RWC 2019 Warm-ups: England v Italy Rate the Match

Billy Vunipola

What did you think of the match at St James’ Park this evening?

How did England fare in their last warm-up game before the Rugby World Cup?

What were the main talking points?

Are you confident in England’s prospects in Japan

Also, do you prefer these post-match discussion articles with a match rating poll, or is that pointless?

29 thoughts on “RWC 2019 Warm-ups: England v Italy Rate the Match

  1. I thought we lacked accuracy in the first half, trying to force the play and give one extra unnecessary offload.

    Once we reverted to sending big ball-carriers up the middle, then the space and opportunities arose.

    Didn’t seem to be any major injuries, hopefully LCD’s substitution was precautionary.

    1. Lucky LCD’s surname is Cowan-Dickie & not Smith-Dickie. Otherwise he’d be on the banned drugs list along with cialis! Even if he isn’t a specialist.

  2. Agree Hutch. Thought we looked so much more dangerous after the front row change, makes me wonder if Dan Cole over Harry Williams was right. Is that the final proof EJ wanted that Ford/Farrell is the way forward? I feel much better with Watson than Daly, although one game is unfair it just felt more natural. Really hope the Injuries are trivial and the team now carry their form into RWC! Still believe we are a back row (8) short but now is the time to support and pray!!

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    1. Agreed,One can debate at length the relative abilities of Ford and Farrell at 10,but I don’t think many would dissent from the view that Farrell is our best 12.Our play in the first half was sloppy and lacked direction,this improved noticeably in the second half .
      Watson or Daly at full back is a hard one to call-you need both in the 23,as Daly can cover all of the Back 3 and 13 he would be better on the bench,particularly as there are doubts about Nowell.
      As far as injuries go,I would not select players for the France match unless they have had meaningful game time in the first two matches

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    2. Agree regarding Cole, I would have him in the camp for experience just. But as player I’m struggling to see what he brings. Marler is huge asset in defence and is our best scrumming prop so you would keep him but Cole is due a big performance.

  3. Honestly not sure how I feel about the game. Big win and racking up the score and safe exit for the players is positive but what have they gained?

    I don’t see morale taking a big lift given easy opposition especially from the high after the Ireland game.

    I guess looking back before they set the schedule they would have been looking for that lift expecting 3 tough games prior and hoping to push into the WC on a victory but the Ireland game made it moot.

    Irrespective team looks good heading into the WC, best of luck from a wales lad. Now I just want us to bounce back and beat Ireland by double digits to put some doubters to rest about away form.

  4. Felt like one game too many after the intense fitness camp in Italy.
    After the game Ed said it was just a final “let’s try this” exercise and as a spectacle it was dull.
    Billy looks to have shed a few too many pounds of ballast for me and it was a concern that we bounced of a few of the italians big lads ,given our first three pool games are against sides who can “bosh”.
    So, Sapporo here we come.

  5. A question regarding Watson vs. Daly at fullback: many people report that Watson is more secure under the high ball. This may be true, but how does Watson compare to Daly with regard to tactical kicking? Given that (kicking back) kick returns is an important role for the fullback, would we lose that ability by playing Watson over Daly?

    1. 1 solution CH. Put Daly on the wing & Watto @ f/back. Alternate them on defence.. whilst Jack Nowell is out anyway. When JN is back, swap him for Watson if appropriate.

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        1. Works better in ascendancy when it doesn’t matter so much. When on the back foot, when it does matter, as is more likely as the WC progresses, then what? Risk getting cut to ribbons.

  6. Fared? Got the result I suppose. Lacked, not so much direction, but intent, ambition.. v Italy B playing away!? 2nd 1/2 upped tempo. If Jones was trying to keep his WC powder dry, he succeeded.

    Talking pts? Johnny May was sharp. Does Watson @ f/back leave Daly benched..or v versa? Is MotM, but slower Youngs, still nailed on, even in Japanese conditions? Ditto Farrell @ fly 1/2? Or do WC conditions with potentially fast, open games require Ford’s variety? Likewise midfield. Should Slade’s guile demand a place? Will Nowell’s injury open up a wing berth for Watson? Or, again, Daly? Or again, v versa? Did Wilson also demand a place? Which one? More same old ?’s.

