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Hi guys – it’s been a while and appreciate there is limited conversational subjects but just wondered if you could start a few threads around some current talking points such as the global calendar, Burgess’s rant on Ford Senior and Junior or even just a few ‘what ifs’ for the banter??

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Hi DM. I’m so glad to see the Rugby blog up and running again. I sincerely hope that all contributors are well and that we can all find a little time to post some food for thought.

I will start…Tuilagi? Is this a case of two fingers to a club that fully paid him and supported him through several seasons of which much was on the sidelines yet suddenly he is asked to take a pay cut and he has a short memory? Or do we think he was going to go anyway given 2019 was realistically his last chance of World Cup glory with England so France(?) was always on the cards given the dire season Leicester had?

It’s complicated!
On one hand I can see why Tuilagi’s apparent desire to up sticks has angered the club and fans,especially, as you say,given they have stood by him through some pretty dire times injury wise.
Having said that,he may feel that he’s approaching the twilight of his career and needs the excitement of one last new challenge before retirement.
He also needs to consider his red rode status too, unless he’s not that bothered anymore.
I would like to think it isn’t all about money (again) but since Sarrygate,it’s hard not to wonder.

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Yeah didn’t consider that he might need a new lease of motivation – suppose only human really. No different to your average Joe wanting to change jobs after 5/6 years for a new challenge, not always about money…well within reason.

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Talking of sarrygate, I think allowing them to loan players for a year is wrong. They should either have to retain them in the squad or loose them. To me it feels like they are escaping half the punishment.

Yeah can see your point here, they are just off-loading chunks of their wage bill. That said if they plan to secure promotion (likely) and take the playerd back surely back in the same situ unless players take a cut to return?
Tuilagi has signed for Sale….I didn’t expect that, expected him to move aborad and cash in. Maybe he has unfinished business in the Red Rose shirt!

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Yes, looks like we can expect to see him scattering the opposition in a Red Rose shirt a while longer.
Wonder what Umbro will come up with kit wise?

Yeah wasn’t sure about this one.

I would say the punishment is being relegated from the Prem and receiving a hefty fine. I don’t think they should have to jettison some of their talent, specifically the ones they have nurtured through the academy; I always took issue with that complaint from oppo clubs/supporters and it always struck me as jealously.

They have gotten rid of a few player – Kruis most notably – but it will be interesting to see how they cut the cloth going forward.

The world of rugby is giving us plenty to discuss right now it seems: The Lions, a revised AI schedule and format, Sarries keeping hold of key players and Eddie’s continuing preference for Southern Hemisphere back rowers over the home grown variety………………

Okay so are we going to get a bit more chat up and running now? I see Gabriel Ibitoye has left Quins for Agen. Bit gutted about that as I felt he was showing some real promise and could have been on the radar for England at some point if he kept up his form for another season. Suspect it’s a money move given Agen were struggling in the French league?? Maybe he was already on an average wage at Quins and taking a further cut wasn’t that motivating! Suppose he is still young so could do a couple of seasons in France and come back a better player?

Yes, just saw that on BBC Rugby site. It’s a weird one. I don’t know a lot about Agen as a club,I assume they must have some sort of attraction for a young player that has a lot of potential?

How is everyone coping with rugby officially back? I see Jack Clifford has had to retire at 27, realy shame he had great potential but just littered with injuries when it really started to matter.

Yeah really gutted for him. Quality all-round backrow who seemed to be breaking into the England setup before injury hit.

The talent England have at backrow is scary though; Currys and Willis picking up where they left off, Vunipola rediscovering some form. Think Underhill has been below par and Dombrandt needs to show why he deserves a shot with England – not seen enough yet imo.

Agree some real quality in the back row, so hopefully we will no longer see Itoje or Lawes plonked in at 6/7….subject to players keeping fit. I don’t think Underhill has been below par and he is playing his part in a Bath pack that has really improved. He does his job and can often go unoticed as he is not so much of a flare player. Agree on Dombrandt…he is a lively chap but can often make several basic errors and can try too much at times. Hopefully with experience this will lessen.

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I must admit, I didn’t mind seeing Itoje or Lawes line up at 6 if we had the other partnering Kruis at lock. Our best position in terms of depth was lock so I can see the need to have 3 of them in the line up. I dont think it’s as necessary now though.

You’re probably right with Underhill, just used to him scything people down every other minute. Mercer has been immense for Bath this season so think he’s probably gone ahead of Dombrandt in the no. 8 pecking order – both behind BV of course.

To another contested position for England – who takes the 3rd 10 slot in a tournament squad behind Ford and Farrell?

Funny you mention Underhill scything people down – he was smashing a few Goucester players ribs last night! He actually looked very active last night, few good runs, some good clearouts. I’d like to see him look for space a bit more as he has got gas over 50 yards, but he just likes to get stuck into the breakdown and hammer people!

