England aren’t yet ready to trouble the All Blacks

Fionn Roar Guru

67 Have your say

    Are England really as good as some commentators have suggested? Are they worse? While the Six Nations has not definitively answered this question, England are still well below the All Blacks’ standards.

    After struggling to impose themselves for much of the matches against both France and Wales, England eventually squeaked past with points at the very end of the matches.

    Against Ireland, the English were completely uninspiring. After the opening few minutes, they never looked remotely capable of breaching the Irish try-line.

    In all three games, England reverted back to the 2004-15 attitude of running the ball through the forwards, kicking away possession more than they should, and playing for penalties.

    Aside from the fact that this style of rugby is truly a snore-fest, it is a poor gameplan against an extremely disciplined Irish side who possess fantastic defence. Despite being on such a long winning streak, and after having played so well in Australia and November, as well as against Scotland, England lack the confidence to pass the ball through the backs when the pressure is on.

    Given this, all of the talk of England troubling the All Blacks is premature. Whether England can hold onto their No.2 status also remains to be seen.

    Ireland were over-reliant on set piece
    Like England, Ireland are still too predictable on attack, rarely threatening to score tries.

    This has been the same story for most of the last two years – even most of Ireland’s tries against Australia and New Zealand in 2016 were off the back of the set piece. This is somewhat odd, considering they possess such skilful playmakers in Johnny Sexton and Paddy Jackson, as well as strong runners in the centres.

    Regardless, this needs to be addressed. If Ireland wants to win consistently, rather than continue to suffer poor losses as in the 2015 World Cup, as well as the 2016 and 2017 Six Nations, then coach Joe Schmidt should adopt a more pragmatic game-plan.

    Like Robbie Deans in 2012-13, Schmidt has a choice to make, between playing a conservative brand of rugby that produces a great performance every couple of matches, mixed in with a few average ones and a number of stinkers, and a proactive brand of rugby that will see Ireland consistently overwhelm their opponents.


    Ireland and England will make up the majority of the Lions
    That may come across as overly critical of England and Ireland, but they are very strong. Both boast excellent defences and powerful forward packs, as well as a number of talented backs

    Scotland have been much improved, but showed against England how far many of their players – such as the Gray brothers – have to come before they should be considered over their English and Irish counterparts. Wales, meanwhile, despite a brave showing against England and strong performance against Ireland, seemed to continue their malaise (or is it long decline?) against a resurgent French side.

    England and Ireland should make up the entire forward pack, with the possible exception of Sam Warburton at 7 and perhaps Alun Wyn Jones at lock.

    The back-row is a fight between a number of good English and Irish options plus Warburton. It will be a hard decision for Warren Gatland to make.

    It’s between Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell at fly-half, with my nod going to Sexton. Conor Murray, if fit, should start at scrum-half and Ireland and England should share the centres between Jonathan Joseph and Robbie Henshaw.

    The one place that Wales and Scotland will impose themselves is in the outside backs, with Stuart Hogg almost certain to start at fullback and George North and Liam Williams on the wings.

    Lions possess no clear area of dominance over New Zealand
    Some have claimed that it looks like the Lions, or even England, will have a superior forward pack to the All Blacks. This is mistaken, and unless significant injuries affect New Zealand, their starting XV will be stronger than the Lions.

    Owen Franks, Dane Coles and Joe Moody appear better in the set piece and around the field than any of their competitions in the British and Irish Isles, as are Ardie Savea, Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read better than any of their competitors up north.

    In the backs there is simply no contest.

    The only area where the Lions possess a significant advantage is their better forwards depth off the bench, particularly in the front row.

    I predict a 3-0 series win for the All Blacks over the Lions.

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    The Crowd Says (67)

    • March 21st 2017 @ 2:44am
      Cynical Play said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:44am | ! Report

      Except at the pie shop.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 3:50am
      Mark Williams said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:50am | ! Report

      Funny watching how hostile everyone is toward England’s success. Insecure beta males – especially that old Greek.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 7:36am
        Riccardo said | March 21st 2017 @ 7:36am | ! Report

        Your posts are the epitome of hostility Mark.

        And for the record, Spiro is a Kiwi.

        With respect Mark, surely Lansdowne Road was a reality check.

        Jones is obviously not infallible. He was out coached by Schmidt. England went in with a poor game-plan and didn’t adapt.

