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Streetwise Aussies douse England spirits

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Tom Fordyce | 20:21 UK time, Saturday, 7 November 2009

As the two team coaches drove off slowly into the dark Twickenham streets on Saturday night, a lacklustre firework display briefly erupted in the skies above them - a few bright rockets, the odd whizzer, and then nothing much to follow it all up.

It must have felt depressingly familiar to the England supporters staggering off in search of a final pint or two.  

While their gold-shirted counterparts were gathered in groups around the spanking new stands, hoisting cans aloft and singing a song or two in support of Wales 130 miles to the west, those in white and red were left bemoaning another performance that promised much but delivered too little.

England weren't dismantled. For the first quarter of the game they were in charge. What they lacked, once again, were the characteristics that used to define the teams Martin Johnson used to captain - bags of Test experience,  a battle-hardened streetwise edge, the ability to win the last 20 minutes and with them the match.

Jonny Wilkinson looks downcast at the conclusion of England's defeat.jpgJonny Wilkinson finished on the losing side despite a superb comeback to Test rugby

"We used a bit of nous out there," Wallabies coach Robbie Deans remarked afterwards, and that summed it up succinctly. Australia weren't spectacular, but they didn't need to be.

Despite shipping eight penalties in the first 40 minutes and kicking away plenty of possession, they held England at bay with growing comfort and then made increasing inroads with every attack they had.

Johnson's men had started as brightly as the autumn sunshine that filled the south-west London air. As Jonny Wilkinson's sweetly-struck drop-goal split the Twickenham posts after just two and a half minutes, there was a roar from the grandstands that was part welcome back and part excited expectation.

When a Wilkinson penalty sailed over soon after to make it 6-0, lips were smacked with anticipation, hip-flasks clinked together.

The old-stagers - Wilkinson, Steve Thompson, a marauding Lewis Moody - were enjoying their time in the spotlight, the Wallabies looking rattled.

Adam Ashley-Cooper punted poorly twice in quick succession, Will Genia decided to run alone at a wall of white and was snagged and pinged in a trice.

But, as the afternoon light faded, so did England's fire. First Genia dummied and darted to get his side on the board, then his forwards began to behave at the breakdown and invited England to run into them instead.

If Australia had come back into the match before the break, they dominated it utterly afterwards. While England failed to score a point for the final 55 minutes and almost never threatened the try-line, the visitors pinched one try from nowhere and tossed away two more from so close to somewhere that they must still be rubbing their eyes with disbelief.

That the star performers were the two young blades who had started so uncertainly will give Deans great heart for the future.

Australia scrum-half Will Genia weaves away from England flanker Tom Croft.jpgGenia was named man-of-the-match after a mature performance full of class

Genia was quick with his pass and silky-smooth with his running, looking a ready-made successor to George Gregan and Nick Farr-Jones and deservedly taking the man-of-the-match award.

Ashley-Cooper, meanwhile, must wish he could play at Twickenham every week. A year on from his debut here he produced another match-sealing try to go with the one from 12 months ago. If his Movember 'tache looks droopy, nothing else about his game does.

Johnson hasn't ever asked for patience, and he probably never will - it's not in his nature. Neither did he seek to hide behind the injury problems that have laid waste to his first-choice squad.

At the same time, his record as England manager does not make encouraging reading. He has now lost seven matches and won five; more tellingly, his England have only beaten sides ranked above them twice in 10 attempts.

"Our discipline had been very good, we'd stolen a few turnovers, but we came off the intensity before half-time and gave them the momentum, and these things build," he said afterwards.

"The second half we struggled to get out of our half, and when we did, we gave the ball back a little too easily and invited pressure back on ourselves. The try that killed us - we'd stolen the line-out ball and yet they scored in the corner.

"They are a team who have come straight out of a Test match against the All Blacks, straight out of a Tri-Nations series, and that probably told in the end a little bit. They were that little bit slicker, maybe that little bit more used to the pace of Test match rugby."

Johnson will be delighted with the performances from Wilkinson and Moody, happy with the impact made by replacements James Haskell, Courtney Lawes and Paul Hodgson, and content with the first full outing for Shane Geraghty.

While the Northampton centre had his flaky moments - witness the mishit left-foot chip that nearly led to a Wallabies score in the corner - the step and break that preceded it and a couple of other darts justified the selection.

Johnson also claimed afterwards that this experimental and callow side will be better for the experience of Saturday.

"It's like the opening game of the season if you're a club side," he said. "You do all that pre-season and then you lose the first game, it feels like the end of the world - but you wake up the next day and you've got the rest of the season ahead of you."

He's right. At the same time, Australia are also an evolving team. Before this match they were on a streak far worse than England's, the pressures on Deans much greater than those on Johnson.

They also had to deal with the jet-lag of a long flight over from Tokyo six days ago, while the Tri-Nations experience cuts both ways - one man's toughened-up is another man's battered and bruised.