No 10 well I suppose stats would say Simmonds deserves a shot, followed by Smith @ Quins or even Jacob Umaga as a wild card who seems to be showing real promise. Either way the time will come soon where we need to give some game time to some younger lads at the top level, even if a couple of 20/30min stints in the ‘friendlies’….

Loads! Eddie’s second consultancy role, Exeter seemingly unstoppable, the revised format AI’s, SA joining the six nations,the return of spectators to HQ,……………..Take your pick!

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Ha ha – I meant on when TRB would be back, but I think that you knew that. I think that Farrell would have been a hot topic over the last few days

Err, the last articles on here are all March. Unless my computer is playing up, TRB really doesn’t look like it is back yet, despite a couple of comments on this home page.

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Not sure I’ll get a response but what are people’s feelings towards the postponement of Sale v Worcester? 16 players at Sale test positive for Covid yet they’re allowed to postpone the match instead of forfeit. Similarly, Northampton have had to forfeit their gane against Gloucester.

Under the Covid guidelines, a team unable to fulfil a match due to Covid outbreak has to forfeit. This surely means Sale have to forfeit?

I think like COVID-19 across the world the rules are made up, or tweaked as the powers that be feel best suits them! Their 16 players are not going to be cleared by Weds, and in fact surely the whole team should be isolating now? All a bit strange and not consistent.

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I must admnit with COVID-19, the sarries scandal and Exeter pretty much in a league of their own I haven’t paid much attention to some of the upcoming players and not familiar with some of EJs uncapped choices. That said with several players not available due to league commitments no real suprise the squad looks like it does. No doubt will look very different nearer the time of the AIs

Agreed, I think this trg squad is nothing like the one we will see in a few weeks, although it will be interesting to see some of these in the barbarians game. Always a good chance to have a look at some new faces. Looking forward to the the AIs! Hope TRB gets back up running again soon.

So what’s people’s thoughts on the semi finals? Personally I can only see one winner at Sandy Park. Whilst Bath have enjoyed an excellent resurgence on the reopening of the season, I think they may have blown their load and mentally I don’t think they have the metal to grind it out away to Exeter. The other game poses an interesting tustle. Both free flowing sides and both enjoying their rugby. Pat Lam has his set of players well bonded and I have a feeling they will nick this one.

On another note I think Exeter could drop the ball on one of the two finals (assuming they get past Bath) as they now have three tough knock out games on the spin each weekend. It’s going to be tough on the players….if I was a betting man I would go for a real battle of a win over Racing and then they cough up the prem against a rested Bristol.

Happy Sunday all. So thoughts on the semi finals? I was left underwhelmed from a neutrals selfish point of view; I did’t expect Bath to keep up with Exeter for the whole 80mins but come half time I just felt Bath were well off the pace even with the scoreline not ness reflecting an inevitable deafeat at 14-6. If it was a boxing match it would have been stopped at around 60mins!

Wasps/Bristol reality was it was done at half time at 23-5. Whilst Bristol did put up a better fight than Bath and even when there was a glimmer of a comeback you just knew Wasps had more tries in them so the deficit was just too big. Did feel Wasps got a few decisions swing their way. Willis was immense and his try saving tackle was a punch in the guts that really hurt Bristol.

What do people think about the Robson sniper try off the penalty when the ref was still explaining the decision to the players who were caught off guard? Should have been pulled back or play on??

It was underwhelming imo as well, though I think going into the games there were two clear favourites so maybe not a surprise.
Bath started well but couldnt get through the Exeter defensive line and then errors started to show. On that showing though, I don’t think Exeter will win either final. I think the Racing game will be close, but I think Russel et al will have enough to score the tries.

As you stated, and as pointed out by commentary, there were a few key infringements missed with one leading to a Wasps try.

The Robson try was poor reffing 101 imo; I appreciate that players need to get up and reset in defence when penalised, but if the referee is lecturing half of your players, who happen to be in a tangle on the ground, I hardly think its fair to allow a quick tap. Do players just completely ignore the ref going forward? The tap wasnt even taken in the spot the penalty was awarded – Carley’s field of vision – it was taken behind him – which is normally another reason for it to be pulled back.

Having listened to Eggchasers podcast, which had JP Doyle speaking on it, I can understand why it was allowed to go on. To paraphrase, the laws state that a penalty can be taken within a metre radius of the infringement, so the spot Robson took the tap was fine.

The contentious part comes from whether or not it was Bristol who engaged Carley, or Carley who engaged Bristol, in dialogue. If the former, then Wasps shouldnt be impeded in taking a penalty quickly because Bristol want to talk to the referee regarding a decision (this should be done when the ball is dead, by the captain). If the latter however, then Carley shouldn’t allow Wasps to play on if he is the reason Bristol are engaged in discussions/remonstrations. JP says this is the grey area where you can decide for yourself.

