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Bryn Palmer

England's head on the block (152)

In the country where the guillotine was the preferred method for dispensing with the great and not so good, England’s stay of execution at this World Cup could be brief.

Eight days to be precise, in which they must somehow lift themselves from the pit of despair into which Friday’s savaging by the Springboks has sunk them, and find a way of beating Samoa in a likely winner-goes-through clash in Nantes next Saturday.

No easy task on the basis of what we have seen so far from Brian Ashton’s men, whose much-talked-about potential remains firmly unlocked.

Failure to beat the Pacific Islanders would in all probability see them become the first world champions not to reach at least the quarter-finals in the defence of their trophy.

England looked shell-shocked by their defeat

An ignominious prospect, and Friday’s record beating for any England team at a World Cup does not look too hot on the CV either.

They limped back to their Versailles retreat for two days of “recovery” – and a further dose of soul searching no doubt – having again failed to match words with deeds.

And yet the 40,000-odd England fans who paid top euro to witness this remorseless rout were magnificent, roaring their ailing team on at the slightest hint of encouragement even when it was clear the game was up by half-time.

The French ministry for foreign affairs has produced a “French survival kit” for English-speaking fans at this World Cup called “Oui je parle rugby”.

A couple of its phrases could come in particularly handy for those red rose supporters who needed a demie or three as they retreated from the Stade de France, wondering just how their team has fallen so fast down rugby’s world order: “Ou dois-je descendre?”(Where do I get off?) and “J’ai la gueule de bois” (I have a hangover).

A few defiant bursts of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” could be heard in the first half-hour, when England were only 10-0 down and a fumbled try by Jaque Fourie and three missed drop-goals conspired to keep South Africa scoreless for 25 minutes.

But once Matt Stevens gave Percy Montgomery a needless penalty and the sensational Fourie du Preez sent JP Pietersen over for his first try just before the interval, an air of resignation hung over proceedings.

Early in the second half, a brass band of English supporters piped up with a chorus of “Those were the days, my friend”, which seemed an apt lament for 2003 and all that.

The Springboks were dominating field position with the tactical kicking of Du Preez, Francois Steyn, Butch James and Montgomery, and England could barely get out of their own half.

A brief, encouraging spell ended when lock Ben Kay opted to try a delicate chip-kick with his left foot 10m from the line with a man outside him, and a late half-chance petered out when Andy Farrell off-loaded desperately into the arms of Montgomery.

Jason Robinson pulled up in pain

The one spark of hope was Jason Robinson, who showed tremendous courage under the high ball and a splash of the old razzamatazz when running it back at the Boks.

If what appeared a torn hamstring when he pulled up in agony in the second half proves his final act of this World Cup, and his England career, at least “Billy Whizz” can say he gave it his all, and stayed true to his great virtues as a rugby player.

If the rest of the side can say the same after the Samoa game, then England might still be in the tournament, and contemplating a quarter-final with Australia or Wales.

But the loser of Saturday’s pool tussle in Cardiff will not be expected to progress further in this World Cup.

Amidst the gloom of England’s display came the welcome sight of a realistic alternative to New Zealand as potential winners.

South Africa did not have to reach top gear, but the clinical, composed manner in which they dispatched their main pool rivals suggested that here is a team that can not only challenge the All Blacks, but has the belief and confidence to beat them.

Bryn Palmer is the BBC Sport website’s rugby union editor.


Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 07:18 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • John Vallance wrote:

Really, there ought to be a points deficit threshold beyond which the RFU have to refund ticket costs and expenses of the fans they've let down! I'm sure a record defeat would qualify.

Seriously, though, last night's no-point-er performance against an imperfect South African side was diabolical and the English fans who paid so dearly to see the game live would be entirely forgiven for thinking they're throwing their money away.

It's time for the English squad to stand up and be counted by playing a game of football worthy of those white jerseys they wear on our behalf.

  • 2.
  • At 07:20 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Toby Moon wrote:

Englands display against the Springboks was nothing short of disgraceful. I have never seen such a poor kicking game at the top level. I agree that the England camp were not dealt the perfect cards in the lead up to the match, however the 36-0 drubbing that they received was entirely due to their poor game plan and even poorer execution. I am ashamed.
Well done South Africa.

  • 3.
  • At 07:37 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Ian wrote:

Well, it was just a case of donkeys against thioroughbreds!

  • 4.
  • At 07:47 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Bruce wrote:

I have never seen such a poor kicking game at the top level....

... obviously not a man that has spent two many years watching Scotland or wales then...

I love rugby - I love the fact that no one team dominates forever and I love the fact that you get what you deserve and work for. England were poor got what they deserved

So what. next.

Nobody should be ashamed, nobody should start having a go at the coach or at the players. This is just the nature of the team and the sport. It takes years to develop a team to beat the world and when that team breaks up more years to get another. Ask New Zealand who have gone 20 years without the big cup. Or South Africa who have lasted a full12 years to find a team capable of doing what they did last night. What the fans need to do know is rein in their expectations, accept that this team is NOT as good and start trying to applaud effort - and hope that one day you might be good enough to win the 6 nations. If you can do that you can build.

  • 5.
  • At 07:49 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Mark Fryer wrote:

Yes it was awful and South Africa played well, but we appear to be totally committed to not playing ANY rugby whatsoever. We kicked long and dropped out long and gave James and Montgomery far too much time. But it is the selection that worries me most.

We need speed and the icing on the cake was when Rees was brought off for Moody. How are we going to win or protect the ball at the breakdown when there is only one man fast enough to get there?

Perry was a welder and frankly looked like one. Gomarsall was so much better because he played with speed and purpose and stuck to his task, which is to try to mobilise our back division.It would be ok if we played with some kind of vision, when we lost badly in Australia at least Varndell looked as if he was dangerous (for those with short memories he skinned Lote). Depressing.

  • 6.
  • At 07:56 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • bodge wrote:

Forget the world cup, forget the 6 nations. we need to start from scratch. bin all the dead wood. find a core group of young players with potential and there re loads. let them play together, even if we get wooden spoon in 6 nations doesn't mater lets build for next world cup.

personnally i think that now of these should e in the 6 nations... regan, chuter, mears, freshwater, vickery, corry, laurence, worsley, perry, catt, farrel, lewsey

  • 7.
  • At 08:07 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Simon Hull wrote:

What went wrong !is this the best side England can come up with,they looked like some over beered pub team,unfit,over weight and ugly compared to the South Africans.Who picks the team,maybe you can not play unless you have been to a public school who knows.Viva la France !

  • 8.
  • At 08:08 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Dave Mason wrote:

Lions against Donkeys, No Ideas No Pace No Anything easily the Worst England performance since the days of the 1987 World Cup.
The RFU and the England Coaching Team should hang their heads in shame, Regan Corry Shaw Kay All to Slow and to Old their best days in International Rugby long gone, With Outstanding forwards back in England watching like Alex Brown Andy Hazell Nick Wood James Haskell Magnus Lund Chris Jones etc,Catt and Farrell to Old and Slow, Noon a good club player but not good enough at International Level, Outstanding backs at home such as James Simpson Daniel, Anthony Allen Olly Morgan Danny Cipriani, Tom Voyce Mike Tindall , even Toby Floos Shane Geraghty,Flawed Selection you bet Roll on 2011 and New Management and Coaches , until then England World Champions RIP.

  • 9.
  • At 08:12 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Mark Fryer wrote:

The worst thing of all is that Ashton, a man famed for his adventure and innovation has, when it matters most, abandoned his principles and resorted to the conservatism that has blighted English rugby since 2003.

Bodge is right, but the young played who had so much promise in 2003 have not been developed. What happened to Erinle, Forrester, Haughton, Monye Simpson Daniel? I am not saying that THEY would have been world beaters but lets learn our lessons and get it right.

  • 10.
  • At 08:19 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Bob D wrote:

How the mighty have fallen! England looked scared even before the anthems were sung. Never at anytime were they remotely competitive with the Springboks. Watching the game I was initially angry at watching our ineffectual English Carthorses lumbering around the pitch and then saddened as I realised that the largest best resourced football playing nation on Earth cannot produce a competitive team for the world stage. You have to watch the match amongst a crowd of baying Saffa supporters to understand what real misery is about.

However, come the next 6Ns we will all toodle off to Twickenham with dreams and expectations to get suckered in and ripped off again by the RFU.

  • 11.
  • At 08:19 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • GARY SURPLICE wrote:

TOO SLOW,TOO OLD,NOT FIT ENOUGH,NOT HUNGRY ENOUGH,SECOND BEST ALL OVER THE PARK,WE JUST GOT A GLIMPSE OF HOW A REAL PROFFESIONAL FIT FAST AND POWERFUL TEAM LOOKS THAT KNOWS HOW TO PLAY MODERN RUGBY WE HAVE NOW TO LICK OUR WOUNDS AND REBUILD.ONWARDS AND UPWARDS FOR 2011

  • 12.
  • At 08:25 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Chris Holmes wrote:

I don't often offer words of wisdom on these websites but felt compelled to after last night's dreadful performance. Agree with all those who have gone before me - execution was pitiful. Ashton's gameplan was obvious from the start - kick it long and hope to keep the Boks as far away from our line as possible. Only problem was that first there was nobody to put pressure on the Boks - Moody should have been on instead of Corry even though Moody can be a liability. Second - we seem surprised when they kicked it back at us and we had a lineout where we started - once that happened we did not appear to know what to do next. Yes it was tough without a recognised 10 but our kicking out of hand was very poor. Perry was dire, looked like someone who had recently stepped up from lower level rugby - hopefully he never plays for England again. Why did Ashton replace Rees with Moody - surely Corry should have gone. Time to start again but will the RFU and Ashton have the b***s to make the tough call - doubt it. We will probably have to endure even more months of pre-match postive words to be followed yet again by post match surprise that the preformance did not match pre-match hype.

By the way well done SA - hope you stuff NZ - make sure you have your own chef!!

  • 13.
  • At 08:28 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Jim wrote:

There is a perfectly good explanation for England's performance last night ....... on the evidence of the facial hair, the team had fallen through a timewarp from the 1970's!

I guess we can look forward to more nonsense in the press and amongst fans about how England have squandered their god-given right to be number 1 in every sport they play! Just the attitude that with the OTT gloating in victory will always make me support anyone else playing against them!

  • 14.
  • At 08:33 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Andrew Scobie wrote:

Minnows should play in a World "B"` cup.

  • 15.
  • At 08:34 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Tim wrote:

After this debacle, what we need to do is what should have been done after the last world cup- dump anyone who will be too old for the next world cup(backs over the age of 29, forwards over 30/31) and just start giving the bulk of the players who will have to represent us in 2011 some game time. Sure, they will struggle for a year or 2, but to be honest id rather see a team with talent and potential lose by 50 unanswered points to SA than a team of old blokes lose by 36. lets face is, its all much of a muchness once you are losing by this amount. If we start the next test match with a team like Cipriani, Varndell, Tait, Flood, JSD, Wilko, Ellis, Sheridan, young hooker, Stevens, Jones, Borthwick, Lund, Rees, haskell. i dunno thats brain storming at 8 am but if you thrown in the young gloucester guys as well (im sure ive also forgotten some other people) theres a team with a huge amount of potential. they will, of course, get dominated physically and look quite inexperienced for a couple of years, but the world cup has to be the main aim, not the next 2 6 nations tournaments, and by then they will surely have got some experience and have been on the weight programmes for long enough to compete with the larger sides.

  • 16.
  • At 08:38 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Christian wrote:

Useless and depressing to watch. That's why we are ranked 7th in the World and we looked it. A management tradegy to think that we had left the opportunity of bringing in some promising young talent into the squad. Bring on summer rugby so we can learn how to score tries...........

