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Johnson's England provide hope

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Tom Fordyce | 20:23 UK time, Saturday, 6 November 2010

On the bright side, at least no-one can accuse England of being predictable any more.

At 3-17 down at the interval, with New Zealand conducting a quiet masterclass in ruthlessness and efficiency, a familiar tale looked set to unfold - Dan Carter tugging the strings, the visitors stretching their legs, and lead, the points piling up and the home heads hanging lower with every passing minute.

That England ignored the script and instead fought back with character, closing to within 10 points with nine minutes still on the clock and their opponents down to 14 men, warmed the home cockles as supporters streamed away to bonfire parties across the home counties.

Then again, was there ultimately anything surprising about a ninth successive defeat by the All Blacks?

The world's best team had not conceded a try in their previous two tours of the northern hemisphere but England managed to snap that streak. Indeed, Martin Johnson's side produced plenty of fireworks - yet at no point beyond the first five minutes did they ever really look like winning the game.

The difference? One side converted possession into points, the other did not.

New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter

New Zealand fly-half Carter causes alarm in the English defence

With occasional exceptions, this was surgeon's knife versus broadsword. England were not the fall guys of the last five years, yet their hopes of an all-too-rare upset still went up in smoke.

That Saturday's display contained more dash and derring-do than the 19-6 defeat a year ago adds weight to the argument that this is an England side heading in the right direction. There appears to be a game-plan in place this autumn that was noticeable by its absence a year ago, a freshness about England's approach that suggests brighter days really do lie ahead.

Not that you would have guessed that from the reaction of Johnson's weary players at the final whistle. Fightbacks are one thing, victories quite another.

"For 15 minutes in the first half we switched off, and you can't switch off in international rugby," growled Nick Easter, at the forefront as England pushed the All Blacks backwards in the final quarter. "We're very disappointed men."

Scrum-half Ben Youngs, quietly impressive on his Twickenham debut, might be free from the baggage of past thumpings from the All Blacks. But he, too, cut a chastened figure in the tunnel afterwards. "You can hear a pin drop in that dressing-room," he revealed. "All the heads are down, because that was a game we could have won.

"It's encouraging that we created chances, but it's not encouraging that we didn't take them. I felt we gifted them 14 points too - I missed a tackle on Carter that led to the second one."

In Youngs, England have a nine who should serve them admirably for years to come. In Dan Cole and Andrew Sheridan they also have two props that a world-class scrum can be built on. While Kiwi assistant coach Steve Hansen might have complained afterwards about referee Romain Poite's interpretation, the English front row caused their grizzled opponents problems throughout.

England number eight Nick Easter

England number eight Easter was particularly impressive as the game became more broken

It was a less edifying afternoon at the line-out. Hopes had been high that the Lawes-Palmer combination, bolstered by the extra options provided by Tom Croft, might put the Kiwi jumpers under pressure. Instead, in an opening hour where the visitors dominated possession, England lost the ball three times on their own throw - a profligacy they could ill afford.

But it was the wastefulness when they did have the ball in threatening positions that was ultimately the key to their undoing. Time and time again they threatened to wrest the momentum from the All Blacks, only for an error or misjudgement to snuff out the spark.

On the half-hour, having already missed seven tackles and staring down the barrel at a 14-point deficit, they were five metres from the visitors' try line and with numbers wide out right when the pass went short to Sheridan instead.

A few minutes later, Flood missed a slottable penalty from down the middle. And when a fast flat pass left from Youngs then put Mike Tindall in space on the Kiwi 22, the old battering-ram hesitated, dawdled inside and then threw a change-of-heart pass behind Lewis Moody on the outside. Chances made, chances lost.

It was the same story in the second half. Flood kicked a penalty to make it 6-17, only for New Zealand to go straight down the other end and force a penalty of their own to allow Carter to re-establish the gap.

When Dylan Hartley, born in Rotorua, crashed through like a cannonball to bring England back into it, the home side were almost immediately pinged for not releasing, and Carter eased his side away again.

The All Blacks, by contrast, bulldozed open every tiny chink they were offered. Sonny Bill Williams might not yet be the finished article, but the threat of his midfield partnership with Ma'a Nonu sucked in English defenders and created space out wide that Hosea Gear and Mils Muliaina were only too happy to exploit.

His off-loading was everything we thought it was, the support runners as numerous and well-timed as we've grown to expect. It was his cute ball inside to Jerome Kaino that set up Gear's opening try, his latent menace that drew the white shirts before Carter bounced off Youngs in the build-up to the second.

"You will always make errors - they made two or three too - but we made too many," admitted Johnson, pragmatic as always.

"We got a line-out call wrong, we won a kick-off and then knocked on - and that just heaps the pressure back on you.

"As a team we weren't at the races quickly enough to be in there at the end. You can't replicate the intensity of Test match rugby in training - we were rusty in all areas, physically, mentally, and they weren't.

"There's lots of positives out of the game. But I don't want to sit here and say we competed because we want to set our sights higher than that. We have to go on and win Test matches. You can do four or five phases of good play but if someone loses composure and makes a mistake..."

If England's players and coaches were downcast, so were the All Blacks, who hardly stepped out into the chill November night afterwards in the mood to cavort around with sparklers.

"We're still guilty of giving too many chances away through our own mistakes," bemoaned skipper Richie McCaw. "We made breaks and didn't finish them off, and leading into the last 20 minutes we kept giving them opportunities. That's the frustration for the guys."

You're unlikely to be dancing in the streets after 80 minutes of tough Test rugby. But McCaw's downbeat reading of the match, and his team-mates' muted response to yet another comfortable win in south-west London, was another indication of the relative standing of two sides 10 months out from the World Cup.

