echoed by the captain, Farrell & 1/2back Youngs with their continual, inappropriate kicking away of possession. This not only deprives England of valuable ball & therefore try scoring opportunities, it also presents competent opposition with unnecessary chances & encouragement to score themselves. Winning primary ball helps of course, but so does gaining, or slowing, loose ball possession. This may mean deciding to flood the breakdown when necessary. Quick ball presents & slow ball diminishes chances. It’s not that complex. The imperative being to max chances, but to minimise opponents’ opportunities. Therefore & also, assessing the game 1/4ly to see if plans are working. If they are working, no need for major surgery, but if they’re not, then alternative tactics need to be deployed pronto. So the ?’s go back to Jones. Does he have the ability to change his team’s tactics, choices of pivots, captain’s, rejig some posi’s like f/back? Are Farrell & Youngs capable of the former two requirements? Basically, do England replace Farrell & Youngs? Bring in Cipriani? Bring back Hartley as captain? Reposition Daly? Bring back the Brown option? Are the inexperienced Marko, V or the penalty prone Itoje, really captain material to lead a WC challenge? England need to find answers to these ?’s in the next 4 games. No pressure then. Unsure whether much will change under Jones however. A trick cyclist may help mentally, but as EJ has already chucked 2 previously, this doesn’t answer the real ?’s that need answering. Crossroads time. Decision time. Maybe.

      1. Thanks Andy L. Frustrating when the same old recurs. Hope Hansen has some hickory sticks up his sleeve.

    1. Good analysis – I suppose the point I am trying to make, is that England have good tactical players and are able to play different styles, the problem is they just seem to panic when the momentum goes against them. What they are lacking is that cool head and rallying figure to bring everyone together in the heat of the moment and settle things. They needed someone like an Alun Wyn Jones on the pitch on Saturday, to gather them under the posts and say ‘Right boys, get the ball and keep hold of it. Let’s do some pick and goes. Slow it down and kill some time – don’t play the game Scotland want to’. I don’t think it is any coincidence that Wales are so good at staying in a game and finding ways to come back, as they did against France and England – that man had a very big part to play in that.

      1. Wonder why this doesn’t happen HK? Jones must be directing tactics & Farrell, Youngs implementing them. However, as EJ seemingly lacks the capacity to grasp & therefore revise tactics, why aren’t the other coaches, captain, challenging him? Fear of the sack? If they go down in a sinking ship, that’ll likely happen anyway. And calling on a shrink is akin to calling upon a jockey to take on Anthony Joshua.. or something like that. Need wit & innovation when things go wrong.

      2. I think the coolest head in the squad at the moment is Mako. Always chilled out, almost to the point of looking miserable. I’ve never seen him lose his rag and is well respected within the squad by all accounts. He is arguably the hardest working player on the pitch considering his workrate and the fact that he’s a loosehead prop! He would lead by example and never let the team down.
        Does anyone else know or guess what song they play for Mako when he scores at Allianz Park? Answers on a postcard please!

    2. You highlight EJ”s selection dilemmas perfectly.It reminds me of A level History-An exasperated English minister was heard to comment “As soon as we find a solution to the Irish problem they change the bloody question”

  5. Very much agree with JS10 in that it is not just a case of changing the Captain. When Itoje is buried at the bottom of a ruck, or head down driving a maul etc he will need eyes, ears and a voice in the backs. If this is naturally Farrell then there still lies the issue of his actions under pressure as we have seen of recent. I think we do have others with leadership qualities and potential across the team so I think the coaches need to install this confidence in them to use their voice and engage the brain off script.

    1. Interesting comment D Maul. Recently read an article on GB women’s hockey team which explained how their coach broke them up into groups of 3 & asked THEM to come up with tactics, scenarios, ploys, plays etc. IOW, he (don’t much like the word) empowered them, challenged & engaged them to take responsibility for their own decisions, game choices, options etc. Innovative. Won A WC. They may have won it anyway, but they may not have either. In either event, the coach’s thinking seemed to echo yr thoughts. Telling? Food for Eddie?