  • 17.
  • At 08:50 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Richard Shirley Lewis wrote:

The performance by the England team yesterday was unacceptable but not unexpected as the last four years have been wasted years with the privotal reason being the Andy Robinson coaching period as a new side needed to be created. This was not helped by the civil war between the RFU and the owners of the premier clubs on who was running the game in this country, which resulted in the top players not being able to attend regular coaching sessions with the the England management as they had done during the Woodward era prior to the last World Cup campaign. Consequently the team was not allowed to develop as a unit, unlike the South African team.

  • 18.
  • At 08:55 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Will wrote:

Tim at 8:34 is exactly right. Teams get good by playing together over a long period, this constant search for an instant fix disrupts the team and causes nothing but trouble.

  • 19.
  • At 09:08 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

Why are England so conservative with team selection at World Cups?

The Cricket was a banal embarrassment supervised by a coach without vision and a captain without one day talent whilst exciting 20:20 players were left at home that would have livened up the event and could have caused an upset or two.

Now we've arrived at the Rugby with a squad whittled down from a mix of old staggers and exciting new talent to leave just the one dimensional dross that we all know can't win - it would have been so much more exciting for the fans had we emulated Wales' approach at the 2003 tournament, thrown caution to the wind and given youth and pace a chance.

I wondered how long before the clubs got blamed....

The top clubs, which are not charities, are beginning the Guinness Premiership today without much of their squad. For Wasps and Leicester, half of the first team are missing. I know that in football there are internationals throughout the season, but is there any team in the FA which losing such a big fraction of its team?

As for the rest of the season (e.g. 6N) - simple, don't schedule in the conflicts! Take the break out of the 6N and put the match that would have been there afterwards....

No - the problem here is not the clubs. Several clubs are giving up many players for various international sides (take Wasps, not just England, but Samoa, Ireland and France). It's that the players were chosen with a view to defence rather than flighty attack. Where were the people making runs? There was Jason Robinson, and he made only a few.

  • 21.
  • At 09:15 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Josh wrote:

There is a lot of criticism on these boards, however let me offer some hope to the England fans out there. Our handling was good, and I reckon we made fewer errors than the Boks. Our lineout and scrum work was beating them a lot of the time. We weren't conceding as many penalties as previously. Tait played well - there were some really rather good passages of play just after he came on. Easter also played well - he was always there, carrying the ball forward. God only knows what he was doing catching those high balls next to the FB though. Admittedly Catty wasn't influential, however he isn't a natural stand-off. There are many good points to take from this match, and the reality is that South Africa look like world-beaters at the moment, and I reckon that they are second favorites.

  • 22.
  • At 09:18 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Larry Ger wrote:

There has been a certain sense of purpose about this bok team that borders on psychopathic.

Being SA'can Im getting ever-more excited with every match they play. The way in which they dispatched with England was impressive. The 12 years of drought may well be over!

Jake 'the wiley' White seems to have played his cards perfectly and all is falling into place. England, alas, befits a house of cards that is just...well... falling...

The only encouragement I can lend English fans is that SA have also been in such a lowly place. From the ridiculous of 'Kamp Stalraad' to the sublime of today.

The RWC thus far has been scintillating with some hard fought games and impressive displays from the minnows. A tournament worthy of the most beautiful game in the world.

Viva la (Jake) White, viva la (all) Black.

  • 23.
  • At 09:19 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Scotty wrote:

As a neutral I was looking forward to an exciting, close game. After 10 minutes I knew that was a pipe dream!! The Boks had complete control over all facets of the game (bar the scrum) and England never looked like scoring.

After we were well beaten in 2003 in the Final, I thought that team England had put together was a once in a generation team, and that many would be cleared out ASAP if they were too slow/old for 2007 and all these exciting young guys from the Premiership would be representing the Red Rose.

I was wrong big time, as ye sow so shall ye reap.

There is a need for some hard-nosed NZ pragmatism at the upper eschelons of English Rugby. The dead wood must go NOW.

  • 24.
  • At 09:21 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Elk wrote:


Just come from game - and was at the team hotel before the game - England looked well beaten 2 hours before the match - not a happy camp - Mr Ashton where was the mental toughness you traded for youth and risk in the squad selection? Unfort its time to come home basically and save any further mental anguish - it is a lost cause and I think even our most verment rugby enemy would say it was sad to see a world title defence like this. The game from the stands looked like every single move had a basic error in it, every player looked a bit too out of condition and just not at the races -why is that? NOT the players I would suggest - we have the players and the passion, but not the team, players can't play like we are making them and under these conditions... Mr Ashton we have gone backwards from 12 months ago. No Dallaglio, no Worsley, in the line up - novel against SA, even SA were surprised at this call... Rees came off our best forward - but out gunned around him in the pack. Rob Andrew - please go through this like a dose of salts - we need to start again, immediatley and from complete scratch, for the sake of the nation.


  • 25.
  • At 09:21 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Dick L wrote:

Perhaps we just need a team. And a captain.

  • 26.
  • At 09:21 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • James wrote:

Totally agree with all of the above responses. We need to thin out the dead wood, the Samoas will be up for it know and will let the handbrake off, prepare for a tidal wave of turnovers and drives. The English players do not look like they are up for it, and look confused to how to deal with any creative play. Who is the Captian of the team why isn't he gripping the soldiers and giving direction. I o9cassionaly watch Johno briefing the team on the last World Cup, players were nearly in tears with anxiety and aggresion when he roared at them.

Start fresh, sack Andrews he is a useless twit, all he does it sit in the stands peering over the managers shoulder making silly facial expressions.

Get the young guns trained up there are plenty of talent in the ranks at premiership level, or is it because some of them have not been to public schools and do not fit the mould.

sad, sad day

  • 27.
  • At 09:25 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • stu wrote:

i am an englishman living in scotland so u can imagine the day im in for!! but hey we are still world champs for a few more weeks and not many other countries will ever be able to say that. watching last night i honestly thought andy robinson had been reinstated as coach, the player line up with them revealing their positions and age made for depressing viewing. how can we compete with such an old team with absolutely no pace or imagination. bring on the youngsters i would happily take 2 years of struggle with light at the end of the tunnel as oppossed to watching what happened last night, not for a second saying its easy and im sure the guys tried as hard as they could but at the end of the day they simply dont cut it.

  • 28.
  • At 09:37 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • dave wrote:

The time England lost this world cup was when they won it in 2003. It took 4 years to win that one and it was gonna be the same this time round. We just didn't follow up Sydney and in true English fashion we keep harping on about past victories. Sorry lads 1966 still does not guarantee footie and 2003 should not for rugby.
Andy Robinson squandered a perfect opportunity to turn us into a lasting force. In fairness to Ashton he has had to pick up the remnants.
However I think we all knew we weren't gonnas win it this year. Why didn't we start the 4 year plan now. Perfect op to see wha our youngsters can do. We knew Farrell woul'nt cut it and this has been proven. Why aren't we playing Tait, Flood, Geraighty, Cipriani and Haskell and all the other talented youngsters we have.We'd still have a better chance of winning! If we're gonna lose let us learn from this experiance rather than prove things we know already!

I still believe England could actually cause a massive upset by beating Samoa and Tonga!

  • 30.
  • At 09:39 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • dave wrote:

The time England lost this world cup was when they won it in 2003. It took 4 years to win that one and it was gonna be the same this time round. We just didn't follow up Sydney and in true English fashion we keep harping on about past victories. Sorry lads 1966 still does not guarantee footie and 2003 should not for rugby.
Andy Robinson squandered a perfect opportunity to turn us into a lasting force. I fairness to Ashton he has had to pick up the remnants.
However I think we all knew we weren't gonnas win it this year. Why didn't we start the 4 year plan now. Perfect op to see wha our youngsters can do. We knew Farrell woul'nt cut it and this has been proven. Why aren't we playing Tait, Flood, Geraighty, Cipriani and Haskell and all the other talented youngsters we have.We'd still have a better chance of winning! If we're gonna lose let us learn from this experiance rather than prove things we know already!

  • 31.
  • At 09:45 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Oh England... wrote:

What we have here is a British ex-Chief Engineer in Ferrari systematically passing on
absolutely confidential information to another British Chief Engineer, who in turn spreads
the info througout a rather British team, McLaren, with a British boss, Mr. Ron Dennis
(more of a 'peace-of-fish' than a boss to me). They are being judged by an organism presided
by a British person, Mr. Mosley, who basically owns his job to another British person,
the owner of the show, Mr. Ecclestone.

The way in which this funny treacherous British media deliberately intends to deviate
all responsibility to a 'frustrated' (youngest ever double World Champion of all times
and soon to be triple) Fernando Alonso, by suggesting he is "The traitor" is frankly hilarious,
from Spain, at least. Britains suffer the enessimal blow to its already perfidious image, what a media...
and that includes The Guardian, The Independent and The Times as well.

Fernando Alonso, who fights for his third title in a British team with a British team
mate, will 'talk' in the next few races. And will say goodbye to all this British rubbish.

  • 32.
  • At 09:47 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • james wrote:

despite a horrible england display again, i would rather the springboks score aanother try, and robbo be alrite, than 36-0, with the loss of an all time great. its such a terrible way to go, not just because its a defeat, and not just because he's a legend of the game, but also because when he got the ball last nite, we had an overlap, winger and fullback, vs forward, that may have been our 1 score of the nite.

anyway,im really gonna miss jason, as h was one of the reasons i became involved in rugby. a true legend.

  • 33.
  • At 09:48 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Sam Whiting wrote:

I agree last nights display was disgraceful!

I think after the 2007 World Cup they should start preparing for the 2011 World Cup by saying that anybody over the age of 29 should be out and the youngsters like Tait, Flood and Haskell etc. should be playing every game for England so they get games under the belt by the time 2011 comes around!

  • 34.
  • At 09:49 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Bruce Ritchie wrote:

The problem, surely, is that after the 2004 World Cup Sir Clive dealt harshly with players who wanted a break from rugby the next summer. This led to people withdrawing from the team a year or so before they meant to, resulting in a fragmented progression rather than a gradual evolution. By the way, how I wish we could have these magnificent traditional jerseys back again for all our rugby nations.

  • 35.
  • At 10:13 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Murdoch wrote:

Martin Johnston had the cheek to blame the ref for penalizing engeland in the first 10 mins, must read the rules where it states england can do what they want with impunity, straws and clutching spring to mind I was looking for Arthur Lowe & Clive Dunn to come on at half time!!

  • 36.
  • At 10:14 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Martin wrote:

Anyone who has followed world rugby with more than even a passing interest would know that England losing to SA is neither unexpected nor a 'disgrace' as some seem to think.

SA are genuine contenders for the world title, whilst England have none nothing of merit for several years now.

The only real dissapointment was the lack of quality in our kicking game and the very slow recylcling of the ball at the breakdown.

  • 37.
  • At 10:14 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Marc Thompson (thommo) wrote:

I presume we all rushed back from work last night with a spring in our step, to be confronted with that dire garbage we had to endure for 80 mins. Is it only me who thinks we left our best attacking backs/forwards at home? I actually felt embarrest during the game, and im afraid, ashamed. I hope all the big wigs at twickenham stand up and please note that we wont stand anymore your ridiculous prices you make us pay through your official hospitality touts that are affiliated to you. England supporters arent stupid so beware your shiny new facilities because they might end up empty until you realise the errant of your ways. 2003 means nothing, and if you understood, it meant nothing the day after we won it, because the real hard work starts the minute you win something, because everyone wants your scalp back therafter.Anyone else feel the way i do?

  • 38.
  • At 10:22 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • keith wrote:

I enjoy Rugby and would like to see it become more popular in the states, one way to keep people dis-interested is to put them up against England right off the bat and then make them play again three days later versus a team that has not played a game yet. What gives?

