Ok, I’m going to call it now. Several leading members of the press are alluding to this, but aren’t prepared to go the whole hog yet till after the New Zealand game, so I will. The autumn Internationals are a disaster. We’ve won two games which is always great, but the Australia and Argentina sides are weak. If you can only beat what’s in front of you then fare enough, but we’ve squeaked victories and played badly.
Several things can now be highlighted that are a major concern and the reason these tests are being wasted.
The front row is solid with several decent performers, however it’s clear that Dylan Hartley must start and David Wilson must get a game against New Zealand to see if he’s any good.
England have found their second row in Lawes and Launchbury. Attwood should be on the bench. Parling is too lightweight and should be dropped.
The back row is a mess. Billy Vunipola looked slow against Argentina and Morgan should be restored. Kvesic must be tried with Robshaw and the penalty prone Wood dropped to see if Robshaw can cut it as an international 6.
The real problem is with the backline. Farrell has had the speedy service of Dickson now and failed to use it. England looked most menacing at the weekend when Twelvetrees was first receiver. In short, and considering England will always get their share of ball against all opponents, Farrell seems unable to run an international backline. He doesn’t drive the team round the field, score regular drop goals and his kicking is very good, but not that of Halfpenny or Wilkinson. He needs to be dropped. There are too many others, Burns, Ford and Cipriani with better skills that need to be tried or England will remain mediocre in attack.
Joel Tomkins is not yet ready for international rugby, simple. He’s done nothing of note in two games. Twelvetrees played better, but we’ve missed a chance to try Burrell or Eastmond in a game. Rectifying this against New Zealand would be a tough call, but then that’s three internationals used up to find that this centre partnership isn’t good enough.
Ashton shouldn’t be near an England squad again. If he can’t finish, which he couldn’t once on Saturday he has no other skills to offer. No counterattacking ability, no kicking, no physicality…. Time’s up!
Brown is very steady and feisty. He lacks gas, but could hold his place if played with Wade and Yarde who must come back in. I would prefer Foden at fullback who makes more yards when he has the ball and looks to threaten the line.
England and Stuart Lancaster need to decide whether they just want to hold their own against the best teams or actually win. At the moment the team is a very containing one and although it is so far victorious it won’t win the really big games in the world cup. They may not get blown away this coming weekend (or they may) but they won’t win and the lack of flair pace and class will be ruthlessly exposed by the All Blacks.
Stuart Lancaster talks about creating a winning culture. I’d rather have a head coach that understands who his top international level players are. If I want a good culture, I’ll buy some live yoghurt!