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Dysfunctional England in need of expression

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Ben Dirs | 15:02 UK time, Saturday, 10 September 2011


A win is a win. You will hear this phrase uttered in clubhouses across England in the days that follow their brain-freezing victory over Argentina in Dunedin. Because 'a win is a win' is not just a phrase, it is a pernicious culture.

A culture of just doing enough, of stultifying functionality. Functionality is good, of course, but only when married to bells and whistles. And the only whistles at the Otago Stadium on Saturday belonged to the all-singing, all-dancing Argentine fans. Oh, and referee Bryce Lawrence, who almost wore his out.

In truth, the performance of Martin Johnson's side was not even functional. But it is this striving to be functional - a culture that permeates English rugby to its roots - that leads to sides which are guileless, inflexible and which lack verve and brio - because functionality is an arch enemy of passion and expression.

England well and truly cemented their reputation as the party-poopers of world rugby with a performance of jaw-dropping, head-shaking mediocrity and Argentina will count themselves desperately unlucky that they ran out narrow losers.

Were it not for the profligacy of Argentina's kicking duo, Felipe Contepomi and Martin Rodriguez, and injuries to key players, England's hordes of travelling fans would now be contemplating a quarter-final clash with the All Blacks. Or, given Romania's stirring display against Scotland, much, much worse. For now, they are left to wonder how much more mediocrity is to come. Or perhaps they are sated: a win, after all, is a win.

England struggled to make any headway against a passionate Pumas side. Picture: Getty Images

England knew full well Argentina's pack would come at them hard but the way in which they were blitzed at the breakdown, especially in the first half, must have made Johnson wince.

With the imperious Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe urging on his beasts of burden from the back of the scrum and Mario Ledesma and Co doing his bidding, for England's forwards it must at times have felt like trying to herd flying shrapnel.

Only James Haskell of England's back row emerged with any credit and as a unit they were made to look upright and cumbersome, unable to clean men out at the breakdown and consequently unable to generate quick enough ball in order for their backs to work an opening. The nose-to-the-ground, scavenging number seven appears to be out of fashion in England, although on the evidence of Saturday night, I have no idea why.

When England's backs did get their hands on the ball, it was shovelled right and then left, and then right and then left again, but the Argentine defence was up to the battering. In contrast, Exeter wing Gonzalo Camacho resembled mercury slip-sliding across glass.

Afterwards, England captain Mike Tindall admitted his side "had not been squeaky clean enough". In actual fact, they were downright filthy - incontinent with infringements. The best players live life on the edge, push the boundaries of what is and is not acceptable - but that is a skill in itself, and one too many of England's forwards have yet to master.

Enough of the pessimism. We should, of course, bear in mind that England were battered 36-0 by South Africa in their second game in the last World Cup in France, although, with Mike Catt and Andy Farrell sharing fly-half duties because of injuries that depressing day in Paris, there were mitigating circumstances.

Still, in 2007, England were able to regroup and discover a pattern of play that worked for them. At the moment, too many England players look like they are not entirely sure what the game-plan is, if indeed there is one, or that they are terrified of not delivering on it.

If Johnson can loosen his players up, allow them to express themselves, they might just discover that prettier patterns of play and less functionality lead to more positive results. But Johnson does not have long to work the magic, and there is very little evidence to suggest he is inclined to change tack in the middle of a World Cup.

"That's what World Cups are about," said Johnson after the game, "you find a way to win." Perhaps if England harboured more ambition and played with more freedom of expression they would not have to go looking for the wins, the wins would come looking for them.

PS. As bonkers sporting arenas go, the Otago Stadium has to be up there. The first fully-enclosed grass stadium and made largely of glass and clear plastic, it looks like a cross between Palm House at Kew Gardens and a giant garden centre - and that's not necessarily a bad thing. But, best of all, it makes one hell of a racket.


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  • Comment number 1.

    This game was like watching England in the 6N back in 2010. Truly awful.

    Hopefully Hartley, Palmer and Youngs will start the next game. Much more dynamic than there counterparts.

  • Comment number 2.

    Mixed feelings about this game - we won but it could have been so different if Juan Hernandez was playing at fly half for Argentina, who suffered a lot of injuries during the game.

    England struggled to get Tuilagi and other backs into the game, which is a concern. But we got better as the game went on. Hopefully this performance wont be repeated.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think that this performance, whilst far from good, has to be moderated in the face of utterly awful bias against England from the ref- such as when Nick Easter was punished for not rolling away, despite having made the effort and then being pushed onto the ball by an opponent. And how there was no yellow card for an Argentine towards the end of the match, especially after the referee's warning to Argentina, I do not know. Bad match for England but at least the right result, terrible day for the ref- no excuse for some of the poor decisions made

  • Comment number 4.

    I am surprised nobody has mentioned the referee yet, although I suppose it's early doors. Although England were poor, very poor, I truly believe the ref was after us from the beginning. the penalty count between the two sides was similar in the end yet we had one sin binned and countless amounts of lectures from the ref. Strange that the NZ ref did not spend as much time talking to the Argentinians.

    I think the world expects England to obliterate all comers but did not appreciate the desire and ability of the pumas. They will give Scotland a good run for their money.

    On the plus side we always start slowly and improve. Don't listen to the doom and gloom press and keep the faith. We have the players and ability we just need to show it.

  • Comment number 5.

    I hope this doesn't sound like sour grapes, but I'm still confused over the three early offside penalties that England conceded. I see play of this nature week in week out in the premiership without the players being penalised. That said, a rather bland uncommitted performance from England, the Pumas certainly won the battle of desire and determination. were it a boxing match, Argentina on points.

  • Comment number 6.

    Ben, this was a very mediocre article.

    As you rightly say - a win is a win - and, whilst England's performance was abject, we have a squad that is capable of producing good rugby on its day. This is not changed by one poor performance, nor is 12 months of progress. Messirs Lawes, Youngs and Haskell had good games and the squad has the potential to perform at the highest level once it has becomes accustomed to RWC.

    What you fail to mention is the ten 'World Cup Debutants' in the England side. Not only were these players fresh to the pressures of RWC atmosphere, but they were up against a militantly negative Argentina side who showed as little in the way of imagination as England did. Such sides are difficult to breakdown. RWC is not necessarily about tearing apart teams in the group stages and we must accept the potential for progress. I'm sure if and when performances do improve you'll be first to lavish England with the duplicitous praise typical of media pundits such as yourself who have never played the game.

  • Comment number 7.

    This article says everything about the dreadful media in England (not, I add, their decent fans).

    There is a comment in this article that......("Were it not.....England's hordes of travelling fans would be contemplating a quarter final against the All Blacks") says it all about the contempt that the English media have for other countries.

    When the groups were first announced the media crowed that England had a great draw because they had avoided the "big guns". More reasoned judges all over the world saw that England, Argentina and Scotland, competing in a group on neutral ground, would be very very equal. Each team capable of beating the other.

    Not in England. England's path to winning the group and then marching on the final assured. Let others fight for the minor placings.