      1. That made me think of the old adage about Leopards and spots Don. Is EJ just too old school to really adopt and adapt? He’s a stubborn cuss as the whole of World Rugby knows and he’s been around a long time.
        It takes a degree of humility to acknowledge that your methods may be a little out of date, to an extent, it’s also an acknowledgement of your own mortality and possible obsolescence.
        Maybe EJ is the one who needs some mental adjustment from a head doctor?

        1. About the head Dr Acee, you may well have a point, but Ed sees that the need is for his team, not himself. Therein lies a
          problem. The RFU ain’t going to do anything until after the WC. If it goes tits up, they give Eddie the tin tac, so the buck stops just below the top. If it goes well, they bask in reflected glory. IMO Jones is in denial, so he’s not going to do anything (remedial) either. IMO, he doesn’t recognise that he’s fundamentally part of the problem, not the solution. Not a win, win it seems. And there’s still that lingering winning streak!?

          1. Don’t get me started on the RFU Don. If ever there WAS a suitable case for treatment………….!

            1. The Donald Trumps of rugger ol’ boy, Acee. Stated by M. Lynagh at the time of EJ’s appointment. He got the job due to Japan’s WC win v SA!

  6. Thinking back to the Italy game last year when Italy didn´t commit anybody to the ruck and thus created a situation where there was no offside, Hartley, Haskell and a number of others seemed completely bemused. The player who turned it round was Joe Launchbury, who worked out very quickly that the way to counter it was simply to pick up the ball and go straight through the middle of where the Italians would normally have been. I have seen lot of comments on here about him not being as dynamic as Itoje or Lawes, which may be true. What he does bring is reliability, good tackling, soft hands, defensive awareness, a rugby brain and experience of captaincy. He would be one of the first names on my team sheet as captain, but almost certainly won´t be on EJ´s. Of the other possibilities Mako doesn´t have experience of captaining a side at senior level (unless someone knows better) and has his head buried for long periods of the game, Hartley does not justify a place in front of George in the team, Itoje is probably our stand out player and shouldn´t be burdened with it, and Farrell is not in good enough form to provide leadership by example whether he plays 10 or 12.

    1. Good points Andy – re Mako as captain, the only thing I would counter with is the comments that he has his head buried for long periods of the game. I don’t see that a prop is any different in that regard to a hooker (and plenty of captains in that position: Hartley, Best, Smit etc). The usual thing going against front row being captain is that they are brought off in the second half, but Malo regularly plays 70/75 minutes for England and I wouldn’t see it as much of a stretch for him to play a full 80.

  7. Reasonable argument Henry, but I reckon that a hooker gets a better feel for the game, partly because he can sense what is coming through a scrum behind him on both sides rather than one, but mainly because he has a,good perspective of how the backs are aligned when he is throwing in and can communicate with the half backs, whereas a prop is on lifting duties,and has to focus on getting his man in the air at the right time. Also, the hooker is often last man to join mauls and rucks because he has either thrown the ball in or been last up from the previous scrum, so can see what is going on in front of him and direct it. I have captained sides from both positions and always found it easier from hooker. However, I do agree that it is the character of the man not his position which makes a good captain!

      1. Not sure a fat bloke of nearly seventy with arthritis in both hips and an old-fashioned attitude to sporting behaviour is what England are crying out for at the moment Don. I will bide my time until they get really desperate and then modestly offer my services.

        1. Srry Andy L, I was reffing the other Andy, but I reckon that with all yr exp, you too could help sort Eddie’s headache out.. by picking a decent captain for starters?

  8. The captain can be a hooker or a 1/2back, just so long as he isn’t a 1/2wit! Relatively, it doesn’t matter what position the captain plays, just so long as he stops England from kicking everything, esp when it all goes pear shaped in the 2nd 1/2.