England lose by 10 and most of their supporters will have left Twickenham in buoyant mood. The All Blacks maintain their perch atop the world rankings and yet berate themselves for their failings.

"At vital times, especially in defence, we gave the ball away too easily by trying to do too much sometimes," said McCaw. "Those are the decisions we've got to get right if we're going to improve.

"There's a learning we have to take out of the last two weeks. There's time in the game when that's the right thing to do, and there's time when hanging on to the ball for one more phase is the right thing to do. Risk versus reward is the thing we need to get under control."

In a strange way, Johnson has it easier than All Blacks coach Graham Henry. No-one expects Johnson's England side to win the World Cup - a semi-final place would be beyond most expectations.

For Henry, by contrast, there's only one outcome that will count as success. Fail to win the old gold pot on home soil and this long unbeaten run in the northern hemisphere, let alone the nine wins on the trot against England, will count for nothing.

Those worries are for another night. For now, the contrast is clear. England showed glimpses of what they might achieve. The All Blacks, to an outsider's eyes at least, revealed close to the full picture.


  • Comment number 1.

    Was at the match and can only say if England came out in the second half with as much confidence and determination as the first then it would be different. No excuses but the reffing of the match was amateur, calls given then complete change of mind and a different decision given didn't install confidence. But the All Blacks were in a cruising gear and could turn on the heat at any given moment. England allowed in the first half massive space on the wings which they Kiwis could exploit at any chance and did. This was rectified in the second half, in comparison the New Zealanders had enough confidence to leave massive gaps in their backs which England failed to exploit on the return. Mistake after mistake in the rucks didn't help the cause and simple mistakes put England on lost ball after lost ball (Line outs were excellent though!). But I have to say that England showed massive grit and determination against a ruthless and clinical side. Our time will come and I think we are definitely turning a corner. So I am not in anyway disappointed although in the stands the moaning gets tiresome. On a personal note either get behind England or give me your ticket, yes you lot who left with ten minutes to spare, you shame your Team and you waste your hard fought for ticket.

  • Comment number 2.

    This ain't football - stop blaming the ref. Ridiculous.

    Refs have an unbelievably hard task due to the amount of laws thrown at them, and then the amount of interpretations of those laws.

    So don't bring this down to football levels.

    England were not good enough. The All Blacks were there for taking but once again England had the possession but were completely out smarted in all facets of the game.

    It is as simple as that. We beat them in the pack, we had the ball, but you have to do something with it. Our international backs and forwards have consistently failed to do anything with the ball.

    This has been the same for sometime now - plenty of ball, but not enough intelligence in what to do with it. We can talk about right paths and all that, but frankly that was not a good performance, and once again, its a defeat.

    As for the All Blacks, plenty to get concerned about ahead of the world cup next year - that was by far and away a complete performance.

  • Comment number 3.

    It was a good game. You look at Gears try and Hape's attempt. A inch here, an inch there, and it could have been the other way round. If Flood hit his first penaly, then suddenly scores are level.

    However, personally i think Hartley was lucky, i thought it was a double movement, and I also thought Ashton was a long way offside which wasn't picked up.

    Anyway, I think we had 5 players making their first starts today, so for us to perform as we did was a very good effort. Dan Cole, Youngs, Lawes and Ashton have massive potential, and the more games they play, they better we will become. Im looking forward to the next few weeks, and would expect England to win the 6 nations.

    Come the world cup, who knows, we have the potential, its just about realising it.

  • Comment number 4.

    Toby Flood is terrible we need Ciprianni

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    I must have been watching a different game to most. I admire all of the optimists out there, but the facts are:

    1- England are 1 trick ponies who can only play a tight game of rugby. We cannot create chances with our poor decoy running and abysmal wide game. The ABs found it so easy to defend against.

    2 - England have zero or a minimal off load game. Think the first actual offload came in the 74th minute. The ABs are kings of the offload-think gears try in the corner set up by Williams offload.


    1-We have 2 hookers who can't throw straight in test match rugby. They are supposed to be the best in the country and they can't do this.
    2-Hartleys try was a double movement and was never a try.
    3-Flood couldn't kick to touch.
    4-Tindall and Hape were so predictable.

    Truth is we never looked like beating the ABs today and the scoreline flattered England. The ABs took their foot off the gas and didn't get out of 3rd gear. If they had got into 5th gear we would have been spanked by 30 points.

  • Comment number 7.

    Jdibbs - you seem to have been watching in between doing something else.. eg. I counted just one offload from the ABs that counted (assuming you are referring to passing out of contact) versus 5 from England

    I agree with your specifics, but here's a few more:

    2. Hartley's try did look like a double movement, but it balanced the ABs first one which should not have been awarded - and the England one at the end was a penalty try (a shoulder charge on the player to deny a score..).

    5. the ABs conceded 4 scrum-time penalties

    6. the ABs lost the 2nd half

    7. England created more opportuities than the ABs but converted only 1 of them

    8. the error count was just about balanced by the end of the game, no mean feat after the first 20 minutes.

    Yes it was a defeat but that's hardly the whole story - a new team that hadn't played for 4 months gave a good account of themselves against the No.1 ranked team who's played 7 or 8 tough games in the same period.
    And FWIW I believe the ABs will fail at the World Cup and if England continue ot get better will make the last 4

  • Comment number 8.

    Have just watch a replay of the match and have to agree with Jdibbs. England although competative up front really had nothing in the backline.
    New Zealand even when down to 14 managed to defend and keep England out.
    Plus Toeava did not tackle Hape illegally... look at it again in slow motion? He actually has his right hand on Hape shoulder and uses his whole upper body to knock Hape into touch. Who incidently also lost the ball forward.

