After England Saxons victory over the Ireland Wolfhounds we take a look at seven things Stuart Lancaster will have learnt from a game that failed to live up to expectations…
1. Something needs to be done about the backs coaches
It cannot be a coincidence that players who regularly perform well for their Premiership clubs suddenly struggle when they are called up by England. Now obviously there is something of a lack of cohesion with players coming together who don’t normally play alongside one another, however it cannot simply be a lack of familiarity.
The Saxons game was a difficult one to judge as the referee ensured very little rugby was played, however when the backs did get the ball they seemed to lack a game plan other than kick it straight into Irish hands on most occasions. It cannot be a coincidence that we see similar tactics employed in the senior side which means questions must be asked of the back coaches.
2. Joe Simpson should be in the senior squad
Simpson came on with about 20 minutes of the game remaining and produced an impressive cameo in an England shirt. In fairness Lee Dickson did a decent job for the first sixty minutes and shouldn’t be written off, however Simpson’s pace and quick ball certainly lifted the tempo in the final quarter.
Given the likes of Ben Youngs and Danny Care are both struggling somewhat for form of late, should either of them fail to impress during the opening games then Simpson needs a chance. He is playing the best rugby of his career right now and provided a constant threat as soon as he came onto the pitch.
3. At least one of Wade or Ashton should also be promoted
Just about the biggest area of concern for England of late has been their struggle to score tries. They have plenty of ball and create opportunities but other than a few moments of magic from Jonny May, have struggled to finish off chances. For that reason at least one of Wade or Ashton, if not both, need a chance in the senior side once again.
Whilst I’m aware Ashton isn’t exactly a fan favourite, he has been in fine form for Saracens this year and looked good when he got his hands on the ball last night. His experience would also be a key bonus to giving him a full recall. With Wade I don’t see him as a starter, however he demonstrated last night that he knows his way to the try line and could be a great impact sub.
4. There is a desperate need for a kicking coach
Whilst for the most part kicking at the posts isn’t really a concern for England, their kicking out of hand has been absolutely dire over the last few years. George Ford was the one exception to this during the Autumn Internationals, however other than that it seems England’s tactic is to kick the ball straight into the arms of the opposing sides back three.
This ‘tactic’ or failure to execute these kicks properly must be a serious concern as it has heaped pressure on England on a number of occasions. For this reason I think it is essential they employ a world class kicking coach in the build-up to the World Cup to try to remedy the situation before it is too late.
5. A second ball carrier is essential in the back row
One of the few highlights of last nights games (if you can call it that) was that the English back row performed well as a unit. The combination of of Ewers, Kvesic and Waldrom complimented each other well in addition to having Matt Garvey in the second row. Having two ball carrying threats in the back row helped England gain momentum at key times.
Both Waldrom and Ewers carried well and gained ground at key stages during the game, with both being involved in the build up to the two tries. What this proved is that England need an additional ball carrier in the back row of the senior side to help give them those extra yards, meaning this could be a key Six Nations for James Haskell.
6. Chris Pennell has to play in the Premiership next season
Pennell was England’s stand-out back during the Woflhounds game as he looked assured at the back and did everything he needed to. Whilst at this stage it’s unlikely he will break into the senior England side, he must only be an injury away from a call-up so needs to keep performing well for Worcester.
I can’t help but feel though that had he been playing in the Premiership this season we may just have seen him putting a bit more pressure on Alex Goode for the back up full back slot. For this reason he needs to ensure he is playing Premiership rugby next year. Hopefully this will be with Worcester, however should they fail to achieve promotion he needs to consider a move.
7. Matt Kvesic needs to be in the senior squad
What Kvesic proved last night is the value of a jackling openside who can disrupt the breakdown. Kvesic was probably England’s stand-out forward against the Wolfhounds as he helped slow down Irish ball and was involved in a number of turnovers. For this reason he needs to at least be involved in the senior side.
Whilst I don’t see Kvesic overtaking Robshaw as England’s first choice seven, he should at least be involved so should injury strike he is ready to step in. It also wouldn’t harm to give him some game time against say Italy, especially if Tom Wood ends up out injured for more than a game or two.
What do you think Lancaster will have learnt from England’s game against the Ireland Wolfhounds?