England’s rugby woes have been a long time coming

Rower who wishes he could play rugby. Roar Pro

By Rower who wishes he could play rugby., Rower who wishes he could play rugby. is a Roar Pro


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    England’s sudden fall from grace has left fans scratching their heads, but the issue is clear: not a lot has changed, with wins papering over some rather large cracks.

    In their past four Tests against the Wallabies, maybe three tries were created from actual attacking play, with the rest coming form opportunistic kicks or poor play from their opponents.

    This lack of attacking smarts was again on display in the Six Nations.

    Their first five minutes against France started well, but the French began to line up their defensive system, and stopped competing at the breakdown, where England overcommited. The attack then narrowed, and when it was passed out wide, it narrowed again quickly. The space was there but England refused to run into it.

    One thing the English were good at was winning and winning in tight situations, with a group of Saracens players, who had won several titles, at the team’s core.

    What Eddie Jones did with England is similar to what he did with Japan, played to the team’s strengths rather than fixing the obvious weaknesses. Japan utilised their quick backs and wide passing and it worked against South Africa in the World Cup. But they ignored their tiny pack and poor tackling technique, often having two players commit to the tackle, leaving massive gaps in the defensive line.

    England’s biggest problem is their lack of a specialist openside – it has been for years, Chris Robshaw is not a 7. So Jones opted to have multiple players who are decent at the breakdown. For this to work, they need to make big tackles and force mistakes, which is what happened against Australia and in their successful Six Nations.

    But this tactic has now backfired.

    Firstly, as seen in the game against Scotland, the Scots allowed the big English pack to take extra metres in the tackle and took their breakdown to pieces as the tackled player was isolated. Their pack managed parity with England and allowed these turnovers to occur.

    Secondly, as seen against France, was the issue of facing a bigger, nastier pack. France outmuscled the English and England didn’t get the turn overs they were so used to, leading to a French victory.

    Ireland employed a combination of the two tactics and were successful. With no specialist openside, they’re was no protection agains these three sides and England paid for it.

    The third way which caught Jones with his pants down was the new change in breakdown laws, forcing the tackler to return through the gate.

    England also appear to have zero rugby smarts. Perhaps this was best shown when they played Italy two years ago, when the Italians didn’t commit to the breakdown, meaning that their was no offside line. Any other team would have adapted, yet the English spent 80 minutes waving their hands at the referee.

    Against South Africa on the weekend, when England had a large lead after 20 minutes, managing to lose showed a lack of game awareness and strategy. Yes, the Springobks played well, but not 39-15 in 50-odd minutes well.

    Watching England’s attack over the Six Nations, I had no idea what they were trying to achieve. They created the space in the defensive line and yet refused to run into it, instead running into the same players, in the same areas, time and time again. There was a clear improvement against the Springbok, attacking the flanks and getting success from it, yet this was largely thanks to some atrocious defence.

    The only time England had a semi-cohesive attack was against Argentina and, to a lesser extent, Australia two years ago. This was when they had Glen Ella as their attack coach and their lack of an attack coach over the Six Nations showed.

    They have now employed Scott Wisemantel, who worked as skills coach for Jones in 2003 and the attack seems to have improved.

    If England want to keep up with the vastly improving Australian, Scottish, South African, and Irish, they need a forward pack that isn’t one dimensional and a backline that can play with some flare and creativity.

    State of Origin 2 is here, with the Blues looking to wrap the 2018 series up and the Maroons hoping to keep it alive and force a decider. Follow along with our NSW vs QLD Origin 2 live scores and blog.

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    The Crowd Says (50)

    • June 12th 2018 @ 3:19am
      Caros The Argie said | June 12th 2018 @ 3:19am | ! Report

      As much as I always want the English to lose every time they play, it is good for rugby to have these ebbs and flows between nations. Always the same teams being number 1 or 2 is not much fun, unless you are a kiwi.

      But EJ has had this issue many times before. He single handedly demolished the Aussie scrum which took a very long time to repair. He seems to me as one of those coaches that can get a significant improvement over a short period of time but cannot handle the long term well. High peaks, high cliff falls.

      Not many new players despite the England U20 teams having done so well, it feels as the same team from the RWC 2015. The same Vunipola driven attack, etc. I may be wrong but this is what comes across. By the way, the first 20 minutes on Saturday they played very nice, but despite the Boks having improved so much during the game, the English let down was terrible. Again, it seems he wants every player to have a chip on his head and just follow his script.

      EJ and hubris, perfect together.

    • June 12th 2018 @ 3:45am
      MH01 said | June 12th 2018 @ 3:45am | ! Report

      Eddy and Cheika are very similar , both can get results in a short period of time, Cheika through motivation and Eddy through pushing the players to their limits . Both are not long term solutions.

      The question is, can England restructure and peak in 2019. Some would say they peaked already and now comes the downward spiral .