Not sure I agree 100% with whether it should have been allowed to stand, mainly because we see quick tap penalties brought back all the time for not being taken in front of the referee. If this isn’t actually a requirement, then why is it bein refereed inconsistently.

Harping back to Wales v England August 2019, and the quick tap whilst England were making a substitution. This clearly shouldnt have been allowed to stand (in my biased opinion).

What’s everyone thought on Spencer being omitted from trg squad? I’m not surprised but still don’t understand EJ selection process!?!

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Was he not included as he was playing in SF? Maybe I imagined that but I am sure I read somewhere that there were several players unavailble for the training squad due to premership commitments?

Either way I think he derserves a shot he has been a stand out player for Bath and I really like how he handles himself in the big games, very calm and collected.

Glad to see Exeter lift the cup!

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Re Fast Ed’s training squad, why Kerrod and Ribbans? It seems EJ just can’t NOT pick players with SH backgrounds.
As already stated by others the S/half situation gets dafter by the minute.

No DM, 6/7 other Bath players have now been added to the squad.

Same feeling as Stu: not surprised but dont understand it. Spencer and Robson were the two standout 9’s this season (although Robson obvs tied up with Prem final for the time being) so I can’t see why EJ continues to select BY and a bolter.

Does anyone else think that there has to be serious conversations around Italy remaining in the 6N? Absolute whipping boys and it’s just simply how many points can a team put on them.

I agree that it should be considered. It’s been so many years and it is still considered everyone’s points booster game.

The issue arises when considering replacements. The Scotland v Georgia game was a woeful spectacle, IMO as a neutral, and that’s nothing against Scotland. Georgia are far less organised and looked more out place than Italy did v Ireland. Maybe a play-off v the winner of the 2nd tier European tournament?

I am personally opposed to the idea of SA joining the 6N. Not only would the away fixture in SA be a nightmare for any fans to attend, there is simply no tradition between SA and any of the 6N teams. What makes 6N great is the tradition, the local rivalries, the history.

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I’d like to see it just go back to 5 nations for a period until another European team can show some promise to compete. I know it’s catch 22 as they need the competitive games – but you could argue that this has not done Italy any good for 5/6 years now! Completely agree about SA – it would take away tradition and also probably dilute the RWC as part of the draw is SH only get to play NH teams ‘competitively’ once every four years (excluding the Lions)….it’s just wrong on the fans aswell (assuming at some piont attendance at games is back to some level of normal).

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Yeah 5 Nations could be the way. The players union says that there are too many games, so surely the 5 nations could be player over 5 straight weeks, leaving weeks off for rest. The rest of the teams, Scotland included, are normally very competitive.

100%, the intrigue around SH v NH would diminish. I’m a big fan of the summer tours but, with the autumn tours as well, maybe there are too many fixtures between SH and NH each year as it is. I would also like to see club teams being able to field full strength teams more often, so much of the season is weakened squads because of international commitment. It’s very frustrating seeing my club side put out teams without the star players.

I think a single set of NH and SH fixtures, either a single summer tour or a set of autumn fixtures would keep the allure of the NH v SH fixtures.

What, exactly, do people want?
Certain of us are TRYING to discuss the game so what is the issue?
We can’t turn back the clock or alter the current situation so why not make a constructive suggestion rather than mentally shrugging the shoulders and walking away?
I’m being serious not attacking Matt or anyone else. Speak your minds and we may be able to come up with a plan.

I would like to see the return of articles and opinion pieces to centre discussions and topics of interest. IMO what we are doing now is just hijacking a URL for random discussion…prob what we did before but was well run, well written pieces that we could choose to make input against.

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Dont worry Stu, Acee is being dense. It’s obvious that everyone would like some articles or opinion pieces from Hutch and the other guys at TRB. Conversation amongst ourselves is all well and good but it just doesnt feel the same.

Do you know something we dont Acee about the blog? Genuinely asking when the blog will return in full is a valid question.

I think just undercooked; had the game been at the end of the tournament in a normal year, I think they’d have been firing. We still scored some nice tries but it wasn’t as emphatic as it should’ve been. That being said, Ireland put 50 on Italy (though conceded more than we did).

I didn’t particularly like the gameplan – I can appreciate the need to play in the right areas and to pressure Italy but it feels like most other teams will let their back-3s attack when the kick chase is as poor as it was today. We have such pace at the back and we never seem to utilise it.

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I think you can blame being ‘undercooked’ to a degree, but let’s be honest that was a pretty shoddy and laboured performance. Considering the 6N could have come down to points difference, I really didn’t get the 1 million kick and chase tactics. I wonder if Eddie just doesn’t have faith in our backs ability to run the ball – and I can often see why at times……I will explain.