  • 39.
  • At 10:36 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • russell martin wrote:

England failed to compete at the beginning and end of the first half which gifted the game to south africa, who are too good a side to refuse our gifts. In between we showed some defensive spirit but failed, until the last ten minutes, to show any side of crossing their line. We should have kicked a penalty at the end , to avoid the dreaded nil, and to give farrell a bit of practice in a match situation. I hope Brian Ashton has a plan for the next four years to make us competetive again. Hope the players have the spirit and ability to win the remining group games which will be very difficult

  • 40.
  • At 10:38 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Chas wrote:

Why is it that when almost all other teams in the World Cup look: dangerous and purposeful in possession, fast to the breakdown, fast to re-cycle, direct and accurate, ferocious in defence, England invariably: revert to the slow, tight and ponderous, rarely look dangerous in possession (even against the lowly sides), take the ball standing still, miss tackles and make junior/mini level mistakes?
How can it be possible that a rugby country with such a huge playing and supporter community can be so consistently poor with such limited ambition in their game?

  • 41.
  • At 10:48 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Kev N wrote:

Did anyone really expect anything else last night? I cannot count anyone from my circle who remotley thought we could win, let alone play well. The general feeling was that we'd be completley stuffed and that was how it proved to be. Even the 'guesser' at work did'nt show anyone giving England a victory the most optimistic guess a 25-12 defeat - we wish!
Agree with most of the above and really hope we start again with the youngsters we have. The fact that a team like Gloucester who finished top of the prem last year do not have 1 single represenative whilst the likes of Leicester and Wasps lose half their squad says to me that something at HQ needs a radicial rethink.

  • 42.
  • At 10:53 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Tom E wrote:

This was the biggest waste of c.£500 I have ever made. I would have got better value for money had I torn up the equivalent in bank notes and flushed the pieces down the toilet. Oh, I forgot. England did win the battle of the hymns.

  • 43.
  • At 11:01 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • billyjojimbob wrote:

Come on guys lets be realistic...did anybody seriously think we were ever going to mount a robust defence of the world cup? I can't believe that Planet Rugby genuinely predicted an England win. Whilst I don't want to look back at the glory days under SCW as the solution, surely there is a clear lesson - that other sides seemed to have learned, world cups are won as a result of many months (or years) of serious preparation, this team of capable players have had (relatively) no time at all - the margin between success and failure is so small. Also because of that Ashton is having to adopt a far more pragmatic (and limited) style of play, which is clearly not working. Give the man a chance to build a squad of players capable of mounting a serious challenge for 2011. 2007 is clearly damage limitation, roll on the 2008 six nations, where hopefully the squad will have had more than minutes together!

  • 44.
  • At 11:07 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • evilspindoctor wrote:

I disagree with the idea of the Springboks being potential winners. I thought they were distinctly mediocre and lacked any real creativity. Nearly all their tries came from profitting from England errors.

Still taking penalties when 30 points to the good with ten minutes to go was pathetic and not in the spirit of the game. What a boring team - I look forward to seeing New Zealand tear them to pieces.

  • 45.
  • At 11:09 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Bokbefok wrote:

As a Bok supporter I did enjoy how we played the game England wanted to play BUT watching the game with my English friends in a pub last night what started as great cheers for the boks in the first 20 minute turned into embarrassment on behalf of my friends.

It was sad to see such a tired looking team wandered around on the pitch.

Shock the World (STW)?

  • 46.
  • At 11:11 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Ted wrote:

Can the chariot swing any lower?

  • 47.
  • At 11:11 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • André Roux wrote:

I am obviously a proud South African supporter, but please, players don't choose themselves. You cannot just bring youngsters into a team and expect them to perform. You allow them to learn the trade while the Martin Johnson's are still playing. Later when they have learned enough skills you can allow them to carry on while the older players retire. This is a contineous process. Surely this is how a financial institution is also run. Blame the administration not the players. The players are talented, are the administrators.

  • 48.
  • At 11:12 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • evilspindoctor wrote:

I disagree with the idea of the Springboks being potential winners. I thought they were distinctly mediocre and lacked any real creativity. Nearly all their tries came from profitting from England errors.

Still taking penalties when 30 points to the good with ten minutes to go was pathetic and not in the spirit of the game. What a boring team - I look forward to seeing New Zealand tear them to pieces.

  • 49.
  • At 11:13 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Rob V wrote:

As a casual observer I can see a number of issues with the England set up which mean that for all the complaints going on this board little will change.

1. Regardless of what people have said if England spend 2 years building up a young experimental side and getting hammered people will stop watching and the press will get on the backs of the management. Thats the current British way

2. The club set up in England means that they have way too much power. Watching rugby league clubs bending over backwards to try and get their international game restarted is eye-opening.

3. Much as I dislike the guy England are nowhere near finding an effectice replacement for Dawson.

4. Rees has the potential to be great but at blindside there seems to be no one.

5. Centre partnerships since Greenwood have been a joke. they've either been a combination of an immobile lumps, tindall and noon, or a creative player past his best, Farrell or Catt, with an immobile lump. I like Farrell as a player and if he'd come over when he was early to mid 20's he could have been a great but its been an extremely costly mistake.

6. There is no substitute for pace Corry, Easter, Shaw and Kay, England gave the world a vision of how forward play could be in 2003 but you can't have effective forwards if they aren't quick enough to get to the breakdown. Whats even worse is that all the SA backs looked to have the legs on England when the likes of Varndell are at home.

For all Ashtons much vaunted tactical nous and offensive genius our tactics in this tournament appear to be simply to batter teams until they give in. But were attempting this with forwards who, Sheridan, Rees and possibly Stevens aside, are no longer effective at international level.

I would really like to say hats off to SA we were beaten by outstanding performance but I can't. They weren't that good, they have room for improvement and thats the frightening thing because with this squad i'm not overly sure we do.

  • 50.
  • At 11:13 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • David wrote:

I believe that england can still win the world cup however it is all down to the selection of the players. since we no longer have anything to lose i think that brian ashton should go all out on the next game and choose a team with real pace. tait has to start as well as rees and moody. Lewsey at 15 and then sacky and cuato on the wings we will auctialy have some pace around the ruck and hopefully be able to use the wingers next time round.

  • 51.
  • At 11:14 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Quite simply England have got 'fat' on their triumph of 4 years ago - physically, mentally and professionally.
Lets hope they start dieting fast!

  • 52.
  • At 11:19 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • ian macko wrote:

The England pack were destroyed,their was no platform for the backs.The backs managed to eventually pass the ball along the line in the 57th minute that tells you something.England never even got into a position to have their customary pot-shot at goal even,SA never aloud them to do that.If your pack is none existant and being walked over you have no chance.I hope the press decide to scapegoat and target some of them instead of blaming the whole episode on the RL lad AF.Anyway,i think SA will win the tournament.

  • 53.
  • At 11:24 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • GI Joe wrote:

England were woeful against the Springboks. The have absolutely no cutting edge and the fact that they couldn't manage a single try against France should have highlighted the fact that they would struggle to score against the Boks.

The fact is, England have been a poor team since the last World Cup and one of the main reasons is the Club v Country debate with the Premiership. Good club competition does not mean good national side!This issue needs to be addressed before the next world cup.

As an Irishman, I think last night was the first time I shouted for England and I think Jason Robinson did his country proud last night. He was the only player who gave 100% and looked secure in defence and dangerous in attack. He was/is a great player to watch and it is sad for him to go out on such a low.

  • 54.
  • At 11:24 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

Nothing should be taken away from a very good SA performance but England were embarrassing. They went into this World Cup with a limited game plan based on damage limitation. The cull should start at the top although I suspect those in cosy positions within the RFU will survive. They milked the public on the back of the 2003 win and have done nothing to rebuild the team to do it again? Love him or hate him Sir Clive was radical in his thinking and its time for radical appointments. With more performances like last night, English supporters may start to vote with their feet?

  • 55.
  • At 11:25 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • chris haley wrote:

Yes, it was a debacle. SA were up for it and they had a game plan. England never looked like scoring a try, and SA never really broke into a sweat. What should England do? Reduce and cap the number of foreign players in the Premiereship; replace the RFU Board with the likes of Carling, Jonno etc, people who have played at the highest levels and who understand the needs of the players; introduce a proper league system for the Academies and possibly have an A-Team league. This may help to bring through some players with genuine talent, let's face it and be brutally honest: not one England player on the field last night has any real class and their lack of skills, speed, physicality etc is hidden by the talents of the foreign players that they play alongside at club level.

  • 56.
  • At 11:33 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Steve Bailey wrote:

It was a very, very poor performance against a very good South African team that are serious contenders for the World Cup but lets not get carried away! Some of the quotes on this blog are way over the top, you cant blame the players or the selection. To suggest that we have lots of great young players back home who would have fared better is ridiculous. What choice did Ashton have? If we had tried to play an open game we would have lost by 100 points, our best chance was to play 10 man rugby. England simply made too many mistakes and their kicking was very poor, but they did create chances. Unfortunately we didnt have any confidence or a fit fly half. Even the ref was against us and all the 50-50 decisions went against Englsand.

It is depressing! Whats the answer? We have to follow the lead of the southern hemisphere and structure our club game to support the national side. If we dont 2003 will be an anathema like 1966.

  • 57.
  • At 11:34 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • hewey wrote:

The best and most important decision the RFU need to make is simple. Bring Martin Johnson into the coaching set up NOW! I know he would be thrilled to be asked. He has had 24 mths away from the game to re-charge. His knowledge of the game, inspirational aura, intensity and experience cannot be underestimated. Just listening to him on the ITV coverage emphasises what he has to offer.

  • 58.
  • At 11:51 AM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • chris wrote:

Rugby has changed, England have stood still. You can't win games on forward power alone Rugby is all about the backs now. I don't think England will ever be able to compete at the top level again the whole structure in this country is out dated and full of upper class idiots. Every other major rugby nation takes to game to the working class people and involves everybody from areas like Brixton to Richmond but not here. Britain has a huge mixed race community that could make powerfull rugby wings, centers, full backs etc... but this will never happen until the current members of the RFU are sacked and replaced by modern thinking normal people.

  • 59.
  • At 12:18 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Frenchy wrote:

What a hugely disappointing English performance. We have no-one with creativity or the good old 'rugby brain'. No-one willing to try something new (although clearly Ben Kay has been working hard on his deft left footed chips)I get the feeling that England are 'over coached' with all parts of play choreographed eg. Right lads, this is what we'll do if we ever win second phase ball 3cms from their 22. What's happened to 'heads up' rugby, play what's in front of you, not what you've been coached to expect. I though Du Preez was a joy to watch, always trying things, making the Eng Back pack 'multi-task'eg. having to do two things at once, think and move, which they failed to do. I will always support my country but get a little tired of the stock response that we've got the potential and have just had a bad game....that's 4 in a row despite all the time spend together pre tournament. I hope we can regroup and play some rugby which involved players numbered from 11-15. I hope we retain our dignity, make whoever our remaining opponents are work for every point, and move on after the tournament to the creation of a team with a focus on 2011. I believe the young talent is there in Tait, Varndell, Flood, Geraghty, Cipriani, Simpson-Daniel, Haskell, Rees, Forrester, we just need a coaching team and management willing to accept short term losses to achieve the ultimate goal. Well done South Africa and COME ON US!!!!!!

  • 60.
  • At 12:19 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Tango wrote:

David (11:13), who in their right mind can believe England can retain the title?? Our 2003 team had almost 4 years of dominance, 4-5 World Class players, we've just had 4 years of embarrassment! Other than the legend that is Jason Robinson, our players looked overweight, slow and bereft of any ideas. We only showed strength in the scrum, but what good is that if the rest of the play is so poor? There was no direction in the play, the kicking of both Catt and Farrell was lamentable, how many actually reached touch or went high enough for our players to reach before being kicked back?