They too have had injuries, not least to key man Berrick Barnes, yet the debut centre pairing of Quade Cooper and Digby Ioane looked Test class and hardened.

"The blokes really dug in there today," said skipper Rocky Elsom. "We held our composure and we wore them down, and I was really happy about that."

Australia have now won five of the last seven meetings between the two teams. For Johnson, whose reputation as a player was built on the dismantling of southern hemisphere superiority, it is one of several troubling statistics.


  • Comment number 1.

    We'll never beat the southern hemisphere teams until we realise that slow ball **COUGH DANNY CARE** does not win games. It happens every year and will happen for the next 5 years until we change our trundle-it-up-the-middle mentality. Thats not going to happen is it, realistically?

    We never look like we have any training ground moves to cythe through the opposition or have the ability to see space. The more you watch England the more you realise the gap between the hemispheres (except France!) is massive, and Australia don't even have a national championship like the GP. It's all very boring and one-dimensional. Monye aside, there was no pace in our backline today. Its just so one-paced you have to wonder how the management see us going forward. It doesn't matter that JW played well, he always does, because we lost the game.
    The only good part of our play was the line-out.

    And before anyone says 'need time' or 'injuries', just remember what the Lions did over the summer with a scratch team. We are just not as good as we think we are depth-wise (same for Wales). New Zealand beat us every year and their NPC is much more attack-minded than the guiness prem.

    We needed players with pace and vision like P.Hodgson, Strettle and Mat Tait playing from the off today. I think we'll be whitewashed in the 3 games.

  • Comment number 2.

    Austrailia kept England at bay by giving away penalty after penalty to interupt the flow of the game. The aussies were on the back foot for a lot of the game. Monye on the wing and Delon Armitage at fullback it would have been a different game. England are closer to being a winning side thanyou ive them credit for.Even in this game if JW penalty had gone over and not hit the post and we had taken one of the penaltys we kicked to touch late in the game there was only 3 points in it.

  • Comment number 3.

    P.S. The GP CEO talking about 'increasing crowds' in response to W.Gatland's comments sum up English rugby. Cold, corporate thinking instead of enterprising rugby. Everyone knows it, but WG said it.

  • Comment number 4.

    I cannot believe that I have beenn watching the same game! If it is Tom's honest belief that Geraghty's only failing was one tentavive kick, I must have been mowing the lawn for over an hour! No mention of missed tackles, being out of position or lacking any invention. No wonder English rugby is paying third fiddle to the Southern Hemishere if jounos like Tom can see only positives in indifference.

  • Comment number 5.

    JW is not a 1 man team - where were our back row? Only Haskell stood out.
    Care should be dropped - slow ball and weak / nonexistant tackling. We have no line breakers, and look 1 dimensional. We need to pick players for their position, not shoehorn them into another. Wake up Jonno!

  • Comment number 6.

    And another thing - we kicked over the midfield 5-6 times and re-gathered once.Doh! The back three looked ponderous. Erinle added nothing. After the match I watched Wales + their first half performance put our effort to shame.
    What we would give for a Shane Williams. Get Joe Simpson in the team for real fireworks! Yes Joe!rffffireworks

  • Comment number 7.

    'Austrailia kept England at bay by giving away penalty after penalty to interupt the flow of the game.'

    This is a very interesting take on what happened. Would a team really do that against the boot of Wilkinson?

  • Comment number 8.

    England were woeful. The Aussies have an incredibly young, inexperienced team, and were playing in London with jet-lag after a desperate run of form. England never looked like winning this match.

    Far too many excuses by main-stream media I'm afraid. Some realities which ought to be assessed: England have a manager who's never managed a rugby team (and it shows); Wilkinson is a good player, but not an outstanding player; England's tactics are utterly awful - far too much kicking.

    All credit to the Australians, however. They have some real class in their team and I thought Genia was wonderful.

  • Comment number 9.

    For all the trumpeting this was the same turgid fare that England served up last year. Yet again they were lacking any ambition and have not grasped that slow ball = death. What was Danny Care waiting for? The Aussie line to get sorted? That's what it looked like.

    Jonny is a superb player. But he's not God. If we continue to play a slow ball forward oriented game we'll continue to lose.

  • Comment number 10.

    None of this: "we had a solid first" half stuff - surely we could all see the aussie comeback coming a mile off.

    Australia looked in control for the most part even when behind. They were not threatened by our kicking game and we only let Geraghty off the leash for twenty minutes at FH at the end when the momentum had already swung too far.

    A decent defensive performance but that is not enough and we lost again. Ford and Wells clearly dominate the training sessions at England HQ and their ideas will NEVER EVER beat the southern hemisphere teams. Some of the players look promising but where are the plays and ideas?

    WE WERE PEDESTRIAN. I really hope for better next week (not holding out hope though).