        That is not to say that the Roses aren’t strong; they are a team on a distinctly upward curve. But it might be fair to say that the media have over-hyped their progress.

        The All Blacks are, and always have been, beatable but Fionn is right in that there are areas they would exploit on the paddock that England needs to shore up.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 9:50am
        Cynical Play said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

        Not hostile. Friendly intolerance of chest-beating. We’re not the ones claiming the mantle of “record-beating” titles. That’s your mob Markyboy. We just find it a bit on the nose. Get back to us after you’ve played and beaten the ABs a few times. And maybe await form Twickers.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 1:26pm
          Mark Williams said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

          Thank you for confirming that you are both Beta Males by replying directly to my comment. Sad stuff.

          • Roar Rookie

            March 21st 2017 @ 6:00pm
            piru said | March 21st 2017 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

            You know who uses the term Alpha and Beta?

            Insecure little fellows whose mums wouldn’t let them play rugby

            Off you go champ

            • March 22nd 2017 @ 12:36am
              Mark Williams said | March 22nd 2017 @ 12:36am | ! Report

              piru, cute name. Tried to man up for the two other cucks. What a white knight.

              • Roar Rookie

                March 22nd 2017 @ 12:14pm
                piru said | March 22nd 2017 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

                i was going to suggest you might want to start using cuck like the rest of your little MRA friends

                You’re not in an echo chamber here, boy

      • Roar Guru

        March 21st 2017 @ 2:18pm
        Fionn said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

        Mark, I would be lying if I said it didn’t give intense pleasure to see Ireland beat England.

        That being said, I hope that England improves to the point they were at in November. If the Wallabies and South Africa have to be terrible then hopefully England and Ireland can play some good rugby and really challenge New Zealand. And if the Wallabies don’t have to be terrible then it would be all the more fulfilling to beat a good English side if they prove up to the task.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 4:22am
      Englishbob said | March 21st 2017 @ 4:22am | ! Report

      England never said they were the equal to NZ, (they can only beat what’s put infront of them and for 18 matches those opponents were average or poor), only that they want to be the best team in the world but are nowhere near. Ireland were the better team on the day but Ireland aren’t number 2, or even close, the second best team in the world doesn’t lose to Scotland and Wales, usually ever. England hammered Australia home and away (no pun intended) – the last time aside from the world cup Australia beat Eng? 2012, have beaten Ireland 6/8, wales 5/6, Scotland 20/20+ France the same, Argentina the same, and the only team they’ve only just started beating, south Africa, are quite plainly a spent force for now. So its now not a case of NH / SH, its NZ, a gap, England, a gap, everyone else who are more or less the same level as shown in the autumn internationals. Also a last word, Schmidt is dicing badly, aside from a few exceptions in the pack his team are going to be ancient by the next RWC, Sexton, Best, Heaslip, O Mahony, Toner, Kearney, Earles will all be 33 or older by the time a ball is kicked.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 4:35am
        David said | March 21st 2017 @ 4:35am | ! Report

        Although Peter O’Mahoney is only 27, I agree, Schmidt needs to look to the future but puts too much faith in old heads. He seems scared at times to try anything new, some of the best selections have happened due to injury (such as Payne (admittedly no young man himself) and O’Mahoney starting as Kearney and Heaslip weren’t available. Sexton’s class but I feel Paddy Jackson needs a longer chance, he’s the future for them and he’s bursting with potential.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 5:35am
          Mike said | March 21st 2017 @ 5:35am | ! Report

          Not at all Ireland will be much stronger in 2019. Their team will be suplimented by Aki, McCartney and Blyendaal. Ireland are simmering away nicely.
          More scrum half development is needed though!

          • Roar Guru

            March 21st 2017 @ 5:50am
            Poth Ale said | March 21st 2017 @ 5:50am | ! Report

            McCartney too old, Bleyendal not good enough and Aki might be playing for Samoa, particularly if residency extends to 5 years hopefully this will keep him out of consideration.

            • March 21st 2017 @ 6:23am
              Mike said | March 21st 2017 @ 6:23am | ! Report

              You are very wrong all three will be in the sqaud this time next year.
              Aki will start alongside Henshaw, McCartney will make the bench with a view of taking over from Best, and Bleyendaal will compete with Jackson.
              Whether you like it or not.

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 7:17am
                Poth Ale said | March 21st 2017 @ 7:17am | ! Report

                How do you know I’m wrong?

