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!