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…

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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…

  3. 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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