      And , do the wallabies need David Pocock like in the 2015 RWC to be competitive ? Is he worth 10-12 points per game ? If Cheika plays Hannigan this weekend….. 🙂 we may need injuries to be a force in 2019…. my concern is Cheika’s favouritism , which holds this wallaby team from great potential .

      • Roar Guru

        June 12th 2018 @ 10:47am
        PeterK said | June 12th 2018 @ 10:47am | ! Report

        Cheika did not show favouritism in the match against Ireland.

        Latu a tah with test experience was on the bench for a rookie from the Reds.

        Previous favourite Robertson was dropped from the bench for a THP Alaalatoa moving to the LHP.

        Simmons was relegated to the bench for Rodda despite choosing a short backrow.

        Kuridrani was dropped entirely for Kerevi.

        Tupou added in on bench.

        Your only possible case is Phipps on the bench.

        • June 12th 2018 @ 10:56am
          Fionn said | June 12th 2018 @ 10:56am | ! Report

          But peter, Kerevi and Tupou are obviously favourites with Cheika. I get the feeling Rodda is a favourite too.

          Anyway, it doesn’t really matter. Cheika picked just about the best team possible and coached them very well. Larkham has deserved far more credit over the last 12 months than he has got also.

          • June 12th 2018 @ 2:15pm
            The Sheriff said | June 12th 2018 @ 2:15pm | ! Report


            Could possibly be that Cheika actually knows more about the talents of our players than you do.

            You may have just twigged to the fact that Cheika’s ‘favourites’ appear to be the best we have available.
            Yes, even Phipps!

            • June 12th 2018 @ 2:22pm
              Fionn said | June 12th 2018 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

              Phipps isn’t the best. That has been documented many times before, including in Nick Bishop’s article on the Australia–England match last year.

              In this case I think that Kerevi, Tupou and Rodda are both favourites and the best.

              Is Hanigan – another Cheika favourite – the best we had available last year?

              The answer is no. Cheika even admitted on his recent playersvoice article that he was biased in selections and needed to get over it. And lo and behold after saying that he picked an extremely good team. Great to see if he gets over favouritism.

            • June 12th 2018 @ 2:38pm
              SP said | June 12th 2018 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

              “Could possibly be that Cheika actually knows more about the talents of our players than you do.”

              lol. Nah MC has no idea according The Roars guru’s and experts.

        • June 13th 2018 @ 2:54pm
          MH01 said | June 13th 2018 @ 2:54pm | ! Report

          Peter – you are spot on. I was referring to Cheika being tribal by nature and not this test. I view that as a weakness that her persists with certain players out of loyalty. For instance, our backup to Genia – we really should be looking to 2019 with a solid backup …..

      • June 12th 2018 @ 1:46pm
        Phil said | June 12th 2018 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

        MH01,I guess we need some negativity to balance out all the happiness most of us derived from the Wallabies win,but I’m not sure why?Some people just can’t help themselves.

        • June 13th 2018 @ 7:29am
          MH01 said | June 13th 2018 @ 7:29am | ! Report

          Great win by rhe boys. Just pointing out Jones and Cheika are short term coaches . Ideally wallabies and England would be wanting them taking over the teams this year

    • June 12th 2018 @ 6:04am
      Englishbob said | June 12th 2018 @ 6:04am | ! Report

      For me the most recent losses have been due to a lack of a solid leadership group and lack of fear for places. Maro itoje has been England’s best find since the RWC disaster but recently his game has ceased to be on the edge of the law and he’s been dancing right over the other side of line. Using Richie McCaw as an example, as well as leading by example on the field, he wouldn’t tolerate ongoing repetitive errors from his players, England have been reverting to the old tactic of nailing the halfbacks and it’s never worked and never will. England need a player/s who’s willing to tear strips of players making discipline errors and drive standards. These English players get 40,000£ a match now, and they are taking liberties because E.J has refused to rotate his favourites out of the team, Brown/Robshaw/Cole/Ford/Young’s etc. More bad things to come before we start seeing an improvement. England do have a few opensides, we just don’t pick them

      • June 12th 2018 @ 7:35am
        Dan said | June 12th 2018 @ 7:35am | ! Report

        Sorry mate, if Itoje is your best find since the RWC 2015 then youll be having this coversation leading into RWC 2023. I beg you to watch a replay and fix your eyes on him only (dont follow the ball) you will see how much he contributes in the tight and the loose, 3 5ths of f… all. Lineouts, yes but nothing else. Sure he scored a try but anyone could have done that. (He is not a dirty player like some scribes have called him) England will go out in the Quarters WC 2019. Surely they’ll make it there, dont under estimate the Argies come WC time

        • June 12th 2018 @ 8:20am
          Englishbob said | June 12th 2018 @ 8:20am | ! Report