I can't help but feel that those in the corridors of the RFU and the club boards are to blame, reversing the 'elite' system that Sir Clive (despite his critics) had instilled. Those 'old farts' that Will Carling referred to many years ago are still clearly knocking around. Has anyone described NZ or Aus poor over such a long period of time? No one in those countries would ever let the state of their national team get to ours.

Robbo has been our shining light and if it is a hamstring, it's such a shame he had to end his career with such a dreadful team. Robbo, you're an absolute inspiration, we salute you man.

  • 61.
  • At 12:33 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Simorgan wrote:

Excruciating is the only word I can use to covey my feelings. As an English Ex-Pat driving round Brisbane, looking at RSA fans sporting their jerseys basically depressed me. I long to fly back to England and watch my team give the opposition a real thumping, but Friday night was pityful. Watching Jason Robinson, all time England International Hero, limp helplessly from the pitch was soul destroying. That man gave 100%.....can the rest of the England team say they did that? Josh Lewsey maybe? The rest? I think not!
I'm about to book a return flight to NZ for May 2008....please Brian!!! Get your dynamic style into these young guy's that didn't get the chance!! English rugby is better than this!!

  • 62.
  • At 12:33 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Wally wrote:

Yep, England lost. One blames the coach and the players, but is that where the problem lies. The players are no doubt to blame, but not from the point of view of the way they played on the day. The problem is that they were actually selected. My view is that the selection of players in England is the problem. Clive Woodward showed that coaching, alone, does not make a team, as proven after the 2003 World Cup in New Zealand 2004. His coaching methods were lamented, and written about, even though it was standard rugby training for decades. It was the team of great players he could select from. I believe that was his brilliance. Choosing the right team from the clubs at his disposal.
Selection should be on ability and not history, and there are many who could have filled those places better at this Rugby World Cup.

  • 63.
  • At 12:51 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • paul, halifax wrote:

What a disgrace and what adds insult to injury is that South Africa were just cruising I dont think they played that well... Did we win any line outs? Yet we still kept kicking to touch? Watched video just before the game of Englands grand slam win in 2003. What has happened to all the things we did well. Retention of second/third phase ball,quick processesing of the ball, little darting runs that break defences down and create gaps.
THANK GOD for Jason Robinsons contribution a little spark to cheer on the English fans. His commitment with the number of high balls sent his way was commendable, I didnt see anybody else steppping up to the mark.
What happened to the English forwards they were totally outplayed. Rugby is a game of passion and intellect, sadly we seem to have been lacking both. Nobody took command and set an example and controlled our game. The picture of Johnny Wilkinson sat on the bench head in his hands said it all. I did not expect England to win but I hoped I could hold my head up high after the game but was sadly disappointed. Think it is time for new management.

  • 64.
  • At 12:53 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Sarah Lewis wrote:

England have not had a 'playmaker' for years - they do not possess an individual (or several like the Boks, Kiwis or Aussies) who can turn a game around. Robinson is a class act but there is never sufficient ball and what is available is so slow that the Richmond Heavies could have given this England side a fright !
Oh well, like the rest of English sport overcoached, scared to do anything adventurous for fear of being dropped and therefore predictable.

  • 65.
  • At 01:20 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Orientiain wrote:

Why Surprised? England have had 4 years to prepare for this tournament so it is no surprise that Englands performances are poor and they will never reach the last 8 and never will again unless the RFU are changed and Rugby taken to the masses. I have given up on England this year and will enjoy the emerging countries playing proper rugby.

  • 66.
  • At 01:23 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Derek Tyler wrote:

I'm afraid I cannot agree with the immediate obsession with the 2011 WC., and the relegation, in England's eyes at least,of the 6 Nations to a B Tournament. The 6N is an ideal place for the next WC team to come from. That should be our ambition, to take that Tournament by the scruff of its neck, and use it wisely.
As for the SA game ? I thought we'd lose by 50 before the game; and I think we'll have trouble beating Tonga, let alone Samoa, who will certainly beat us.
Why was a replacement for Barkley not flown in as rules allow ? Because Ashton has given up, and couldn't be bothered.
At least the footballers are winning at last.......

  • 67.
  • At 01:26 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • 1506 wrote:

Dad's army was never going to be good enough to defend the title. For the last 4 years England have lacked direction and leadership. Last night Farrell and Catt were almost old enough to be Steyns father !!!!!

  • 68.
  • At 01:32 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • stephenB wrote:

Moaning about the players that haven't been selected is a waste of time, Ashton has made his selections and will have to deal with the consequences.
In terms of the game, if u can forget the score (which I pray we all can) what worked and what didn't:
Scrumaging, I thought was a positive.
Lineout, a real problem area SA showed us how it should be done, we didn't even contest on their throw and our own lineout looked less that reliable.
Decision making, Ben Kay! thats all I'm going to say.
Kicking, long restarts from Farrell without being chased up until the second half?, i thought Catt's kicking was poor.
England still has a competative pack, we need to fix the lineout (which isn't imposssible but may need Reagan to go).
Scrum half must be a concern for Ashton, Perry is no du Preez, but then again who else can boast a srum half like SA's.
Farrell and Catt aren't first choice or second or even third choice and considering the situation and lack of a platform it's hard to damn them too much.

  • 69.
  • At 01:33 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Steve Sherlock wrote:

Passion, pride, aggression and the sheer will to win are prerequisites for any successful team. The England team lacks these attributes in stark contrast to NZ, Australia and SA, all of whom can then lump talent, practice and cohesion on top to create winning teams.

I can't see England making it into the next stage of the competition. We might as well look at next steps now.

Firstly, scrap most of the current team after the World Cup,bring in youngsters with the right attitude and build a team for the next World Cup.

Secondly, sort out the structure of the domestic season. How difficult can it be? Build the season from league to Europe and on to internationals. Start the season earlier. Make sure there are breaks to allow players' bodies to recover anf for the national team to train.

Do this and we stand a chance on the world stage. If not get ready for more embarrasment and humiliation.

  • 70.
  • At 01:34 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

Catt and Farrel might have well stayed at home....its about time Tait was gIven a starting place in the side (a player who was hyped to be better than jonny). He had one game against wales where Henson ran rings round him but that was his first game....GIVE HIM A CHANCE!

The forwards haven't been the same since Back and Johnson retired and i can't see them getting anywhere near that standered with some of the players they are using (Kay, Corry, Borthwick)

  • 71.
  • At 01:52 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Steve Roome wrote:

Yet again we see proof that it's near impossible to retain a World Cup.

No team has achieved it in football since Brazil in 1962 and only Austrailia in Cricket this year.

Why? Because it's impossible to develop a World Cup winning team and give experience to the next generation. This is why England have reverted to players who were 3rd or 4th choice in 2003 - Shaw, Regan, Corry, Worsley, Gomersall, Noon, etc. These guys were not good enough then but their younger counterparts (Palmer, Hipkiss, Tait, etc) simply haven't had sufficent game time at internatiional level. England were awful last night but the cumulative effect of all those injuries have left them with a team who look like they've never played together - which is precisely the case.

We have no strength in depth in the middle five postions - back row and half-back beacuse most clubs are using foreign players in these key positions for fear of relegation.

The sooner we are knocked-out the sooner we can discard the 33-35 year olds and invest in the next generation.

  • 72.
  • At 02:07 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

As a bok supporter I have to agree with evilspindoctor. This is the best bok team we have seen for years but they will have to do a whole lot better than this to match the Aussies or NZ

  • 73.
  • At 02:11 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • david wrote:

Last night was very much what I expected. At least until the second half where we had some positives.

Gomarsall MUST now start at scrum-half. Sackey had his chance and was a fish out of water on the wing.

The best England can look at for the rest of the tournament is just playing well, although even that seems to be a bit too much for them.

  • 74.
  • At 02:32 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Lee wrote:

there was good news and bad news in my view:

Good news: we shipped less points in the 2nd half

Bad news: the rest

  • 75.
  • At 02:33 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Slapper wrote:

Mike Ford famously said before this game, at the top levels there are not many try's it's all about defence and you don't need the ball for that....well Mike I hope you were watching closely. Our game looked like rugby league kicking down the park, the only player who turned up was JR who unfortunately had the misfoutune to end his fantastic career in that game. Get rid of the league influence, get rid of the old war horses, when not if we get beat by Samoa and maybe even Tonga lets go home and sort this mess out no half measures lets look to the future and in my opinion heads should role for a fresh start, I live in Portugal and the dentists and teachers here gave more problems to NZ than England did in 80 mins with SA

  • 76.
  • At 02:45 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Brian McGovern wrote:

With virtually half of the England team over 30, it was never going to be a contest. Sure enough all of those players have been very good in their time but as many other comments have said, it's time to move to a more youthful approach and build for 2011. I think that after this world cup Brian Ashton should resign or be sacked - he has been good in the past but has old ideas allied to the "old school tie" image which Rugby Union still has to some extent. It's also maybe time that those who pull Ashton's strings are dispensed with too - lets have a completely fresh start.

  • 77.
  • At 02:53 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • JoeySomething wrote:

Unfortunately, there's a few too many excuses flying around here. Clive Woodward's legacy will be the atmosphere surrounding his England team, the way he revolutionised the way the team prepared, the way the team were looked after, effectively creating a 'no-excuses' situation. If players failed, it was down to them, on the day - he made the players responsible for their performances on the pitch. As a Newcastle United fan, I have been impressed by the way Sam Allardyce has tried to do the same for us - and already it seems to be working. Southampton FC is producing a line of talented youngsters, in no small part thanks to the infrastructure put in place by Sir Clive. Preparation is everything in international rugby - England don't have the fitness or team cohesion to challenge - end of.

  • 78.
  • At 02:56 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Pete wrote:

Please let's absolve Robinson from all of the above criticism! He showed exquisite skill and the heart of a lion. He was resolute and fearless under the high ball, was wonderful with ball in hand, and was alone in demonstrating a palpable hunger to take on the opposition. Sadly, no one else came close in terms of skill, determination or general attitude. My real regret from last night is that we will probably never see this truly remarkable player again.

  • 79.
  • At 03:21 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Andy Barrow wrote:

Depressing as hell! I paid out lots of money for my son and I to see a game of passion and skill and ended up watching a half-hearted attempt to defend against a fitter, faster more polished side. Jason Robinson was the only guy who appeared to care and want to attack the boks. The body language and mindset of England seemed all wrong right from the start. Yes, I know we haven't been dealt any favours with injuries to all and sundry but that's what makes a team, having the character and b***s to face a situation and take it on. Wake up England! Throw caution to the wind and start playing like athletes instead of like accountants - (who appear to be the ones running English Rugby now) - and talking of management who was it paid some designer to come up with that kit? At best it looks like some beauty pageant red sash draped over their shoulders at worst it appears to be a red arrow spiralling downwards - probably to a nasty bump - like, not making the quarter-finals. It's all a depressing shambles and everyone involved should take some responsibility instead of trying to blame others. Stand-up and be counted on and off the pitch!

  • 80.
  • At 03:41 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Chris Noakes wrote:

well done lads, an exact replica of englands attempted defence of the ashes not so long ago.

we did it once so why do we need to bother winning it again ??

  • 81.
  • At 04:00 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Tim wilson wrote:

The question remains - why can't England put on the pitch what they practise?

Brian Ashton complains about this, but said after the USA game that he didn't bother to find out why there's such a discrepancy between preparation and performance.

We're tired of the cliches - put the disappointments behind us, step up to the plate, up for it, can't wait for the next game to start, etc.