So Ugo Monye was nearly having an orgasm on the BBC podcast when he was naming the players in our backline – it even made my heart beat rapidly when he was talking them up and about how much pace we have. And to be fair for the past 3/4 years I have always got excited by our backs ‘on paper’ and the pace….BUT what is the point of having several players who can probably clock 100m in 10/12 secs if some of the basics are not there! Too often (and not just yesterday) our passing is either too high/low or behind a player and this immediately halts any attack. We still don’t draw and pass well and often players run sideways until your winger is literally on the touchline with nowhere to run when he finally gets the ball – this is basic level stuff! Simply for all the pace we have we still lack guile.

Jonny May seemed to be the only player who wanted to run the ball from deep, and when he did the others just seemed to freeze rather than getting on his shoulder.

Slade should not play at 12, and we seriously need to unearth some talent at 12 and 13 (not saying Slade is to be dropped but he can be prone to the odd injury so we need backup).

I love the way the pundits also try to sugar coat things saying at halftime ‘well Italy are playing well’. NO NO NO they were not playing well and they are a crap side. They had no crowd to gee them up, and the week before had 50 points put on them.

I’m pleased we won the 6N, but it was not a pretty tournament for England IMO and again we have blown hot and cold.

On a more positive note, I thought our pack looked good and wow some of those tackles going in from Curry and Underhill OUCH. I recall there was one where they doubled up on some guy – looked like someone literally swung a sledgehammer at his legs.

Probably too generous on my part but, given most of those players havent played any competitive rugby for 2 – 3 weeks (and some even longer), I think playing a few more games to become more familiar with each other wouldve lead to a marked improvement.

I agree with you though on the backline – for years now pundits (I do this too tbh) have been purring over this backline and yet they haven’t lived up to expectations. They should, in my mind, be scything through teams with silky handling but this only tends to come from set piece strike moves, not from open play. In open play we, more often than not, either kick the crap out of the ball to compete, meaning we never get to see successive phases with running, heads up rugby, or we crab across the field and kill the space for the outside backs. Genuinely think Ollie Lawrence could be the answer to this; he’s very abrasive and direct and would compliment JJ/Slade/Daly.

When getting good forward ball the players have the ability to capitalise on the slower defensive line, but it always seems like other teams are able to attack more effectively with their backs. I know we dont have players like Dupont or Ntamack but with the talent available we should be doing better.

Forwards were very good imo. Underhill and Curry showing why theyre the No. 1 choice and Earl coming off the bench and playing very well.

Not sure why Furbank played and Watson went to the wing; not really convinced by Furbank at international level and just seems a waste of Watson’s talent shifting over to accommodate him. Would have preferred Cockanisiga to play to be honest.

I think you can blame being ‘undercooked’ to a degree, but let’s be honest that was a pretty shoddy and laboured performance. Considering the 6N could have come down to points difference, I really didn’t get the 1 million kick and chase tactics. I wonder if Eddie just doesn’t have faith in our backs ability to run the ball – and I can often see why at times……I will explain.

So Ugo Monye was nearly having an orgasm on the BBC podcast when he was naming the players in our backline – it even made my heart beat rapidly when he was talking them up and about how much pace we have. And to be fair for the past 3/4 years I have always got excited by our backs ‘on paper’ and the pace….BUT what is the point of having several players who can probably clock 100m in 10/12 secs if some of the basics are not there! Too often (and not just yesterday) our passing is either too high/low or behind a player and this immediately halts any attack. We still don’t draw and pass well and often players run sideways until your winger is literally on the touchline with nowhere to run when he finally gets the ball – this is basic level stuff! Simply for all the pace we have we still lack guile.

Jonny May seemed to be the only player who wanted to run the ball from deep, and when he did the others just seemed to freeze rather than getting on his shoulder.

Slade should not play at 12, and we seriously need to unearth some talent at 12 and 13 (not saying Slade is to be dropped but he can be prone to the odd injury so we need backup).

I love the way the pundits also try to sugar coat things saying at halftime ‘well Italy are playing well’. NO NO NO they were not playing well and they are a crap side. They had no crowd to gee them up, and the week before had 50 points put on them.

I’m pleased we won the 6N, but it was not a pretty tournament for England IMO and again we have blown hot and cold.

On a more positive note, I thought our pack looked good and wow some of those tackles going in from Curry and Underhill OUCH. I recall there was one where they doubled up on some guy – looked like someone literally swung a sledgehammer at his legs.