  • Comment number 11.

    SeanPF, 301east - Hodgson did well when he came on, and the way MJ was talking about him afterwards, you'd think he has a decent chance of starting next week.

    fanofallsports - dod you not think a chap as impressive as Geraghty at club level, and rated so highly by so many good judges, deserves a little patience as he tries to find his feet at Test level?

    Hookers_armpit - what changes would you make for next week, assuming you're picking from the same group of players?

    Mr T - fancy a run-out in white next week?

  • Comment number 12.

    Hello Tom

    I feel England need to believe that a team is allowed to win despite a large injury quota, and regardless of the state of the opposition.

    It is all too easy to settle for a credible excuse, which often serves as reason to ignore pressing (albeit uncomfortable) realities.

    Why such a high number of injuries in the squad? Is the squad perhaps too old? Training/conditioning concerns? Management concerns?

    Have Ireland found the answer with their Player Management Program, or will that backfire in the form of players being 'undercooked'?

    The Tigers showed what could be done despite many first choice players not being available.

  • Comment number 13.

    about next week....

    I would like Hartley to start he looked explosive - the aussies didn't like him coming at them.

    However, for an untried pack the forwards actually secured more than enough ball and possession - the backs never really threatened, so:

    9. Hodgson - deserves a start. We need fast reliable ball.

    10/12/13 - These three should be given a run. However, lets see Geraghty swithing to FH much earlier and lets see Hipkiss making better decoy runs. The balance of this three has promise. Geraghty is 23 (22?) he was the only guy treatening to break the line today - England have precious few players who can do this. Please lets back this guy and let him develop.

    11/14/15 - Monye is wasted at FB. His speed is needed on the wing. Banahan was poor today and he will offer no theat against NZ or the top teams. Cueto was solid but offered nothing in attack - he is a winger! Better bet would be:

    11 Monye
    14 Strettle
    15 Foden/Tait

    *MJ will not make changes like this.

  • Comment number 14.

    England were woeful. The following players should never play for England again: Deacon, Borthwick, Crane, Care, Banahan, Cueto, and Monye as a full back. Danny Care was so awful that even when the ball was there for him (which wasn't often admittedly) he looked up, made a cup of tea, discussed the weather, then shipped it out. Hodgson was a huge improvement, some looped passes aside.

    And Wilkinson... It seems like he can't punt the ball any more. His kicking out of hand was well short on yards, even when he had all the time in the world when kicking a penalty or free kick to touch. Compared to Carter, Jones and Hook who made 20 or 30 yards more. His kicking out of hand was predictable, and the Aussies sat deep. Apart from that he was our best player.

    But the ultimate blame must lie with the coaches. Tactically the players look clueless. Defence was awful, again, and the forwards again had no idea or ability to dominate the breakdown. I mean, how long are Wells and Ford going to get?

  • Comment number 15.

    'bags of Test experience'

    An important point. Something that England lack. I hope the likes of Hartley, Wilson, Lawes, Croft, Haskell, Care, Geraghty, Monye continue to gain Caps. Maybe Crane & Banahan as well although I'm not sure about that duo at this level.

    Genia was excellent. I first saw him against England U20 in 2008, although England won - he was given the MOTM. The Gregan comparison seemed obvious and I knew then he'd go on to be a world class player.

  • Comment number 16.

    England played like a team who have never played together and have not been tested enough to be able to iron out selection. WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT THEY WERE.It surprising me how everyone thinks its such a shock that our cohension was so poor.

    Anyway to the player positives first.

    Wilkinson was outstanding as was Moody. I thought Wilson had a good game around the park and held his own against a good Aussie scrum. Borthwick and Croft were excellant in the lineout.

    Now the bad...

    Borthwick and Deacon were useless in the loose, as was Crane. Tim Payne was invisible. Care's delivery was slow and of poor qaulity. Gerahty had a shocking game, rubbish defence and apart from one good break looked like a rabbit trapped in headlights with the ball in hand. His passing was also as shocking as his defence.

    Hipkiss looked good early on but the Australian quickly marked him out of the game (poor tactics by England doing the same miss pass to him again and again and again).

    The back three should feel hard done by as they barely ever got the ball with space to work with. Which is a shame as when Cueto and Monye did get the ball they showed of some good moves. Banahan (whom I am a big fan of) was consistantly caught out of place and did little with the ball in hand. But in all fairness to him he never got the ball while England were on the front foot. His tackling was very good and he still offer a good cross kick option.

    So my team for next week:

    Front row

    Payne, Thompson, Wilson: All played fairly well at the set peice and will only benefit from more game time togther. Also there isn't really anyone to replace Payne.


    Shaw, Borthwick: If Shaw is fit we need his physical presence back if hes not fit start Lawes instead of Deacon. Borthwick retained as his lineout was excellant and for a bit of consistancy in the pack.