          I think that’s possibly doing Maro a slight disservice, he was very good throughout the 2016 season, being the best player for the double winner Saracens and grand slam English team but I’ll admit his impact is now flagging badly. I honestly would be surprised if England didn’t lose every game between now and the next 6N, we don’t play a weak team in November and losing is every bit a habit that winning is. I’ve lived through England being garbage for probably 20 of the 26 years I’ve been interested in union so a catastrophic year may lead to the wholesale redesign of the English game that’s needed. We currently have 14 clubs that all pull in different directions and the players are flogged relentlessly compared to irish/kiwis. English rugby needs a redesign, less teams, less focus on set piece and more speed and skill based play. It will never happen though and so much rugby potential will be squandered

          • June 12th 2018 @ 8:29am
            Englishbob said | June 12th 2018 @ 8:29am | ! Report

            To clarify, 14 clubs across England’s top two divisions justify professional status, the rest are semi pro

      • June 12th 2018 @ 7:44am
        Dan said | June 12th 2018 @ 7:44am | ! Report

        EJ putting Shields at lock ??? what the….a lot wrong here Englishbob, a lot wrong. Vunipolas are just flat footed lumberjacks, body types from yesteryear. Im afraid Nov vs Abs has the potential to be a blow out, for rugbys sake I hope not, for the uneducated rugby scribes I hope so

        • June 12th 2018 @ 8:27am
          Englishbob said | June 12th 2018 @ 8:27am | ! Report

          Agree totally, I don’t actually care if they lose to NZ, looking at the talent NZ had on the pine at the weekend England may have been able to live with them for 60 minutes on a good day but never 80, and the medicine doesn’t do you any good if it tastes nice. Pulling a 20 year old off before half time on his run on debut was disgusting, Iseakwe had done no worse than anyone else, shields should have started at six. Major major problems, even if England win the last two Tests, unlikely but not impossible against an inconsistent Boks team, they’ll not best Aus or NZ in November. I’d much rather a root and branch stripping of 5/6 players permanently, get some younger dynamic players in to blood and anyone who giveslre than one stupid penalty away a game is dropped for the next one

          • Roar Rookie

            June 12th 2018 @ 9:46pm
            Kirky said | June 12th 2018 @ 9:46pm | ! Report

            Englishbob! A decent Coach is what you need, and you’ll very likely have on hell of a job getting one post Eddie Jones as the common theory in the appointment of Head Coach of England Rugby is, it’s regarded as a “poisoned chalice” mainly because of the interference of the ruling Fathers of the ERU who have their own way of thinking as to how the England Team should be Coached, Managed, and run and the methods and outlook they demand, come hell or high water, ~ I’d imagine Eddie is at the stage of intolerance about now by those ‘upstairs’!

            I don’t know what the majority think the reason is for the continual losses by the English, but it seems as if they’re on a downwards slide but for whatever reason they are not playing as they were the last couple of years, ~ gut instinct leads one to presume the players have had a gutful of Eddie Jones and his methods and if the squad proper in any team sport is unhappy with the Coach, they will never play to the full potential!

            Brad Shields is going to find it vastly different in the Coaching Training scenario of the England squad, because the top teams in New Zealand be they the National Team, Super team, Provincial, or the First 15 at School, train like demons from go to whoa!! The Coaches demand it and the players do it without question as if you don’t, you don’t play Saturday, simple, ~ So I don’t know what the English methods entail, but Brad Shields may find that things are nothing like it used to be for him, who knows he may get disillusioned and go back home to New Zealand.

            I feel sure that we’ll see possibly the best team All Blacks side ever at the next World Cup 2019 as they are leaving players out at this very moment who are or have been in the run on side of very recent times, such is the available talent coming through in all positions, all the time! ~ Waisake Naholo springs to mind as per last weekend!

    • June 12th 2018 @ 7:19am
      Aj said | June 12th 2018 @ 7:19am | ! Report

      Things seem to change very quickly it was only a few games / months ago it was all England will break the winning streak record and are better than the all blacks etc then it as Ireland. Who will it be next?

      • June 12th 2018 @ 10:28am
        Taylorman said | June 12th 2018 @ 10:28am | ! Report

        Italy or Japan?

    • June 12th 2018 @ 8:54am
      Steve said | June 12th 2018 @ 8:54am | ! Report

      England will be fine, there’s very little difference between no2 and 10 in the world.

    • June 12th 2018 @ 11:08am
      Fionn said | June 12th 2018 @ 11:08am | ! Report

      England’s problem against South Africa has always seemed to me to be except for the golden period from 2000-03 and when Coetzee was in charge England have always played like South Africa, just been a bit worse.

      England has a big, powerful tight 5 and plays a power game with lots of emphasis on the scrum and line out and trying to overpower their opponents.

      South Africa almost always has a bigger and more powerful tight 5, with emphasis on the scrum and line out and trying to overpower their opponents, but South Africa’s scrum has almost always been more powerful, their line out better and they’ve had more dynamic loose forwards and a more dynamic backline…

      • Roar Guru

        June 12th 2018 @ 6:15pm
        taylorman said | June 12th 2018 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

        Yep, definitely agree with that. Ive always thought England were the poor mans SA and France the Wallabies. Only France in the NH could match the unpredictability and backplay of Oz.