I have some issues with the pack.
Sinckler is playing on past reputation at the moment. To me, he hasn’t been the same driving force since his early exit from the WC final.
He’s not a really hefty, bullying prop and now his running game seems to have gone South, I’m not really sure what he’s bringing to the team.
He seems distracted and disinterested.
For all the trumpeting England as a big physical team, I saw cause for concern against Italy. Yes, Curry and Underhill put in some big hits but BV has lost his ability to smash through opponents and gain yardage to the same degree he did a couple of years ago when he was almost unstoppable on a gallop.He is still our only really big ball carrier too.
Time for Jack Willis or Ted Hill to make a bow on the flank?
The big boys also fell off a surprising number of tackles, often against lighter and less powerful opponents.
For the AI’s (or whatever they are called now) I’d like to see harry Williams on the T/H with Genge or Obano at 1.
At risk of repeating myself ,please Ed, give Jack Willis a few run outs.

Valid observations Acee, and I agree. I suppose I was a little blinded by the good quality we have in the pack that distracted me from some faults. You are spot on with Sinckler; post RWC final he seemed to be really enjoying his rugby with a smile on his face, but since seems a bit subdued – he hasn’t really landed with a bang at Bristol. Maybe its the move away from London and he just needs to start enjoying life/rugby again but something is a miss.

BV, again agree he has somewhat become a bit of a one trick poney and even that trick is not as potent as it once was. He was criticised for this in his earlier career but then he shed some pounds and added some lovely off-loading to his game and cutting a few lines as opposed to route one, but he apears to have digressed. Either way we need to start developing a credible back up as a) he is likely to get injured again and b) if he is not adding anything during the game he can be subbed. At the moment he doesn’t have anyone (well in EJs eyes) pushing him for his place.

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Good observations Acee and DM. I havent seen a big carry from Sinks in a while and wonder if he’s focussing too much on making an off-load instead of hitting the line at full speed. When the off-load or short pass comes off it looks great (see Curry try in WC warm-up v Ireland) but if the pass isn’t on then he doesnt have the momentum to make a dominant carry.

I think there are the ball carriers to make these big carries, and I don’t necessarily think size is all that matters in this department. Look at the French backrow, all made good carries v Ireland whilst being relatively average in size for backrowers. I would like to see Ted Hill be given a chance. He plays so well for Worcester. Havent seen much from Willis in the terms of attack (I know he’s great defensively) so don’t know if his addition would address this.

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Willis carries well, and he can also sniff out the tryline. In some respects reminds me of the great George Smith. Seems to often be in the right place at the right time. He tackles very well also I think it will be a battle between him and Underhill for a regular place.

As with many I just still scratch my head at the omission of Sam Simmonds. For me he is a great replacement if BV is not having a great game – or you could just say to BV ‘go all out for 40/50mins’ until he is gassed then bring on the fresh legs and speed of Simmonds that opens up a different dimension. He is also proof that size (weight) is not the be all and end all. He has a lot of power and a low centre of gravity and can be deadly at close range. I think BV can often run a bit too upright, Simmonds tends to go fast and low so despite him lacking the typical No 8 size, he is real squat power coming at defenders. This also keeps defenders on their toes cautious they could get pinged for a seatbelt tackle on him as he is just over 6ft so can be difficult to stop legally at full pace for some of the taller forwards.

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Who takes the back-row spots in your match day squad if everyone is 100%. Assuming 4 spots in total (3 starting, 1 bench). For me, it’s going to take a lot to sub/replace Curry and Underhill; there were some great backrow performances this season but I think these two are a cut above the rest. Tackling, rucking, and carries, I think they do it all, and when playing together I almost think there is a synergy (nauseating phrase, I know). Earl offers some good over across the whole back-row but this could be done by Simmonds or Willis; the former two offer maybe more going forward ball in hand.

Billy V is the one player for me who maybe doesnt make the same impact (this is through an arm-chair critics eye); he does draw the attention of defenders and sucks in players, but think I’m just used to barnstorming tackle busting runs. Dombrandt went off the boil for me this year, but Quins were terrible so maybe this is why. Always been a fan of Mercer who seems to make good yards every carry. Simmonds was stand out for Exeter, and was electric in his England 6N performances.

Ummm it’s tricky but based on form alone I would go with Curry, Underhill, Simmonds and Willis.

For me BV falls into the Tuilagi category; when he is having a good game he is often unplayable, but I think he can go off the radar when England are on the back foot. Don’t get me wrong he is still a great player and he is off form, but I do feel he gets his place guaranteed on reputation with EJ (and not form as EJ claims he only picks on).

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So, Jack Willis has been selected to face the Georgians.
The front row looks interesting and will face a huge test v the brutish opposition, who love the macho face off that scrums are based on.
Not sure about maro on the other flank and definitely not sure about Joseph out wide. Why Ed, why?

Totally agree, why out Joseph in the wing when we have quality wingers..or is it because they are now flankers?! Think Lawrence and Slade are the wrong way round and don’t like Itoje at 6 when, again, we have great options there.