If you're a warrior and have to fight, what matters is if you're in reality. If you're not, you're dead. English rugby needs to get into reality.

One of the problems I've observed is that England play with rugby league style, going down with the ball and setting up a new phrase - instead of quick off-loads. England have been using rugby league coaches for many years. I don't think it works.

As Mike Catt has said, what matters is playing instinctive, intuitive rugby and being able to trust your comrades. At the moment England look like a bunch of nervous individuals with no real unity that can make the whole greater than the sum of the parts - which is what is needed to raise the level of performance.

  • 82.
  • At 04:00 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • R Baker wrote:

I’m also perplexed about the nature of England’s performance decline over the last couple of months, culminating in the white wash last night. My view is the problem is more to do with an “energy gap” than a “skills gap” particularly in the forwards. In the first of the warm games against Wales both supporters and impartial observers were all of the opinion that the team had undergone a remarkable transformation in physical condition. To such an extent that Bernard Laporte raised questions about the adequacy of our drug testing.

Since that peak England’s physicality and energy levels have literally stepped down a level with each subsequent game. Last night the pack were puffing and blowing and at a walking pace after the first twenty minutes.

Both BA and the assistant coach said they were at a loss to explain the team’s lethargy against the USA and could only venture the theory that they had their collective minds on the SA game. Well what challenge ahead were they thinking about last night – the flight home?

So why the tailing off energy levels? Did England peak too soon or did Laporte have a point and is there something far, far more sinister going on here?

  • 83.
  • At 04:13 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Rhodes wrote:

Dads army....should be back in england defending england soil like the has beens they are!.......next question why bring an old team to loss so badly atleast with a young team we are looking to the future and they gain valuable experience(next world cup).......the icing on the cake now would be a loss to Samoa and a derserved early exit... because my heart can't take the shame of a whooping by Australia.......
The only memorable mention can go to JAson Robinson

  • 84.
  • At 04:27 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Nick St J Moore wrote:

Looking backwards is counterproductive even though the 2003 squad of world cup winners featured world class players wherever you looked - Leonard, Johnson, Hill, Back, Dawson, Bracken and Greenwood too mention just some......

This 2007 squad is not in the same class at all. It consists of 2003 squad players who are now too old and past their best, players who did not make the grade in 2003, or who were at their prime in the other code and others who are a bit frail nowadays or are just workmanlike...... and criminally players who have been selected on reputation not form.....

So I agree with many of the foregoing comments - lets stop worrying about the past and focus on building for the future.

Take the number 8 position - Haskell at Wasps, Skirving at Saracens both English both in their early twenties.... Open side flankers Tom Rees at Wasps at 24 he should be the first choice at the next RWC if form holds and injuries don't get in the way, Dave Seymour at Saracens 22, and so it goes on........ these and many other young talented players ie all the other 20-25 year olds in each position will be in the 26-29 age group at the next RWC and that is what the next England squad should be composed of. 28-30 year olds who have played together representing their country for 4 years or more in the lead up and led by some coaches with new fresh ideas .......

Oh well fingers crossed.... and finally I agree with an earlier comment well played South Africa you look like you could give the AB's a run for their money...

  • 85.
  • At 04:33 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Tom Macleod wrote:

England finally get what they deserve for a cocky attitude- to be uncerimoniously shoved off their pedestol. Shocking performance. Will lost to Samoa to go out

  • 86.
  • At 04:34 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Dan wrote:

I do have sympathy for Brian Ashton as he does not have the greatest squad to pick from, he has to pick the correct players in the correct positions, which isnt easy from only being in the job for so little time. These experiments with the players should have taken place directly after the 2003 world cup so he wouldnt be in this dilema of not knowing what his strongest team is. On the other hand England signed him to get the players to become more creative rather than being big brutes, yet he leaves Shaun Gerghaty and Toby Flood at home and sticks to the safe option of Mike Catt and Jamie Noon. I havent even noticed Jamie Noon is playing this tournamment, I havent seen him, has anybody else? The lack of ideas cost England the game against the Boks and England have very few exciting and intelligent players with lots of ideas. I believe the problem lies with the Priemership allowing to many foreign players into the league making it harder for younger players to come up through the academies. I think they should limit the number of foreign players for every team so some young, promising english players get a chance.

Another problem with their performance was attack, we had nothing going forward no pace, flare or any continuity. I think the problem lies with the fly half, he's just to deep meaning that we cannot get over that crucial gane line to get any kind of momentum. The fly half (whoever he may) be needs to play right on that gane line so we can get some players over it on first phase, which the 2003 squad did very effectively. If he does start of too deep this sends a message to the oppenents that they are scared to get in their faces and also it takes longer to get over that gane line because they obviously have further to travel.

In 2003 England had a great defence that put pressure on the oppents by going up very fast together in a line almost like rugby league style. This flustered the opponents into making mistakes and giving away early penalties, so Jonny would slot them over to give us an early score building momentum. Recently this has not been the case, we stand back and let them run at us giving them time to think. The team should try and emulate the defence of rugby league teams which have it off to a tee. Also Tom Rees is are only player that is getting to the ruck quick enough. If you watch the All-Blacks they have support from 3 players without fail, England need to do this so they dont lose so much ball and so they have many options.

Finally I would just like to add that the problem with the centres would be resolved by playing Farrel inside centre for the time being and Tait outside permantly. It is a good mixture of strength, kicking and defence from Farrel and pace and elusivness from Tait. Although I am a Bristol boy i think Perry should be dropped as he takes far too long in getting the ball out and makes bad decisions; this is too much of a cost to have for his great carrying skills. Richards should be given a chance to prove himself. If England cant see the same basic problems as a 14 year old can then they really dont stand much chance and they need to sort it out QUICKLY.

Dan White - Cleve R.F.C

  • 87.
  • At 04:35 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Adrian wrote:

I was in Paris and what a woeful, disgraceful performance. Only Robinson appeared to play with pride and passion and the privilege of wearing his country's colours.

Farrell was clueless, how many times did he kick straight to SA and didn't alter the strategy once?

Tactically we were a mess, why did we keep kicking so much ball away? Good teams keep the ball and recycle possession, it is the only way to win and score points: pressure rugby.

AND we are DESPERATELY needing a captain. OK one cannot replace Johnno, but someone who inspires or can change tactics mid-game pleeease.

Also this should spur Rob Andrew and the muppets at the RFU to get an agreeement on the professional game, number of games played per year, foreign players at our clubs etc etc and take our professional game into the Southern Hemisphere league as we are in danger of going a generation behind.

  • 88.
  • At 04:46 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • D. Vickers wrote:

If the mind isn't right it doesn't matter how good the body is. Our team has been sliding ever since the people who inspired the mind-set up to WC 2003 left i.e. Clive Woodward and Martin Johnson. It's people who are inately perfectionist with a single minded determination, and not afraid to show it publicly, who will get England back on track. We have bags of talent, we just need leaders with clout!

  • 89.
  • At 04:50 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • M J James wrote:

Where was the vision, agression, passion, pace, urgency, game play, pride, kicking ability etc? Surely getting to the breakdown in numbers asap is something that school boys learn? It was just as though the England players had all been given sedatives.
Jason Robinson showed up every other member of the team ---what commitment!
The Farrel experiment must surely be over -- except of course that much of our game play now resembles Rugby League! Here's a thought -- perhaps most of these Union guys could go the other way!

  • 90.
  • At 04:50 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

shame on you english!!!jaja

  • 91.
  • At 04:57 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Leigh Coles wrote:

I haven't seen such a lacklustre performance for a while.
No tactics, poor kicking, lack of pace, no invention and apart from Jason Robinson a lack of heart and conviction.
We seem unable to do even the basics right, and as a consequence are always on the back foot.
Clearing lines, catching the ball, running straight and fast,not taking the ball standing still, good contact skills - these are taught at schoolboy level but seem lacking in a team(?) of professionals!
I can only hope that the introduction of some pace to the backs and the back row will be remedied after the end of this debacle and in time for the next 6 Nations. And eventually build for the next world cup.

  • 92.
  • At 05:00 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Lambo wrote:

Truly dreadful last night. And it says a lot that no-one is even bothering to select a team on these pages.

  • 93.
  • At 05:15 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Debbie wrote:

Jason Robinson's courage,heart and commitment to the game should show as a test to the rest of our team in future games.
They must realise what a truely class act he is and follow his lead.

If they can't even try to do that,then we might as well give up now.
Damn i'm gonna miss Jason's determination to win and love of the game in general.

  • 94.
  • At 05:18 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • ian macko wrote:

The comment fom Slapper makes me laugh comment no75,you sound like you know nothing about Rugby.The RL influence you are on about won you lot the last World Cup.With Jason Robinson and Phil Larder showing you how to attack and defend,so less of the RL knocking.

  • 95.
  • At 05:19 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Andrea fuccilio wrote:

Did you see the man sat next to jake white in the south africa jacket , eddie jones must laughing at the shambles england rfu are, ashton is a man 10-15 years out of date .
corry as captain didnt england learn anything from his laughing stock captainty ,eddie jones was in england and could have taken england , but no now look , come on samoa

  • 96.
  • At 05:20 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • luke earle-wright wrote:

England did,nt play to the portentously
. England i sort did,nt even field a good team they had no proper stand off and andy farall and catt were not up to scratch! If england are going to have any go at samoa then they need Jonny Wilkinson and a good strong team that will have to be able to withstand samoa,s physicality!

  • 97.
  • At 06:05 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Andy Houston wrote:

The matter about whether England can cut the mustard with the world's best was decided not yesterday but some time ago.
The simple fact is that England with never be a credible force in the world until they adopt the southern hemispere style game.
Wales took up this mantle several years back and are at least trying to play this way and giving the paying public something watch which entertains.A 12 pt defeat by Australia makes England look positively second rate.

  • 98.
  • At 06:18 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • laverite wrote:

Ok, here goes: how about the phrase so rarely heard in England "Not good enough". Search all the reasons, blame everyone you can but it comes down to this. Face it, you stink. In sports I mean. Pick one: athletics, cricket, even football. When there is an international stage, England flops. Yes even football, you've never ever won the European Championship (have you even been in the final?) and won the World Cup as the only team to play all its matches in one stadium and on a goal that never crossed the line - your one and only final. Well maybe in 2066 but more likely in rugby-less international competition.

  • 99.
  • At 06:26 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Sam Court wrote:

There's a lot of players in this team who don't deserve to be in a white jeresey - what an absolute farce. A drubbing I can accept - all teams receive them at some point, but to not score a single point? Or even look like it? There is not one positive thing that can be taken from that game.

I never want to see Day-glo, Perry, Freshwater, Chuter, Noon, Farrell and Regan any where a white jersey ever again. We need to be looking to the likes of Rees, Haskell, Easter, Flood, Ellis (who has got a lot better), Geraghty (excuse spelling), Sacke (if he can learn to tackle), Abendenon (agaon exceuse spelling) Tait etc. And actually play these guys in their positions. I agree with the other comments about writing off the immediate 6N - start building for the future. The next team has to be solid, gel and know that if they make a break, they'll have support and not get turned over.

I'd even be tempted to drop Johnny until he is 100% back to his best - at least it'll would provide some stability.

And as for coaching - look to the SH and get someone with some fresh ideas. These guys are doing wonders for the minnows - why not us?

  • 100.
  • At 06:51 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • john bull wrote:

In key positions any team needs creative, dynamic, influential and inspiring individuals.

To be creative and dynamic requires cleverness. In other words intelligence and ingenuity. Currently England has no one intelligent enough to make a difference and that includes the coach. They are all too THICK. Just listen to Corry !

I rest my case. We can only wait patiently until people of the required calibre present themselves.

By the way Brian Ashton, in place of passion try drive, commitment, pride,
explosive dynamism, pace.