    Croft, Moody, Haskell: Croft had a bit of a hot and cold game. Hope he blows more hot than cold next week. I'm very close to dropping him and bringing Worsley back. Crane was just plain poor and while im not a fan of "brand Haskell" frankly I'd rather have the go forward Easter provides (no one will say it but we missed him today) but he added some much needed spark to the pack.


    Hodgeson, Wilkinson: When Hodgeson came on England actually started to attack!


    Gerathy, Hipkiss: I'll stick with them despite Gerathy's terrible performance. A bit of consistancy will only help him and playing weaker opposition next week might let him get a bit of confidence back. Flutey had a poor AI series last year but was a British Lion by the end of the season. We know Gerathy has the ability we need to stay carm and give him a chance. With better ball his game should improve.


    Cueto, Banahan, Monye: I think there poor peformance can be put down to the forwards and the centers not giving them any good attacking ball. Though if Banahan is turned like he was today he will be dropped for the NZ game. Hopefully with some good ball these players can be threatening.

    Hopefully with a bit of consistancy in selection the backs will start to Gel and the forwards will get a platform to work off rather than having to rely on pick and drives to get quick ball.

  • Comment number 17.

    Really disappointed with England. Discipline & Line-out had improved immensely but we rarely even played in their 22. Three points in over an hour and no points in just under an hour is alarming.

    Nor are injuries too great an excuse - only Sheridan & Armitage (who we did miss) - and maybe Vickery would get in my 15 from those fit - and only Rees in the 22. - DWS & JSD should at the least be in the EPS squad.

    Need to temper the urge for youth too, Our big players today were the experienced ones:

    8 - Wilson, Moody, Wilko
    7 - Thompson,
    5 - Crane, Banahan, Care
    4 - Geraghty
    6 - Everything else.

    Disappointed with Jonno's subs: Haskell & Hodgson too late, Bell & Hartley a tad too early. Unlike others with pre-conceived opinions, I'd like Erinle when he came on, saved Monye & a potential try, crossed the gain line & recycled 3 or 4 times - and we looked at our most dangerous in that period.

    Don't go wholesale on the changes but we need a few - out of what's in the EPS (which in itself have some odd choices). Bring in Kennedy, Haskell & Foden to start, Deacon, Crane & Banahan out the 22 & Worsley onto the bench.

    Then ask Care & Hodgson to play the way they do at club level, penetrative, quick thinking, darting runs, rather than the laboured, tediously slow style we played & have Geraghty no take so many needless risks so close to his own 22.

  • Comment number 18.

    No-one else is questioning the management...I don't understand that. Today the tactics were what primarily let England down, in addition to selection and, perhaps, lack of player quality. In any other sport the Manager would be primarily any other sport, managing the national team wouldn't be his first managerial position.

  • Comment number 19.

    England began well, and defended well (with try scoring exceptions). What made Australia's lot much easier was that we were allowed to get into our positional and team patterns--Quade Cooper and Digby Ioane, for example looked far more at ease in the second half than the first. This just would not have happened against New Zealand and South Africa this year. Look at Australia's record this year. Good defense needs to be turned into serious pressure--great off the line defense, and serious breakdown pressure extensively shown to us by our southern hemisphere friends, would have seriously helped England.

  • Comment number 20.

    i'm surprised to see people dissing crane as he secured several turnovers for england - i thought he did quite well.actually most of the pack did qite well - wasn't impressed with the reffing ofd the scrum though, refs shouldn't miss not binding when it is on their side. banahan didn't impress but people are forgetting he is only 22 and can improve iwth experience. it didn't help that he wasn't used very effectively. When you have a player that tall you can really use the crossfield kick option, which wwe only did once to banahan. he did well in defence and when he ran unfortunatly he got a bit isolated.
    I would be tempted for the next game to have banahan on the bench and bring in a proper full back though as monye looked a little lost at times back there. having goode on the bench was a waste as he is purely a no 10 and i wouldn't have replaced wilko the way he was playing.

  • Comment number 21.

    not bad but we need a decent scrum half to create chances
    12.-ricky flutey-played brilliant in the six nations, scored and created tries
    13.-mathew tait-he played their at the world cup and came out against players like stirling mortlock very quick aswell.
    14.-david strettle-best winger bar all the injuries

    dont really know so much about the forwards. Sheradin should be in there, he destroed the ausses at the world cup. Also courtney laws sounds good. Apparently steve thompson played well which bodes well for the futur as we dont really have a brilliant hoocker. tom croft was a superb lion so he shuld be in.

    3.- dont know really vickery is getting old.
    4.-simon shay
    6.- tom croft
    7.- i like worsley or maybe lewis moody , haskell as an impact sub
    8.- dont know really do we have a no.* who is good. maybe haskell could play there

  • Comment number 22.

    nick kennedy is also a good presence in teh scrum/lineout

  • Comment number 23.