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EJ talks about innovation, and I’m all for that, but I don’t see innovation in this team? I don’t see innovation in playing established players out of position when we have done it a number of times already and know what we get. I would much rather we started to blood quality players in their positions to develop the options going towards next RWC; we know what Joseph on the wing can do, why not try Thorley or give Cockanisiga a chance and learn something new?

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Joseph was virtually invisible V Italy in his “proper” position. Given we aren’t playing top drawer opponents then I have to agree, either Coka or Thorley should have got a start.
Ed will point to the fact that he has put a newbie in the centres and therefore he IS trying out new faces……………..

In the wrong shirt for his first start which adds more pressure, it also takes Slade out of the position he has been playing very well in? I just don’t get Eddie sometimes

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If it was down to me, Ed would have been replaced after the WC.
I’m a big believer that there is a natural curve of ascent,apex,decline with sports teams and coaches and i think Ed reached his peak in 2019 and it will be an amazing achievement if he gets England to another final.
I know SCW was given two bites of the cherry and came good in ’03 but in contrast to Jones, Woodward knew HE needed to adjust and adapt in order for his England to become the best team in the World.
Jones hasn’t got the same humility. Because of that attitude, I can’t see where or how he can bring anything new to the table which will inspire and excite the players coming through for 2023.
I’m probably completely wrong about this and I hope I am.
Time will tell.

What a mess of a selection. These AI for me should be about giving people a chance to prove/blood themselves in their CORRECT positions. Itoje @ flank makes zero sense at all – what is EJ trying to find out? Surely this is the perfect chance to see how Willis would operate with Curry for 60mins? FFS this selection ‘game’ he continues to play is quite frankly beyond a joke now. JJ on the wing – oh come on! For me he shouldn’t even be in the elite squad anymore, well past international level. Centres around the wrong way…..Youngs clearly being given another cap as priority as opposed to giving Robson a run out. EJ stayed too long with Australia after they lost the 2003 WCF and it seems history is repeating itself. I am beginning to think EJ has dirt on everyone in the RFU.

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So Ed lives to fight another day.
I’ve only seen some meagre highlights of the game so can’t really assess how we went. It seems the front row had the Georgians under the hammer which takes some doing. Other than that and JG claiming three tries, it appears to be another perfunctory rather than inspired performance.

Blimey , forgot Jack Willis! a well deserved debut and the opening try. Now, will Edward have the guts to pick him (and Jonny Hill) for more than one game?

Nothing more than a training match really Acee. Good to see our scrum smash theirs though as if the Georgians typically have anything to offer its a strong scrum. It was a better performance than against Italy, but that said the Georgians offered nothing and could not even disrupt like the Italians did – however that could have been down to a more controlled 80mins by England. BV still looks out of sorts, again his runs were far too upright and he didn’t really break the line; seems to have lost a yard of pace. That said he did make a couple of decent turnovers and was more prominant at the breakdown than he has been of recent. Backs still butchered chances and passing/linking wasn’t very fluid – probably because we had the 12/13 wearing the wrong shirt and a centre on the wing! Overall it was good, but just very hard to measure how good as the opposition were poor. I don’t think though that any of the NH teams will look forward to playing England as whilst we are not lighting up the skies we look like a knarly team and hard to breakdown.

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It’s a tricky one really; Willis hasn’t done anything wrong to be sent back to Wasps but then again Underhill has done nothing wrong to be replaced by Willis after one try scoring peformance against poor opposition. Earl offers cover across the back row and has also been in form. With Curry able to cover 8 though maybe Willis for Earl and give Willis another 30mins against stronger opposition? I don’t feel there is a right or wrong choice with our back row at the moment.

Do you listen to the BBC rugby poscast with Monye and Care? I sometimes think those two are on a wind up (or whacky backy) especially Monye. This week they were bigging England up so much it was cringe worthy. Talking about how they are the best in the world at what they do, and that their pressure game and ability to play in the right areas just suffocates teams, Care saying they are the only team adapting to how top tier rugby is changing. The week before Monye almost creaming his chinos on how England were going to batter Italy, back line would cut them apart….you would have thought he would be a bit more reserved this week.

They seem to have a very short memory that this was the same team that crumbled in the WC final and had no plan B, and the same team that didn’t turn up (apart from Jonny May) against France earlier this year when they had the chance to prove the WC final was a one off!

All this hype off the back of beating two sub-standard teams, and large parts of those games were laboured. I think a reality check is well due…..