  • Comment number 9.

    Coulda, woulda, shoulda...the excuses go on. England were poor, and they know it. They have a lot of improving to do - after all, they were playing at home and needed to show more adventure. At times they looked scared of the AB - there were a couple breaks that really should have translated into tries. Perhaps Martin Johnson should just select a completely new team - after all, a loss is a loss.

  • Comment number 10.

    England played with far more ambition and 'devil' than they have in a while. Twickenham hasn't roared like it did Saturday in a long time. Jonno's England is on the right track...

  • Comment number 11.

    I was actually pleasantly surprised after reading the text feed for the first half and finally finding a television for the 2nd.

    England were menacing in the 2nd half, Hartley seems to have finally got his tendency to go ballistic at the tinest provocation under control and England really were throwing the ball around and having a go. I was watching Wales vs Australia on another screen and to be honest England were making more of a dent against the ABs than Wales against a more lightweight Aussie side.

    However it must be said that the midfield is simply defensively minded and contradicts itself. It expects Ben Youngs and Toby Flood - two attacking minded backs - to work well with Shontanye Hape and Mike Tindall who although amazing in defence tend to be rather clueless in attack. Saw Tindall's butchering of a two on one with the tryline begging. Groan.

    So basically Jdibbs and RantingMrP need to have some coffee and cheer up. Its the best team in the world with a form sheet of WWWWWWWWWWWWWL for gods sake. Of course its going to be a bit of a mountain to climb to beat them but I think we gave it a damned good shot.

    Bring on the Aussies I say, if Cole and Sheridan don't kill em' I'm sure Youngs and Ashton will.

  • Comment number 12.

    What sets New Zealand apart at the moment is that all 15 players on the pitch are capable of making the right decision at the right time, in 99% of situations. England just don't have that. Which is why they blew two massive overlaps, the 2nd of which was against 14 men. England should have scored from at least one of those occasions. New Zealand would have scored from both.

    It was all bluster and no cutting edge as pointed out. As a supporter I also find it grating when there is much back-slapping and congratulations when a moral victory/penalty is won at the scrum. England have dominated in the scrums in their last 3 test matches and lost two of them. So I think they should stop being so pleased with themselves and start thinking about how they can use their scrum dominance to win games.

    I thought Hape played as well as I've seen him in an England shirt. But the 10-12-13 combination just isn't right at all. Example is where Ashton took a pass running behind from Flood. It was far too telegraphed and easy to shuffle across in defence. Flood just doesn't cut it as a world class No. 10, but at the moment there isn't really anyone banging on the door behind him.

    On a final note, I wonder if Mike Ford considers that a good result? After all, they only conceded two tries and 26 points, compared to the average of 3 tries and 30 points against Tri Nations opponents. Solid defence, Mike, solid defence..

  • Comment number 13.

    Living in New Zealand I have watched the All Blacks throughout the Tri-Nations and Summer tests win games even without playing well and watched Australia finally get one over them last week in Hong Kong. They have been there for the taking and think they are far from clear favorites for the World Cup next year. To see England run the ball and give a competitive performance was encouraging and whilst its easy to say we should have won the difference is class, the Tri-Nations and the Super 14 shows the quality of the Southern Hemisphere which is lacking in Europe. England are far from the world class team that won the World Cup but competed and made a game of it. Well Done Lads and the future looks good with a very young team that can only get better.

  • Comment number 14.

    Many points made above about lack of imagination behind the scrum, not using the ball well in midfield and not converting scrum dominance in points. All true.

    For me most of this comes down to the consistent selection of Tindall. In RWC 2003 he was the blood and thunder to Greenwood's sublty and has never been able to get players outside him involved as he isn't a distributer. We have some fantastic options in the back three with players who I genuinely believe can create something from nothing when on form. Foden, Ashton, Monye, Strettle, Armitage. Great options. But with a non distributing 13 and a crash style 12 we are never going to get them involved. This is the worry. For the record I thought Hape played ok yesterday. But you can't select two non passing big lumps in the middle and expect to make use of width - it just isn't going to happen. Tindall is honest but very limited.

    Good point made above about the throwing in of the hookers that is another position that is a worry.

    However whilst it is still an error strewn defeat there are undoubtedly positives and I think the time has come to get behind the boys and focus on these. Look at the starting XV yesterday and I am honestly very happy (considering availabilty) with 12 of the names on the sheet. We have unearthed a cracking 9 in Youngs, Lawes looked strong, our front row is very good, we all know how good Croft is and I've mentioned the back 3. Yes we need a world class hooker, and 13 but we are getting there.

    I personally have never rated Moody as an international 7 as he is just a one dimensional wrecking ball so would ideally like a truely great 7 to emerge. Easter is not getting any younger but I love his heart. He is not scared of anyone and although he wouldn't be on a world XV at 8 he is very solid.

    Get behind the boys. Once the test match sharpness returns I think we could be on for a decent autumn. One step at a time. It may not be great yet but we have come a long way.

    Quick word on the ABs. Not sure what I've learnt to be honest. They definitely have higher gears but if they don't get into the practice of using them, then don't they run the risk of suffering the usual upsets (against France) at RWC? There were chinks in the armour though. Other nations will be encouraged. They should win RWC but then how many times has that been said before...

  • Comment number 15.

    England made a better fist of it than I expected. Still don't understand all the pundits talking of the 'advantages' the SH have of being 'battle hardened' at this stage of the season though. They are at the end of their season and SA, for example, have 13 players out with injuries. When the NH go South at the end of the NH season does anyone claim this is an advantage to the NH? No, everyone moans about being tired and having weakened sides. Can't have it both ways.

