Lack of quick ball stifles England against Australia

Overhearing the analysis of amateur pundits in the queue for the Guinness Bar yesterday, there were some fairly divided opinions about where England had gone wrong.

Matt Giteau

Some blamed Danny Cipriani: “He made the wrong decisions – just look at that dropped goal attempt.” Some were mystified by the quality of kicking from hand: “We were sending aimless kicks down the throats of their back three.” Others criticised the referee and the fact that many decisions seemed to go the way of the visitors.

None of these views were far from the truth, but may be symptoms more than the cause. Cipriani looked as though he was trying to force matters because he wasn’t given the quick ball that he needs to set his backline free.

When the Wallabies were in possession, the ball was in and out of rucks quicker than you could say Waltzing Matilda, but England’s possession was ponderous and slow so that by the time the young fly-half received the ball, the opposition defence was neatly aligned and able to shut down any attacks.

It was as if England’s dominance in the forwards was such a given that they didn’t need a plan B. Andrew Sheridan and Al Baxter are going head to head again, so we must be able to destroy their scrum once more.

However, Robbie Deans’ men gained parity at the set piece and were far superior at the breakdown, leaving England flummoxed as to what to do with no alternative gameplan beyond conceding penalties in frustration. Kicking out of hand was dire, but that tactic probably wasn’t rehearsed a great deal as they didn’t think they would need it.

I imagine Brian Smith had equipped England’s backs with an armoury of wily attacking moves that would have dazzled the crowd had the forwards done what they were supposed to do and produce constant quality ball. As it was, they were clueless and directionless, with Cipriani doing his best to get things moving, making two excellent breaks in the process, but ultimately unable to have a real impact.

England were exposed as the young, inexperienced side that they are, lacking leadership and direction. Doubts remain as to whether Steve Borthwick is the right man for the captain’s armband, the second row is clearly a problem area and the back row does not yet function as it needs to in order to catalyse Cipriani’s backs.

Australia were supposed to be the weakest of the big three teams to visit Twickenham this autumn, so it’s only going to get harder for Martin Johnson’s men.

Please have your say as to where the match was won and lost…

15 thoughts on “Lack of quick ball stifles England against Australia

  1. You guys could be in danger of being too harsh on yourselves. For obvious reasons the Wallabies wanted that game just so much more. This goes some way to explaining the rock solid defense and energy at the breakdown.

    However, I don’t know how getting smashed in two tight heads and having to sub both props can be called “parity”.

    Also, you need to stop swallowing Stephen Jones’ BS on Australia being the worst SH side here. A look at the 3Ns table and remembering that the Wallabies were one try (or two penalty goals under these laws) away from winning the thing should put that to bed.

  2. I don’t think there’s too much need to panic. Rome wasn’t built in a day and we’re coming from a pretty low start point. Some of the off loading and attacking play was quite promising too.

    For once I agree with Gagger and Stephen Jones is full of it. The Ozzies are a good team at the moment with an outstanding coach and some experienced world class players in Smith, Giteau and Mortlock. They played well and deserved to win.

    At the risk of being mischevious, did anyone else find it ironic that the Ozzies played territory and took 3 points when they had earned them, building a good score and putting pressure on England. England, by contrast, kicked poorly but arguably offered more of an attacking threat. I’ve got no problem with that Ozzie gameplan, but do the Ozzie fans take offence to it?

  3. Though I supported the changes to the side in the week, in hindsight we would have been better sticking with the team we had against the Islanders. As the dominance in the scrum didn’t come about it was a waste to bring in Tom Palmer as he had little impact around the park and at least Nick Kennedy would have improved our ability in the lineout (it seemed pretty woeful). Stevens looked good around the park when he came on, whereas I didn’t see much of Vickery (then again I was up in the stands so it’s hard to see how the forwards are contributing in the tight). As much as I hear about Borthwicks leadership qualities I’ve never seen any of it on the park and he has no impact on the game as you would have expected from a Johnson or even a Shaw or a Grewcock.

    I’m not sure if Johnson will be so brave but the changes I would make for this week would be to revert back to Kenney and Stevens, but drop Borthwick and bring in Shaw or Grewcock (who apparently had an outstanding game for Bath on Saturday). It’s one thing to bring in the youth but until we have some stand out young candidates in the second row I think we should go with the old guard so they can build the platform to let the backs show their talents.

  4. I agree with a great deal said here, and also believe that quick ball is almost becoming a forgotten activity from English rugby. Can we also please see some moves actually thrown by our backline – can anyone actually remember when England threw anything other than a miss pass?