                What’s your evidence that says all three will be in the playing squad?

              • March 21st 2017 @ 7:44am
                Mike said | March 21st 2017 @ 7:44am | ! Report

                They are completely superior to their competition. It would be arrogant to suggest otherwise.
                All three have all round ability and have captained their provinces this season. Aki especially will be an Irish superstar.
                They are kiwi born yes but all will be used to improve Irish depth.

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 8:03am
                Poth Ale said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:03am | ! Report

                It would be arrogant to suggest otherwise??

                You’re not even making sense.
                I said McCartney would be too old – he’s 32 in September. Hardly a candidate for RWC 19.
                Who is their inferior competition that you’re talking about?

                You said all three would be in the playing squad next year.

        • Roar Guru

          March 21st 2017 @ 9:39am
          Poth Ale said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

          It’s worth remembering that in the last 12 months, Schmidt has given senior caps to Props: Bealham, Furlong, Ryan
          Hookers: Tracy, Scannell
          Locks: Roux, Dillane
          Backrows: Reidy, van der Flier, Stander, Leavy, Conan
          9s: Marmion, McGrath
          10s: Carbery
          Centres: Ringrose, McCloskey
          Back 3: Healy, Adeolokun, O’Halloran, Conway.

          The shape of a 45-man squad for RWC 19 is slowly emerging.

          • March 21st 2017 @ 12:28pm
            Badger Bob said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

            I would say Aki will be there, but I doubt the other two. the Irish have a lot of talent coming through at provincial/under20 level. They will will be one of the top contenders come worldcup time. I cannot see Bealham, Ryan, Tracy, Reidy, McCloskey or any of the back 3 listed being there in 2019. these players have filled a gap for injuries but I certainly wouldnt be calling them the future, there is currently far more potential talent in the provinces which is still a little young for the international stage just yet. By the way Stander was capped more than 12 months ago.

            • Roar Guru

              March 21st 2017 @ 2:29pm
              Poth Ale said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

              Bealham and Ryan have filled a gap for injuries? Who? Ross is on his last legs and I think has had his last cap.

              The depth at full-back is poor. I don’t think Payne or Kearney will be used.

              Ditto re hooker. Cronin will be 33 by RWC, and then followed by Scannell and likely Tracy or possibly Brian Byrne.

              I agree about more talent coming though. Darren Sweetnam at Munster and Adam Byrne at Leinster look great prospects for the back three. I do think O’Halloran needs more game time at 15 – he’s lively, good catcher and a great step in attack.

              Ok – Stander was capped 13 months ago – I think you know what I meant though. 😉

              The June tour will tell a lot more about who Schmidt & Co have their eye on.

              Aki is an odd guy. He’s had his contract extended with Connach earlier this year, then threw a minor strop when Lam announced he was leaving for Bristol, and then told media that he hasn’t made his mind up about whether to play for NZ, Samoa for whom he is qualified, or whether he would play for Ireland. He was a great player last season, but has been more subdued this season, and then got crocked by injury. He’s back playing now but Connacht have had a poor season and are unlikely to break into the top 5 in order to play in European Cup next season, which will take Aki further out of,the spotlight for test selection. Meanwhile, Henshaw and Ringrose are cementing their partnership at Leinster as well as with Ireland.

              If he does agree to play for Ireland and gets selected when he qualifies for residency In October of this year, it wouldn’t surprise me if he were paired with Ringrose who’s really starting to perform at 13.

              However, World Rugby will make its decision on residency duration in May. If it’s extended to five years, will they give any leeway to players already under contract or only those who are already 3 years resident, in which latter case, the door would close for Aki for another two years. I hope this does happen generally and residency players are weeded out of tier one teams.

              • March 22nd 2017 @ 2:30am
                Badger Bob said | March 22nd 2017 @ 2:30am | ! Report

                You make some fair points. I’m of the view that if a player wishes to represent another nation, once he chooses, he cannot change to another nation and the 3 year rule is fair. Not everyone was born in a country they feel attached to, and if they have the ability, they should not be ‘forced’ to only play for their nation of birth. I would rather not see their ability wasted. The person with the biggest bee in his bonnet about the residency rule seems to be Aguston Pichot, and I feel it is mainly based on the inability of Argentina to attract foreign players. In my view, Argentina need to ‘play by the rules’ and put these structures in place, so as to attract this talent and make itself stronger as a rugby nation. Don’t really see what Pichot is so worried about anyway, Argentina are more than capable of holding their own as Worldcups have proven.
                The important thing is to grow the game, that is the bigger picture. Aki is a perfect example. In combination with Pat Lam, transformed a whole province, people who would have never watched rugby, into rugby enthusiasts by playing winning rugby. There is no one who deserves more than Aki (if he chooses) to play for Ireland, he has bled in a Connacht jersey for 3 years, that’s enough for me. 5 years is too much, there probably aren’t many international careers that last that long, and the best of the talent of that players career would likely be wasted.