    Arrogant, arrogant, arrogant. With media like this, no wonder England will be one of the most unpopular teams in NZ for this world cup.

  • Comment number 8.

    You guys in the media are something else. This is only the first game !

    The vast majority of the top teams will struggle at the start as is the case in most tournaments regardless of the sport.

    C'mon, Ben. Act like you've been around the block a time or two will ya ?

  • Comment number 9.

    Something else worth pointing out, yes the All Blacks won and the scoreboard looked good on them but their performance was also far from convincing and they certainly look beatable

  • Comment number 10.

    While this was a worrying performance, we seem to have this ability to grind out wins - much like the Germans in the football World Cup. I don't like slagging off referees but Bryce Laurence clearly is not a fan of the English (remember Vickery for the Lions in 2009). Many negatives, including Easter's one-paced play at number 8, and continuing problems at the rucks but at least we got to see Palmer and Youngs show their worth. We're not far off being a good team and hopefully we will continue to grow during the tournament when it gets to the business end.

  • Comment number 11.

    Stripping everything back-the pumas just looked hungrier to win.

    Everyone seems to think the referee was to blame for Englands performance but the penalties were justified as was the sin bin!

    Luckily I think this will force England to regroup and change the side. Wilko looked mediocre and off the pace and I think the return of Flood will see Ashton deliver what we are used to!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    Usually I like your blogs Ben, but this time not so. Argentina have been a strong team for a long time, even with some key players missing, so we can't expect England to thrash them on the first game of a world cup. Yes we gave away alot of penalties which has to be sorted, but the only way is up from here and I am sure we will get better as the tournament progresses. This group will not be easy to qualify from though.

  • Comment number 13.

    Will somebody at the BBC PLEASE check spelling, of headlines at least, to avoid more accusations that the organisation is dysfunctional?

  • Comment number 14.

    We seem to have been here so many times before ... sigh!

  • Comment number 15.

    Nothing against the fans as they are much more level headed, but the English media needs to be more objective.

    Every English journalist and pundit, just look at Guscott, has said England will win convincingly against the Pumas and expect them to get to the semi's. These same pundits watched the Wales v Puma's game and surely must have seen that it was going to be tight and the Puma's are able to use the backs well.

    All in all it was always going to be a close match and as expected it was, also as expected Wilkinson on the back foot was found wanting.

    It is going to be a tight group and don't expect Scotland to be easy either. England should get to the quarters but are clearly low on form.

  • Comment number 16.

    As depressing as England were, it was only the first game and at the end of the day, the lads got the job done. Feel this was overly negative Ben.

    What's more depressing though, is the fact that dysfunction is spelt with a 'y' not an 'i'. And in the headline too. Ouch.

  • Comment number 17.

    "Were it not for the profligacy of Argentina's kicking duo..."

    I seem to recall Wilko missing a handful too - had he been his old metronomic self, the scoreline would've looked considerably more comfortable for us!

    (I can play 'what if?' too :P)

  • Comment number 18.

    I managed not to have a pint until 0950 this morning the match was so poor. The profligacy of the Argentinian kicker was not an issue it was the English indiscipline that gave them the opportunity. Our back line was far too flat and our game plan seemed to be exactly what happened-war of attrition up front until the Argentinians ran out of energy. Not good. In the first half those of us in the pub that were still watching couldn't even remember Ashton's name being mentioned. Still we don't want to peak too early and we can only get better (against easier opposition) from here. Much tinkering required however.

    Btw-don't think I will be making the special effort to go to the pub at 9 o'clock in the morning for the next game but sit at home instead. Knew it was going to be a tough morning when we lost our first line out and this set the tone. Don't think JW has had a worse game in his career so think we will stick with him for the next game.

  • Comment number 19.

    This is exactly the sort of article that fuels MJ's (justified in my opinion) contempt for the press. Pretty sure if had to write an article about media commentary he'd at least have enough due diligence to spell the headline correctly.

  • Comment number 20.

    Same old hysteria around what was a below par what?.. we won a tough opening fixture. Id much prefer to start slowly and improve as the tournament progresses (remember 07' ?)

  • Comment number 21.

    The real shame these days is that the press lynch our national teams after poor displays, whining on about negative play when it is they that are constantly spreading negative energy.

    Granted it was a poor display but this constant moaning, which plagues the english press, is so tiring and really spoils tournaments that we should try a little more just to enjoy.

  • Comment number 22.

    I'm getting fed up with constant pessimism from journalists like you, Ben. One bad performance does not make a bad team and you should see the bigger picture.
    I am actually quite pleased with the result. England were pushed hard, played badly but the key is that they fought back and found a way to win under testing circumstances, and this is the right time in the tournament for that to happen.

    Surprise surprise, there is a strong mention that Argentina missed their kicks but so did we! The fact is the Pumas implement a limited but uncompromising game plan: bash up opposition forwards, maul, ruck, drive, dominate the breakdown. In the face of such ferocity most top sides would have been alarmed, and Argentina themselves are evidently a top side with a stronger pack than ours. I can see Scotland losing to them easily.

    There are causes for concern, certainly, but England are current 6N champions and have a very talented team. Whether this comes to fruition as a 'unit' in the WC only time will tell but I hate the way that just because England don't meet ludicrous press expectations, the negativity pours in like a giant waterfall. Take the big teams we have played against over the last year- we beat Australia home and away, challenged NZ at Twicks and comfortably beat France. On our day we are capable of beating anyone (except, possibly, the All Blacks) and one lacklustre performance doesn't justify these farcical criticisms. Get behind your team.

  • Comment number 23.

    Thank god the fans have some perspective. First game against a good team and we won. I'd have taken it. Especially after watching France make hard work of Japan for all but the last 10 mins.

    #4 Spot on thought he was ridiculously one sided for 60 mins

  • Comment number 24.

    Ben. Dire.

    Have you really been paid to go halfway around the world and produce this drivel?

    "Were it not for the profligacy of Argentina's kicking duo, Felipe Contepomi and Martin Rodriguez..."
    England didn't miss any kicks then?

    No mention of England playing for 10 mins with a man short. Argentina miraculously avoiding the same punishment.
    No mention of England's young side playing the very experienced Pumas. RWC debuts etc.
    No mention of England's strength in depth and contributions from the bench?

    I don't think England were particularly good, but at least pretend you have seen the game... I think it's a positive to not have peaked 7 weeks before the final!!!

    You have no talent and obviously no knowledge of sports. Please give up.

  • Comment number 25.

    Yes, England were poor, but so was this article. We were second best up front, lacked intensity, and were not smart enough to adapt to the referee's interpretations. Encouraging players to express themselves isn't really the issue here - they didn't have the good, quick ball to do it. It's a bit like encouraging sports journos to express themselves when they don't really have any insight into what's going on in the game - it just leads to a mess.

  • Comment number 26.

    Shocking article - you don't win world cups in the first game of the tournament, but you can certainly put yourself out of contention. A win IS a win - and one against a team that came 3rd in the last world cup is not something to be sniffed at. Bog standard, over dramatic article seeking to make an easy headline without providing any genuinely interesting insight.