    Perhaps Wilson should start at 3 Angus, given he looks pretty good.

    Given both sides (& posters on this blog) have said each respective side was inexperienced, I checked out the stats.

    Average age of Squad (Starters & Substitutes)

    England - 26.7 years old
    Australia - 25.2 years old

    Average Caps per player (Starters & Substitutes)

    England - 18.7
    Australia - 30.8

  • Comment number 24.

    Can anyone explain why Matthew Tait was not involved. He seems to have had very few chances despite playing well every time he has played for ENgland. I would rather have him than most of the others who have played centre in the last 2 years (Noon, Tindall, Geharty for instance). And rather him than Monye at 15

  • Comment number 25.

    DavidLeigh - if you were Martin Johnson, what would you be asking Rob Andrew to do to minimise the injuries over the next two years til the World Cup?

    Hookers_armpit - agree re Hartley and Hodgson. Think the latter is more likely to start than the former next week, but maybe the competition from Thompson will push DL on a little more. Would also love to see Tait in at full-back, assuming a Geraghty-Tait combo in midfield is considered short on beef.

    BennyB - thought Borthwick was pretty decent at the lineout, to be fair. SwannyWilkinson - like most of that line-up, although touch concerned that Monye is wasted at full-back.

    Slater582 - good work on the stats. That superior Aussie international experience really did count, too. Very interesting that the Aussies are that much more experienced at a younger age - says a lot about each country's respective willingness to blood young talent and then back it.

  • Comment number 26.

    I just have some questions: why do our forwards flop onto rucks rather than clearing people out of the way? Why does the scrum half wait, ball in hand, for up to four seconds before passing it? Why do we not have backs running from deep? i am confused - i know that the coaches know more about the game than i do.

  • Comment number 27.

    Tom, I fear that my appearance in one of those skin tight outfits would be slightly worse than that of Steve not the slimmest Thompson (who by the way it's good to see back). I would love to play for England and I have no doubt that the players out there feel the same. This isn't just a flag waving patriotism competition is it? There are serious shortcomings in that performance and they are worrying similar to those discussed a year ago and the year before that and ... well you get the idea. That wasn't a great Australian team and they beat this England outfit reasonably comfortably.

    I watched the game again this morning and England are exhibiting the same systemic failures that have hamstrung them for the past few seasons. Ball is not quickly recycled and then the backs do not have the guile to create space. Ford and Wells have questions to answer. If it didn't work last year why is it going to work this year? We seem stuck in about 2003 which whilst it was a good year for Engish rugby the rest of the world have moved on.

    Positive points were the return of Messrs Wilkinson, Moody and to a lesser degree Thompson.However what else genuinely positive was there? The lineout was competitive and credit goes to Borthwick for that. However, the other side of Borthwick's play is the same stale pick up, get driven backwards for further slow low quality ball that we keep trying and it doesn't produce results. If teams maintain their discipline this tactic will rarely if ever result in points. Defences simply wait for England to cough it up... and they do. Borthwick's captaincy also puzzles me. Is Johnson sure that he's the best lock we have?

    The difference between the sets of backs was also rather obvious. The Australians ran decisively and on good angles. The English backs approached the line, slowed down, went lateral and were for the most part easily policed by an organised Aussie defence. The kicking out of hand was far better than England's. It has to be said that in world terms Wilkinson's touch kicking is a little short of the required standard.

    Defensively we weren't great either. It's all very well commending the tackling of Mr Wilkinson but plenty of other tackles were either missed of completed behind the gain line allowing the Aussies momentum and space.

    I believe that there's a good team in there somewhere but England are managing the difficult task of making the team less that the sum of the individual parts. Johnson looks stern and says the right things and due to his accomplishments is to be respected. However, if we're looking for improvement where is it coming from? putting better players in a flawed system will simply get slightly better results. England need to consider all aspects of their game from a fresh perspective. Ford and Wells have been great servants of the English game but surely it is time for a change?

  • Comment number 28.

    Hello again Tom

    I feel England (and other NH sides to a lesser degree) have the wrong idea about the modern rugby players size, fitness and mobility. I think they are overbulked in the NH, sacrificing mobility, speed and stamina (fitness).

    Many of their injuries are 'self-inflicted' due to being excessively muscular, yet they lack agility. Compare the shape of many of the England front rowers to some-one like Bismarck du Plessis. Many of the SA players are large frames, but are generally lean and very mobile, for example Bakkies, Matfield, Burger, Smith, Kankowski, Fourie and more. NZ's Richie McCaw another fine example.

    Croft is a good example of the type of player England should be striving for.

    I think there is always a temptation to go for heavy weights in an effort to 'front up' to the SH teams, but I think this is essentially flawed. You will not beat sides like SA, NZ by 'fronting up' but rather by 'going around' them.