    England should progress to 1/4ers ok, but after that? Hard to say. Need more variety for me.

    Find open ?’s on rating matches are concrete & elicit more response. Rating a match I find more difficult & subjective, unless it has obvious passages of skilled play & or pivotal moments. Some may be absorbing, but can also be somewhat indistinguishable from each other, especially if they’re low, tight scoring affairs.

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    1. ‘Talking’ low scoring.. affairs, look @ my lonely thumbs up! What’s occurring?! Surely I put in @ least as much effort compos(t)ing it as England did playing Italy?

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      1. Definitely. I’m mystified by Francis’ selection. he’s not been near an England squad since a tour to Argentina two/three years ago and he did sod all then,.
        This squad is just too much of a curate’s egg.
        Parts of it are a match for any team in world rugby but other bits just leave you thinking “Eh?”

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  7. England will certainly have a strong squad, as they should with the number of players that are available to them. My concerns are that there are still a lot of questions unanswered. Slade and Nowell have not made an appearance at all. Are they both guaranteed to be fit? Mako´s fitness must be a doubt as well. If that is the case and there are reservations about Cole being suited to the conditions in Japan, maybe it would have been worth giving Marler half an hour on the tight head against a reasonably decent Italy front row, in case he needs to cover both sides of the scrum? Watson was definitely better than Daly as a full back, (not difficult), but is still not in the same class as Goode (or Brown). If Nowell is not fit does Daly come in on the wing with Watson at fb or vice-versa? EJ has seemed extremely reluctant to use him there, and he is a bit mercurial for my taste. Youngs had a better game this week, but imv does not have the speed of pass of Care, Heinz or Spencer. Why is Francis in the squad? Marchant is clearly a more incisive player in better form and Francis had too many opportunities without nailing down a spot.
    I also question whether Jones has made a rod for his own back by trying to squeeze four good second rows into match day squads that really only have room for three. I admit to being a big Launchbury fan and would have him as one of the first names on my team sheet, alongside Itoje, which leaves room for only Kruis or Lawes on the bench. From the current squad who are thought to be fit I would probably pick a team similar to this, Genge, George, Sinkler, Itoje, Launchbury, Wilson, BV, Underhill, Heinz, Ford, May, Farrell, Tuilagi, Coconasinga, Watson.
    Bench. Marler, Cowan-Dickie, Cole, Kruis, Currie Youngs (reluctantly), Daly, AN Other. I would love to have another big bruising back row like Kvesic, Morgan, Ewers or Armand going, as we seem a bit short of heavyweight cover for BV if he gets injured. A solid enough performance, but there are still a lot of questions to answer about what is the best 23, which I suppose is inevitable when at least seven of them are not even in the 31. (Care, Spencer, Kvesic, Marchant, Goode, Morgan, Brown).

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  8. Not a bad squad Andy. I think Launchbury stands up too. Less of the Boris show pony, more the calm, diligent, skilled get on with it type. Yellow’s not his favoured colour either. Is Genge in over MV due latter’s injury concern? Although many prefer the Curry, Underhill loose duo, it’s hard to not pick the effective Wilson @ 6. Unsure which of the other two is the better 7. Had to d/take yr picking a Kiwi @ 1/2back! However, presume the quicker pass deliver the better, esp in Japan? Unsure about Coka @ wing. Ok if England in ascendancy, not so convinced otherwise. Maybe Daly? Slade as the bench AN Other? Latter to cover Tui as appropriate? Agree lack of back row cover could be of concern.

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  9. I am personally starting to be won over by Jones’ approach here – the idea that there doesn’t need to be a single 1st XV but he can select the right team to face the right opposition and the combinations have been tested. Why would you want to go to the World Cup with a single best team? That would make it easier for the opposition to work you out and make injuries more disruptive.

    The key question then is who to pick against whom – when to optimise line-out, when to optimise the breakdown, carrying in close quarters vs power out wide. Lots of options depending on the game. I like it.

    Having said that, the selection of Francis feels wrong. Also concerned by Youngs – I think he has to be first choice because you need international experience at SH but he is probably the biggest risk. I don’t fully blame Jones here because Ben Spencer only really started flourishing recently. Difficult situation.