  • Comment number 27.

    I'm not the biggest Rugby fan in the world, tend to follow the main International Tournaments, but maybe Argentina deserve some respect for playing a decent game?

    Kind of seems as though England are expected to batter all the teams in their group games and spectacularly storm past all the other giants in the Knock Out Stages.

    Could be wrong, but tends to be the typical belief.

  • Comment number 28.

    So funny today. TV pundits laughing at the french struggling to beat Japan (if you can call scoring six tries struggling), recalling France's struggle against Argentina 4 years ago. The french TV commentators must be wetting themselves now!

    The trouble with England is that it is all about size and weight. No side-step to be seen, no clever angle of running or a weighted pass to cut out defenders, just bang, bang, bang. So boring.

    England probably will get through the pool as winners, and probably succeed as they always do against the french because flair is fragile, and the french don't do it under pressure (except against the all blacks). Getting to the semis would then seem to be successful. But o what a shame for rugby - a country the size of England, with the resources and player base it has, being made to look so inept. Why, oh why will they not try and play the game as it should be?

    England are the reason Northern hemisphere rugby is so bad. They have mediocre game plans, no ambition yet somehow seem to think that winning is enough. So other teams try to match them, and everyone goes down hill. Compared to NZ, who enthrall and capture the imagination and pull everyone up to their level. Not surprising the southern hemisphere are the the best three teams - its aspiration, play well and win.

    This wasn't just a poor game, it shows up everything that is wrong with English thinking about rugby, which is so ugly so much of the time, irrespective of how effective it may be on some occasions.

  • Comment number 29.

    Sadly I reckon that Ben didn't understand the match and its significance! World number 4 against World number 5. Let's not kid ourselves. Argentina would push any of the Northern Hemisphere sides in the 6 nations, and beat most.
    Argentina were always going to be the most difficult team in the group. Their style of play is not open and their forwards are good enough to keep destroying the play. With a lot of them playing in France they know how to interfere with play whilst making it look accidental and so for once I agree win MJ. A win is a win.
    It was a difficult game to referee, especially with so much riding on the result but there did (even to the French commentators eyes) seem to be a lack of even handedness. The main one being he "spear tackle" in the last few minutes on Armitage. "Tres gentile M Lawrence" when no yellow card was given. Southern Hemisphere refs, home advantage for the All Blacks, we don't stand much chance really.

  • Comment number 30.

    The usual comments about the referee from diehard England fans are to be expected. As far as I know, the referees in this tournament were given explicit instructions to penalise defenses who were trying to disrupt attacking play. Any idiot should have known this, hence Dan Cole must qualify as below idiot intelligence. If you look at the stats, virtually all the penalties conceded by both sides were in a defensive situation, so I say bully for Bryce. I thought he had a very good game, apart from not sending Mr Lobbe to the bin late in the second half.
    What this shoulod show to the England team is thast need to be a bit cleverer in defence and far more ruthless and dynamic going forward. So maybe picking a back row of three number eights is not the best game plan

  • Comment number 31.

    I don't understand why Argentina don't try to score more tries. They have a great pack and their backs today looked dangerous. Perhaps if they put their penalties to the corner instead of trying to kick a penalty from the half way line, they would have scored a few.

  • Comment number 32.

    Poor article.
    No side has performed yet in this world cup and as others have said, 10 debutants in England side.
    Not a great performance at all, but an overly negative write up without intelligent analysis.
    Hope your performance picks up in your blog as I expect Englands too!

  • Comment number 33.

    Having watched all the World Cup games, it is way too early to start making predictions. England won ugly, but take the result. Argentina will be livid with the loss, but they are not out of the tournament. New Zealand looked good, and really won by half time. Scotland got a nervous wake up call but still ended up with a win and a bonus point.
    Bring on more games!

  • Comment number 34.

    Trouble is the emerging nations look at the best way of winning with little talent and come to the conclusion they need to play like England.

    As the tournament continues expect more almost indigestible rugby stodge only enjoyed by trainee referees, entertaining rugby will be restricted to after the clock has ticked beyond 80 minutes.

    Argentina will consume Scotland in a tepid bath of rugby porridge unless Scotland decide to do what they almost did to NZ a couple of seasons back and hypnotise themselves into believing they are French for an afternoon.

  • Comment number 35.

    I think you'll find that other 'top ' teams jhave struggled as well. Romania pushed Scotland all the way and Japan did the same to France. Neither Scotland or France were any better or any worse than us.

    I think a whole raft of changes are needed for the Georgia game, with Flood, Palmer, Stevens and Hartley coming in. We might see BananaMan in too but tlet hope not.

    The SH referees are very different to what we're used to week in week out and we have to adapt our game. That said, some of the calls against us were harsh and they should probably have had a 'binning' towards the end.

    Things canonly get better!

  • Comment number 36.

    England were awful. They didn't do the basics, had no structure, and were lucky on a number of occasions not to be marched back 10 for whining at the ref. They will get out of the group, but having watched Scotland-Romania earlier, they don't deserve to.

    Was the ball used today a different design than normal? Both teams seemed to have major issues with it when kicking.

  • Comment number 37.

    England's problem was that they wore black.

    I suggest a change of kit.

  • Comment number 38.

    England (almost) got their just desserts for completely disregarding the challenge of Argentina. You could see during the anthems that they were really up for it. Yes the ref pinged us but we were too slow at the breakdown, which SH refs hate.

    Can't see us getting very far in this tournament

  • Comment number 39.

    Dysfunctional is a horrid word to use, but being mis-spelled in a headline is unforgivable.

  • Comment number 40.

    This article would carry some weight/ legitimacy if it was written by someone who regularly follows rugby/ really understands the nuances or perhaps someone who had played at the highest level and could offer real insight.

    Otherwise, it's just like listening to the bloke down the pub...

  • Comment number 41.

    As soon as I saw that Mr. Lawrence was in charge I groaned but Englaned know of him and need to play to his whistle. If this means standing a foot behind the offside line and a yard (metre) behind the kicker then do so. If a side, and there are plenty of them, wishes to go off their feet at the breakdown to seal the ball in then England must take the ball into contact with closer support and be a lot more clinical. No team in the World can defend in a structured manner in broken play and it is this type of quick tempo game that England need to adjust to. They can play it and whilst this game was not a great spectacle few English people would moan if it was the final.

  • Comment number 42.

    A game very similar to the opening game of the 2007 WC. Argentina played really well and if they only backed themselves a wee bit more instead of going for kicks from the half way line, the result would be very different. Lawrence had a very good game IMHO. The whistle went off more times than you would like to hear in a game, but he was forced into that by some pretty ordinary play by the English and the Argentines. He should have sinbinned the Argentine winger though for that tip tackle, shocking that not even the touchie called that.

    Johnson is entirely right in saying a win is win and England are bound to get better. The question is will they improve enough to beat any of the 3N sides? I seriously doubt it. The English forwards are one-dimensional and so are the backs. Argentina showed that if you can at least match the English forwards then they run of ideas pretty quickly.

