Friday 20 October 2023

RWC: England not too badly placed

OK, so England beat Fiji on muscle-memory, as predicted.  But overall, I'm more optimistic than I would have expected to be at this stage.  Partly, that's because England have a history of building to the later stages of the RWC rather uncertainly (2007 etc, and even including 2003): but mainly because, notwithstanding 2019, South Africa isn't a bogey team for England.  Let me explain.

In a given period of time, most teams seem to have a semi-irrational bogey.  For years, France couldn't get past England in any competition whatsoever.  Australia often seem to freeze against England.  And France themselves have lately done the job on England.  (England would also fancy New Zealand rather than they would have Ireland ... but let's not, *ahem*, get ahead of ourselves.) 

So - back to Saturday last: what did we witness last week?

Farrell:  for about 10 minutes towards the end, Farrell more-or-less earned his pay - at long last.  (Right up until his crazy knock-on right near the end, which might easily have seen him in the bin at the very death.)  That's a pretty thin return on the many years of undeserved England pay he's drawn.  We'll never know whether Ford + a different captain could have done the same job over that 10 minutes: but then again, the alternative combo might well have closed Fiji down even earlier.  Counterfactuals are like that.  So I'm unrepentant: Farrell shouldn't have played.

Smith:  well, he didn't pick himself at 15, and he gave it everything he'd got.  But, as they say, a good big'un ...  Anyhow, it's irrelevant now; and tomorrow, Steward it will rightfully be.

Tuilagi:  we've all heard the tired old saying, uttered continually over more than a decade - "if Manu's fit, he's in".  Well, by some miracle he's managed to stay fit.  But how many more times is it deemed satisfactory that he storms into a match and grabs a dynamic early try, then fades into the background?  If that's his MO, take him off after 30 minutes. 

Lawes:  how many more times can he be expected to go to the well and draw performances like that?  Unless he has truly superhuman powers of recovery, I don't like to imagine the shape he'll be in after Saturday - whatever duties might be sought of him beyond that point.

Earl:  speaking of super-human ...


Footnote: apologies for the garbled early draft of this post for those who encountered it. 


Anonymous said...


We won
I guess your explanation was a little gracious in humble pie , yer we won.


Shiney said...

Only way to win.....

Smash it up in the air at every opportunity early doors and hope to get a few lucky bounces to get our noses in front on penalties or a lucky try - although defensive knock-ons won't help given their scrum strength.

Then dare them to go from deep in the second half and defend.

Kinda like the Saffers did last week against France.

Therefore Farrell might be the perfect man.

Shiney said...

As I was saying..... smash it up in air and....

Oh, but you do need to scrummage when they knock it on in their own 22.

dearieme said...

Farrell donates three points to the Boks and then they win by two. Golly he's a dimwit.

Nick Drew said...

Yup: "They were brilliantly composed, as if they had taken on the character of their new coach. Their captain, Owen Farrell, was the only one who lost his head, which he will regret since the referee, Ben O’Keeffe, penalised him for it with a 10m penalty, which meant Libbok was within easy kicking distance." (Graun)


and *sighs again*

Caeser Hēméra said...

I used to be a League man, but kept an eye on Union, not or a long time though. All got a little to slick for my tastes.

Farrell though, could his penalties and kicks have been scored by another as successfully? If so, seems to have been unwise to have him on the pitch knowing he was bound to give points away.

There are always those in sports whose quirks are forgivable for what they provide, although they come with a shorter shelf life than the more mercurial ones.

Nick Drew said...

George Ford (as amply demonstrated in the Argentina game) can execute both spot kicks and drop goals, the latter even better than Farrell. Also against the Argies he showed he can manage the team and the game, flexibly and calmly. And he's never riled a ref in his entire career.

If, however, Ford would be thought too small for an encounter with the Boks (a reasonable judgement), Elliot Daly can also execute both skills - he's also better than Farrell at both, having a longer range and as much accuracy. He was, of course, already on the pitch (wing), for his kick-chase skills - he's faster than Farrell, as well as a much better all-round footballer. And although sent off once, early in his international career, for unsafe contact on a jumping player, he doesn't get up the ref's nose either.

Daly at 10 would have been a very creative choice for Saturday.

Anonymous said...

So after all that it's an SH final again - still, France-NZ, Ireland-SA, Portugal-Fiji, Ireland-NZ, France-SA were cracking games.

djm said...

Women in France are clamouring to have sex with the English Eggball players.... They love a man who can stay on top for 77 minutes and still come second......