Friday 2 October 2015

RWC: the Dogs that Didn't Bark at England

The media dogs didn't really bark after Wales deservedly beat England last weekend.  All too nervous of rocking the boat when everything can still be rescued with a good win over Australia and a couple of other quite plausible things going England's way -  the first of which was Fiji depriving Wales of a bonus point yesterday.  So let's start by rounding out the optimistic side of the picture: the Aussies - like the French - are not a team that England have ever really feared (which in large measure explains 2003 and 2007).    They've lost to them many a time, of course, and can do so again: but they haven't mentally given them seven points before the first whistle, unlike their feelings about the AB's and SA.

Consensus amongst the punditry is that the England-Wales result is explained by (a) odd selection; (b) even odder subsitutions; (c) poor decision-making and/or lame execution at the critical late penalty / line-out.  This last is a given, and very troubling; but par for the course with Robshaw.  The (unforced) late introduction of Ford was indeed daft in this particular game: but if (a) is code for *Burgess*, I disagree.  Who better in the squad to be lining up Jamie Roberts?  - and look what he did to Roberts face-to-face when they collided: exactly what he was there for.   When the welshman first hit the international scene (and I do mean 'hit'), England selected a blindside flanker - Joe Worsley - to cover the inside-centre channel, with good effect:  and that was viewed as tactically brilliant.

It's other selectoral choices that are bad: but so deeply hard-wired in the Lancaster set-up, there's little point in bemoaning them now.  Robshaw.  Not much more to be said, really - particularly because barring injury we are stuck with him for as much of the RWC as England are still on the pitch.

Secondly, however - and eminently fixable - is the liability that is Farrell (Owen).  He kicks his kicks, OK?  But otherwise he is wooden, hot-headed, petulant; and, I suggest, he is (d) as much responsible for the Wales result as (b) and (c).  Why?  Because at a critical stage in the second half, with England squarely ahead and in an excellent position to finish the game off, up he comes into the Wales 22, with England's lineout ball just to come, and puts in a grotesque  - obviously premeditated - late tackle, right under the ref's nose.  Position reversed, penalty Wales, and they are set up to mount their splendid revival. 

(Why does he do this?  Same reason as always, I suppose, to prove what a hard bastard he is.  IIRC he has never seen yellow or red for this in an international but it must be a matter of sublime good luck and he shouldn't reckon on that continuing.  In fact, he should never get the gig in the first place.  I have been boring my rugby drinking buds for three years predicting that, at a crucial moment in the RWC, England will be down to 14 with Farrell cooling his heels in the bin.  For all intents and purposes we may have seen it already.)

You can google the incident I am referring to and not find any critical mention of it with Farrell named.  Some of the "as it happened" reports record the late tackle with no names mentioned: one links it with Farrell but doesn't make any comment; and one calls the tackle 'needless' but doesn't mention his name.  See what I mean about the dogs not barking?

But it seems we must start with Farrell in possession again.  Ho, hum.  Your own selections for England at 10, 12 and 13 - to face Australia - in the comments, please:  (i) from the current RWC squad, (ii) selecting freely from qualified England players.  And a great weekend to all concerned.



at a crucial moment in the RWC ...

Well, the dogs will certainly be barking now.  I shall be particularly interested to see how the Grauniad's seven pundits, all of whom forecast an England victory, will handle themselves  


John miller said...

I don't have a problem with Farrel, but the substitutions were barmy. England were doing alright with Farrell playing in his best position.

After the subs, everyone seemed to lose the plot.

But no, England won't recover to losing to the Welsh second eleven, who admittedly played brilliantly, and Australia will crucify them.

roym said...

Might have to agree with John,

England crumpled under the pressure last week. The pressure this week is an order of magnitude greater now....

One thing that was driving me up the wall was the penalty count. 12! 7 in range. That is just crazy - all the preparation in the world goes out the window.

Agree about Farrell. When did this start and why hasnt old man farrell given him a kicking for it?

Sackerson said...