    Speaking of the 3N, the next WC will be a very interesting one for Argentina. If they are this good without regular competition, imagine what they will be like after four years of competing against NZ, SA and Australia.

  • Comment number 43.

    I have a sneaky feeling that BEN DIRS might be a Welshman.

  • Comment number 44.

    I wonder if the atmospheric conditions hampered the penalty takers on both sides, as it can't be often that so many kicks are missed at this level. Hopefully JW (and probably Flood as well) will be able to get a bit of time in the stadium before next Sunday to get their respective radars in order.

    As for this morning, it was pretty poor, but then how many penalties did we give away in 2003? I'm fairly sure when we played Wales in that World Cup we conceded about a million...

    The worst thing was ITVs coverage. The "innovative" touch screen used by Dallaglio was beset by gremlins, at least two penalties were missed due to replays and the commentary team were atrocious. It was so much better last time round when ITV managed to get Sky's commentators on loan, today's display had me hankering for Butler and Moore....

    I think it's going to have to be volume down and the radio on next time, I wonder who's commentating on talkSport...

  • Comment number 45.


    England are like Italy in football world cups, they always do better than their performances suggest they will.

    Semis at least I would say with a dour slug fest setting up a final with the all blacks where england wear 'all black' which causes the locals to get so upset that they lose discipline and england win by three points in a game with only 1 try scored by an England player who looks more like a NZ player.

    The whole thing will be summed up by those immortal words.

    'win ugly'

    I cant wait.

    y'see this has all been carefully planned in advance.

  • Comment number 46.

    Very predictable blog unfortunately Ben. Saying that England play boring rugby is like shooting fish in a barrel. Given the experience of Argentina's pack and the fact that it was the first game of a World Cup for England it was hardly surprising that we were even more turgid than usual. We ground out a win and that for me is more reason to be optimistic for the latter stages because we are going to need that "with bells on" as you put it.

    The point about the ref being poor is a valid one, but for the wrong reason. Every set of supporters is going to say they got a rough ride from the ref because the breakdown can be so subjective. But what a ref must do is step in early to make sure that the breakdown does not result in too many penalties (from either side). Bryce Lawrence was not assertive enough today with BOTH teams. Anyone who watched any Super Rugby this season will know that Bryce Lawrence is constantly receiving criticism from commentators for not letting a game flow. Today was definitely a case in point.

  • Comment number 47.

    It seems to me that England had two big problems - ones they have had for years. The first is that forwards act stupidly and give too many penalties away. The second that they can't ruck powerfully and low enough to get fast ball. Solve those two issues and England would be OK. Not great but OK. John Wells????

  • Comment number 48.

    You can write a better blog that this, Ben. Sure, England were poor, but I'm willing to bet that they won't play as badly again in this tournament. Far from offering hope to the other teams in the pool, if I were the manager of any side due to play England soon, especially Scotland, I'd be fearful of a backlash.

    Oh and please either check your spelling, or have a sub-editor do it for you!

  • Comment number 49.

    Dear Ben,
    Generally like your writing style but have to agree with the concensus of opinion, the article is too negative/pessimistic. Argentina are not a push over for any team and put up a ferocious fight. Bryce Lawrence unfortunately seems to have something against the England team. His decisions especially in the first half were inexplicable, and could well have cost England the match-its not the first time either. Everyone in the media is talking about how poor the place kicking was. But all the kickers on both sides seem to have had the same problem. I have never seen a kicker of Wilkos quality miss 4 in a row. I have a hunch that the combination of ball and arena being enclosed might have something to do with it. I agree it (the whole performance) didn't look too pretty at times, but I can understand the reasons for that. England can and will re-group and are capable of much more, and much better. They do have to get the backrow problem sorted though. I think the return of mad dog and Woods on the other flank will add dynamism and ball retention through the phases. At the end England were exerting some serious pressure on the Argentinians, this is a good sign.

  • Comment number 50.

    Something else worth pointing out, yes the All Blacks won and the scoreboard looked good on them but their performance was also far from convincing and they certainly look beatable

    Not as beatable as England, France and Scotland. England were woeful. They do not have a back row and are utterly useless at teh breakdown.
    Andy Robinson will have seen this as an area to really attack England... although Scotland for the middle part of the game failed to turn up against a well up for it Romainian side they did have enough to fight back and secure the five point win.
    Scotland will need to improve agains Georgia thats for sure... but I think if they can get past Georgia they will be building up to Argentian and by the time they meet England they could be well hardened.
    Predicting that Scotland will do enough to beat Argentian and England. England going to go out to NZ in the QF to 30+.

  • Comment number 51.

    Ben you know much more about rugby then you show here. Instead of going on about some psychoanalytical drivel, and how freedom to express themselves leads to victories, look at the bare facts as you normally do.
    The Argentinians are a really good side, they used their forwards brilliantly and their backs were sharp. Yes they missed kicks, but so did Wilkinson, he won't have played that badly since mini rugby. They had injuries, but we didn't have a genuine 7 in Moody. Taking into account the huge gulf in experience between them and England- 10 WC debutants!- its actually a very decent result.
    The trouble is, that Australia win in the autumn has given the media a ridiculous level of expectation. The Argies are a top team, and we won, thats all there is to it.
    On the ref, he did well early on but got very trigger happy and condescending as the game went on. Unbelievably as well, England conceded 11 penalties, Argentina 16, yet no yellow for the pumas. Explain please. Please god give me Roman Poite of an Irishman for knockout games.

  • Comment number 52.

    Lets just get some prespective, yes England did not play well, but I for one never thought they would not get the required points, Argentina did what they do so well disrupt games. Hands up who can remember a classic England vs Argentina game no thought not they are always scrapy, and considering it was the first game and probably the hardest (in terms of being difficult to break down) a win is a win. To peg a line from a football pundit a sign of a good team is when they are winning games when they are NOT playing well. Our next 2 games should all be about getting bonus points to make sure we are top of the group and then it will probably be another close game against Scotland which should hopefully get us ready for the more challenging knock out games. Another plus point is we appear to have come through with no injuries which is crucial in tournament rugby. These hard games will bring us into a good stead.

  • Comment number 53.

    Not a scintillating performance by any means... But a win all the same in a very difficult opening game. Against a decent and often underestimated Argentinian team. I think Argentina will comfortably beat Scotland. I agree with a few of the above comments regarding the referee, some very questionable decisions which meant England could never keep possession for any amount of time.

    Still plenty of room for improvement. Youngs made a huge impact off the bench. Wrigglesworth a different type of scrum half and a solid premiership player, but for me not international quality. Youngs showed the difference in class albeit against a tiring Argentinian team.

    Youngs, Hartley and Palmer have to start the next game, All would bring a lot more dynamism and quality to the team. Stevens also impressed off the bench, but i would stick with Sheridan and Cole for now. I also feel Flood should start in place of Wilkinson. Floods all round game is better than Wilkinson, he brings more flair and is more likely to break the line of defence which is crucial to an England team which often looks to have a lack of ideas when in possession. He also has a great understanding with Youngs. The one thing I would prefer Wilkinson for, is is place kicking which ironically seem to desert him today. If Flood had started today and missed so many penalties, no question there wold have been a clamour for Wilkinson to start. I've always been a big Wilko fan, but I feel especially in the press/media we border on Beckham-esque hero worship of his abilities.