  9. Anyone else see Finn’s comments about how he had an argument with Townsend at half time about tactics? Can’t imagine any of the English players giving Jones an earful and him going along with them, even if they were right. SCW said he and several players used to discuss tactics beforehand so effectively their strategy was co-operative with the team immediately buying in.
    The problem with Eddie is he is a rigid taskmaster and micromanager who actively disempowers his players. In this particular respect he is completely wrong for England. And rigidity breeds rigidity.
    Faz also tends to be overstructured as a player so that is a bad fit as well.

    1. Little bloke, power, manipulation, control. Seem familiar? No, no, not Napoleon! Completely wrong for any team, EJ i.e., not Boney, like the Reds, or Sarries for instance. Trouble was, that winning streak.

  10. An observation. Can’t believe the number of biegels here! Won’t hold my breath observing for a thumbs up on this observation of course.

  11. Martin Johnson England’s best captain in my opinion wasn’t what I would describe as dynamic but he was so inspirational as a leader and the heartbeat of the team i’d jump off a cliff for him if he asked me to.

    Interesting to in the back of his autobiography it has England results with him as captain and the only team he didn’t have a plus winning percentage against was New Zealand and even then it was level.

    1. Mr B. Do you think that this England team are, or have been, thinking of ‘jumping off a cliff’ too, even though EJ’s not so ‘inspirational as a leader’?

      1. Probably jumping off a cliff for a different reason!

        I just don’t agree with comments assuming that a Captain needs to be here, there and everywhere when Johnno wasn’t.

  12. I don’t think England were seriously challenged in any first half of any game in the tournament. They had moments of bad decision making, the cross field kick against Wales and the charge down against Scotland are just two. But they lead going into the break in every game. So would you change the way England play in the first half. I would say no this close to the WC, there’s just not enough time left.

    So maybe rather than identify new leaders you use the current ones slightly differently. Most would agree that George has earnt his starting place, he suits the pace England are playing in the first forty. So maybe the steadying hand could be provided in the second forty with the introduction of Hartley. It’s obviously a complete 180 in the way these two players have been used in the past, but he’s shown his leadership qualities in the past. Thinking the Aus series win more than anything else….

    1. When a team’s winning, with the possible exception of the opposition & to echo the comments of an Oz friend, everyone’s grinning. However, it’s not a case of shuffling deck chairs for the 2nd 1/2. It’s rather a case of recognising when, or if, the game’s momentum is changing & identifying why. It’s then that something may be done about it. A team can only play as well as the opposition will let them. However, with possession, a team has some control, without it, they have less. Therefore, as was the case v Scotland & after Macinally’s try, mo had begun to swing. Yet Farrell, Young’s kept kicking it away as if they’d been paid by some dodgie bookie to throw the game. The theoritical value of Hartley’s coming on thereafter would only have been If he’d recognised this issue. I.e., the Scots ‘D’ had become more cohesive & their breakdown had gleaned better poession than England’s. However, having a reader leader on in the 1st place may have allowed England to have stopped the rot instead of feeding it with all that ball! Ditto Wales. IOW, astute leadership may have prevented the snatching of defeat from the jaws of x2 1st 1/2 victories?!

  13. Agree to most of that, it’s the idealistic pinnacle really . I don’t however, think there was one person on the field, in the stand, or however many watching, wherever or whoever they were thought “oh that’s the momentum changed then” when MacInally scored. The recognition point you would have liked, would have been after the second. That would be when a reader leader could have made a positive change. The fact that it was never recognised is the reason for the original blog. For a captain to have such clarity is difficult, AWJ allowed Wales to play a full flawed 1st half against France. The change to the game was made after the break and one would Surmise by Gatland. EJ should have recognised the swing from his position of detachment. All I was really saying was that at the moment,a fit Hartley would seem to be the most effective choice to send on to affect the change needed.

    Ultimately either England learn from this with an achievable strategy, or the possibility is another very short WC. As you said in a different blog, there’s not many games left now to try and get it put right.

