If you were watching the debacle unfold at the Millennium Stadium with your head in your hands and your optimism fading away, fear not. It’s all part of Martin Johnson’s World Cup masterplan, we can exclusively reveal.
Did you really think that England could train for two months at Pennyhill Park and then fail to score a try – or even run a backs move – against Wales, despite enjoying approximately 99% of possession?
England’s pack was utterly dominant, walking through the Welsh scrum on a number of occasions, and they set up camp in Welsh territory for large periods in the game. Fans were tearing their hair out at the fact they couldn’t create any space for a try, but why would they want to reveal their hand in a friendly warm-up match?
Video analysts in enemy camps will be poring over these warm-up games ahead of the World Cup, and Johnno should be hailed as a genius for giving them absolutely nothing to work with. When Graham Henry, Robbie Deans and other rival coaches ask their team whether there is anything they should worry about with England, the response will be an emphatic ‘no’. If they were still awake at the end of the footage, they’ll have been given no insight into England’s real attacking prowess.
One or two of the analysts might have written down ‘Flood, inside ball’ as a move. And then put a x2, x3, x4, x5 and so on as the same move was repeated over and over. Attack coach Brian Smith has had weeks with these international players, and if you think that’s the best they can come up with, you have been fooled – just as they want you to be.
How else do you explain the defeat? England didn’t really want to win the game.
Captain Mike Tindall turned down several shots at goal in the first half, preferring to keep the scores level rather than to build an unassailable lead. They kicked for the corner, exerted their forward dominance – everyone knows they are big up front, so no harm in declaring that hand – and then only showed one dimension to their back line.
The 7’3″ Matt Banahan was one-on-one with the 4’10” Shane Williams with plenty of space. ‘Oh no, I can’t fail to score here,’ thought Banners, ‘and then we’ll take the lead.’ Following the team instructions to the letter, he ran straight at the little man, dropped the ball and there was a sigh of relief that they’d got away with it.
When Wales finally got hold of the ball and James Hook scored in the second half, England were right where they wanted to be. Seven points down with 15 minutes to go, they just wanted to wind the clock down, and get back to camp – who better to bring on in that situation than Charlie Hodgson? He kicked beautifully out of hand, keeping Wales back in their own territory, with no intention of keeping the ball in hand, just in case instincts kicked in and they actually made a break.
When the final whistle went, it was a job well done for England. They maintained a straight face as the Welsh side jumped up and down in celebration, although Johnno nearly gave the game away with a smirk in his post-match interview.
So England fans, fear not. What you saw on Saturday was not the real England, and they’ll be ready to unleash the full potential of their gym-honed talents against Argentina in a few weeks’ time. The Webb Ellis Cup will return, and Johnno will be knighted as a genius.
Follow Hutch on Twitter: @Hutch_James