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No, I haven’t heard that but it doesn’t surprise me. BBC Sport is getting as bad as it’s TV programming and “News” reportage.
I take the point about Willis/UnderCurry but you have to feel for a lad who is tearing it up week in week out in the Premiership and had such a good debut.
On a positive note , we haven’t had such strength in depth in the back row for a while,especially not with Neil Back type players . As you say, omitting any one of the current candidates doesn’t weaken the team. I really wish Ed would give Simmonds or another eight a run though. BV has been immense for England but he can’t go on forever and we need dept in all positions. Dropping Curry in there was a huge gamble, which more or less worked but DID weaken that team and wasn’t needed.
Don’t get me started on JJ playing out wide again either.

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Totally agree, that’s my 1 real issue with EJ and selection; there is no need to weaken the team or play people so out of position when we have the talent and ability to play people where they are proving to be quality. For instance, JJ is a fantastic footballer, but is he better than Cockanisiga on the wing? Is Ewels a better lock than Itoje or Itoje a better 6 than …probably so I’ll stop! You get my point, innovation in EJ mind seems to be playing people out of position randomly instead of using specialists in positions and looking to use them in different ways. I don’t like it. We lost Polledri for that in my opinion, the best players should get selected in the position they know and are expected to be test class. Thorley trg as a flanker isn’t innovation unless it makes a tangible difference, otherwise it’s a pointless media exercise.

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EJs record with England is decent, there is no ignoring it…and if you told me we would be in a WC final early 2019 I would have raised an eyebrow. So you do get many saying ‘if it’s not broke, why fix it’. my view is though is that it might not be broke ‘per se’ however can you imagine what could have been if he has played players in their specialist positions, blooded in a better No 9 and simply stopped with the continual tinkering and mind games – we may have actually lifted that trophy.

You VERY rarely see any other international teams playing players out of position. In fact the only one of recent is New Zealand – backfired on them in the WC semi. I also think they are wrong playing B Barrett at 15 to accommodate Richie Muanga, and it is impacting on their success. IMO Barrett is one of (if not) the most creative and dangerous players with ball in hand; at No 15 he simply does not get enough involvement in the game and its easier for the oppo to keep the ball away from him – just don’t kick long!

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I think EJ is trying to field the best XV players possible, at his disposal for that game. Whether this aligns with the players and their “preferred” positions is another issue. JJ is undoubtedly a better all-round player than Big Joe (and if you saw Bath’s game v Newcastle you will see that JJ is a better winger than Big Joe when it comes to defending). I would love to see Max Malins given a shot at FB but its clear EJ wants Daly and Slade on the field at the same time to give England as many footballers as possible.

Other selections are driven by the opponent or the type of game England are looking to play. Against a big Georgian pack EJ wanted bulk in the pack, hence selecting Itoje, Launchberry and Ewels.

Just because players aren’t often played “out of position” doesn’t mean its the wrong thing to do. The most notable for me is Jimmy Goperth at Wasps. He is an out and out 10 but was moved to 12 to accommodate for Danny Cips, and then Jacob Umaga, because he is one of their best players and it’s better to field him then to bench him.

Near close to a perfect performance against Ireland. Whilst not the most exciting game for the neutral, England were just so controlled and looked like had another gear if they needed it. May’s try – wow – Usain Bolt would have been proud of that gas. Englands defence was outstanding and I actually think EJ game plan was to invite the Irish to attack to give Eng a decent defensive workout. Can see why Underhill is ahead of Willis his tackling is just off trhe charts – we knew that anyway though. But he is everywhere on the field and the guy is also rapid over 50 metres, shame he isn’t put into space more often but that’s just not his game; he likes to be in the thick of it tearing up the grass.

I appreciate Ireland were not at full strength but still, they had a point to prove but just could not shift the ‘white orcs’. Very happy with that performance.

Despite what i said about BBC punditry, I have just read Matt Dawsons piece on yesterdays game and on Ed’s England overall at the moment and I do echo his feeling that England are becoming ruthlessly efficient at the expense of attacking flair and invention.
It’s hard to quibble too much but If we are going down the same road as SA, outmuscling teams and tackling them to oblivion and back, it’s worth remembering two current SA players who don’t fit that mould and who bring more than dogged confrontation; Kolbe and De Klerk .

If this style of play wins 6N titles and potentially a WC, I would be happy. It worked in 2003 for Eng and in 2007, 2019 for SA. We have our own Kolbe in Jonny May, but we don’t have a Faff. I’d like to see Robson given a start – for me he seems to try a bit too hard coming on for a 20min cameo.

I dont think its solely about dominating teams up front and overpowering them though. Eddie has said a few times that the way teams currently defend is part of the reason England play this way. Fewer committing to rucks to contest for the ball (mainly due to changes in the laws) and therefore more players fanning out in the defensive line, and sometimes fewer players in the backfield again resulting more players in the line. To get around this England use big carriers (and box kicking) to suck in players and create more space in other parts of the field. If teams don’t tighten around the ruck then the carriers are more successful in breaching the gain line and there is no need to go wide. If teams defended the tactics properly space would appear outwide, and this is where you’ll see players like Kolbe exploit the space especially later in the game when the oppo tires.