      • Roar Guru

        March 21st 2017 @ 2:22pm
        Fionn said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

        Englishbob, you may not have said it but many people have said that England are ready to challenge the All Blacks (on the latest GAGR podcast two out of the three of them agreed that England might, or even would, beat NZ).

        I agree that Schmidt is way, way, way too conservative in his selections and game plan. Ireland has some really skilful backs but play really conservative rugby that doesn’t yield nearly enough tries. He, like Cheika, also favours the old guys. At least Schmidt has shown some tactical nous unlike Cheika, however.

        England are the number 2 side now, as you say, but after their really average showings against everyone in the 6N we can’t say they are out of sight (despite their impressive record). The other national sides must see England as a lot more beatable than they did in November. It’s up to the other sides to work hard and try to best England now.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 4:31am
      David said | March 21st 2017 @ 4:31am | ! Report

      Agree with some points. Ireland seem to really shut England down more than anything else, but Schmidt’s desire to conservative rugby isn’t a decision to criticise when it works as it did on Saturday, but I don’t understand his desire to play it all the time. If they’d played expansively against France and Wales as they did against Italy and were forced to against Scotland (After Scotland shot to 14-0 and 21-7 leads), they would have blown France away and likely beaten Wales. Unfortunately though I think Schmidt is set on his ways and favours old heads like Kearney and Heaslip who should be starting to get phased out. Payne and Stander looked much better in their places against England.

      If England play New Zealand in November we will lose. It might be close or it might be a thrashing, it depends on availability, but we’d lose without a doubt. I don’t understand the RFU’s desire for the test at the start of the Autumn off the back of the most physically demanding tour there is; it’s a shame it’s such a long way off but from an English perspective it’s much better to wait until 2018 to play New Zealand.

      Regarding the Lions, I disagree slightly. While I desperately hope it won’t be a whitewash, I would have to wait for the squad announcement to make comment on our chances. But regarding the line up, I can’t help but feel AWJ is a long time passed his best. You mention the Gray brothers being far from their peak- and at 22, I don’t doubt Jonny Gray has a lot more to show- but both these players outshone him throughout the tournament as a whole, and Scotland thrashed Wales in the end. Jonny Gray at least definitely should tour, and I’d like to see him in a test too. Warburton is playing his best rugby since the last tour, I agree with his selection, but I hope that with he, Stander, Vunipola, Peter O’Mahoney (just to name a few) all in the mix that the back rows, while not being equal, should be competitive with no overbearing dominance from NZ. In terms of the backs, I agree the All Blacks’ as a collective can sweep the floor with the Lions, but individually it’s slightly more equal than it looks at first glance. Personally I’d go with Tommy Seymour ahead of George North on the wing, he’s consistently been the best wing in this hemisphere since before the last world cup for me, but always seems to slide beneath the radar. I’d like to see Farrell at 12, with Henshaw on the bench, largely because he already has an established centre partnership with JJ, partly for his superb kicking (can’t afford to miss any against anyone in New Zealand) and partly because of his distribution skills working in tandem with Sexton’s and Hogg’s can offer JJ and the wings the possibility to be lethal at times.
      Finally, while I agree the NZ front row have next to no competition in terms of loose play round the field (though if Jamie George or Kyle Sinkler go they’ll give them a run for their money, and Mako Vunipola’s nothing to be dismissed) I do think the Lions can not only have parity in the set piece- both line out and scrum- but if they wish for any hope of even winning a test, they will need to be superior there even if only by the narrowest margins.

      Overall an agreeable article. While your prediction of a 3-0 blackwash is realistic, at this point I can only hope it won’t be correct!