Western Samoa will knock seven bells out of your team. They have real drive and and enough guile.

England over, but not out. We should bring over the Saxon's squad that achieved an unexpected win over the NZ Maori's. This team should now be the future building block for the six nations title. Ashton should go, and England should employ a Southern Hemisphere coach (any takers)? Samoa will be tough, but we're not out.........

  • 102.
  • At 07:28 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • simon wrote:

With no leadership, no strategy, weak tackling, slow around the pitch and poor kicking, the weakest England squad in decades looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Totally out-classed for 80 mins, England were lucky to get away with only a 36 point thrashing. Hopefully this embarassment will serve as a management lesson for the future, who was the genius who appointed A.Robinson as coach anyway? 4 years completely wasted with no talent development confirmed England as a one-man point scoring team.. and when 'the man' is injured, it's lights-out.

  • 103.
  • At 07:44 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • colin K wrote:

If only the Brits. had had the same spirit, determination and sheer guts demonstrated by Jason Robinson last night there might well have been a more encouraging result. The basic skills are there- but there seems to be no team "spirit"... who creates this? Well - Mr. Ashton doesn't. How about bringing back Clive Woodward for the rest of the world cup - we might then still win.

  • 104.
  • At 07:58 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Pete wrote:

I think england have a long way to go. :)

  • 105.
  • At 08:00 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Francois Conradie wrote:

I have to agree with John-Parker Hall that England were not that bad.As a SA fan in SA your game reminded me of our previous efforts in the 2003 WC.We had a lot of possession and did not know what to do with it-ditto for England 2007.I would suggest,as SA have done, is to get a very good Southern Hemisphere backline coach on board,so to speak.SA did it with Eddie Jones and it paid off-hopefully right to the finals.Your forwards were exceptionally competitive and to my surprise had the edge over us in the set scrums.No need to tinker there.

Your main weakness is your non-existent backline and with your clubplayers on view here on SA Pay Channels I cannot understand your selection process at all.You guys do have the talent but the RFU apparently has a ban on talent in the selection process.

Although we are exceptionally happy here in SA with the team,realistically I have to favor the All Blacks to take the WC as they have the better bench(replacements).So my money would have to go with the AB's to take it in the last 20min of the game.

A last observation:the refreeing last night was not up to scratch and biased towards us but I do not think that even a English ref would have made much of a difference in the outcome.Unfortunately the refreeing on a whole is a tad dissapointing.

  • 106.
  • At 08:12 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Go Bokke wrote:

Do I detect some sour grapes from you evilspindoctor? SA have played a clinical game sticked to the game plan something that that was not even detected in the English side. Looking at their body language in the start of the game they looked like a beaten side from the start.
SA will raise their game when they meet NZ or the Aussies.

  • 107.
  • At 08:18 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Smithler wrote:

Totally dire. I agree that England's kicking game was just plain stupid - it was obvious even to my Dad (who doen't follow rugby) that continuously kicking long from 22 drop outs and kick offs was not working - mainly because SA were much better at returning the kicks and finding touch. We don't seem to think during the game - just play like a (badly) programmed computer.

Mike Catt showed that although a useful impact player does not have the distance or accuracy on his kicks and i can't count the number of touches he failed to make. In contrast Montgomery found touch on the returns and pinned us back.

Don't even get me started on the lineout - throwing to the back 5 metres from our own line??!!!! Johnson must have been tearing his hair out in the studio.

The biggest frustration is not that we lost - let's face it their team simply has better players than ours and even playing well we probably would have. The frustration is that our tactics and nouse are so off-kilter. Wales and Scotland have no more talent in their teams (or rather not significantly more) but they run good lines and make good tactical decisions that MAXIMISE their potential. We just scupper ours. And why we cannot just run decent lines from deep in the backs has always mystified me (even true in 2003).

Robinson and Lewsey only class acts.

I was prepared to give Ashton the benefit of the doubt but the way he has chopped and changed the team is reminiscent of what Andy Robinson did (remember him taking henry paul off after 20 minutes?). No wonder we have no cohesion if he is not prepared to choose a first choice team and stick to it. How can dallaglio or Easter play well if they both think their position is in doubt each game.

I could go on but it is too depressing. The only good thing to watch about England was Jason R and now he is crocked. Without him there truly is nothing to enjoy left about England.

  • 108.
  • At 09:00 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Peter Walmsley wrote:

Look at the Premiership for the foundation of this debacle . Pumped up gym monkeys with the single game plan of trying to intimidate the opposition - When you get to International standards they will be as big as you and then then will have pace as well - Without pace and players who think on their feet we are going home early.

  • 109.
  • At 09:37 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Dave Stiles wrote:

Four years ago I said I would not care if England did not win a game again I DID NOT MEEN IT. But hey ho time will tell it took eight years to build the team that gave us the glory so we have four to go. My only hope is that I do not become as sad as the soccer mob who groan on about 1966 and all that dull drivel..

  • 110.
  • At 09:37 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Peter Manning wrote:

Hopeless and agonising - I walked out of the pub about 10 mins into the 2nd half - my rugby shirt taken off in disgust.

First the moaning - Andy Farrel - give the money back and get back to league - you have NO idea how to play union and didn't deserve to be on the pitch - all that praise and he was bloody useless...Martin Corry couldn't lead a drunk to a pub - he is a player that looks like a club 4th team reject - and is a hopeless captain - at least if Dallaglio had been picked he would of given some passion.

If Brian Ashton did have a game plan made 3 weeks ago - perhaps next time you should tell the players what it is...

BUT I would like to try to be positive...and look on a bright side...nope..sorry can't...terrible game, terrible team - mmm I am partly Irish - maybe I should support Ireland instead - oops not on tonights performance it seems..maybe Georgia would be better..

  • 111.
  • At 09:47 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Mark Beresford wrote:

I watched it on the big screen at the odeon and I thought South Africa were immense, as I expected them to be and England were much poorer than I thought they would be. I was surprised that we failed to get any points on the board but also that South African looked so impressive going forward, always seeming to have options and awesome in defence, never allowing a 2d England through.

  • 112.
  • At 10:06 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • BUSHY wrote:

It is an even more joyous time than usual to support New Zealand or South Africa or Australia or France or Argentina or Ireland or Wales or Scotland or Italy of Fiji or Samoa or Canada or Namibia or Georgia or Tonga or Portugal or etc etc etc

Ya beauty !!!!!!!!!!!

  • 113.
  • At 10:37 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • G Shepherd wrote:

Blame league, Blame Faz, blame Mike Ford blah blah blah.

You weren't whinging when Phil Larder masterminded the England team's defence or when Jason Robinson score our only try in the World Cup Final in 2003.

No have a look deeper. A side, and Cup cannot be bought. The team needs to built over time from the range of starlets coming through, and they need to be supported and encouraged.

The RFU created this mess when they failed to give Woodward the resources and backing 4 years ago.

The media has snuggled up and enjoyed the fuss the RFU has made of them, and then conned the players and supporters into believing we are still the best in the world.

  • 114.
  • At 10:43 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Pagey wrote:

Just back from Paris having spent a lot of Euro to get there and looking forward to the game for 18 mths since buying the tickets. Atmosphere and support was great at the start but letting a soft try in early on quietened things down. Whilst 10-0 down at 1/2 time would have been acceptable as England appeared to be plodding back into the game a questionable penaltly and another soft try just before 40 mins put the nail in the coffin making it an irrecoverable 20-0. Wilko make a difference? Not sure as no kickable chances. Were just too slow, no passion, not physical or incisive enough, gave the ball away too many times and made too many silly mistakes. Robbo only one to lead the way and I'm sure was about to score right in front of us until til he pulled up. Nothing really lost as England probably expected not to win this one but leaves the next 2 results in doubt to even progress - and I've got to go back for the Tonga game in 2 weeks! Lets use this to look forward and start to build now for a formidable team to contest for the cup in 2011.

  • 115.
  • At 10:53 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Gus wrote:

Absolutely abominable display of Rugbyfrom England... If not for the hurrendous margin of defeat, certainly for the lack of passion and fight in what has to be the biggest capitulation of any England team in living memory. Does the shirt mean that little to those who are priviledged enough to wear it? I truly hope we can salvage some pride and cease to play with the fear that has been so crippling thus far. congrats to to Springboks on a world class display.

  • 116.
  • At 11:50 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Paul Irving wrote:

Slow, slow, slow! Perry was standing around shouting at team mates while the ball was sitting on the ground in front of him, time after time. By the time he picked it up, the Boks had got themselves organised. No quick ball until Gomarsall came on, & it was much too late by then. Distributing the ball seems to have become a forgotten art in this team. Running straight for the nearest opposing player seems to compulsory when in possession of the ball (Robinson excepted), or kicking it straight to one of them.

Depressing.

  • 117.
  • At 12:06 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Kalahari_Surfer wrote:

What a good display from the Boks, England were lucky they didn't score another 2 or 3 tries. And after SA's 2nd team narrowly losing to both the All Blacks and Australia in the Tri-Nations, i look forward to SA lifting the World Cup again.

If England want to be taken seriously in World Rugby they'll have to have a major re-think on tactics and team spirit, they look so weary during the game, which was a major disappointment esp after the said the touring team that got trounced by the Boks was their 3rd team, at least England on tour scored some points against the Boks

  • 118.
  • At 12:49 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Darren Child wrote:

The English forwards were slow, cumbersome and utterly rubbish.
The backs can only perform when provided with quick balls and the likes of Corry and co seem to delight in trundling the ball in falling over and slowing the game up.
Catt and Farrell both have the ball skills ( Farrell the better distributor and defense by far ), but need the space to perform from a pack that is moving over the gain line.
We need a fast replacement for Robinson who can take the ball from Farrells excellent passing game.
Failing that you could always watch a decent game of riugby and tune in to Super League on a Friday night..

  • 119.
  • At 01:31 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Donnyballgame wrote:

This RWC is nothing more than the culmination of a complete collapse by England. But the causes are bizarre. It is amazing how a team and structure which produced RWC Champs 4 years ago could turn to mud so fast. Are our players really as bad as they appear? Well, we are only as good as our last game, and that means we are bad. At least, so is Ireland.

Why? It is more than the obvious RFU failures. More than the Club v. Country tiff. And more than bad coaching and myopic game plans. Although that is all true and a huge part of our fall from grace.

I also think there are not enough English players in the Premiership. Meaning not enough English players exposed to the top levels of play. This also means fewer English players playing more matches. So we have fewer good players and they are stretched. There may be a bigger English player pool at the U18s or school levels than in the Southern Hemisphere, but there are fewer players in the top levels.

The alternatives are to enforce a hard limit on foreign nationals, or expand the Premiership back to 14 teams. Understanding current business realities, with strong planning and vetting of finances, this could work. The club game is strong enough now to support it. For example, how about the Cornwall/Exeter area and Northampton? Opportunity for success is high. And this means more England qualified players playing in the top level. Of course, this is only a part of the answer.

We need better coaching, real synergies between the clubs and the RFU, hard limits on games played, better conditioning, and more opportunities for young players. And we need all of this yesterday.

  • 120.
  • At 02:05 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Mr Jones. wrote:

I'd like to ask the question to mr chris holmes....

Why do you hate the AB's so much?

They play the highest quality of rugby this universe has ever seen?

I'm welsh, so this isn't coming from an nzer, but it sounds like a bunch of jelousy to me!!

Just because England are terrible, don't hate!!! Congratulate!!!