  • Comment number 16.

    it tells you all you need to know when people are happy after losing by two scores at home.

    looked like the same old england we've been watching since the 2003 world cup win to me. in that time (7 years, no less) how many games have we failed to win almost exclusively because of giving penalties away and committing handling errors at crucial times?

    if england had concentrated for 80 minutes we'd have won that game, and countless games that we've lost over the last 7 years.

  • Comment number 17.

    #11 Prestwick, I agree that the England midfield does lack a cutting edge, but I don't think it is fair to entirely blame Tindall for the butchered 2 on 1. I think Moody is equally to blame - had that been a NZ center with the ball, then McCaw would have been right at his shoulder screaming for the ball.

    Agree with the general theme of the original post though. The likes of Cole, Hartley, Attwood, Lawes and Croft should form the basis of a strong England pack for the next decade. In the backs Youngs, Foden and Ashton looked sharp, and there is a huge competition for places in the back 3. It is the centers that is the big worry.

  • Comment number 18.

    'No-one expects Johnson's England side to win the World Cup - a semi-final place would be beyond most expectations.'

    A bit surprised by this comment. On form England should win their group and see a QF v France. The Winner will probably see a SF v Australia. The English record v both these teams in World Cups is pretty good (beat both teams in both 2003 and 2007). This is surely better than 'beyond most expectations'

  • Comment number 19.

    I feel that New Zealand are going to choke at the world cup again. You won at Twickenham enjoy, yes you do it a lot but if your putting pressure on yourselves for a winning performance what are you going to do when your down at home in front of a crowd expecting a win.

    And England I would say had a great game. You have to take that this is the beginning of the season for us we haven't played together since the summer and to play against the number one side at the end of there season, it will be interesting how much the other sides will lose by to the All Blacks!!

  • Comment number 20.

    Typical English optimism, haven't beaten the All Blacks in 7 years and yet England fans continue to go on about how close it was, what could have been and how there is "hope".

  • Comment number 21.

    We missed Jonny out there.
    Would've nailed that early kick and kept the pressure on ... and I don't thinl Carter would've been able t run as free. As for passing and running the ball around, Jonny's been doing that for Toulon and Toby wasn't really setting the world on fire in that departement, admittedly against strong AB defence.

  • Comment number 22.

    #20, I don't think many Englishmen are suggesting squeaking a win against the ABs would have made us world beaters overnight. It was a more competitive game than it might have been 2 years ago and we're finally showing a bit of attacking intent rather than seemingly setting out to keep the score down or grind one out through forward brawn alone. Sorry if that offends lol

  • Comment number 23.

    A bit of background, born in the UK now live in NZ, The most boring team with S Jones as your #1 fan has no chance of beating any team from the tri nations. Supertramp song DREAMER comes to mind.You cant play League either.

  • Comment number 24.

    @19, Dom,

    If/when NZ are in the final of next year's World Cup, whoever they are playing need to be at least 2 scores ahead with 10 minutes to go because it will take a natural disaster of epic proportions affecting Eden Park to prevent NZ coming back and reaching what they see as their destiny. As I mentioned above, what separates them from the rest at the moment, is the ability to all do what they need to do at the right time and they will handle the pressure. I just can't see them not doing.

    I agree that England are capable of making the final, if they don't screw up their group but on current form they have no chance of getting several scores ahead and preventing a come back. Attack is too blunt, defence is too poor in the outside channels.

    @21, DavidHurst
    When Jonny was playing in the 6 Nations he looked poor and Flood seemed an improvement. Now Flood was not that special and the only place to turn is Jonny. This just highlights the massive problems England have in the 10-12-13 area. One or two world class players in these 3 positions and England would become an exponentially bigger threat. But who is there?

    I also think that when the IRB have their annual awards, the Award for the Unluckiest Player on the Receiving End of a Bizarre Refereeing Decision should go to Alby Mathewson, for being the only scrum half to be pulled up for a crooked feed despite its endemic nature in all top level rugby.

  • Comment number 25.

    I don't get it. Again we lost by two clear scores at home.

    Yes there were facets of the game where England were better than they have been but the one that matters is scoring points.

    Comedy Wells defensive structures meant that NZ didn't have to play a full back in the first half.

    All that was systemically wrong with England's set up is still wrong. We're just deploying a obsolete system with better players in it. It's still obsolete.

    NZ played as poorly as I've seen them play in a long time. All guns blazing against that idiotic defensive line we'd have been hammered.

    People are looking for hope in this performance I see a mere glimmer.

  • Comment number 26.

    Can I put one thing to bed - Hartley's try was not a double movement. When a player is tackled he is allowed to place the ball IN ANY DIRECTION, including forwards. Hartley was tackled, and then placed the ball forwards. A double movement is when you are tackled, held and then you move your body forwards again, or lunge your body forward again. Hartley just extended his arm - therefore NOT a double movement.

    Ultimately England were not the better side, and had they scraped a win at the end it would have been undeserved - but it could be argued the Gear's try could have not been given and Hape's non-try could have been given, which equates to a 10-14 point swing - but that would be putting undeserved gloss on a decent but not great performance.

    My worry was how easily the ABs got round our defence. The blitz wasn't quick enough, you either blitz or not - a half-way house is inviting the long ball out wide which will get past you every time.

    Looking forward to the Australia game though, especially seeing how terribly they scrummaged yesterday!

  • Comment number 27.