    1. Well, up till the point when MacInally scored, Scotland were in disarray, on the back foot, being cut to ribbons. When they did suddenly score, against the run of play, this ought to have raised the ? as to why it had happened. Was the ‘D’ lax, out of posi, was it a 1 off or were the Scots now getting more ball, were England tiring? Even worse, were they being complacent? Analysing on the hoof & in any event, the game every 1/4 seems wise. Forethought in the latter’s case. If it were deemed to be a 1 off score, then no need for undue concern, but a tightening of defence might have been prudent. It’s attention to details like this being put into practise in the 1st place, that can help arrest a potential decline in possession, territory & maybe, ultimately the game. Good to get into good habit’s, so that they can become ingrained. Cuts down error count, creates more opportunities. Mindset thing. Another e.g;, Farrell automatically going for goal after c. 20, & as per Wales I think, when an attempted try @ that stage might have been the better option.. & made a difference in the end?

  14. I have been probably over thinking this whole thing (like others!) however I see England’s issue as a double edged sword between both a stubborn coach but also a core of players who are (not all through fault of their own) unable to adapt in ‘real time’. Let me elaborate….firstly we have a bulk of sarries players running down the spine from the front row to fly half. Sarries are very much a team who stick to Plan A, and 90% of the time this works. So I would argue that even at club level our Sarries mob are coached to stick to the plan. Exeter very much the same and whilst only two in the squad it is another two who are coached to one plan. We then have Manu at 12 and for all his power and ability to suck in defending players, IMO he isn’t the smartest player and certainly not a player who can think tactics in the midst of a game that is falling away.

    At the top layer of EJ who – and I am sure many will 100% agree – sticks to his guns even when it is so clear of the issues developing….lets take a look. Continually playing locks at 6/7, continuing with the Ford/Farrell axis when teams had worked it out, not developing a scrum half option outside of Youngs/Care, sticking with Hartley ahead of George when clearly Hartley was not on form (and I don’t think his leadership is as good as some say to have kept him first choice, but also not saying Farrells is better)…..the list goes on.

    England’s power play is awsome and as we have seen teams struggle to live with it when they are in full flight. The issues is clearly we have seen they cannot maintain this over 80mins and when the tank starts to empty, minds start to tire England become vulnerable and as someone else commented, even when England are many points ahead no team will now think they are beaten until the final whistle. This is a huge boost of confidence for other teams. They did pretty much manage the full 80mins against Ireland as i feel they had a point to prove, but it has also become clear this 6N, Ireland are well off form.

    In summary, EJ won’t change before the WC and even if he did it is too late to re-mould the thinking and mentality of our players as detailed above. We will not with the WC, and I can see EJ losing the changing room before then. I predict we go out at the QF stage. Power play will get us through the group…..and then bye bye.

    1. I agree.A large part of the problem is EJ himself-He has had a large exposure to Japanese culture,a large part of which is the importance of saving face at all times.For EJ to slaughter the sacred cows is for him to accept that his anointed choices are not up to the mark!-A great loss of Face!
      One hopes things will improve but it is a racing certainty that the opposition and their supporters will be on Farrell”s case(and Youngs to a lesser extent) from now until the end of the season.Such is professional sport.NO ONE is immune from the CHOP.

      1. Ironic really that during 2018 most experienced pundits (and many fans) were saying we would never win the World Cup WITHOUT Farrell on the pitch. Now it seems we probably won’t win it with him ON the pitch!!