    I have read an article by an Irish fan who rates Ferris as 'an Irish backrower who plays like a Bok' referring to his intensity and mobility. But you need a full squad of players like that to challenge the top sides consistently home and away.

    Martin Johnson may not be the right man for the job at this stage in his career. His choices seem to be reflective of a by-gone era, so I don't know whether he truly has the answers.

    Shane Williams shared a room with Habana and trained with the Springbok contingent prior to the Barbarians game last year and remarked at the speed with which they train, citing all activity done at full pace, even the big guys like Bakkies and co. This was a comment echoed by an Australian youth team who watched the Boks train during the Tri-Nations.

    My advice to Martin Johnson would be to go smaller and more mobile. If you find speed with size (Brussouw, McCaw, Spies) then it is a bonus. Look also at nous, hunger, rugby IQ.

    Watching the England front row yesterday, was like watching a front row from a decade ago. Good scrummagers, strong but no mobility, no speed.

    I would like to see England do well again and challenge at the top, but I feel they are on the wrong path here.

  • Comment number 29.

    Not the best idea using a one-dimensional gameplan in the backs as the Aussies soon gathered that we were focusing our attacks on Hipkiss yet we kept throwin the same passes to him time after time. We need to stop playing it safe and go back to how we were playing in the latter half of the 6 Nations and with Geraghty in the team, we really should be playing with creativity and inginuity. As for individual performances, Care,Deacon,Borthwick and Crane should be dropped and 1 out of Hodgson/Simpson,2 out of Kennedy/Shaw(if fit)/Lawes and Ward-Smith start. Monye at fullback is a waste, put him back on the wing and prehaps Foden or Tait at fullback. On current form, Chris Ashton is looking tasty on the wing.

  • Comment number 30.

    To me it was yet more one dimensional, slow, boring bilge from England. Until we start to throw some decoys and use the ball we may as well play 15 forwards. The backs don't stand a chance of creating if there are static forwards everywhere. Sorry, I'm a big fan of MJ but he needs to get new coaches in and change what we are doing, this is utter rubbish.

  • Comment number 31.

    Would also like to add that MJ needs to get over Leicester - there are other clubs with better players at the moment.

  • Comment number 32.

    Not sure it matters who plays at 9. That's the way that England wants a 9 to play. I'll happily have Care back at Quins while some other unfortunate plays the England way.

  • Comment number 33.

    Just watched the game at home - Croft definitely scored at 25 mins - he grounds the ball on slo-mo just before his knee hits the flag. We woz robbed! The TV didn't even show a slo-mo!
    It's wierd - on the TV England look to be working harder than they did from West lower!

  • Comment number 34.

    From reading the comments everyone seems to hate Danny Care. Im a quins fan and i abmit he didnt have an immaculate game but it wasn't that bad! Im just happy to see Ellis out!!!! Everyone also seems to be raving Hodgson and to be honest his distribution was quick from the ruck but he gave a lot of high and loopy passes.

    I thought genreally with the exception of crane and deacon the pack had a great game. As most people would agree the fault lied within the backs. For me england just need more flair. Someone like tait or strettle is just what England need. Monye is not a fullback he is a BORN WINGER!!! Foden or possibly tait should be given that responsibility.

    My backline for next week would go

    9. Care
    10. Wilko(who had an insane game)
    11. Monye
    12. Geraghty
    13. Tait
    14. Strettle
    15. Foden

    However in the quins match against the scarlets today. Strettle picked up a knock and left the pitch. With him its so hard to tell how long hes gonna be out. Apparently he had a gr8 game though.

  • Comment number 35.

    Not the ideal start, but I'm not too worried.

    Firstly, the Australian combination is not to be under-estimated, even given the absence of some familiar names. Aus. fielded no babes in the woods, and their youngest players prove to be rare talents.

    Turning to England, sure, several areas looked shaky, but a number of players will be returning in shortish order and then I think things will settle down. Certainly the engine will be more likely to run for eighty minutes.

    The intermittent breakdown (which seemed to me to worsen when Care was substituted) at scrum-half seemed to me to be the result of systematic and premeditated pressure exerted by a very street-smart Aus. combination, and England are going to have to find a way to neutralise that pressure: maybe this is what Easter can be expected to bring to the side when he returns. The problem wasn't so marked when he was there.

    The intermittent breakdown at full-back will sort itself out when a specialist returns to the fray, and I'm hoping that the shove will improve when the first-string tight forwards are back. I'd also expect the mid-field to look tons more solid when Flutey and one of the more established second centres returns.

    Meanwhile, the hookers on the day looked like the real thing (for the first time in ages) and the same goes for fly-half, but in spades. In fact, I loved the contest between the most reliable fly-half of the era and the most talented one, both of whom turned in hallmark games, and I'd call the outcome a draw. That is very encouraging, to my mind: England has been pitiful in these positions in recent years.