    Flutey was the only man wearing white that made the Aussie defence think twice, his lines were varied and movement at the gain-line caused momentary stammer for the aussies. The more the clock ran down, the better he looked. However, the other 14 men on the field not only took the ball standing still, but ran dead straight (or across the field) – a beautiful thing for awaiting tacklers.

    Is it the coach, or more the mentality of our players that needs a kick-start? Men in charge have come and gone, but in the last 10 years have we seen a marked change in the way England play?

  5. “I’ve got no problem with that Ozzie gameplan, but do the Ozzie fans take offence to it?”

    When in Rome under your rules and all that Kemlo!

    But seriously, some big problems in our back line, but mainly positionally. Gits is a 12 not a 10, but Barnes is injured. Mortlock, Cross (had crap game) and AAC are all 13’s and we have no proper fullback. Hard to see how it can be fixed before end of this tour as well.

  6. I think AAC is great at 15. I love it how when he’s the last line of defence he just dives as hard as he can at the chest of the man with the ball in the hope he’ll either dislodge the ball or completely end either himself or the ball carrier. I haven’t seen anyone else recently play the game with such tenacity as he did during the tri-nations. He was switched on every minute of every match.

  7. At least England aren’t in the woeful position Ireland found themselves in after the game on Saturday?!

    I’ve never heard a commentator say “This has degraded into one of the worst test matches of all time” during a game – Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

    I don’t even think we can cling on to the belief that we’re the 3rd best team in the home nations…what a weekend.

  8. Spike – agree on AAC’s gutsy D. He’s also hard to put off his feet, but the lack of kicking game leaves him as a great 13 and a struggling 15 for me.

  9. Totally agree with Jonno’s comments above about us either running dead straight and predictable, or fading one way then the other, with no ever coming out of the line and changing the point of attack (except Flutey on occasions). All they needed to do was play drift defence against us, knowing that we would rarely go more than 3 phases without a mistake.

    That said, the back line will only get better with practice and if all we can muster in the opposition 22 is the same old series of pick and goes, they’ll never get any better. Even when we had penalty advantage and therefore absolutely nothing to lose from trying something different, we didn’t.

    I thought Cipriani did his best but we have rushed him back before he’s ready. With all the injuries at 10 we had to have him back in the squad (otherwise it was Hodgson – NOOOOO!), but he is not back to full fitness to my mind, and with that he’s not as confident as he was before the injury. I’ve every faith in him getting back to his best, but I’d like to see Flood given a go at 10 and get Cipriani absolutely right for the 6N.

  10. I’ve got no problem with that Ozzie gameplan, but do the Ozzie fans take offence to it?

    No not at all, the gameplan has to be written to the opponents and the rules in place, playing England under the bastardised choose your own ELV’s the penalty kicks are pretty much mandatory.

    That said, I’d have preferred the game to have been played under the ELV’s then we could have taken the scrum option and really converted our set piece advantage into 7 pointers.

  11. Bemused at the comments here. It’s far from a top strength Aussie side. Young kid at 9, club players at 11 and 14 plus Ryan Cross, the worst league import yet, this is far from the finished article. Their pack scrummaged well, perhaps exposing Sheridan, who despite his reputation had a torrid time in the 6N, particularly against Gethin Jenkins and of course Lee Mears who’s another of those great hookers around the park but not a great scrummager. Wales have got three of them!

    Hard to swallow, but we just don’t have the quality. Cipriani is all promise and way too many errors. Noon always fails to deliver and Sackey is a fumbler. We’re better off than last year when Andrew picked the Newcastle team but jeez with this team we’re in for a hiding against the AB’s…

  12. You English have a wonderful gift for understatement, clearly exhibited in this string of posts. As mentioned above, the initial comment, “Robbie Deans’ men gained parity at the set piece”, is a classic example of the genre. But arguably it was surpassed by the dual contributions from Mikey, namely, “the dominance in the scrum didn’t come about” and “I didn’t see much of Vickery (then again I was up in the stands so it’s hard to see how the forwards are contributing in the tight)”.

    We convicts are supposed to be the ones who know nothing about scrummaging, but from long experience of watching the Wallaby pack on roller skates, even if in the furthest row of the stands and lubricated by numerous pints of Old Speckled Hen or whatever, we can tell when a pack is getting their heads shoved up their arse. The Pommy pack being wheeled at will and then turned into road kill in the second half could truthfully be said not to have achieved “dominance in the scrum”.

    I know we are tempting the fates here. Saturday’s Wallaby scrum performance may turn out to be like Hayley’s comet, seen once in a lifetime, but it is something to be savoured. I am worried, though, that Deans has decided to pull the front row apart for the France match. One truly dominant performance and he decides to rest one of the props! Is that arrogance or just the fact that Deans played as a full back?

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