This is similar, imo, to Exeter’s tactics. Listened to Rob Baxter’s interview on the Eggchasers podcast and he spoke about Exeter’s supposed “boring” use of the driving maul. He pointed out that if teams defended the maul properly by committing more forwards to it, instead of leaving forwards out in the backline, then the maul would be stopped. This in turn would create space for them to exploit outwide.

I think we can bemoan the tactics as not being the style of play we want to see, but it scores tries. Same with England, they have the players out wide to capitalise when things do breakdown (see “Go Johnny, Go” May) once the field position has been achieved and the opportunity created.

What’s everyone’s thoughts on team to play Wales? I think it’s a good side; being picky I would rather Joseph and Youngs were replaced – quality players but would like to see them become squad mentors rather than starters; let’s see if Robson and Spencer can do it ready for RWC, similarly big Joe/Thorley. Glad to see Willis back in squad.

Happy with the selection as a whole really. With the exception of Lawes (maybe), I would say this in England’s strongest set of forwards. EJ seems to like the 6-2 split for teams like Wales, and Earl and Willis on the bench to have a big impact coming off the bench. A team akin to the start of EJ’s tenure – starters and finishers.

Not worried about JJ on the wing; he’s probably the best back defensively so having him out there should help to nullify Wales’ biggest threats in Adams and LRZ. He’ll switch to the blindside in attack so he can come into play in the midfield, with May being left out on the wing to utilise space and chase. Watson maybe not 100% either. I would like to see Thorley, but clearly EJ has a plan.

Decent looking squad. Shame Ollie Lawrence got crocked I liked the look of him against Ireland- seems the centre injury curse for England strikes again! It’s always difficult to know what EJs is planning but I suspect he will be focussing on building a decent winning streak and then a grand slam in the next 6N to restore confidence and pride beyond the WC final meltdown. I hope that beyond that he starts to look at blooding a few more faces – but who knows!

Not a fan of the 6/2 split tbh. I know others will see it differently but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Proudfoot was the SA forwards coach and they overpowered us in the WC Final and now we have a 6/2 split just like the Saffers. I also think this game will be a hell of a lot more difficult than Wales recent , iffy results suggest.
On a side note, interesting to hear Sinckler admitting he’s been running on empty since joining the Bears. Bonus points for honesty there.We’d all noticed it and it was pretty obvious but it’s always heartening to hear a player being honest about his form. Hopefully he can kick on now.
If we are doing forecasts, i’ll be controversial and go for the Taffs by eight.

Pretty poor game but I guess you can’t knock a win in Wales. England definitely looked like EJ was being honest when he said they hadn’t worked on an attacking structure at all!!! Poor and too much kicking, I think a full strength Wales would have won that, we were lucky on a number of occasions. Loads of ball but no clue how to use it, a bit worrying…and Daley still can’t catch!

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Agree with you Stu. Wales missing Navidi, Tuperic, Davies, Williams – all players that can be a point of difference. Plus no home crowd to intimidate England. You’ll not doubt hear a few pundits claiming Eng had another 2 gears but I have heard this too many times and I actually think England are stuck in geard 3 and unless we can sort our attack out we will be there forever. Personally the only international team that genuinely shift through gears IMO is New Zealand.

My concern with this obsession of a defensive/kick/pressure strategy is if we go two scores behind we won’t find a way back. I suspect France will go for the jugular early with this in mind and then say ‘let’s see what you have England’.

Ford must wish Farrell had a hole in his torso so he could just throw the ball through him. I do appreciate comments from players that say we don’t see what Farrell brings in terms of leasership, motivation…however I can only comment on what I see on the pitch and for me he slows the attack and his kicking both out of hand and off the tee has been a little wanting the past few games. The way he talks to the ref is cringey as is his captains talk to the media at full time… so I do wonder how much his voice motivates his players!

When Watson is fully match fit he has to start, for me the guy is class and like May he goes looking for work. That said unless we sort out the attack he will probably not ever see much of the ball. Of course I am pleased with the win, and my criticism is from the angle of wanting to be the best. France will be the real measure of where we are.

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I said we would struggle and to a certain extent we did. Our game “plan” is basically: Copy South Africa. The difference being the Saffers aren’t as one dimensional as England. Yes, they base their plan on muscle but they also know when their opponents are knackered and ripe for shredding by the more mercurial players in their team.
England seem to have lost that ability to switch from the bludgeon to the rapier. In short it’s the same old story: One way of playing until Ed tells them they can deviate from it.
I fear France will be a step too far which may be a good thing. They can go blow for blow upfront and have some dangerous backs. I can see them putting 20-30 points on us if we pay as stodgily as we have up to now.

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