    I would however like a view on the English showing at blind-side flank. I shalln't name names: "anonymous" seems to me to be the order of the day. I wasn't impressed, but I did notice that Elsom was having to put in a particularly honest day at the office, 'though it might be wrong to attribute that to his opposite number. I'd really value an opinion on that position, preferably one which disregards popular trend. I was also somewhat underwhelmed by Lawes as an impact substitute, and would appreciate views on that selection, too.

  • Comment number 36.

    1. At 9:15pm on 07 Nov 2009, SeanPF wrote:
    We'll never beat the southern hemisphere teams until we realise that slow ball **COUGH DANNY CARE** does not win games.

    Except when we won the World Cup with Matt Dawson? What part of 'slow ball' do you think the scrum half can influence? Care is quick, lively, and constantly let down by the dull England pack.

    34. At 00:05am on 09 Nov 2009, Bob Green wrote:

    You can't play Tait at 13 unless a Tindall-sized 12 is available.

  • Comment number 37.

    I pretty much completely agree with Mr T's last post.

    A regime hange is needed drastically. Although the head coach has changed since Woodward, the back room staff and coaching style has not moved on one inch and it shows. England's lack of dynamism in the second half has been a constant feature since 2003 and it is just not good enough.

    With the exception of a very immobile front row Johnson is right to not blame injuries. There will always be injuries. The problem is the stale way the veterans in the team play and the cluelessness exhibited by the rookies. What Australia showed us was that the only thing that matters ultimately is World Cups. That is there focus. They got battered in the Tri-Nations but have continued with youth to increase speed to experience something that England very rarely do. Their is building a team/squad to win in two years.

    In my opinion the first choice England team at present without injuries would have Vickery and Shaw in it. However it is unlikely that these guys are going to be around in two years so it is essential that the likes of Lawes are blooded and trusted rather than returning to "safe" picks. Deacon is just not good enough for a Test standard lock. The game has moved on and a lock now has to be a strong ball carrier in the loose not just a pusher in the scrum and a line out operator. Players like Deacon - as hard working and honest as they are - will only ever give you a 6/10 performance at Test level. To be world class you need consistent 7s, 8s and 9s.

    The most obvious example of this scenario is Borthwick. Yes he is a good line out operator. That can't be denied but what should be asked is what else does he bring. He isn't a behemoth and whenever I see him crouching behind a ruck, that has not moved in 20 seconds, getting ready to pick and drive I know he is going to first run sideways get smashed and then go back. It jsut makes me want to scream. Top level sport is no place for sentiment. There are certain players who were at the height of their powers in 2003 and weren't good enough to make the team. The game has moved on and unless the players have moved on with it, they surely are not now suddenly good enough to be there.

    Moody had a great game on Saturday but unfortunately he is a problem. Similr to Worsley he is a cracking tackler and good at the breakdown but for some reason they both think they are 7s when they would both go 80 mins without carrying if they could. They are't links they are wrecking balls. Two of the best wrecking balls in the world but not fully equipped 7s. There is a lack of skill there that meant when they were young guns in 2003 they didn't get in ahead of the guys who could disrupt but also link and support. This is key. The reason that England are so impotent in attack is because they are so easily policed as mentioned by many above. There is consistent talk from commentators and analysts of fixing the defence and dummy runners. This needs to come from forwards and backs and at the moment the work as two completely separate units witht he backs only getting the ball after the forwards have trudged up the middle. This is easy to defend against and shows a woeful lack of understanding of where the world game has gone. Did Johno and co watch any of the Lions? Look at what Geech made of Croft. Pick and back Haskell for a series of games find a proper 7 and that is the back row you pick injuries permitting for every game until the world cup.

    Everyone knows that Wilkinson is not the best running 10 in the world. However he is world class, the only world class 10 England have, even if the running part of his game is not as good as others in the world. His experience, composure and defence mean he sould be the 10. It is up to Flood, Geraghty, Cipriani et al to show that they have everything Wilkinson has plus their natural flair in attack. Until they show this they are nothig more than understudies who should not be shoe horned into the team at another position to try and take advantage of their attacking prowess. Geraghty's defence at 12 wasn't good enough. He is a 10. If Wilko is not available then by all means chuck his the Jersey and back him. If it is decided that he should be the 10 then back him, but he is not a 12 and to be honest he desire to "make something happen" without the physicality needed at that position in the modern game is a disaster waiting to happen and not fair on him.

    While Danny Care can't be blamed for a static pack, his lack of leadership and direction on Saturday must mean he shouldn't start next week. His delivery is too slow too. He holds the ball before he passes it. He without the defence in any fear of a purposeful, well timed snipe. He just puts pressure on the 10. Having said that Hodgson's delivery was worrying in its loopiness. Hope he sorts that out if selected to start next week.