Don't ask me, I support Wales. I thought England had the upper hand until half time - points from a try plus not one but two drop-goals, compared with Wales' penalties (isn't there too much penalty-kicking in rugby these days?) Missed the second half alas, look forward to watching it on Youtube to see why the tide turned.

Fiji was exciting. NZ coach has given them a very disciplined defence to add to their loose-limbed flair in attack.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

As a neutral Scot (hah!) I have been puzzled by Lancaster's selections since the start. Who in their right mind would pick Robshaw? He barely holds his position in the Harlequins XV. Armitage is miles better. Then there's Cipriani, too. But the highest amusement is watching him put Burgess in at centre. And Farrell is just a hot headed twat. England is the only country putting out a 2nd XV (possibly even 3rd) by choice. The mind boggles.

I look forward to the collective mental breakdown of the home counties tomorrow. Now they appear to have an acceptable scrummage, Australia are going to crucify them. The England front row is not up to the job but curiously no-one seems to have noticed.

Nick Drew said...

No-one rising to the bait then!

OK, here's mine.

(i) from t'squad:
10 = Goode
12 = Slade
13 = Nowell
Slade covers 10 if Goode hurt
bench: Burgess and, OK, Farrell, faute de mieux
- I seriously doubt if Joseph is 100%

(ii) from the ranks of the qualified
10 = Cipriani
12 = Slade
13 = Daly

dearieme said...

Is Robshaw picked as a flanker, or is he picked as captain? If the latter, it's just another case of Englishmen being barmy about "Captain of England" - they even pretend that the captain matters in soccer, for heaven's sake!

Some day I must find out what Englishmen mean by "Captain of School", but I suspect it'll just be another piece of barminess.

Anyway, however bad Robshaw is he can't be as bad a skipper as that oaf Carling was.

Anyway, fly-half and centres: no idea. More important, will that boring-in prop get off with his nonsense again?

Nick Drew said...

dearieme, the trouble is, we've been spoiled, we know what a real captain looks like and it's Martin Johnson

dearieme said...

Dear God, looking at some older posts I learn there exists a "form captain". What?

I'm rather sceptical about having a front five forward as skipper: he has his head buried too much. But that's only a generalisation, not a universal rule. Certainly I found it not too bad to skipper from the back row. Ideally you'd hope for a natural skipper at full back: he sees the whole play in front of him. Or at least I did the only time I played there. He'd have to rely on his pack leader a lot, though, being so far from the forwards. I did have a few games as a scrum-half: I was far too busy scurrying to have been a skipper, I thought.

I like the purported Aussie approach: pick your team and then appoint a skipper from amongst them. I see no sign that their cricket team ever uses this approach though.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Well, I'd choose Cipriani, Slade and Kyle Eastmond. They'd be fun to watch.

john miller said...

Well. now I do have a problem with Farrell.

To commit 3 atrocious errors in the first three minutes must be some sort of record.

john miller said...

Balls, typing through misty eyes. Farrell didn't make em, but he's just got sent off. Needlessly.

dearieme said...

It was men against boys. Glad to see that the dud English prop got duly penalised.

roym said...

Very prophetic ND, will Farrell get a free pass again?

However, turns out the midfield wasn't necessarily the issue. England totally mullered at the breakdown.

Suff said...

Out with a wimper
In the land of non competitive sport, shouldn't we be aloud to just continue because it's just not fair.

dearieme said...

The only England player good enough to get into that Wallaby side was the second row, Launchbury. (Even Brown had a stinker.)

Otherwise they played like boys. A break is made and .... nothing: the rest of the side ("team" would be much too strong a word) is miles away, enjoying a nice doze. Outscrummed, outmauled, outrucked and outbacked.

andrew said...

Starting to be Premier league footballers.
Even the Scottish got called out for diving.

James Higham said...

And here was I thinking I'd read all the postmortems. Good to see Nick doing his:

I have been boring my rugby drinking buds for three years predicting that, at a crucial moment in the RWC, England will be down to 14 with Farrell cooling his heels in the bin. For all intents and purposes we may have seen it already.)

Elby the Beserk said...

