We take a look at the key findings the England coaching team will have made from their sides fairly impressive World Cup warm up victory over Ireland…
1. There’s plenty to get excited about
From George Ford’s perfect kick to Anthony Watson, to Jonny May’s impressive try, there is plenty for England to get excited about. The backs looked dangerous throughout the game, whilst the pack fronted up in the loose and gave Ford and Youngs good front foot ball from which they could orchestrate proceeding.
2. There is however still plenty to work on
Butchered try scoring opportunities and a creaky set piece will be of slight concern for the England coaching team. When playing at their best, England looked like they could run away with things, however they let Ireland back into the game too easily at times making the scoreline much narrower than it maybe should have been.
3. The set piece is an increasing concern
Although the line out functioned better than last time out against France, it was still scrappy during the first half and must be the biggest concern for Graham Rowntree. He will also be disappointed to have seen England lose two scrums against the head, even with Ireland missing Cian Healy in the front row.
4. Tom Wood starts at six
Tom Wood had his best game in some time against Ireland and should have done more than enough to secure his spot on the back row for England’s opener against Fiji. As ever he was a nuisance at the breakdown, whilst he responded to critics with several impressive carries whilst also operating well in the line out.
5. There will be some hot debates about the starting wingers
It’s fair to say Anthony Watson has probably done enough to secure one starting berth on the wing for England, however the other shirt will require some serious consideration. Jack Nowell was England’s stand out player against France, however Jonny May was absolutely sublime against Ireland and will have given the coaches some selection headaches.
6. The kicking game has improved dramatically
From some impressive clearances to restarts that immediately put Ireland under pressure, not forgetting George Ford’s sumptuous kick for Anthony Watson’s opener, England’s kicking game was at it’s best. Both Ford and Youngs had top games with the boot, and helped get England playing in the right areas of the pitch.
7. We pretty much know the match-day 23 now
The 23 players involved against Ireland are likely to in the most part be the same as those who play against Fiji. There’s potentially an argument for Danny Care replacing Richard Wigglesworth on the bench, whilst it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Lunachbury replace Parling in the starting XV.
8. Tom Youngs is awesome…but just plays in the wrong position
Tom Youngs was a stand out player for England against Ireland, carrying well, making big tackles and helping his team mates out of a variety of precarious positions. Unfortunately he looks more suited to playing in the back row than front row. His line out throwing improved, but was still shaky, particularly in the first half.
9. The forwards need to work on their decisions
On two separate occasions, poor decisions, or final balls resulted in England butchering two try scoring opportunities. It’s therefore important for the forwards to spend the next fortnight working to hone their decision making in the final third of the pitch and ensuring that they slot into the backline seamlessly.
10. Barritt works with creative forces around him
Brad Barritt had a solid game for England against Ireland, coordinating the defence and making some decent carries. Although he’s never going to be the most potent of attacking threats, it seems his offensive ‘failings’ can be negated largely by playing him between Ford and Joseph who can work their magic around him.
11. The fast starts have to continue
In a similar vein to the first game against France, England got out of the blocks quickly, put Ireland under pressure and scored early. Too often we have seen them start in a sluggish manner only to have to battle their way back into games. It is vital they repeat that quick start throughout the World Cup if they are to have any hopes.