    Aside from stats from the game, the ABs took their chances and turned them into points and england did not...MJ should really be looking at some else apart from Tindall in the times he looked lost...beaten by Aussie last week, run pretty close by england (I refer to the chances that england had!!), are the ABs still favourites for world cup....have they yet again peaked too soon...imo yes...

  • Comment number 28.

    All I can say it is good England and other NH teams always stay so positive and optimistic. So so often now, the common theme after a loss is..."they are there for the taking, game we could have won, if only we started like we finished etc etc blah blah" You guys are going to start sounding like Warren Gatland soon.

    Eng were competitive and have definitely improved, but to if you make a real honest assessment, you have a scrum and that is it. Forget all this nonsense about 1st game - players have been playing in local season for months now, plus you have this elite squad set-up with all the time you need, plus these guys are professional players. No excuses. Compare this to when you guys come South in Spring. The NH teams don't come and walk over SH teams at first game. Read Eng, France, Wales and Ireland all got hammered in their first games, but improved in their second games, when they should have had all the momentum.

    Forget this talk of Eng being a young team, because I don't buy into that, with WC winners and senior players (Caps in Brackets), Cueto (41), Thompson (57), Tindall (63), Moody (63), Sheridan (32), Easter (34), Flood (31), Care (21) and Wilkinson (80). Infact you have a side with a good balance of youth and experience, with a coach who has been employed now for 3 years. You have to expect better than that, surely. You have the MOST registered rugby players in the world, laugh off the Super Rugby tournament and Tri-Nations as not real rugby, have supposedly the best league in the world (AVIVA premiership), playing a team that has been on the go and at full speed since Super Rugger began in Feb.

    You have all the players you need, the problem is the coaching and the game they play week in and week out in Premiership. The pace Eng tried to play yesterday was too much for them as maybe 1 or 2 teams play like that in the premiership. The rest don't - it is foreign to them and takes them about 3 games to get to that speed IMO.

    The game Clive Woodward initiated with Eng in 1997 was faster than what these players now play. It pains me to say this, but from about 2000 - 2003, the pace, power and ruthlessness England played was frightening to all of us in SH. Now they try rely on Power, Power, Power, that's it. And the forwards ego's are nicely massaged even when they are down on scoreboard.

    Why play Thompson? Why play Tindall? In Cole, Lawes, Moody, Easter, Youngs, Foden, Ashton and even Armitage you have players that can play a Power and pace game no doubt. No excuses. You can see those guys want to play that way, but don't or can't, because of game plan or others. No use looking to last quarter of 10 mins as any underdog team, at HOME, with crowd going nuts is going to get up for it and give it a bosh.

    I would keep Jonno and get rid of assistants. Go get some real coaches and even if they are foreigners who cares. Call them technical advisors...

  • Comment number 29.

    I agree with all you say Tom - particularly the strange irony that the losers will take more comfort from the game than the winners.

    I think Johnno is being a bit disengenuous claiming that England were rusty - crikey, he has the players now for weeks on end for the AIs - but in any case he won't have that excuse in his armory next week.

    I hate to look for positives in defeat - it sounds so like the old school second-best English approach, and losing should never be acceptable - but we'll see if England can genuinely kick on next week against the Aussies. Based on the Welsh game yesterday, we may have the game to beat them, but our midfield seemed alarmingly sterile in attack and porous in defence. Will Johhno change the centres? History suggests not.

  • Comment number 30.


    Toby Flood is twice the player of Cipriani. Cipriani tackles like a girl.

  • Comment number 31.

    It was certainly better than last year's performance so progress is being made albeit slowly.

    I never thought at any point England were going to win the match. NZ were very comfortable, for the most part, in defence. The perennial problem remains - the back-line is predictable and limited due to a defensively minded centre pairing. The options are thin, especially as Waldouck is having a poor season and Flutey is off form and injured but NZ will never be properly stretched playing both Hape and Tindall. One of these players needs to be the foil to someone who can open up a backline.

    The forwards seem a match for anybody though. Lets spend some time prioritising the backs Martin!

  • Comment number 32.

    Bummed about the result(and annoyed about the first NZ try being given) but other than the fact that it took over 20 mins for England to wake up, that was far from the worst performance I've seen from us.

    If the All Blacks are the best of the Tri Nations, bring on the other two + Samoa!

  • Comment number 33.

    Good debate as always gang. Looking forward to the Wallabies next week, what changes (if any) would you make to the England XV? I guess most would like to tweak the centres, but how and with whom?

  • Comment number 34.

    If you give the All Blacks 5 chances to score they will take 4. England will take 1 or 2. That's the difference. New Zealand's backs are more direct, faster, stronger and better decision makers.

    All this conjecture of "what might have been" is irrelevant. The All Blacks switched off in the 2nd half but never really looked like losing. I got the feeling that of England had tied it up or even gone ahead the All Blacks would have marched down the field and taken the game.

    SBW has huge potential....but remember, Conrad Smith is a far better all round player at this point.

    "If/when NZ are in the final of next year's World Cup, whoever they are playing need to be at least 2 scores ahead with 10 minutes to go because it will take a natural disaster of epic proportions affecting Eden Park to prevent NZ coming back and reaching what they see as their destiny."

    Ha! Where have I heard this before?

    On the plus side for England, they do have a number of players coming through who have great potential to be top international players. Cole, Lawes, Palmer, Fodden, Youngs, etc....

  • Comment number 35.

    With out a doubt the All Blacks are a league above us( England)at the moment, and I suspect the only NH team who can trouble the SH teams as it stand would be France when they are on their game.