        1. DM, when I’ve put the boot into Farrell in the past, I’ve copped the sour grapes, anti-English thing (so you’d better watch out!). However, my view was that as he’s played in a winning Saracens side & did score points for England in an 18(?) match run, pundits @ large inflated his abilities disproportionately. E.g., if he threw a wide cut out pass, it was WC, he was a visionary etc, when in fact it was common sense, his job. Now under pressure, he’s being exposed, along with Youngs, as lacking in nous, vision, anticipation &/or the will to face Jones down (as per Finn Russell?) about changing tactics. Cipriani is the most naturally gifted fly1/2, but he is not trusted, presumably because he’s a bit daft, immature off the field. IMO, Jones, far from imposing an expanded style of play on England, has been sucked into being pretty much a spitting image of Lancaster. Hence his comments about playing in an ‘English’ way. Well, his team is & it ain’t working. There is time to turn it around. 6 mths. However, IMV, there’s no belief in, or will to change, or expand the game as this would require some changes in ‘key’ personne like OF. Jones can’t or won’t do this methinks. Therefore, next 4 may be revealing.. & frustrating for fans.. or not?

  15. Farrell seems to suffer these meltdowns at flyhalf but not when playing 12. I tend to think these meltdowns would happen at 10 even if he wasn’t captain. He isn’t as bad as he used to be when he would charge around shoving players when things went wrong but for all.the talk about him being a tma it seems to be intrinsic to his temperament that he loses his head under pressure. I reckon it’s a lot worse when he plays 10 because he’s at the centre of everything and becomes way too emotional and then all his mistakes get magnified because he’s so pivotal.
    Given that our problems seem to happen late in the game I don’t see how having Hartley as captain would help as he’s off the field by then.
    Also there is a lot of talk about how when Farrell plays badly so do England but the same is true about Youngs so we really do have a perfect storm waiting to happen at half back. The fact that Eddie couldn’t address this in either the Wales or Scotland match is pretty alarming to say the least! I don’t count bringing on Ford and Spencer with 10 minutes or less to go as addressing the problem.
    Why are England the exact inverse of the team they were in the first 2 years under Eddie? Then we played a large part of the matches behind on the scoreboard and finished very strongly. Now we start off looking like world beaters and end up looking toothless for vast stretches scarcely scoring any points or getting nilled in the second half. It’s quite bizarre how this extreme turnaround has come into being.
    Also surely this makes a mockery of Eddie’s assertion that this is scarring from the world cup given the 2 years afterwards the team was finishing so strongly. Look at how they played in Oz for heavens sake!!!

    1. Bolter. Isn’t it more likely that Farrell’s ‘meltdowns’ are to do with his innate character rather than his position? Prev he’s not been under much pressure, so cracks were not exposed. You too allude to this pressure. Agree re Hartley. If he plays, he should start. As already mentioned elsewhere, what England need is a decision maker who can assess what’s happening during a game & why. Much ought to be pre-planned though, working through potential game outcomes, situations, scenarios. England’s style worked for them for 2 yrs, then it stopped. Now they’re inconsistent & are doing wrong things. Like the, by now, old chestnut of kicking away posession. Hurricanes did similar this morning. If points are required, possession is required. Hard to state why England have hit a bit of a wall, but being predictable doesn’t help. Upping the tempo, variation, might help. Other teams work out & can relatively nullify, disrupt familiar tactics. Having a more rounded game with the ability to alter, adapt during a match should prove more fruitfull. A couple of key player & positional changes could also help. The problem with all this however, is, as you mention, Jones himself. His lack of vision & capacity to even see this as an issue is holding England back. A predictable, blinkered albatross with a millstone around it’s neck is making his team dysfunctional.

      1. What do you think of the idea of swapping Slade and Manu round so Slade plays 12 Don, or anyone else? I know this isn’t ideal as means yet another player out of position but Manu is much more dangerous at 13 and Slade at 12 would mean another ball player next to Farrell to help him make decisions and relieve pressure. Slade is a lot more intelligent than Farrell. Problem is maybe Faz wants to be alpha male and won’t listen?
        Scrum half situation is horrible beyond belief and completely Eddie’s fault. Credit to Spencer that he was able to play last very stressful 10 minutes without mistakes, is he one for the world cup given Robson probably out with illness?

  16. I’m pretty sure the 2015 WC games we lost to Wales and Aus we had Faz at 10 and Botch Kick Youngs at 9…..didn’t Farrell also get yellow carded in the Australia game? Hmmmm……


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