    With Youngs, Flood, Hartley and Palmer added to the starting lineup, England would look a far more exciting proposition.

  • Comment number 54.

    Clearly written by a journalist who, by his own admission, is more routinely involved in cricket and boxing.

    That article was unnecessarily negative in my opinion. Party-poopers of world rugby? Head-shaking mediocrity? Has any other team featured in more Rugby World Cup Finals than England? That doesn’t happen by chance. Do you actually follow rugby and particularly the England team?

    We are not interested in your over elaborate use of flowery language; this is sport, not the final year dissertation in the “look how clever I am” Honours Degree course.

    Concentrate more on what you say and stop trying to look like a smart Alec; keep your article on subject, keep it simple and lose the anti-England approach which just resonates from your drivel; it does you, the Corporation but more importantly, the proper supporting public, a disservice.

  • Comment number 55.

    Disappointing, frustrating, infuriating - not England's performance (although it certainly was all three at times) but your blog Ben! It's the first game and yes a win is a win! Things will get better and I'm quite sure Jonny will not miss five kicks in a game again. He's a much more solid option than Toby Flood and I'm saying that as a Leicester fan.

    It isn't functionality that's the problem with our game - its the fickle media and bandwagon jumpers!

  • Comment number 56.

    Poor article. England weren't great but why should we expect to brush aside opponents such as Argentina? If our players didn't know they were going to have to scrap for every point, they do now.

    Regarding comments about the referee, he seemed to give the benefit of the doubt to the attacking side which seemed, to me, to be eminently fair.

  • Comment number 57.

    I'm sorry but to an extent I agree with Ben.
    While this article is very harsh and perhaps a bit of an overreaction, there are some deep rooted problems in the English game, notably the focus at youth level on big players, who do not necessarily have the skill set required at the top level, hence why we see the likes of Tindall, who is painfully one dimensional. Another problem is the bemusing lack of out and out sevens in English rugby, if you look at all the top teams in world rugby, they all possess a 'nose to the ground' flanker (South Africa - Heinrich Brussouw, Australia - David Pocock, NZ - Richie McCaw). Without this type of player you can't hope to get the quick, counter attacking ball which attacks thrive on. In terms of the game, it is harsh to criticize a team one game in to the world cup, against a team which set out from the off to stifle England in attack and draw them into an attritional game. Until we address these problem we will continue to lag behind the Southern hemisphere nations.

  • Comment number 58.

    Surely the most depressing aspect of the game was ITV's ad break between anthems and kick off.

    Beyond belief.

  • Comment number 59.

    The issue that worries me most is the complete stupidity of some players when it comes to giving away penalties for the same reasons again and again. Thompson is one of our most experienced players and no debutant in the RWC, yet he gave penalties away for the same thing his colleagues were warned about only a few minutes previously. He's not the only one. Who is leading the pack? If you've conceded 4 pens in the first 10 minutes, most in goal kicking range, should you not be putting a flea in the ear of the next guy to concede a penalty for not releasing, rolling away etc? Instead it took the subs to change things. And it isn't like England don't have history regarding terrible discipline. Only the other week in Wales the penalty count was heading towards a cricket score. Yes the ref was a bit keen, but there really isn't any excuse once the tone has been set in a game to carry on making the same mistakes, again, and again, and again. So frustrating!!!

  • Comment number 60.

    Oh dear Ben. I know your audience is English so you are focusing on England, but you have got to try to be a little even handed in your assessment. Just slating Tindall and co. is not really good enough. For one thing it is doing huge disrespect to the Pumas, who have proved themselves to be anything but a minnow over a period of years. Painting them as plucky underdogs who are unable to beat "jaw-droppingly, head-shakingly mediocre" sides is punditry from the last century. And you might be interested to learn that "downright filthy" England conceded 11 penalties to Argentina's 16 according to It was a tough game between two tough sides, refereed quite poorly. In a world cup a win certainly is a win, and a win against Argentina is not to be sniffed at.

  • Comment number 61.

    Before the game 80% of the comments on here mentioned the lack of a true openside and the imbalance in loose forward selection for the squad. Sure enough, in the 1st game, Johnno's chickens came home to roost. If you don't have a loose forward getting to the breakdown quick enough you end up giving away penalties for holding in the tackle (luckily mostly unpunished by some woeful penalty kicking) and end up committing too many players to the ruck in a bid to secure the ball. If you do get the ball back it is slow and difficult to attack from.

    Sure enough, this is exactly what happened. Moody isn't in the class of McCaw, Pocock or Brussouw, but at least he would be an improvement. On this form England will be smashed by any of the big teams and it's unbelievable that someone like Fourie didn't even make the squad.

  • Comment number 62.

    It is good to see the number of negative comments about the Dirs article. If you have watched England over many years as well as having observed how difficult every side finds beating Argentina (remember France losing in 2007 in the first game?) you will take this win gladly. Scotland certainly won't enjoy playing Argentina. Get some time in, Dirs!

  • Comment number 63.

    In a game with a penalty count of 16-11, only Bryce Lawrence could sin-bin a random player from the side that conceded fewer penalties for "persistent infringement".

    Some of the play was scappy but the penalties were harsh.
    Lawrence gives no time for players to play the ball or roll way at the ruck even when they are pinned there by the opposition in the hope of winning penalty.

    He seems to be on some crusade against teams like England and Argentina for the perceived lack of flair, and as such, was a poor choice to referee this match.

  • Comment number 64.

    .. oh Ben, you must be wishing that you were back in a camper van, writing about smelly cheese and day-old bread .... that said, I don't think the piece was that bad and did end on a more optimistic note and, as others have pointed out, none of the established 6N, 3N teams have had easy first round rides so far (including the ABs, once Tonga got past their stage fright).

    Forward power of Arg never to be discounted (and Scotland could be in real difficulties here), but once Eng began to push them back (about half way through the second half) looked like Eng would pull through.

    Takeaways - ref decisons/approach so crucial in WC games; MJ is going to need to arrange a lot of pre-match chats over the next few weeks + kicking, not just JW and FC and MR in this game, but Mr Reliable, Chris Paterson also missed kicks - so is it something to do with the balls ?

  • Comment number 65.

    I can't be the only English supporter who groaned once he heard Lawrence was involved & so it transpired.

    Very poor performance by England but I'm sure they will gain in fluency as the tourney moves onward.

    Was it just me or did Jonny's line up of the kicks seem different & snatched ?

    Maybe England were surprised that Argentina seemed to have the villain from
    'Dodgeball' as their skipper.

  • Comment number 66.

    No offence Ben, but why have you been sent to cover the Rugby World Cup. You appear to be a jack of all trades, master of none and while I understand the BBCs need to retain such people to cover the more minority sports they cannot afford specialists in, it beggars belief that they would send you to cover a sporting event of the magnitude of the rugby world cup.

