England v France was a beautiful spectacle of two teams fighting for everything in a fast-paced, high intensity match. The result for the English players and fans is so agonising, but positives must be made and lessons learnt. England’s pack was better, despite the inconsistent scrum that caused a few problems, however the backline was still hesitant, yet vastly improved.
The World Cup, for all its worth, is not the be all and end all, the six nations is truly the greatest rugby tournament in the world, a brave statement but for the passion, the intensity and the commitment by the fans, it must have sole concentration. Lancaster has been focusing too much on the world cup, and because of this he is chopping and changing the squad bringing in two debutants, and a player with only one cap into such a high pressure environment.
However there is a lot of positives to take out of the game, and a lot to learn from.
Jonny May broke his nose early on in the first half and now needs a replacement, there are two options, an uncapped 19 year old Anthony Watson, and dare I say it, Chris Ashton. This is a very hard question, England are starting to make breaks through Farrell, the Vunipola brothers and Ben Morgan, so Ashton could be a clever pick to finish these opportunities off in the way he does. However I would go with Watson, his pace and his sidestep is far superior to Ashton, and his defence is better despite his raw age of 19. Ashton does have very clever support lines, but this doesn’t suit Lancaster’s game plan, and he has to deal with this.
Lancaster’s use of substitutions is very rash, and very pre-meditated. Danny care was having an awesome game, and so was Hartley but they bring Dickson and Youngs on. And with that they momentum changed, and with a key lineout 5 metres out, young misses the mark and the opportunity to win that match is lost. He must look at what’s happening and judge accordingly what is needed.
England’s attacking mindset is improving which is very good to see, but the offloads need to be limited. Sometimes you have to take it in and recycle. When going forward, or there is a large gap then try the offload, but when being pushed backwards and the offload is risky, just recycle and go again. England must start backing themselves, instead of kicking ball away on turnovers when the chance is there to score.
- Jack Nowell made 81 metres, 10 tackles and beat 3 defenders.
- Billy Vunipola made 68 metres beating 3 defenders, offloading twice and gaining 3 turnovers.
- England beat 28 defenders, the most of any country in the opening round.
- England conceded 21 turnovers, but forced 23 out of France.
- England made 82% of their tackles.
The Next Game:
In the backs there was a lot of improvement, but still a considerable amount of handling mistakes, most notably from Twelvetrees. Against Scotland there should be a lot of opportunities to attack, especially in the 10, 12, 13 channel, so this should be a big aim. Also instead of taking on the pack straight up, run them ragged, England’s fitness is far superior and should have been utilised v France.
England team to face Scotland:
Joe Marler – Vunipola’s scrum work need a vast improvement to topple Marler.
Dylan Hartley – Dynamic in the loose and accurate in the lineout, also a true leader.
Dan Cole – Little competition and needs game time to polish his scrum up and get back to his turnover days.
Joe Launchbury – Very strong in the lineout and a true grafter tackling and rucking.
Courtney Lawes – His tackling was immense and so was his lineout, this regular game time has been the making of him
Tom Wood – Lots or rucking and tackling is all you can ask, with an added aggressive spice that is needed v the Scotland pack.
Chris Robshaw –A quiet game on the weekend but strong carries and hard tackling, no real competition.
Billy Vunipola – This Scotland game could be the making of him, running at the inexperienced centres and the ‘heavy’ Scotland pack, he could run riot. Expect some tries and large yardage.
Danny Care – Electric vs France and is a real buzz to this team, could test the immobile pack of Scotland.
Owen Farrell – His attacking is vastly improved, combined with his kicking and defence makes him a dead cert.
Anthony Watson – With May probably injured, it’s him or Ashton. Watson has better attack and suits Lancaster’s game plan, but Ashton’s defence isn’t getting any better, so Watson it is. Jonny May should be selected if fit.
Billy Twelvetrees – Twelvetrees’ attack and handling has been poor, however Lancaster will pick him because of the inexperience of Scotland’s centres. Needs a big game, but would like to see him on the bench with his ability to play fly-half.
Luther Burrell – His defence was key, and his attack should come alight against their centres, so expect much more from this man.
Jack Nowell – His stats were brilliant and his mistakes will be learnt, one query is he hasn’t scored in the premiership this season. Confidence wasn’t a problem.
Mike Brown – Looked very lively, even on the wing, and his ability to beat defenders and wriggle out of tackles is key, his defence and aerial ability will be tested v Stuart Hogg but should manage. Should attack a bit more and back himself in the wide channels.
Subs: Vunipola, Youngs, Wilson, Attwood, Morgan, Youngs, Ford, Goode.