    If England are to get to the business end of the WC next year we need 3 things. The Pack to maintain their dominance in the scrum, A watertight midfield, and a 10 who will nail at least 85-90% of his kicks. For me I don't see a number 10 out their who can accomplish the above, if Wilkinson is not fit/at his best. Flood is good, but he will always be prone to off days with the boot.

    Unfortunately if we are to do anything at the WC we will need to do what we did in 2007. Keep the game tight, focus on keeping the game with in 6 points, then rely on our number 10 nailing everything in the last 15 minutes. For me we would be better off sticking with the young guys and play the game we are trying to develop, even if that means an earlier exit at this world cup. In 2007 we brought in players at the end of their career who could guarantee a few ground out results. Every 2 years we seem to do this and then start again afterwards with the next batch of talented youngsters, and by the time the six nations/WC comes round the squad is not fully developed.

    The experience for players such as Dan Cole, Ben Youngs, Dylan Hartley of playing at this world cup will stand them in great stead for 2015 injuries permitting.

  • Comment number 36.

    # 35 ffs:

    "I suspect the only NH team who can trouble the SH teams as it stand would be France"

    Let's wait till the end of November eh? Don't forget that England beat Australia in Australia in summer.

    As for yesterday's game, as others have mentioned "clinical" is the opeative word. The ABs took their chances and England didn't. In possession and territory and, in fact, in most aspects of the game, NZ were not substantially better.

    But they know how to take their chances. England's problem was highlighted by Tindall's dithering non-pass to Moody, but most of all by Hape's non-try. 99 times out of 100 that try should have gone in with no need for the video ref, but tired legs, tired brains and a lack of incisiveness led to England passing the ball statically to Hape without anyone thinking of the one basic skill required in such situations: draw your man before passing!

    In answer to Tom's question, like most people i would change Thompson, Tindall and probably Moody. Trouble is, we don't have a massive supply of potential replacements.
    Fitness and form allowing, I'd like to see Rees at 7 and Tait at 13. But that will be for another day...

  • Comment number 37.

    Forgot to add: thought Foden had a blinder yesterday. Easily England's best player and only genuine attacking threat.Can he play centre by any chance??

  • Comment number 38.

    Yes we lost a game that we could have won. Yes we threw away chances and possession. Yes our handling sucked. Yes we lack a cutting edge in midfield and yes we deffiantely need to find some more flair from our 10.

    So why don't we just pick a new 15 and see if they can do any better? Why not? Because although there is plenty to improve on, we did alot right in that game. It is not the same old England side we had a year ago (think we kicked the ball awy in our 22 maybe 3 times, how many times were we doing that last year?)

    Lets remember one thing, the ABs are the best in the world. And they are the best in the world for a reason, they are good. Very good. In all possitions. But we could have won that game. And that means we were good in parts. That is the difference, we were good in parts, they were good throughout.
    We need to focus on fixing the mistakes, and building on the possitives.

    We need a better 12 and 13, and maybe even 11 (Cueto is not cutting it any more, is Monye the right choice when fit?)

    I could go on and on, but at the end of the day we lost because we weren't good enough, but that doens't make us all bad. People need to stop being so pessamistic. In Youngs, Lawes, Foden, Ashthon and Croft there is some serious tallent. Keep it up and lets bring on the Aussies!

  • Comment number 39.

    Despite all the above regarding the eng v nz game, this weekends internationals have, for me, posed some curious questions about the union game at large, and I'd be interested to hear other people's thoughts on this:

    New rules, it is being claimed, are creating a redifined model of the code. The game is supposed to be more about ball skills, speed of movement and thought, ultimately creating a more expansive (and entertaining) game. This should translate into more dynamic players, exemplified by wingers and No.8s who share abilities of strength, size and speed.

    But this transition is not sitting well with me. Is this new game not just rugby league - union without the bundles of bodies on the floor and...a scrum. And furthermore, the game looks a mess right now epitomised by teams like south Africa and Ireland battling it out 'old school style' up front alongside a team like Australia who, without bring able to win, let alone contest a scrum, can still wipe the floor against anyone on the scoreboard. If all teams are moving in their golden direction then what is the point of a scrum? If it sounds like I'm a back with a chip on my shoulder then how about mentioning the constant forward (if only marginally) passes that have now become common place and largely ignored with the increase of the offload game?! I fail to remember a game where a team hasn't scored a try with at least one in the move. NZ with their lightning quick style of attack do seem to get away with a lot on that front but they are certainly not alone and who can blame them for making the most of this lapse law enforecement. This for me is the new feed in the scrum - never straight! It's laughable but embarrasing.

    I love rugby union and internationals are incredible spectacles but I worry that we're not really seeing the best the sport has to offer right now.

  • Comment number 40.

    Same story, year after year... and please, stop writing about positive signs, new shoots bla bla... the same mistakes are being made, year in year out... England simply don't have the squad nor the management to take them back to the dizzying hights of the early 2000's. Did you hear Dalallio (spelling, excuse me folks) after the match, didn't he say the exact same thing last Autumn about England - looking postive and that they were on the right track... I think expectations should be more realsitic from this point on, and hopefully we won't hear any more drivel about them being possible World Cup contenders.

  • Comment number 41.

    Cornish Dragon

    I agree almost completely with what you said, except the bit about the squad.

    I am firmly optimistic on this side of things. I think we have some top class players in the Premiership who are perfectly suited to the new rugby law interpretations. However, I firmly believe we do not have the right coaching team to a) select those players, and b) turn them into single unit.

    For one, Brian Smith has got nothing out of the backs. We will remain stagnant for as long as the coaches hold the team back.

  • Comment number 42.