    To agree with most of the sentiments of the comments, this blog is predictable and amateurish and peddled to an a audience that one can only imagine the BBC felt would not know any better.

  • Comment number 67.

    penalty count means nothing. Refs yellow card because of frequency (how many times in a row by the same player) and where they are committed. If you foul defending you are far more likely to get yellow carded than when you foul attacking.

    Your comments against the ref are just bias. Each ref allows some things (England were constantly engaging at the scrums ahead of the call) and is clear on others. Captains are briefed ahead of each game as to what to expect.

    England failed to understand or play to what he asked of them. Their fault and not the ref's. England are just poor when their only game plan (bang, bang, bang) is met with firmness.

    Had Argentina had the courage to call for scrums when England were down to 14 rather than miss penalty kicks (including one on the 5 metre line) it could have been far worse. And deserved

  • Comment number 68.

    .. oh, one other thing, please stop using the words 'express themselves' or 'expression' in rugby reports - we are talking rugby, not fine art.. I can only hope that the header (incl spelling error) was entered by a sub-editor, not by yourself ...

  • Comment number 69.

    truth be told it was a poor game, and Engalnd were not great, it was very frustrating to watch in the sense that everything that could go wrong did seem to go wrong, given that, we won, so lets not go typically over the edge wither way, Ben we are still in the world cup, steady on the headlines,

  • Comment number 70.

    Mr Dirs, please stick to chavball or whatever your first sport is as that's where this sort of sensationalist nonsense reporting belongs and lets get a proper Rugby expert to write these blogs. OK it wasn't England’s best game, a typical nervy RWC start but if I was an Argentine reading this I'd be even more offended. Argentina are a good team (remember they have ranked higher than us for much of the last few years) and give them some credit; they played well! They had a big experienced pack that would give any team a hard time, expecting England to blow them away is just incredulous. To me the worst aspect of England was the lack of captaincy. We should have had strong savvy leadership to enforce adapting to the ref's SH style much quicker, kept more ball in hand and kicked a few more penalties for a 5m line out to put on some pressure instead of 50m 3 pts attempts (especially on the penalty after Argentina finally got a warning; a 5m line out would have almost certainly got us a try or an Arg sin-bin stopping us). However the fact is we won and, given the possession and penalties we gave away, defended very well; they didn't get a try remember. I think both sides should have had more confidence to throw it about a bit but caution rules on the first RWC game and I felt both sides were too focused on not losing; which is very common on the first WC game. I think we will see much better from both teams as the tournament progresses.

  • Comment number 71.

    Lots of insightful comment, much of it suggesting that panic would be premature.

    Credit where credit is due: England got sweated by a very game, and enormously improved, Argentine side. The performance of Argentina's forwards was huge, but not the big surprise: their backs looked more confident and competent than I've ever seen them, and I feel that might have been what took England by surprise: their tactics of crashing everything up the Argentine midfield looked naive, because that is where Argentina are usually outmanned, but on the day they were tremendously solid there. It turned out that there should have been a great deal more early positional kicking with a view to dispersing Argentina's defence a little before directly exploring it for weak spots. Maybe the problem was nothing more arcane than a bit of perfectly understandible - and by now thoroughly deflated - arrogance. I think we'll see more pragmatic tactics in the future, so the early naivety might work out quite well.

    Personally, I was much more troubled by the complete absence of England's centres in support when Foden finally did get through the defence, and the inability of the English loose forward effort to dominate second-phase play. I'm afraid that the concentration on brawn in the midfield and on ball-carrying prowess at loose forward may yet prove expensive, but of course it's good that the problems have emerged early on, so that necessary coaching and/or selectional adjustments can be wrought.

    The referee was deplorable. I'm not one to whine about the ref. but this one seemed in the first half to be hell-bent on destroying England's confidence by niggling at them on marginal errors rather than grave transgressions while overlooking some pretty visible Argentinian transgressions, and in the second half to be equally hell-bent on saving his career by evening out the score in England's favour. It did affect the game badly. However, on the assumption that every World Cup campaign should allow for at least one dreadful referee, it is probably a good thing to have encountered him early on. No doubt something will be whispered in his ear on the subject of his efforts not going unnoticed, and that would be no bad thing, either.

    As to the woeful place-kicking, maybe the problem lies with the new ball, since it did seem to affect both sides, and in that case it's good that it has floated to the surface early on. Practice is capable of repairing many problems of this nature.

    All in all, I think that Johnson & co. have just had their work very neatly stencilled

  • Comment number 72.

    Big fan of your blogs Ben when you write about boxing and cricket, sports you clearly have knowledge of and usually get spot on. However this one smacks of bandwagon jumping, jet lag and a late night deadline.

    I always felt this would be a tough game - the pumas are a good side - and I predicted we would win throughout the game, despite not playing well.

    I was surprised by Wilkinsons kicking today, but given that the Argentnian kickers were equally bad I'd be intrigued to see how the other teams kickers get on at this ground..........

    I fully expect England, along with Bens blogs, to improve dramatically through the course of the tournament.

  • Comment number 73.

    "The performance of Martin Johnson's side was not even functional. But it is this striving to be functional - a culture that permeates English rugby to its roots - that leads to sides which are guileless, inflexible and which lack verve and brio - because functionality is an arch enemy of passion and expression."

    What you have said there simply isn't true. Well, not when it comes to English club rugby at any rate. The problem is, like their footballing counterparts, any creativity is completely squeezed out of them at International level, you just need to look at the squad taken to see that.

    This performance was always likely to happen and I'm not convinced it will get any better.

  • Comment number 74.

    At 18:41 10th Sep 2011, whatdoiknowaboutanything wrote:

    penalty count means nothing. Refs yellow card because of frequency (how many times in a row by the same player) and where they are committed.

    No they don't. They warn a team and sin-bin the next player to infringe, regardless of who it is.
    Today Mr Lawrence's inconsistency was not carding an Argentina player after giving them the same verbal warning in the second half, that England received in the first.

    At 18:41 10th Sep 2011, whatdoiknowaboutanything wrote:
    England failed to understand or play to what he asked of them. Their fault and not the ref's. England are just poor when their only game plan (bang, bang, bang) is met with firmness.

    I don't see why a referee should dictate the style of the game. The players are there to play and the referee should facilitate them. That's my problem with Bryce Lawrence. It's not bias, as I am sure Argentina will be grumbling as much if not more about some of the penalties awarded to England in the 2nd half.

  • Comment number 75.

    I wanted England to be good, I really did. But they were a million miles away from that. It's interesting to read all the negative comments about the ref. The reality is, every replay bore out his decisions. Rolling mauls - a hand on a pair of shorts has never constituted proper binding, so the truck and trailer penalty was spot on. Interfering with play when on the floor - rugby's a game played on your feet. If you're not on them, you're out of the game, so the yellow card was spot on after so many floor transgressions. As for bias, Argentina simply had the nous to vary their areas of transgression, something Mr Johnson was extremely adept at in his days at Leicester. England? Pigeons learn faster.

