Martin Johnson was not a happy Marmite after last weekend’s test match against the Wallabies and rightly so. England had plenty of possession and territory but were bereft of ideas in an attacking sense. They would probably have described themselves as shite.
Apart from their scrummaging that is. Demolishing a less than international class Wallaby front row was mill for the grist for these geezers and somewhat ‘back to the future’ for us.
The English press described our blokes as “feeble, weak and callow”. Former international Brian Moore said “England obliterated an Australian front row that would have been outgunned in mini rugby.”
They’ll be licking their lips again this Saturday when the same bunch of wet-behind-the-ears gunna-be’s front up for another round of severe embarrassment.
Maybe the Pommy scrum can even expand on last week’s scoring spree: three penalty tries and a dozen penalties anybody?
Unfortunately for them all their eggs were placed in one basket the other day, the scrum one. Maybe they were lulled into a false sense of security just waiting for all to flow from this wonderful forward moving and shit-splattering platform.
But no, at the end of the day they would have all been shaking their heads and lamenting “WTF happened there?”
You’d expect that Johnno’s anger would result in some well chosen tactical changes, especially out back, to ameliorate the loss.
“Hey yup chooms, you’re friggin’ out of order. Let’s get stuck into these Bruce’s. I’m flickin’ you, you, you and you like a ton o’ bricks you pussies” (I mean, he was a tough guy, once).
Casualties anyone? Hardly. How many? Two. Firstly, Simon Shaw in the forwards. Replaced in the starting lineup by Courtney Lawes from the Northampton Saints, who’s been touted as the next big forward thingy.
I mean, it wasn’t really the forwards that were the problem, although you would hardly describe them as dynamic at the ruck or in general play.
Lawes is a tall, mobile and rangy lock/flanker – he’ll bring a bit more speed to the breakdown and is aggressive around the park.
It was the pedestrian backs who were really the issue given the surfeit of ball that the forwards delivered up to them through scrum and lineout.
Surprisingly for some, Wilko never made it to the run-on side this time but Ben Youngs has displaced Danny Care.
The Leicester scrumhalf has had a very tidy season for his club and initially made his debut for England this year in the Six Nations (3 caps so far). Interestingly, his father was also an England scrumhalf.
I reckon the first casualty to go should have been Shontayne Hape. He seemed to be completely lost or overawed during the match, doesn’t seem to possess too many ball skills and has even struggled to make the Bath run-on side.
In fact Ollie Barkley, who featured in that god-awful match on Tuesday at Singo’s Stadium, has been the preferred Bath inside centre selection (with Aussie Matt Carraro at outside).
Ollie’s defence may not be that crash hot, but neither was Hape’s….at least he can pass a ball properly?
Matt Banaham’s suspension wouldn’t have made any difference to this match as his one-dimensional play would have hardly gained him selection against a dynamic Wallaby back three. Even Johnno would have worked that one out….
Toby Flood at flyhalf has been in and out of England teams since 2006. He’s alternated between 10 and 12 during that time. He’s played 30 internationals and has been a relative constant over the past few years.
Last week he had a middling match and provided little direction. One of his usual strengths is taking the ball to the line but he just wasn’t affective in doing that. He’s survived the cut but it must have been a close-run thing.
Ben Foden at fullback was another who was tentative, lacking in confidence and didn’t look anything like the player you see in club rugby. Delon Armitage has supplanted Matthew Tait on the bench and I guess is included as insurance for him.
These are the blokes that need to markedly improve on their first test efforts. As a team, the 37 missed tackles were unacceptably high, and kicking down the throat of hard running Wallaby backs just plays to their strengths.
It’s a given that they’re going to dominate in the scrum, but England will have to achieve parity in other aspects of play if they’re to deliver sustained pressure on the Wallaby defence and begin to ask the question.
I’m not sure that this week’s team will be any better at it than last weeks?
B Foden (Northampton); M Cueto (Sale Sharks), M Tindall (Gloucester), S Hape (Bath), C Ashton (Northampton); T Flood (Leicester), B Youngs (Leicester); T Payne (Wasps), S Thompson (Brive), D Cole (Leicester), C Lawes (Northampton), T Palmer (Stade Francais), T Croft (Leicester), L Moody (Leicester, capt), N Easter (Harlequins).
Reserves: G Chuter (Leicester), D Wilson (Bath), S Shaw (Wasps), J Haskell (Stade Francais), D Care (Harlequins), J Wilkinson (Toulon), D Armitage (London Irish).