    Too many rule changes since 2003 90% of them a complete waste of time and money.
    The sh want rugby leauge only they do not support rugby union. Thats why the rules area farce and ever changing. The sh have ruined the game. Not that the SH care.

  • Comment number 43.

    #17 - Dr_John_B - Now I've seen the highlights I agree. I think a more dynamic openside like Andy Saul would have nailed that overlap like Jezza to a bit of wood.

    #33 - Tom - Tough question, I think Riki Flutey needs another crack. We can't continue with two big concrete blocks banging away to no effect. Tindall and Flutey worked very well together so lets see it again.

    On a side note though what exactly does Ryan Lamb have to do to get an England call up? Short of single handedly winning the H-Cup final against 30 opposing players with his legs tied together I don't know really which is sad because he has electric form right now.

  • Comment number 44.

    @30, Rulechangecrazy,

    Without turning this into another Cipriani debate, one thing I find odd in the arguments for him or against him is talk of his fragile defence. Ronan "turnstile" O'Gara has 100 caps for Ireland. Quade Cooper tackles like a girl too. Morne Steyn is no Wilkinson. But in all those cases what else they offer outweighs their defensive frailties and the team work around it. Whatever the problem with Cipriani was, I only hope his so-called poor defence wasn't the deciding factor.


    I don't think there will be any changes next week. They should look to use Hape and the blindside wings to attack the Cooper/Giteau channel. Personally I'd like to see Waldouck at 12.

  • Comment number 45.

    42. Rulechangecrazy: Hahaha that's it the "SH ruined the game". Let's take our ball home because IT'S NOT FAIR MUMMY! Try telling the SAffas or the Argies that they play 'league'...

  • Comment number 46.

    Talk about rose tinted glasses. "Revealed close to the full picture ?????" The All Blacks were nowhere near their best yet still managed to waltz home, 14 men at times against a predictable, if game, England side. Let's face it, the score flattered Johnsons men. 10 points they should not have got but did thanks to awful officiating and Blind Pugh in the TMO's box. Hartleys try was clearly a double movement and the penalty awarded conveniently ignored Hartley's cheap shot on Richie McCaw while he was on the ground - that's why Brad Thorn reacted the way he did. Add to that the pull back on Sonny Bill and it was a farce.
    Keep trying Poms, the Northern Hemisphere is light years away from the South at the moment. What's the bet all the Southern Hem teams go through these tour games unbeaten ? And next year will be no different.

  • Comment number 47.

    well, i beg to differ. i thought the "started too slow" comment of Martin Johnson was patly ridiculous, because England clearly started harder and faster than the AB's and only solid defence and their finishing let them down. then they finished the stronger - but again blew chances with mistakes. but generally they played a hell of a lot more like a southern hemisphere team than a home nations one - and obviously have the talent to worry anyone if they can get this pattern right.

    the hope for England is that this was not a one-off designed specifically to upset the AB's, but the first test of a realisation that their traditional style is history. if that is the case, then they have a year to perfect it - and given the evidence on display, if they do they could well "exceed expectations" come the RWC.

    yes, Hartley's try was a farce, but don't let that distract you; there were 3 or 4 clear-cut opportunities that only wayward passes and dropped ball let slip. and yes, the AB's were similarly profligate and poor by their normal standards, but that had as much to do with England's robust hassle as it did anything else.

    give credit where it's due - England may well be on the rise.

  • Comment number 48.

    Bummed about the result(and annoyed about the first NZ try being given) but other than the fact that it took over 20 mins for England to wake up, that was far from the worst performance I've seen from us.
    Bummed that the first NZ try was allowed... but no doubt you were absolutely delighted that try initiated by the off sides Ashton and finished by the Hartly double movement was awarded?
    Suppose you will be glad to see that Mealamu is rightly being brought to task for his foul play, but relieved that Hartly who has an appalling record for foul play will escape IRB sanction.
    In many circles that is known as double standards... but hey ho. Even after the wooping and back slapping at a decent scrummage England were beaten by two scores and never looked like beating a lacklustre All Black side.

  • Comment number 49.

    Although few people will read this far down on the page :)

    I am the first to scream and curse when England produce moderate lack lustre performances.

    Saturday left me feeling very positive.

    Leaving the what if moments of the first try (given - but I did not see conclusive proof that he grounded the ball before his foot went into touch) and last try (not given - the rule is no downward pressure is needed but the player has to be in control so here interpretation is given to the fourht referee in terms of was the ball in control - I dont know and if in doubt - no try) so perhaps we were a bit hard done by.

    I believe the biggest factor we must not forget is that NZ come of the back of a tough Trinations tournament and therefore have played as a team recently.

    England come off the back off nothing. 5 new players, this represents almost a new team, playing there first international against the favorites to win next years world cup (aren't they always (thank god the French always beat them when it counts)) At moments we looked unstoppable unfortunately we were nervous the second the try line loomed.

    For me the match against Australia should be competitive but its the results against Samoa and South Africa that will set up our six nations challenge and ultimately next years world cup.

    Lots of positives but sadly as many negatives.

    Test rugby is becoming much more about who makes the least errors and who is able to best understand the referees interpretation of the rules. As mentioned earlier rugby has more complex rules than football that require "interpreting" as such no referee will rule a game in exactly the same way however hopefully they will be consistent throughout the game. This means the players must early on understand the referee and play to the referee!!!!!!!!!