  • 121.
  • At 03:18 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Becks T wrote:

"when we lost badly in Australia at least Varndell looked as if he was dangerous"

Mark, you must have been watching a different match. When I saw Varndell at the Telstradome in Melbourne he was like a bunny in headlights every time Lote headed his way.
It was very discouraging and I have to confess at the time that I wondered why he was in the team.
However many bloggers are right. We need to accept that creating the next world-beating team does take time and commitment. In dismissing Varndell's performance that night I was guilty of wanting immediate victory. I should have been more stoical in accepting that we were giving young players valuable experience (although the process can be quite hard to watch sometimes!). I assume that there is big external pressure (sponsors, media) exerted on team managements to deliver and deliver constantly. And I'm guessing that the advent of the professional game has hugely increased that pressure.

  • 122.
  • At 05:29 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Woody wrote:

1. Strategic Picture. Highly relevant points made at Nos 113 & 119 above + others vis a vis responsibilities at RFU and top Premiership Management level. They must put in place the infrastructure & development plan for the Eng Squad (that ought to have been put in place from the moment MJ lifted the cup in 2003) for the good of English rugby.

2. Tactical Picture. Ok, an uncomfortable battle lost, but not the war. The boys NEED our support right now not a plethora of 'supposeds' dashing to the Titanic lifeboats ahead of the women & children. Get a grip, we can still actually win this RWC.

3. Pointers. Game Plan Samoa, Tonga & beyond:

*Confidence & Attitude. I want to see passion and the boys fired up, in the opposition's faces and ready to give 120% nothing else - we gifted SA too much respect! - e.g. why fail to compete on any SA lineouts....? 'take them on', disrupt / win their ball!
* Game Plan. It has to be 'Ball in Hand'. Back to JW-style hanging 10m short KOs and drive; drive; drive. Zero in field kicking - run good angles; drive; re-cycle and build phases up field.
*Ruck & Maul. Eng must stay on feet & drive (as it used to do to great effect 30m+ Vs SA & Oz & ABs?) to commit opp defence and then release ball with channel options and at pace.
* Selection. (Fit squad basis) (Fwds) Sheridan; Chuter; Freshwater; Shaw; Borthwick; Moody; Dallaglio; Corry. (Backs) Gomershall-9; Wilkinson-10; Cueto-11; Lewsey-12; Noon-13; Hipkiss-14; Farrell-15.
*Rationale:
a) Pack to keep it v tight & controlled. Working in 100% x8 'driving' mode as per fresh tactical script, this '8' will win, retain & provide the controlled & timely ball Eng needs to launch back line.
b) Backs - no need to flag stark lessons learned kicking away prime possession unnecessarily. Gomershall will marshal with far more effect; JW to bring latent tactical; defensive and kicking skills to proceedings; Josh L - an excellent & under used talent who I believe would be pivotal with pace & flair outside JW at 12. Jamie Noon - effectively he has had zero decent ball thus far - a v good asset and stays. Cueto & Hipkiss in and Eng working to give them far better attacking ball. I select Andy Farrell at 15.... why? In most recent games the back line simply hasn't had any top quality ball - period. He is a talent, will take the high ball and given the game 'control' up front I actually believe that AF could be a very potent 'running' weapon coming in from 15 at pace teaming with JW & JL.

NB - 'if' Jamie Noon is out injured then Matthew Tait in at 13. If JW still unavailable then Ollie Barkley in at 10. 'If' both are still out, then my No 10 would be Josh Lewsey.... with Richards & Tait in the centre.

5. Final Point - Best of luck to the squad..... get out there and do the business lads - you CAN AND WILL turn around the situation and confound the critics...... GO FOR IT.

  • 123.
  • At 08:15 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Paul Spiro wrote:

England will have to lift their game and grow huge b***s b4 they meet Samoa, our cuzzies from the South Pacific will be sensing the fear and give them a hurry up..........could be good for the game.

  • 124.
  • At 08:23 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Big Kiwi wrote:

Sorry Woody your misplaced trust in all of those suggestions is admirable and very patriotic but reading back through all the comments those that make the most sense are the ones with true vision for the future. Not next week or even next year, but 2011 and beyond. Ask your self a simple question; why is New Zealand with a population of 4 million people spoilt for choice when it comes to good players? Simple answer the rugby experience starts almost before a child can walk. Yes the statement is meant to be extreme but that’s the future of rugby in England, look as far ahead as 2015. When Graham Henry was in charge of Wales what was one of his first tasks – he rejuvenated rugby in schools, I love the game and am frustrated when a national side that won the world cup has sunk to such depths of despair. Woody please note my blog avoids naming and shaming any individual forget all that and look far into the future.

  • 125.
  • At 08:49 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • ian macko wrote:

Peter Manning post 111,what ignorance you have,Farrell has played at a higher standard all his life.Rugby is supposed to be about tackling, creating,scoring tries.Not judged on Kicking,kicking and more kicking.

  • 126.
  • At 08:59 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Ian Howard wrote:

Until the whole focus of rugby in England is on producing a high quality national side I feel the future is bleak. Rugby is fast approaching the farce that english soccer finds its self in. Too many overseas players and too many powerful senior clubs serving their own self interest. I do not expect england to do well for some world cups to come!

  • 127.
  • At 09:07 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Gordon Brember wrote:

I think the team are just embarassed to be wearing that awful kit. How can anyone wear that strip with any pride!

Seriously let's get rid of the kit - get a clean sheet of paper and start working on the squad for 2011, even if we lose a few (or all) matches in the next 6 nations

  • 128.
  • At 09:18 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Duncan McLennan wrote:

England is the largest Rugby playing country in the world, with the highest wages of any domestic league and biggest player base, is totally unable to convert this into any sort of international form. Hardly surprising in reality, 12 teams in the premiership with squads full of players from every country in the world and hardly any home grown talent. With only about 150 British Premiership players (My guess) to select from how can we perform? If we have the best league we have to fill it with British players.

What has Rob Andrew done to earn is salary?

How unsuccessful was Ashton with Ireland?

Why do we pay them when they lose? NO win NO FEE. BIG WIN BIG FEE. (It’s called an incentive!!!)

  • 129.
  • At 09:24 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Daniel Snell wrote:

The RFU is entirely responsible for the current situation. You can not blame the players. The whole system, vision, structure and implementation is poor.

We need an entire shake up at the top. Don't change the team until you have changed the management otherwise you are simply dealing with the effects and not the cause.

Time for a new vision, fresh and intelligent minds that can think beyond the current levels at are being demonstrated at the top. It can't be about nepotism or power at the top, instead it has to be about vision and ideas otherwise this will continue to unravel. No need to panic, just think differently.

  • 130.
  • At 09:42 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Smithler wrote:

I totally agree with that - i think Rob Andrew should step up to the mark and take the management position if he thinks he can do something - rather than banking a big salary for looking pensive in the stands and garbling rhetoric about game plans (which never materialise).

I wish in general someone would just say we are NOT GOOD ENOUGH rather than pretending that 20 crap performances are just us not "playing to our potential".

  • 131.
  • At 09:43 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Big Kiwi wrote:

Comments 126 127 and 128 are like breaths of fresh air this is exactly the thinking that will restore English Rugby to its rightful place in the world right back at the top. Yes I am a Kiwi but I love the game and want to see good rugby not newspaper excuses

  • 132.
  • At 09:46 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Woody wrote:

..... appreciated 'Big Kiwi', whether or not, you are sitting in an internet cafe on the Champs Elysee enjoying a Parisian cafe noir waiting to attend the next AB match or are back down under supporting avidly!

Your feedback on the 'Strategic' issues I trust will be heeded in the highest echelons of English rugby management. No hiding place here on the need to have looked diligently far over the brow of the hill and beyond x48 months ago - period.

The 'here and now'? As an avid supporter I am not in the business of consigning my team to any bin and discarding them - you wouldn't either. Things can go wrong; badly wrong; but the squad knows this more than anyone else. But...I want to see those chins right up; a positive game plan; creativity in selection; re-newed confidence and results reflecting the fact that the 'team' gave their all.

The RWC is a wonderful event. If as widely predicted 2007 is to be the Kiwi's after x20 years; the Boks after 12 years or the Wallabies after 8 years then congratulations - this is certainly where the expectation lies.

This year is v exciting and the emergence of other aspiring nations makes the future of the game fascinating.

But, let's see how the next round of matches goes..... enjoy the cafe noir! Cheers, Woody

  • 133.
  • At 10:31 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

A very weak performance, disappointing. Lets hope we at least beat Samoa to restore some pride.

Just want to say that Jason Robinson proved what a legend he is in this game, one of the true greats. It brought a tear to my eye when he hobbled off, the one player to be worthy of wearing the jersey. I will never forget his talent, he has proved a match winner for both England and Lions and been a true inspiration.

I think Farrell has been harshly treated, think he did okay. The real issue is the pack - we did ok at scrum time, but what has happened to the old English venom, has just vapourised. We have not been physical enough and have been outmuscled by SA and even USA in parts - wheres the damn passion gone up front?!

  • 134.
  • At 10:46 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • IPD wrote:

Can anybody tell me the last time England scored zero in a rugby match?

  • 135.
  • At 10:54 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Polemic wrote:

I agree with Francois (105).
The real problem was our non-existant back division. It could be argued (let's face it, most of the comments on this site are little more than drivel; probably posted by one-eyed couch potatoes)our team had the misfortune to suffer from injuries - the same as every other team. It is to be expected in this type of competition.
The real culprit for this underperforming team is the RFU and their woeful organization. Surprising though it may seem, England won the last World Cup despite the RFU.
You only have to look at Twickenham (that shambles of a National stadium) to realize that the RFU are interested in only one thing; grabbing as much money as they can. What do they do with our money? Trot it down to the, 'East India' club and enjoy fat lunches with the pick of the wine cellar.
Until there is a complete re-oganization at the top England will continue to struggle. Francis Baron should do the decent thing and go now!
You wont catch me at Twickenham again. I'm no paying rip-off prices to be shoe-horned into a stadium that was never designed to seat 82,000.
Francois was right, England did have the better tight-five. But outside that tight-five...Forget it!...There was only ever going to be one winner; and they won in style.

  • 136.
  • At 10:56 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • AngusL wrote:

Look at the Guinness Prem results this weekend. Look at who scored the tries.
Look at the composition of the teams. You will realise why England lost 36-0.

Rugby is a very positional game. It is not a Simple Lowest Common Denominator game like Football. You cannot flood your local leagues with non national players and expect the National side to remain healthy.
This works to an extent in football because players can adapt and change position. You have two basic types of players goal keepers and outfield plyers. Rugby has 10 different types of players.
Props, Hooker, Flankers, Locks, 8th Man, Scrumhalf, Fly half, centres, wingers and full back.
Centres just don't become Props. A Hooker cannot be a Fly Half.
Where are Englands next generation of Centres, Locks, Props, Flankers. There's no space for them in England because those positions are full of Kiwis, South Africans and Australians.

NZ, SA and Aus realised this about 10 years ago and to protect the national side they do not pick players for the national squad if they play outside that country. Monty from SA being the exception to the rule.
They do not alow non nationals to fill key positions at club level unless approved by the national authority.
SA allowed Townsend to be brought in as Fly Half in Durban, but they would not allow any other regional side to bring in a non national fly half until he left the Sharks.
Likewise when Michalak joins Natal after RWC, no other non South African Fly half will be permited in South African Super14 teams.

Half the Current Bok 15 will be moving to English and French teams next year. A number of Wallabies and AB's will be joining them.

SA, Aus, NZ will fill spaces in their leagues with bright young things that will become the dominant forces in 5 years years time.

England will clog their league with very good, but old, non national players who will provide fantastic entertainment for their clubs for a year or two, but will provide nothing for English National Side.

This is the thin edge of the wedge, I doubt England would even qualify for the next RWC if current situation is not massively overhawled.

  • 137.
  • At 11:18 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Derek Atkinson wrote:

Agree entirely with the comment 129 and 130.
It's all well and good being a poseur but it doesn't help the team.