      • March 21st 2017 @ 5:00am
        Englishbob said | March 21st 2017 @ 5:00am | ! Report

        Agreed, the first say 2 or 3 in each position are arguably the best or there abouts but the depth might not all be there after that. If im right when they lost to Ireland they had Tuipolotu and Kaino in the second row, the first choice pair of Retallick and Whitelock not being available and it really knocked them off there stride, a lot of lost work, taking England as an example, we have 4 locks 95%+ as good as those two and 3/4 more on the fringes who are merely very good.
        Also, I enjoyed the last lions series, even if the joy was slightly tempered by it being against the worst aussie team for a good few years, they wouldn’t have beaten NZ/SA and were only one kick in the first test from losing the series (having subsequently lost the second test).
        I cant help but think this is going to be a hammering unless a few of the NZ first choice get injured beforehand in the warm up games. Also Barrett, amazing, but a truly awful goal kicker and nearly as bad defensively as Ford is for England. Pray for rain, warburton captain, England locks and Farrell at 12, we MAY win one test.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 5:47am
          Jeffrey said | March 21st 2017 @ 5:47am | ! Report


          While I agree that the ABs have some depth issues in a couple of positions such as no 8 and maybe no 6, I don’t think lock is one of them. That Chicago test was bizarre in that NZ were missing their top six locks for that test. Yes, many think that only Whitelock and Retallick were unavailable, but Bird, Romano, Tom Franklin and Broadhurst were also not fit, while Scott Barret was sitting on the bench for the first 50 minutes. Playing Kaino was a massive mistake that day, they would have been better off giving Barret a start and bring in a good lineout exponent such as Michael Fatialofa on the bench.

          I disagree with England having locks who are anywhere near as good as Retallick and Whitelock either, or at least Retallick anyway. That guys is a freak and so far ahead of the next best lock in world rugby imo, it’s not even close.

          I fear if Read goes down however, we really have no one else behind him. It’s a major concern.

          • March 21st 2017 @ 6:38am
            Englishbob said | March 21st 2017 @ 6:38am | ! Report

            How about Ardie Savea at 8? very dynamic, hard hitting and will be a nightmare to stop, he’s likely to be second against Sam Cane for the time being at 7 where NZ already have enviable riches. We’ll have to disagree on Retallick very good yes, the best yeah probably, but not completely out on his own, plus he must be due a sabbatical before the next RWC, he’s had a monstrously punishing 2/3 years. Etzebeth, Gorgodze, Itoje all dominate like Retallick does, albeit playing for worse teams.

          • March 21st 2017 @ 6:44am
            David said | March 21st 2017 @ 6:44am | ! Report

            Kind of agree with you both on lock. Without Rettallick and Whitelock, NZ are vulnerable, without them they still have some good locks but England’s top 4, with respect, can dominate them in that area. With them it’s near impossible, they’re monsters, and that’s why locks going to be such a key area. Every NZ loss over the last 5 years have been when the opposition has got the better of- or are at least as good as- NZ’s locks, except maybe when Australia won. Since 2012, England, apart from on one occasion, have always pushed NZ quite close- which I think is a testament to how good their locks are.

            So ultimately what I’m getting at is, if the Lions want to win, our locks need to be at their very best to the point they’re doing better than Rettallick and Whitelock. This is why I don’t think AWJ should go, I think he’s too slow, part of the ‘old crowd’ of locks and the position is overtaking him in a way.

            • March 21st 2017 @ 7:05am
              Englishbob said | March 21st 2017 @ 7:05am | ! Report

              Agree wholeheartedly about AWJ, great player and should have been Wales captain for longer than he’ll end up being but he hasn’t got the running in him to play in a winning team against NZ, evidence enough last June. Itoje & one of gray, Henderson, charteris, launchbury with the next best warming the pine. I don’t actually think there will be too many English players in the starting 15, as a unit they average out higher than most of the other teams in the NH but individually there are better players in almost every position aside from the vunipolas, itoje & Farrell. OF probably a shoe in at 12, maybe JJ at 13 but I suspect Ringrose/ J Davies are fighting for that. The half backs will be Irish, one winger will be welsh with the other being Scottish along with the full back. Added up I cant see it beating NZ in NZ unless of some fairly catastrophic kiwi injuries

              • March 21st 2017 @ 9:56am
                BBA said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

                Weather is going to be a big part of it. It does favour the Lions with weather not being the best in June in NZ.

                This will negate some of the backline advantages that NZ has, and may make goal kicking very important which is one area the Lions do have a clear advantage over NZ.