    I have ranted long enough. I feel I could go on forever but what is the point. Just two or three changes supplemented by fresh ideas in the back room would result in immediate progression. Every England fan knows we can't play like NZ or France and we accept that. What is harder to accept is why we can't play with a fierce pack and fast backs freed when the pack is going forward? Pretty simple as a starting point isn't it?

  • Comment number 38.

    David Fitzmaurice has it spot on with regards England's problems at 9.

    I lost count of the number of times Care arrived at the breakdown, had a good look, a big think, and then got rid of it, thus allowing any potential gaps in the Aussie defence to close up. Hopefully he'll improve this with experience

  • Comment number 39.

    We can moan about Jonno, and all the rest of it. Problem is, we need Borthwick OUT! He was not on the Lions tour - FOR GOOD REASON!!- and rubbish other than catching the ball in the lineout. He gets smashed every time, it is infuriating. Slow happens partly because the GP is slow paced, so people don't have to clear out rucks quickly ,which gives the defensive SH line a chance to regroup and smash us backwards, simple as that. Commit less people tro rucks, get the ball out QUICKLY ie Hodgson NOT Care, and you have a chance. The way to beat these teams is to play the game at PACE, England have not got the technique,skill or fitness to do that at the moment I am afraid........... Jonny and Moody World Class, the rest ....lame and Johnson will lose his job unless he wins something this Autumn.........................

  • Comment number 40.

    I'm astonished at the criticism of Borthwick. He was one of our principle ball winners in the lineout, stealing the ball on at least two occasions. Not all locks can be ball carriers; what he requires is a more dynamic partner and hopefully Lawes will be given a game. Haskell should recieve a look at No8 as Crane did not show enough with ball in hand. Payne did absolutely zero and Wood, Mercey or Flatman must be selected here.

    In the backs I agree with the sentiment that Care was too slow. Richard Wigglesworth deserves another pop at the position. I can understand the criticism of Geraghty ... but .. Flutey's tackling is hardly infallible. I though Hipkiss was ok but there was no elusiveness. Neither was there any with Banahan who was too easily neutralised. Bangers are too easily stopped. Monye is most definitely a full back not a winger.

    Team v the Argies

    1. Mercey
    2. Thompson
    3. Wilson
    4. Lawes
    5. Borthwick
    6. Croft
    7. Moody
    8. Haskell
    9. Hodgson
    10. Wilkinson
    11. Monye
    12. Geraghty
    13. Hipkiss
    14. Strettle
    15. Tait

    16. Flatman
    17. Hartley
    18. Worsley
    19. S Armitage
    20. Erinle
    21. Banahan
    22. Foden

  • Comment number 41.

    To those saying Johnson is at risk of losing his job with a poor run - think again. Andrew has staked his position on hiring Johnson and the man won't be fired.

    Personally, the problem is Andrew, Ford and Wells - however, Johnson's decision to keep his ageing coaches was not good/cowardly/showing his inexperience.

    David Fitzmaurice raises an intersting point re- Croft: look what McGeechan got out of him in just a few weeks! He was one of the stars of the tour. I know he hasn't quite recaptured his form but England don't play in a way to utilise his speed in the loose.

  • Comment number 42.

    "Calm down dear". I'm concerned that the legacy of the World Cup win in 2003 was to attract a lot of people with a football mentality to Rugby.

    What English Rugby is crippled by is a media (with a willing following from a section of fans) who expect instant results if the England team don't deliver.

    Now I agree on a lot of the negatives- Care's delivery was hesitant and unthreatening, Deacon offered nothing, Crane (who will come good) didn't break the gain line at all, and Geraghty (who has the potential to be a decent International - jury's out on world class)was overawed by the ocassion. But this is not an overnight job, and there were some genuine positives out of this game.

    Lets leave aside the obvious ones of Wilko and Moody becasuse statistaically they aren't going to make more than 3 games on the bounce un-injured. Cueto looked good, Monye was not the massive liability at 15 everyone predicted (as they did Jason Robinson) and Hipkiss was solid in defense and took plenty of bodies with him in attack. If we can just get quick ball from the resulting ruck.....

    What England need to correct IMO is pace. Not the physical ability - which we have certainly in the back 3, but the application of pace. Banahan jogged the ball back up looking for gaps and then accelerated 5 yds from the defensive line(?!) for example - a trademark Cohen trait which secured the end of his career. We need to aggressively hit the ball on the gain line at pace and put indecision in the defence to create momentum. If we're going to run back a kick - do it full bore, not waiting to see who you might be facing slowly jog up to meet them and then meekly surrender the ball in contact.

  • Comment number 43.

    41. At 7:35pm on 09 Nov 2009, Hookers_armpit wrote:
    To those saying Johnson is at risk of losing his job with a poor run - think again. Andrew has staked his position on hiring Johnson and the man won't be fired.

    let's hope he takes andrew with him, then. he was a playing hero of mine (MJ), but this is turning into an shambals


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