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