                With the AB’s being available for some of the Lions tour matches the risks of injury will be somewhat more evenly spread, although the touring team always has it worse (although that’s part of the challenge and why the team spirit is so important no one know when they might be asked to step up once selected for the tour party).

              • March 21st 2017 @ 10:39am
                Old Bugger said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report


                Funny you should consider the elements because in 2005, the 1st test was played under a deluge….it pi$$ed down from go to whoa and yet the ABs won 21-3. It was the BILs, that failed to handle the wet weather not, the ABs. The AB forwards just overpowered their opponents when everyone was expecting, the AB backs to do the job. Wet weather rugby, was implemented just, for the ABs….especially, their forward pack.

                When the 2nd test was played, the weather was perfect and this was the signal for a certain Dan Carter, to announce himself to the rugby fraternity. Needless to say, if memory serves me right, the BILs got absolutely punished by the free-flowing, passing game-plan of the ABs.

                By the time the 3rd test kicked off, the BILs were too busy thinking of the flight home instead of a test match, 12,000kms away from home.

              • March 21st 2017 @ 3:10pm
                BBA said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:10pm | ! Report


                Agree with all your points, and certainly NZ are more dangerous in the dry, but we do get plenty of rain so we are not bad in the wet. However the wet it can come down to more of a lottery of a wet ball and which way it lands / skids.

                And even despite the history would feel more nervous in a torrential downpour then on a hard field.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 5:01am
        taylorman said | March 21st 2017 @ 5:01am | ! Report

        You make some good arguments David. Look forward to more.?

      • Roar Guru

        March 21st 2017 @ 2:28pm
        Fionn said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

        It’ll be really interesting to see who Gatland goes for, won’t it? I would probably rather have Farrell on the bench and go for some more hard-running centres to straighten the attack, and to bring him on in the second half/or at the end if a goal needs to be kicked (e.g. Morne Steyn against you in the second Lions Test 2009).

        One advantage for the Lions is that NZ are used to running over teams in the last 30 minutes. Often teams are at or near parity with NZ at about the 50 minute mark, and then NZ use their superior bench to run over the opposition. Generally, the Lions have the better depth on the bench, and will hope to dominate the last 20-30 minutes of the match.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 4:31am
      English twizz said | March 21st 2017 @ 4:31am | ! Report

      England only going to get better over time won 3 of the last 4 junior World Cup and were runners up in the other World Cup and the teams that are coming through are more skillfull

      • March 21st 2017 @ 10:36am
        BBA said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

        It is to be hoped. But I am still not sure. There still seems to me to be something missing with how players are developed from beyond the junior stages.

        While I don’t see any let up in the conveyor belt of forward development they still don’t seem to me to develop at the next stage as well as say the NZ model.

        This I think is for two reasons, they don’t develop combinations as well, possibly because their talent is split through more teams (14 vs 5). There are too many not eligible to represent England in those teams which can stifle growth and development (by playing an older, experienced payer over developing the fine conveyor belt of talent at an earlier stage).

        It is an irony that although losing quality players top the north is not ideal, the bonus is that we give our younger players opportunities faster and that we can refresh our teams faster. The 2011 AB team was quite different than the 2015 team bar a few key players.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 11:42am
          English twizz said | March 21st 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

          Mario itoje is the start of the younger players coming through from the junior World Cup teams

          • March 21st 2017 @ 3:16pm
            BBA said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:16pm | ! Report

            He certainly is impressive, but is he the standard or considered exceptional?

            Plus I think it is fair to say that England having good forwards is not exactly a game changer for them.

            For me it is their link play between backs and forwards, and there ability to play and win in more than one style against quality opposition that it will start to feel like there is a sustainable change.

            What is hard to tell is whether England’s success at U20 level is due to them taking it more seriously selecting and training better or is it that players are better then what they were before but the RFU didn’t put much resource into U20. I don’t know. But am looking forward to the rivalry lifting between the 2 teams.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 4:50am
      maxxlord said | March 21st 2017 @ 4:50am | ! Report

      Fionn you have picked an excellent backline. Is the New Zealand backline better? No. Murray, Sexton and Henshaw all outplayed their opposites in Chicago. Sexton and Henshaw were then knocked out by high tackles in Dublin in the first ten minutes ( they will be alert to thuggery on tour) Williams was a serious handful on the Wales tour to NZ. North, Joseph and Hogg are all in fantastic form. I am putting money on the Lion.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 10:39am
        BBA said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

        You are right Max. All analysis on AB performance should be confined to the match in Chicago last year. I’m sure its not possible for the AB’s to play better than that game so the Lions do not need to worry.