    It's also interesting to hear how unconvincing the All Blacks were too. Not in the match I saw. Fleet of foot, stretching the opposition, running onto the ball at pace, offloading out of the tackle like Will Greenwood at his best - all of them, mind, not just the backs. They play rugby like the best teams in the world today do - with brains, passion and creativity, not the stifling route one, look for contact, 'just run at 'em lads' rugby we saw at 9:30 this morning. I've watched heavyweight bouts with large sweaty gentlemen rubbing their heads against one another that were not dissimilar - I'd say the similarity amply qualifies Ben to comment at length. Will Greenwood must be chortling away at the lack of dynamicism and invention in the centre. And yes, I keep mentioning him, because he set the bar for inventive back play and the timed to perfection offload game.

    So it's the first match. But there's not a great track record behind them to suggest a bit of rust is all that's at fault. I hope England do well, but if they do it playing this stodgy, stifling, tedious brand of rugby, I'd take little pleasure from it. Chances of them reinventing themselves like they did under Ashton last time round? Very little. I don't think Johnson's got the imagination for it.

  • Comment number 76.

    There are some really good comments in response to this article, there seem to be consensus that England were bad, but there is also, quite rightly consensus that they weren't allowed to play much by Argentina, who were spoiling well. There also seems to be a consensus that the referee was diabolical - which he was. I didn't understand many of the close quarter decisions, or at least there seem to be so many grey areas these days that its no wonder so many penalties are give away. The England back row looks so unbalanced...many great flankers have often pointed out that a Back row is about balance not three great individuals. We seem to have three individuals. How old is Richard Hill...anyone have his phone number?

  • Comment number 77.

    What was so wrong with our 6 nations winning team? Nothing, but so many of that team were benched today and look what happened. As soon as Youngs entered the action the action started. Hartley and Palmer also added zest to the pancake performance. JW has been great in the past but the future lies elsewhere, the misses alone should have prompted his withdrawl. Youngs and Flood have a telepathic understanding and if Youngs plays.......why say if; so must Flood. Hartley, Palmer, Wood and dare I say Hape must return with the in form Stevens driving the scrum. We have two games to get it right before Scotland change is essential.

  • Comment number 78.

    England have more registered players, more coaches and more resources than any other international side (IRB Data). Yet produce such mind numbingly dull, safe rugby, year in year out and when they do well (2003) make out it's a major achievement rather than something you would expect from a side with 20 times the combined resources of NZ and the Wallabies! It's no wonder they are hated by other nations and by purists of the potentionally beautiful, entertaining game. They will probably go on to inspire loathing and derision for the remainder of the tournament, yet may beat the two 'rugby playing' nations - Australia and New Zealand and may even kick and grind their way to the world cup!

  • Comment number 79.

    Why didn't either goal kicker blame 'swirling winds'. Nervy game, but it was always going to be tough. For Steve Noire's observations on the ITV pundit team go to - did anyone else notice that Francois Pienaar say: 'Their hearts' will be fluttering with steroids in the England changing room' ??!!!

  • Comment number 80.

    I doubt many teams would have relished coming up against Argentina in their first game. Ok, so there are no easy games in the RWC, but Georgia would have been slightly less uncomfortable for England. Can't imagine even the Aussies or All Blacks would have enjoyed this as an opener.

    I agree with many of the commenters in that England won and that is the main thing. At least it gives them something to build on and the most tricky game of their group is negotiated (sorry Scotland).

    If it all goes pear-shaped over the next couple of games, though, and everyone calls for a different gameplan, I can't imagine that Martin Johnson will be as easy to persuade as Brian Ashton was in 2007.

  • Comment number 81.

    Start of the WC for both teams and the result was the one England wanted even if the peformance was not one to be remembered. England are in the easiest group for the WC and assured themselves top spot with this result so think forwad not back.

    Having stated the above I cannot help but smile at those that complain about a Southern Hemisphere referee, their calls and the number of times the whistle was blown. Whining already.

    I would be more concerned with getting behind your team and hoping for a better performance in the next match.

  • Comment number 82.

    England lacked ideas and only one line break in first 40 is pathetic...however, a win is a win, it did show that the team can grind out a win when things go totally wrong, which world cup rugby is all about..refs performance could be better but he is SH and if you watch SH rugby with Sh refs they are quick to penalise any form of infringement at breakk down very quickly (interesting watching premiership today against currie cup..break down so much quicker in currie cup)...england need to wise up quickly...for those who are calling for Flood to replace Wilko...all teams want Flood to play as his defence is so weak..england will win the group in the end by beating scotland quite easliy in last match as by then scotland will be out

  • Comment number 83.

    The referee was spot on, he didn't let a thing go.

    The Argentine pack and Contempomi were absolutely incredible.

    How England managed to stay in touch I don't know.

    Argentina should have left England for dead, then England should have left Argentina for dead. Fantastic game. More World Cup please.

  • Comment number 84.

    @ 53. At 18:00 10th Sep 2011, Lordrelfo87

    I totally agree with you. Throughout Johnson's management I have always had problems with some of his selections. Louis Deacon how he made it into the 30 let alone the starting 15 is beyond me, although I do think he did nothing wrong in this game, his work rate and line out was good - but England just did not generate any good ball until Palmer came on. The Palmer - Lawes combination makes much more sense.

    The lack of creativity is also a worry, Flutey and Simpson Daniel should have made the squad.

  • Comment number 85.

    The result was the only important thing in this game. Argentina are a clear second-favourite for the group, now England have got them out of the way the path is clear to topping the group. Georgia and Romania can be dismissed without further comment, and Scotland will be unable to be any higher than third unless they can score a freak result against Argentina.

  • Comment number 86.

    78 Keflavic: Everyone hates England because they used to be ruled by them, subconsciously. The Scots, Welsh, Irish, the tri-nations sides et al. Those who weren't don't have the same hangups. Who else gets such stick for everything, even down to the shirt colour. They aren't the only ones that play boring rugby. Look at, for example, Scotland over recent years, or indeed Argentina, whose idea against England was to stick the ball up their jumpers for much of the game.

    Ben: The two sides are together in the seedings, so to ask either of them to play expansive, confident rugby in their first World Cup game was a bit much. There is a lot to criticise in the England performance, but if you do that, you must temper it with both sides of the coin. What was on the field wasn't working, so there were substitutions and hey presto - a win. You could argue that the true test of a good team is that when they play poorly, they can still produce a result. Well they did produce the result. Now I'd like to see them kick on and prove they are indeed that good team.

  • Comment number 87.

