Room for Improvement as England prepare for Australia

Cole Robshaw

Not bad. Those two words seem to sum up the general feeling surrounding England’s seven-try win against Fiji. It was a decent enough performance, but the opposition were, with all due respect, pretty poor.

Australia will be a very different proposition, especially after the beating they took from Les Bleus last weekend. The Wallabies will be looking to bounce back and prove that their pack are real men, not the mice we saw getting trodden into the dirt on Saturday night.

The good news is that the England camp seem well aware of this, and are making all the right noises about ‘stepping it up a few gears’ from last weekend. Here are four areas for improvement that they are likely to be working on in training this week.

Take your chances

On the face of it, seven tries seems like a pretty good day at the office, but England let at least the same number of chances go begging. This is bad news because against more robust defences, you won’t get that many opportunities. If England want to beat any of the big three, they must take their chances. All of them. So, Dan Cole, next time you get the ball in open space (never a good time for a prop) with a four man overlap outside you, pass the sodding ball. Please?

Remember that a rugby match is 80 minutes long

England still seemed to be warming up for the first fifteen minutes of the Fiji game. They got away with it then, but only because Fiji failed to capitalise, but the likes of Australia et al won’t be so forgiving. England must start with maximum ferocity and accuracy, putting the opposition under pressure from the first second. In that vein, they must remember not to switch off once the final whistle approaches, when their concentration dipped, Fiji scored an easy try at the death. Admittedly the game was comfortably won by then, but let’s see a full 80-minute performance, please.

Sort out the restarts

Restarts are a crucial and often overlooked part of the modern game. The rest of the England set-piece, the scrum and lineout, functioned superbly, but the restarts faltered far too often. With nine tries scored in the match there were plenty of opportunities to get it right, yet there were knock-ons and miscommunication galore. Someone needs to remind Toby Flood that the ball has to go 10 metres, too. Hopefully this can be put down to a bit of first-game-back rust. Hopefully.

Work on the double-hit

When Fiji had possession, they were allowed to make a worrying amount of ground through their offloading game. England can’t let the southern hemisphere big three get continuity in their attack – if they do, we’ll be in big trouble. The way to negate an offload is through the double-hit: one tackler goes low round the legs, the other goes high and wraps up the ball. Not only does this prevent the offload, it also allows the ‘high’ defender (if he releases) to compete for the ball at the ruck straight away and slow down the attack – or even force a turnover.

What do you think are the key areas for improvement?

By Gideon Heugh

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

In other news, The Rugby Blog has been chosen by sports PR agency ENS Ltd as its blog of the week!

11 thoughts on “Room for Improvement as England prepare for Australia

  1. Visit a hairdresser!
    Seriously, Danny Care, Ugo Monye and Owen Farrell are the worst offenders, but it’s a time of year for growing ridiculous facial hair, not head hair.

    1. Haha, why are there so many miserable bastards on rugby pages? If it makes them happy they’ll play more positive rugby. Not the rumbling bowl cut battering to nothing game I reckon your begging for.
      On things to improve, I think its just going to take at least another game to establish trust in the big games. Waldrom can improve, but Morgan would be one hell of an impact player.
      Youngs to start and want to see Paice, wilson bring more of effect off the bench.
      Come on England!!!

      1. But at least 2 of those 3 aren’t playing well. The other isn’t exactly a shoe-in at the moment for club or country. Perhaps England could adopt the Ospreys’ position with their “no caps, less than 50 appearances = no flash boots” and the “no orange skin” rules and make everyone look professional.

  2. With Morgan widely tipped to be England’s number 8 at the next RWC, why isn’t he even included on the bench, he should surely get a game in one of these autumn internationals.

    Aside from that, if we make a good start, get Manu smashing through and get the offloads going I think we could see another famous England win over Oz.

    1. possibly because he’s tipped by fans and pundits based on a good showing in the 6 nations, rather than necessarily being Lancaster’s plan?

      I think the nail on the head – and it has been for some time – an 80 minute game. England have – in the past – started well and taken the foot off the accelerator at 60 minutes and it’s cost them dear. Last week it was the first 15 with not everyone switched on. Must do better on that front.

      I think the working 9/10 axis is important. If Care and Flood can’t play off each other, their time together should be limited. I’d like to see Youngs starting at 9 and Care come on in the last 20 to dart around the tired legs in the way that Johnno had been running England.

      1. I agree that if Lancaster sticks with Flood at 10 then we should be playing Youngs at 9, they play well together and Care can, as you say, can still have an impact as a sub.

        But I’m not 100% convinced Flood is the man to take England to 2015. There are a few other fly halfs that need a chance in that position: Burns, george ford, even cipriani.

        1. I tend to agree about Fly Half. I am a big Flood fan, but will he take us all the way to 2015? Not sure.

          Burns deserves a chance. Ford needs to get in the Leicester team ahead of Flood before he is considered and Cipriani needs to continue playing the way he has been the last month and then he will get a shot too I am sure.

  3. I am excited to see Ashton working off Flood’s shoulder again; interesting to see whether they can establish a similar form to what the had in the 6N 2011.
    I hope Care maintains his starting role with Ashton on the wing. I don’t think that combo of 9 and 14 has happened before, but with Care making incisive runs with the poaching of Ashton on his shoulder, we could see a start to another barrage of tries for Ashton.
    Although I am a big fan of Mike Brown, I was very impressed with Goode last week and am hoping that we might get to see a trial of Brown at 13 late in the 2nd half. He makes so much ground for Quins due to his lines, persistence and off-loads. With Manu inside him, who’s to see we wouldn’t end up with an incredible back-line with Goode and Flood bossing the game, with a huge amount of “usable” talent outside them.

    Much excitement builds!

  4. With Flood I feel it is his psychology, at Newcastle he spent too much time playing second fiddle to Jonny Wilkinson and he just doesn’t believe he can be the best. I agree with Jacob about whether he has the belief and ability to help us win the RWC.
    I have been impressed with Burns this season and he has substantially improved his biggest weakness, his dead ball kicking. On current form he desrves a look-in during the 6N.

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