Time for England to make changes
The final 10 minutes of Saturday's Calcutta Cup match resembled two bald men fighting over a wig, both sides desperate to secure a win that might have partially concealed their inadequacies, inadequacies that were all too glaring under the Murrayfield lights.
Andy Robinson bristled when it was suggested the match hadn't been much of a spectacle - "I was very entertained," said the Scotland coach, "and the players will tell you it was very dynamic" - but those who paid 70 quid for the privilege would surely have disagreed. As one Scotsman said to me at the final whistle, "Why the glum face? At least it's over..."
The buzzword at the post-match press conference was "frustration": at the result, at the number of mistakes made, at wrong options taken - again and again and again.
England manager Martin Johnson was at least more honest, admitting it "wasn't a great game to watch", but there was more than a hint of delusion in his insistence that his side could have won if they had taken their chances. Try telling that to Scotland fly-half Dan Parks, who twice hit the upright with penalty attempts.
England were also very fortunate to be awarded one penalty bang in front of the posts, while wing Mark Cueto could easily have been sin-binned for killing the ball, moments after captain Steve Borthwick had been told by referee Marius Jonker that the next culprit would be carded.
In fairness to Scotland, they at least tried to play some rugby in the first half, putting width on the ball, stringing phases together, not always opting to take the ball into contact and striving to keep it alive. They were aided by some sloppy England defending, with the final tally reading 103 tackles made, 12 tackles missed.
If England's defence was porous, in attack they were about as sharp as a balloon. England's backs are often likened to robots, but that's giving robots a bad name: robots are programmed to be efficient, to be clinical, not to make mistakes.
Since beating Wales on the opening Six Nations weekend, Johnson's side have scored two tries in three matches, proof the midfield axis of Jonny Wilkinson and Riki Flutey is simply not working. But Johnson is a man crippled by caution, hamstrung by loyalty, and deeply suspicious of change.
His decision not to make changes at the break was baffling, especially as when Ben Foden did replace Delon Armitage 10 minutes into the half, he was like a breath of fresh air combined with a breeze block, it that's at all possible. Just ask Scotland lock Alastair Kellock, who will attest that tackling the Northampton full-back in full flight is akin to opening a letter bomb.
Armitage personified the deep-seated dissatisfaction that permeates this England side, taking an age to leave the field when replaced by Foden before slumping in the dugout, with only his frustrations for company. Judging by Johnson's effusive assessment of Foden's contribution, it could be some time before Armitage is back in the side.
Johnson is highly unlikely to dispense with Borthwick for next week's encounter with France in Paris, but the Saracens lock must be able to hear the death rattle. It is obvious Johnson views Borthwick as a man made in his own image, but Johnson's bathroom mirror must be of the fairground variety.
If the tenor of a rugby team is dictated by its captain, then it is no surprise this current England outfit lack the necessary brio. Borthwick is a good man, but the best captains are much more than good men: they are immensely talented, they are street-wise and they can be nasty. In Paris, England will need to be all three if, as Johnson acknowledged, they don't want it to turn into "a very long night".
The noises coming out of the England camp ahead of that game don't exactly inspire confidence. With the French targeting their first Grand Slam since 2004, Johnson spoke of not wanting to be "blown away", while fly-half Toby Flood said they'd go there "to spoil". Hardly the stuff to stir dreams of an upset in Paris.
Before the match between Scotland and England, there was talk in the papers of spectators being taken back to the Dark Ages. Damn those Murrayfield floodlights - if only it had been. Dark, that is.