      • Roar Guru

        March 21st 2017 @ 2:31pm
        Fionn said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

        Maxxlord, I think we have to agree to disagree on Murray, Sexton and Henshaw all outplaying their opponents. You’ve got to remember that almost all (all?) the All Blacks’ tries came from the set piece. NZ in the second half, despite their forward pack getting beaten by Ireland, won the backline battle easily and scored a lot of tries by throwing it through the hands. This is something Ireland simply did not do, and did not do the next week either.

        Hogg is really good but is he Ben Smith? Is he even Dagg or Milner-Skudder? Sexton and Farrell are very good, would you honestly select either over Barrett, Cruden or even Sopoaga?

        I guess we will see in June whose backline is better!

        • March 21st 2017 @ 3:37pm
          cuw said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:37pm | ! Report

          Sexton in current form is as good as Barrett. However Sexton gets ahead by a nose becoz he is a much better goal-kicker than Barrett.
          Surely NZ would have seen how Sexton was targeted for special attention by England – and very cleverly , since the same guy did not go after him , the ref could not card someone for marginally late hits ( though i thought the last Wood hit was a shoulder charge).

          Is A Smith back in form after toilet-gate? if not Murray may be again ahead. I have been impressed by both TJP and Gus Pulu – very quick and physical. will be interesting to see if reputation will get Smith ahead of the other 3 guys.

          Robbie henshaw is good and also be ahead of his NZ counterpart – mainly becoz NZ are playing many at centers since the departure of Nonu -Smith. Again , Moala has shown some form while Fekitoa has been yo-yo. even the other guys like Crotty, Tamanivalu, ranger …. have not had great time. SBW is still out and some newbies like Laumape and aso have played well. so it will be interesting to see who plays in centers.

          Hogg has been the best 15 in 6N, but is no where near an inform Smith or Dagg. but Smith this year has not been at the high standards yet and i think Dagg is out. i would think little Barrett may be a dark horse, given his last show.

          • Roar Guru

            March 21st 2017 @ 5:54pm
            Fionn said | March 21st 2017 @ 5:54pm | ! Report

            ‘Sexton in current form is as good as Barrett’, sorry, I think that’s absolutely incorrect. The number of tires that Barrett sets up, and also scores himself, relative to Sexton means that I think it’s virtually impossible to say Sexton is as good. Barrett might have a better team, but he is almost certainly the best back in the world, rivalled only by perhaps Ben Smith. I would say Sexton is better than Sopoaga because his head is screwed on better, but Cruden and Barrett are the two best in the world.

            I wouldn’t play A Smith, I think TJP is a better scrumhalf than Smith or Murray. TKB might be better as well.

            Crotty, again, I would say is at least on par with Henshaw.

            Smith just got back, and I am sure either him or Dagg or Milner-Skudder will be fit in June. They’re the 3 best fullbacks in the world (despite what the Folau pundits say).

            Again, I fail to see how one can think that the NH backs are better than the New Zealanders. As I said before, New Zealand almost won that first test despite their forwards getting annihilated by Ireland’s. NZs backs scored a bunch of tires in open play. Ireland scored all their tries off the back of the set piece. I just don’t see a comparison.

            That’s my two cents anyway. I think that if the Lions don’t dominate up front then they’ve got no hope, backs don’t throw it around enough and don’t take enough risks to match it with the Kiwis.

            • March 21st 2017 @ 6:06pm
              cuw said | March 21st 2017 @ 6:06pm | ! Report

              Lions will struggle becoz of the tour itinerary. they will need about 60 players to get thru all the matches.

              by the time they get used to the conditions and gel as a team and build cohesion, the tour will be ending and lost. …

          • March 23rd 2017 @ 1:12pm
            P2R2 said | March 23rd 2017 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

            ….Sexton in current form is as good as Barrett. However Sexton gets ahead by a nose becoz he is a much better goal-kicker than Barrett….

            NZ dont rely on kicks at goal – they always score more tries…isnt that the essence and philosphy of RUGBY….if I wanted to see kicks at goal I would watch SOCCER

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