I recall with a comment made some years ago that applies today "boring old farts"

Where are all the young players coming through into the squad as per other countries?

  • 138.
  • At 11:35 AM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

As a South African Friday night was a vindication of sticking by a coach with potential, not pushing the "ejector seat" button whenever the media bays for blood, like they do in England. And that goes for footy and cricket too. There's this massive expectation and buildup in the media, then the knives come out when the team doesn't perform. Think McLaren if they hadn't won so convincingly last week in the Euro qualifiers!

Trust me, SA rugby has a lot of internal problems, that aren't faced in Europe, but to me the problems with English rugby stem from an attitude to build up then tear down far too quickly.

Had the same media conditions existed in SA last year, Jake White would have been axed, then who knows if Friday night's result would have been the same?

Instead White has had 18 months to build, nip and tuck (not without interference though), but now the SA team is gelled and confident.

Solution for England? I agree with previous posters saying take young talented players now and build a team for 2009,10,11...forget the next 2 years...but would the media allow the new coach and team the time to do this? I doubt it!

  • 139.
  • At 01:36 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Flyhalf wrote:

There are plenty of young players coming through - one of the success stories of professional rugby has been the establishment of strong Academies by the Premiership clubs. The problem is that Ashton doesn't have the foresight to pick them. Instead, he has relied on players from clubs he's previously been involved with - players that are simply not up to the task.

To lay the blame at the door of the professional clubs (a favourite hobby-horse of Andrew, Baron, and others at the RFU) is also unfair. England have had unprecedented access to players in the lead-up to this world cup. There have been numerous England squad weeks in the past two years, plus the ten weeks of 6 Nations and Autumn internationals duty each year. And don't forget that all of the current squad for this RWC have been available to Ashton since May. That's four months in which he should've been able to develop a side that should've been capable of putting up a better performance than the inept display we saw on Friday.

Meanwhile, the clubs have continued to fulfill their Premiership fixtures with depleted squads - is it any surprise that they reinforce their squads with foreign players to compensate for when English players are unavailable?

Yes, we do need to start building towards 2011. But to blood an entire squad of youngsters would be counter-productive as the Tour to Hell proved. The England coach (and hopefully it will be a new one once this RWC is over) needs to be ruthless with the existing players but they also need to retain a core of experience within the team so that these younger players can be introduced gradually. England didn't win the RWC in 2003 because they were the better side. They won it because, in the years before that final, they were winning games and gaining confidence. This momentum gave them a winning mentality until, by 2003, the entire squad believed they were unbeatable. It's that same unbeatable mentality that currently pervades the NZ and SA teams in this RWC - which is why one of them will certainly lift the trophy next month.

Instead of maintaining and building on this winning momentum after 2003, either wholesale changes were made and England started to lose matches. It was all downhill from there. To let another 15 untested players get stuffed in the name of development will set the England team back a further four years.

  • 140.
  • At 01:56 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • francis verity - old lag wrote:

with the greatest respect to the lads who worked their socks off, there were several selection and positional decisions which hardly helped.jason robinson - the hardest working player in this or any team and the most likely try scorer for england. stuck at the back! catt and farrell. centre andor half back??? like the two ugly sisters. I'll kick with me right foot if you kick with your left?? use farrell as atacking defence. ex-league, at least he knows how to tackle. 2nd row - should be able to intimidate ANYONE. c'mon, you're the biggest blokes on the park. and last but not least can we please have a captain who'll take on the ref. as well as the opposition like martin johnson did. cheers guys

  • 141.
  • At 02:18 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Tom M wrote:

I love the game of rugby, particularly the free-flowing, fast-thinking, clever sort. This means that I end up mostly watching Super 14, Currie Cup and Air New Zealand Cup rugby. Being a pom, I wish that wasn't the case, but I don't find watching most Guiness Premiership matches very interesting at all. Most people aren't like me and prefer to watch their national tournament. This national league's limitations are exposed when England have to play some decent teams, and then the debate comes out as to why we are so far behind, given the resources our game has. And all the reasons are completely valid - too many foreigners in our premier league, and self-interest of the RFU being most important in my view.

I don't think England's problems will ever be resovled - the RFU is too protected, there are too many green-wellied numpties who visit Twickenham and line the RFU's pockets without genuinely caring about the result, and most horrifically of all, is that the coaching standards of our young kids is laughable, apart from a select (mostly unpaid) few. If we want to change it, let's get out there and use our collective wisdom to teach kids better skills, coach touch rugby, and encourage kids to do what our England team are currently not doing. In this way, we can do our part, and it is up to the RFU and those wh create the Premiership league rules to do their part.

My only gripe is the inward looking mentality of the IRB - Why are Georgia, Romania and Portugal not in a league structure where they have the potential to play better teams? Why on earth are Argentina not involved in anything? What about the plucky Canadians, Americans and Namibians? There lies the true tragedy of this world cup and just proves that the RFU reflects the soul of the IRB - to protect 'top tier' teams at all costs, which means rugby will always find it difficult to appeal to the masses.

  • 142.
  • At 02:51 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • francis verity - old lag wrote:

with the greatest respect to the lads who worked their socks off, there were several selection and positional decisions which hardly helped.jason robinson - the hardest working player in this or any team and the most likely try scorer for england. stuck at the back! catt and farrell. centre andor half back??? like the two ugly sisters. I'll kick with me right foot if you kick with your left?? use farrell as atacking defence. ex-league, at least he knows how to tackle. 2nd row - should be able to intimidate ANYONE. c'mon, you're the biggest blokes on the park. and last but not least can we please have a captain who'll take on the ref. as well as the opposition like martin johnson did. cheers guys

  • 143.
  • At 02:57 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • stuart robinson wrote:

Assuming all are fit (a big assumption for this team) am I the only one who thinks that with Johnny starting at 10, Ollie Barkely could easily sit at 12 - he plays there for Bath and was the only positive factor in the game against USA. Catt has lost his spark and as for the rest ....

  • 144.
  • At 03:06 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Paul Nicholl wrote:

It's no suprise that the New Zealand, South Africa & Australia are doing well, while England France & Ireland are struggling. The reason is the timing of this world cup - early September is the very beginning of the Northern Hemisphere season and it is little wonder that our teams are not playing anything like we know they can.
I wonder what the Southern Hemisphere would say if it was suggested that the next world cup should be held in May - no chance!

  • 145.
  • At 03:35 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • Big Kiwi wrote:

Tom M is totally correct the IRB must increase the number of countries who are able to compete in international zonal competitions, as an expat Kiwi I have never understood why the tri nations hasn’t been extended to include the Puma’s. OK the Pacific Island teams are not big budget operations but surely Fiji, Tonga, Samoa are the basis of a zonal competition and how about Japan??

English clubs do have a dilemma in attracting the ‘sports dollar’ and a few international names in the club line whilst a great crowd puller is denying local talent the opportunity to develop and become the core of future English rugby. It’s a tough call for English rugby but maybe they should go down the same ‘right to play’ path as South Africa and New Zealand.

  • 146.
  • At 03:39 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • rob_vet69 wrote:

Good comment from Tom M on a number of fronts but especially on the RFUs attitude and also on the IRBs attitude to the smaller nations. It is a discgrace that the 2011 RWC is not in Japan.

Georgia were superb last night. Portugal may have taken 2 heavy beatings so far but look at what it means to their players to play for them.

A leaf needs to be taken out of the 7s circuit where the gap between nations is closing. There needs to be a platform for the so-called lesser nations to step up. Perhaps a 2-tier 6 nations could be the way forward with promotion and relegation each year?

  • 147.
  • At 04:18 PM on 16 Sep 2007,
  • david conner wrote:

This is hardly surprising. What have Englands performances been like since they won the world cup. Pretty Abismal! Get rid of the old and start afresh for the next world cup NOW!

  • 148.
  • At 03:58 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Steve B wrote:

I think that everybody has gone over the top in their critiscism of England including the media.
The fact is, that South Africa are one of the best two teams in the world, they have some great players and have moulded like England did in 2003. They will give NZ a good run and many views are moving towards fancying them.
England were largely hampered by weakness in a few critical positions. Basically they are not as bad as the are being reported. Catt and Farrell didn't work and Brian Ashton shouldn't have expected it too. Neither of these guys can compete in the creative engine room or the kicking department on the world stage.
Our field kicking was so poor it probably cost us 20 points of the 36 difference. We could not relieve any pressure and were pinned back for most of the time until Q4.
Wilkinson and Barckley must play every game now if they are fit.
Drop Catt - he is finished at this level.
Drop Sackey - he is too weak defensively and didn't seem to have much idea with ball in hands.
Best drop Farrel unless he is needed defensively vs Australia. Play Tait at outside.
There are risks but this is not the time for playing safe.
Please forget Lawrence - he was once great but Easter is our man for the future. His confidence grew as the game went on.
If we manage to get through lets hope Robinson recovers for the quarter final - he is still a great player

  • 149.
  • At 09:46 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • David Cleave wrote:

What is all this talk of incurring 'short term losses' by fielding a development team of young players?

Where have the 'short term gains' been of fielding older, more experienced players?

Let's face it, we might as well start completely over after the world cup, with new faces. We have absolutely nothing now, and therefore nothing to lose.

  • 150.
  • At 10:03 AM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Steve P wrote:

I have followed English rugby for over 30 years now and fridays performance was a real 70's throw back .In the days when training and preperation consisted of a few lineouts in the car park before the coach arrived to take them to the ground.
For a professional team who have at their disposal all the modern resources that are required in modern day sport I am at a loss to explain such a misguided lacklustre performance.
I don't think it is the fact that they do not want to play for their country or they are not giving it their best I just think that we have fallen far behind the three main southern hemisphere sides in preperation.Most of the tri nations teams have been managed to the point where they have been conditioned to peak at this exact moment in time .This has meant that the players have been restricted to just the right amount of games to keep the competitive edge but kept away from the toil and grind of a full season.They look a yard faster in both speed of movement and though than any of the 6 nations sides and physically stronger.
To be able to compete again then our playing season has to be drastically changed from the disjointed mess we have at the moment to a properly constructed season which enables our top players to play fewer games but of a higher standard of quality and competitiveness .
Unfortunately the clubs and the RFU seem unlikely to be able to come to any sort of agreement and until they do I am afraid be prepared for more failure.

  • 151.
  • At 06:47 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Tony Shearer wrote:

The problem is everywhere. A completely new start is needed. Can Rob Andrew deliver this? No way. As a player he was the most boring and destroyed years of potential amongst other players. We need to start by replacing him: Bring in Les Cusworth who is doing the job for the overachieving Argentininans.

  • 152.
  • At 11:51 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • craig wrote:

There are no real surprises. We are no longer contenders as we just haven't got the necessary tools anymore. When you take a look at S. Africa or New Zealand, they have speed, innovation and penetration throughout the whole team. England's problem is in scoring tries and even creating clear opportunities for the tries. The old tactics of forcing the opposition into giving pens and having Wilko to clock on the points no longer works. We need to change our game plan i.e. start opening up defences with quick passing and smart movement and yes, start putting that ball over the line and we have to look at the backs.

Take a look at Argentina who showed by upping the tempo of their game, they were capable of turning over the French without any real problems on their home turf. Why? They were quicker, more agressive, wanted to win and tackled like absolute tigers. They also took chances and it paid off. I hope they get through as winners!

Coming back to England, the warm-up match against France at Twickenham showed that we almost don't know what to do when the try chances are there. We seem to be aprehensive and hesitant. England should have won that comfortably but we obviously lost again because we could get the ball over the line.

Wilkinson should be back but even so beware, as Tonga and Somoa are looking forward to this and have nothing to lose at all so we have to be careful!

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