My brother, a lifelong rugby man and one who takes a holiday for the duration of any World Cup wherever it may be (recent schedule, Friday night Cardiff for the All Blacks v Georgia, thence to MK for Japan v Samoa than a dash to Twickers for the Oz game, says of England - they're good, but not as good as they think they are.

Kynon said...

As a (technically) neutral Scot (and one who hasn't actually seen the game yet - I was at an evening function instead), I truly don't understand much of the English selection. I have been saying this since well before the RWC.

1 - Dan Cole is grossly overrated, and is endlessly wheeling/pulling down the scrum.
2 - I would love to see Joe Marler scrummage straight for once.
3 - The "no overseas players" is cutting off one's nose to spite the face. Armitage (Steffon) is the nearest thing England have to a world-class openside. Given that some of the top teams are now taking the approach of putting two in the starting XV, for England to play none is insanity.
4 - the Burgess Experiment - he's not an international centre. Gordon D'Arcy's article in the Irish Times last week laid out the reasons for this in excruciating detail. Even his club think he's a 6, for crying out loud!
5 - To answer the original question: 10/12/13 - Ford, Burrell, Joseph (perhaps Slade in place of Burrell). Ford had one mediocre game, and has disappeared from sight. Farrell has had lots of games like that. I completely agree that he is wooden, unimaginative, and frankly a temperamental liability. AFAICS, he is in there only because he has a better kicking record, and because his dad is on the coaching team.

I think that will do for now - apologies for the essay!

Nick Drew said...

Kynon - thanks for that D'Arcy reference, a good read

hovis said...

Don't follow rugby much but always watch 6N and WC - so from an occaisional fair weather follower's view:

I have to agree with the Farrell haters - seems of little use bar some kicking, otherwise a petualant little prick in both Wales and Aus games - doesnt help his cause his Dad's on the coaching staff, (a whiff of nepotism would hang in the air even if there weren't questions of merit).

I don't follow enough everyone says Brown is aggresive but he also seems to need to be lippy / angry to be aggressive - shouldnt need to go there to get in that space - bin him too.

Ok youngish looking team but none seem to have the controlled thuggish presence of a Dallaglio/Johnson.

Kynon said...

hovis - the difference between Brown & Farrell is that Brown is a world-class full-back; Farrell is not a world-class fly-half. Brown has also shown massive improvement in his temperament in the last year or two.

Nick - most welcome; I found it most illuminating. It's not to say that Burgess *couldn't* be an international centre, but he's certainly not one *now*.

Y Ddraig Goch said...

I'm not convinced that the who-wears-which-shirt debate is the important one.

Since Saturday I've read several articles explaining what the author thought
was wrong with England's team selections. It all sounded pretty convincing to
me. And it sounded equally convincing when I was reading much the same
thing at the end of Brian Ashton's term. Since Woodward left, England have had
four coaches, all of whom have been regarded as failures, despite promising
starts. One or two screw-ups can happen, but four? Consecutively? I can see
two plausible explanations

- The England player base, for whatever reason, is not that good, and so
capable coaches try to make the best of it and end up taking the blame for
structural problems.

- These coaches genuinely were sub-standard. In which case the RFU's
process for appointing coaches is fundamentally broken. It may be
that Lancaster has to go, but the people and structures responsible for
appointing him - and his predecessors - need to go first.

Disclaimer: I'm Welsh. I should have been delighted by the result on Saturday
- but I wasn't. Lancaster is a capable man in a difficult job and my
impression is that he and Robson are taking the heat for a rather different

Nick Drew said...

Y Ddraig Goch, ok but without running through a list of England-qualified players 2015 to see whether there are enough of (potential) world class, many a general has had to go into battle with what he's given

by 2003 Woodward had the services of half a dozen world class players: but (with the obvious exception of Robinson) doesn't he have a claim to having made them thus?

maybe not Johnson, maybe not Dallaglio (outright forces of nature); but Hill, Wilkinson, Lewsey, Dawson, even Greenwood could all be argued as products of his time in charge

(and his specific match instructions: how many of them really shone for the Lions?)