    How arrogant many of you are, as usual. 'A win is a win'. Great and then ? It's true in a way but just admit England displayed a poor game and 'you' really got a narrow escape. Is it so hard ? It is typical English always to try to find a way out of the messy situation that makes you realise you really have to improve like many other teams in this tournament. The French 'would have bitten your arm off' to win that game four years ago. Of course, it explains everything ! England didn't fall in the Argentinian trap. It is actually a real achievement. Congratulations ! Why not to compare this match with one England played in 1924 against Ireland with difficulties, or any others ? You just have had the jitters, that's it. Like French did. It's just a fine excuse to say the Argentinians didn't allow you to touch the ball. It's such a tricky way to explain what wrong happened in your own game. Maybe England would have bitten your arm off too to win this final match against Ireland for the win of the slam. They just had been outplayed. But again, they rarely are able to admit it. Heads up, guys ! I haven't seen England better than French side last match they both played. Absolutely not. But of course, a 'win is win'. Only that, apparently, counts. Honestly, as many, I haven't seen England better than Argentinian, so really enjoy your points as the French can as well.

  • Comment number 88.

    When you don't know which rules the referee is going to make up you cannot possibly compete. England did amazingly well to come through that test. Great credit to the pumas too they were right at it.

    By the way Ben. Awful blog. If England had started chucking it about in that game we'd now be looking at nz in the quarters. Functionality over style used to be considered a virtue.

    Finally Easter was a few yards off the pace in the last world cup. He's not any quicker now is he?

  • Comment number 89.

    Although England weren't at their best, Argentina are still a very good rugby nation and were the seeded team in this group. We should lay off the England team, let them gel and wait for the latter stages of the tournament to see if we can put up a fight against the rest of the southern hemisphere.

  • Comment number 90.

    I don't know of me and Ben Dirs were watching the whole same match. I half agree, in that England were definitely a bit limp and needed to cut back on errors, maybe nerves but the blog seemed to imply Argentina should have won, when they clear didn't deserve to. Their kicking was poor, as was England's but that's something the team takes responsibility for. The Ben Foden break and Young's try, while the exception not the rule as far as England's play was concerned were the exception not the rule but were far better pieces of creative attacking play than Argentina managed in 80 minutes.

    Also the bit about enough is enough culture is clearly hyperbolic nonsense, I don't know why journos feel the need to let limp performances by our national teams as being indictments of our national culture.

  • Comment number 91.

    As for Scotland, Robinson did say he would field two very different teams versus Romania and Georgia, just as he did versus Ireland and Italy in the summer, so we saw the weaker team today, and they did everything they needed to.

    Scotland have never had a squad like this. Every fixture will see a very different Scotland team. Scotland to top the group.

  • Comment number 92.

    Keep praying England will win their three other matches in your pool of the as not play against the All-Blacks and to get a premature return ticket home and before to be thrashed. You beated them 6 times in a century or so. But again, you would be able to say 'Godness, England played so well ! Have you seen it, fellow ? although we lost the game !'

  • Comment number 93.

    I'm going to defend Mr Dirs.
    First, I don't care for the pompous tone of some of the criticism that has been made here. To name but three: JoeDavisRoach, Drivethe truth and, worst of all, JohnnySH. You come across as very pompous and I wouldn't like to know people like you. At least Ben appears to be a bit of a laugh (and he's only writing about a game here - not Proust or Joyce).
    Second, those who have written have largely contributed variations on three themes: how awful the article was, how awful the match was, how awful the ref was. In other words, the author is in agreement with the majority of those who actually comment on the performance. The match was awful and England contributed fully to that awfulness. For 60 minutes of the game they were bereft of ideas. I can't see why Ben is being slated for saying that.
    But it would be a pretty boring article if he just said that - so he tries to give an explanation (or "psychoanalysis", as one contributor has it!) for why we were so woeful. His explanation is that our ambition is aimed too low. Why the horrified reaction to that?
    I don't think his point was that Argentina were going to be a pushover: he certainly doesn't say that in his article. The point he appears to be making is that they are a good team and we played badly but got a win, but we ought to aim higher than just winning - then winning wouldn't be such a close-run thing.
    Could I just add that the reason the England team (and many supporters, judging from the comments above) have the current mindset is down to Johnson. His conservative selection policy makes England dull most of the time and made them unwatchable for the first 60 minutes of this match.

  • Comment number 94.

    88.At 20:31 10th Sep 2011, Mr T wrote:

    "When you don't know which rules the referee is going to make up you cannot possibly compete."

    The implication being that the referee created rules on the spot to stop the expansive efforts of a brilliant England team? Get over yourself.

    Everyone associated with rugby whether a fan, player or coach knows that the rules are interpreted differently between the two hempisheres. The North play a brand of largely slow gain through the forwards with ponderous movement and slow breakdowns. The South like to play more expansive rugby where quick break downs lead to faster distribution to the back line.

    Don't make excuses, the teams from the South side of Planet Earth feel the same way when a Northern referee takes charge.

  • Comment number 95.

    Isn't it a shame that the correspondent's only qualification is that he appears to hate England? Mind you, that is a compolsory for working for the BBC nowadays.

  • Comment number 96.

    I actually had expected England to lose this one. Our form coming into the World Cup has been average, and Argentina are a highly capable side, who could easily do something special in this competition.

  • Comment number 97.

    It wasn't pretty but it was a win... next game

  • Comment number 98.

    please please please enough of the negativity. Every time New zealand go out and thrash all comers in the group and then come unstuck in a proper game in the knock out stages. today was not a fine performance but its another few weeks until we face scotland, which will be the point at which we will begin to build momentum. being in a grindy grindy kicky pointy nerve jangler is far more beneficial than pumping average teams, and lets face it, barring S.A. (who we wont meet till the final) Argentina are certainly in the mix for the one of the strongest packs at the tournament.

    We have been to 3 world cup finals and even won one playing nasty, ugly, rugby that would give children nightmares, and im sure that our garlicophillic chums from across the channel would happily sacrifice their moments of random brilliance for that kind of record.

    the english way is utter physicality and i'd rather watch the cataclismic collisions seen in the premiership week in week out, than the fluffy show ponies in the super 15 amassing cricket scores every week.

    everyone hates us for a reason, deep down they know that england are very difficult to beat in tournaments and that enduces a fear response, so cut the boys some slack, they will be all the better for today.

  • Comment number 99.

    Er foremost but you would agree that the offside line doesn't change regardless of where the game us played? Also being pushed onto the ball is a penalty in the south is it? Bryce lawrence's interpretations of the laws are so extreme that first the lions and England again are left totally bemused as to what he will allow. In my opinion he also uses discretion where none should be allowed. Scrims through 90 and unplayable maul both led to maintenance of possession by Argentina. Just a nonsense.

  • Comment number 100.

    Just a quick point about the refeering I've seen so far in this world cup.

    They have obviously been told to tighen up at the ruck and give attacking teams a bit of lee-way.
    However as far as I can tell this now means, especially after watching England today (well at least for the first 1hr) that you don't seem to actually be allowed time to place the ball or even hit the ground before you need to release.
    So to me, it seems you almost have to have two people, running in pairs, alongside everytime, one to have the ball and take the tackle and the other to instantly ruck the tackler off the ball - and I know a good flanker should be there fast but there is no way they can be that quick.
    Jeez, being back old fashioned rucking like the Scots used to do. This is just getting more and more like rugby league...

    By the way I have done and passed my basic refeering and coaching courses so I'm not a complete (almost though) noob.


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