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  10. All teams will probably mix & match & also have their 1st team choices HD. Opposition will likely already know what these are. For instance, England’s ideal 1st choice pack is likely; MV Geo Sinck U’hill/Wilson Itoje Kruis Curry BV, with poss ? about 6. Backs a bit trickier, but here goes; Youngs Farrell May Tui Slade Nowell/Watson Daly, depending on availability. This team is likely a 1/4 final onwards pick. Poss variation, depending on results, could see Ford & Farrell play, shunting Tui out into Slades’s 13 slot. Or Tui dropped if ineffectual. In any event, if I & others here can work the England team compo out, so can Hansen, Erasmus etc. V versa of course. A weakness, which you point out, is the inclusion of potential goories like Francis, plus omissions like 8 cover, Cipriani as 3rd fly 1/2, say Spencer as 1/2 cover & out of position selection Daly. Plenty to like, but enough to win it?

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    1. But that’s the point – I don’t think it is necessary to have a 1st team choice. England’s best team vs SA is probably different to first team vs Wales. Of course some player would be in both – I’d say Mako, George, Sinckler, Maro, BV, May would be in the same positions in any team. The rest is dependent on opposition I reckon, and in a good way

      1. HD, surely you’re not suggesting changing the team wholesale are you? There may be some positional changes to counter, exploit a particular opposition, however, in reality, the pack I’ve named is likely nr England’s best & Jones’s probable selection. V SA for instance, how would you alter it? Likewise in the back line, would you opt for say Francis or McConnochie as 1st up choices?

        1. PS Well, not Francis of course, but you’d only give guys like JJ a run v inferior teams, unless he proves he’s a better option. However, that ‘s not what I was stating. I ventured a team from the 1/4 final onwards. Need to know & have yr best team on the pitch from then surely? Only exception being injury replacement.

          1. Sorry for delayed response. I agree some players will only ever be second choice or injury cover. But I can see some players playing in the final depending on who the opposition is. For example (I don’t know the tables so forgive me if these are impossible), if we play NZ in the final, we may want to have our 10,12,13 combo that best protects the channel outside (this might be Farrell, Tuilagi, Slade). But against SA, perhaps it would be more important to get the ball out wide and avoid too much competition for the ball in the 10-12 channel (perhaps we go for Ford, Farrell, Tuilagi).

            On the one hand this is “confused thinking” and “we don’t know our best team” but from another perspective, we can cleverly adjust our team to deploy our strengths against opponents’ weakness and mitigate our own.

            1. Well HD, you’re going to have to have yr best pack available in order to try & get yr share of possession for whomever you have @ 10, 12, 13. If beaten up front you’ll likely need better defenders in the backs. In the pack though, for me, the only likely England variation is who’s @ 6. Underhill or Wilson. BTW, IMO England wouldn’t lose too much if Marler & Launch played in the tight, even though perceived wisdom picks MV & Kruis. I don’t quite get why you’d change yr 3 inside backs v NZ & SA? If you think too ‘D’, then you limit yr attack. Better to think how to play & pick accordingly IMO. Stated before, when in possession, score tries, when not, stop the opposition from doing so. However, it comes down to coache’s style. Run it, mix it up, or kick for territory & max tight play, mauls. I believe a team needs the ability to play an all round game & what’s in front of them. Have a basic plan sure, but with players whom can adapt or react to situations or circumstances. Thinking of Wales v Eng, when Youngs, Farrell mechanically kicked it away after leading @ 1/2 time. May’ve been following orders, but the situation demaned a change of mind set. So it’s also a ? of which players can make (or challenge) decisions appropriately, rather just than pick them for being more defence of attack orientated. Ought to know yr best team & pick them, certainly for the 1/4 finals onwards I think. If 1 or 2 don’t work well, sub them. However, familiarity between players breeds better understanding on the pitch. That’s how I see it anyway.

  11. Meant alt them on attack. No pt Daly @ 15 on ‘D’ if he ‘can’t’ position or catch. Even then, if Watson can’t kick as well as Daly, maybe this isn’t such a gr8 solution after all? Have to make do with Watson’s kicking I guess.. maybe he could practice? Lesser of 2 evils?

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