    On the subject of the referee I think there were 6 penalties against the all blacks in the first 10 minutes of the second half and not a single warning (I appreciate that the infringements were not all of the same nature) but not a single warning of a yellow card!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 50.

    an add on

    Re the first try - when England's try was not awarded against SA in the last world cup final (I do wonder if people have forgotten that this terrible England team won in 2003 and came second in 2007 - not bad for no hopers) Just about every England supporter agreed with the decision because you saw a camera angle which showed the foot in touch before the ball was grounded sorry to harp-on but did anybody see a camera angle that showed the ball grounded before his foot went into touch?

    7-0 and 0-0 are very very different in the context of this game!!!!

  • Comment number 51.


    Whilst I appreciate and applaud your loyalty and support towards England, when are all you English supporters going to realise you won the World Cup in 2003, which was 7 years ago. The game has moved on considerably since then and unfortunately your team has gone backwards if anything. Get with the real world and realise that you can only play with the 15 in front of you and not rely on past achievements, NZ were only in 3rd gear and were never going to lose the game. England, along with all the other home nations just do not have the strength in depth to compete with the SH teams at the moment.

  • Comment number 52.

    where were nz in 2007?

  • Comment number 53.

    First up... Isaia Toeava led with his left shoulder without his left arm raised (check the replays) so forget any later images with his right arm around Hape. It was initially a shoulder charge...penalty try.
    Second...the AB's were the better team ...just. They deserved to win, maybe by 3.
    Third...AB supporters STOP YOUR WHINGING about being below par. In any sport you only play as well as the opposition lets you.
    Fourth...England will NEVER beat the the AB's with their backs while Tindall is there. Too slow (always has been), not even decent club level handling skills and even worse on the distribution side. Good front on defender...but that's it. He's an absolute joke to all NZers, and that was 5 years ago when I was last there. Good chance the Aussie backs will waltz around him next game.
    Fifth..first up test excuse may have some credibility but absolutely none for next game.
    Sixth...Cueto's too slow now. Put Strettle there. Switch Cueto to centre.

  • Comment number 54.

    And actually your response does not actually relate at all to the comments I made........

    hey ho :)

    I would very much love to see ANY NH team win in NZ next year, better still England, but my daughter is 50/50 English/French so that works for me too.

    What is your fall back plan if NZ fail again :)

  • Comment number 55.

    Hope England do not end up playing ABs during World Cup in NZ (unless in final!). ABs will touch us up. They have Dagg, Jane, Weepu, Williams, Kahui still out and Sonny Bill Williams will only get better. ABs will have the strongest bench. Will take a lot of luck, injuries, sympathetic ref to keep in touch.

  • Comment number 56.

    Hope England don't end up playing ABs during World Cup (unless in final!). They will touch us up. They still have Jane, Dagg, Kahui, Weepu, Williams out & Sonny Bill Williams will only get better. ABs will have the strongest bench. We will need a lot of luck, injuries, sympathetic ref to stay close.

    On a brighter note, forwards should dominate the Aussies this week

  • Comment number 57.

    1. There is no such thing as a double movement. The laws state that you must play the ball immediately after a tackle. Hartley did that - it was a good try.
    2. Lots to be happy about except the two main points:
    a) Tindall is a great battering ram against lesser oppositions. He needs to be replaced by someone who is confident to pass under pressure.
    b) Flood has never looked like anything other than a little boy lost against the world's best teams. Work hard on Cipriani or Hodgson and get them ready for the RWC 2011.

    Otherwise I am happy to buy a ticket now for England games following an absence of around 5 yrs.

  • Comment number 58.


    Sorry for slow reply, looking after my sick son!!
    I am Welsh though my father is English and I too hope that one of the home nations could be victorious next year, preferably Wales works for me. I just don't see any of us being able to compete with the SH teams. The England team in 2003 was an extremely strong and talented team who deserved the victory but that was a team who peaked at just the right time. I just don't see the strength in depth in any of our teams, rugby is such a physical game today that you are never going to be able to field your strongest 15 at any one time due to injuries. As I know more about my team, I know Wales have some formidable talent from 1-15 but they don't have a 16-30 as back up, no NH teams do(France maybe an exception), whereas the SH teams seem to blood their so-called 16-30 players more giving better strength in depth. Until NH teams have this ability we will always be playing second fiddle to the SH teams.

  • Comment number 59.

    I didnt think it was a bad performace, pack played well Youngs, Foden and Ashton looked good. Flood and Tindal i dont think are up to test rugby. But the AB's are beatable, i dont think they will lift the next world cup and another year on i think this England team can go to the world cup and do themselves proud i dont think they will win but still

  • Comment number 60.

    Your basic point is correct the SH teams always seem to have a stronger bench the only time I can remember us having "scary" people on the bench was in 2002-2003. Or more to the point one of the SH sides is always strong, Last world cup Australia were aweful in the quarter final and NZ were very much second best to a quality French team. So it is not that one SH team is always great it is that one of the SH teams is always strong.

    Unfortunately England and France (if they were just to get it right at the world cup) are the only hopes for a NH world victory. Now even Argentina could pose a real threat meaning there are 4 serious SH sides and 2 nh sides percentage dictates therefore that SH rules!!!!

    What I really don't understand though is how Ireland and Wales have both done the grand slam yet neither ever look truly dangerous in a world cup. Yes they "play well" and "do themselves proud" but .....

    France can beat and lose to anyone nothing ever changes there. But Ireland and Wales its a bit like NZ they just never quite manage to meet or exceed there expectations. The difference being NZ are always the best team in the world inbetween world cups....

    So who is your money on for the WC next year?

  • Comment number 61.

    #52 JonSoutham
    Same place as they were in 2003?

  • Comment number 62.

    I think you are right in France and England having the best chance.Fair play to England they always step it up the year of the World Cup. Wales with a full squad to pick from are capable of beating anyone on their day though they always seem to fall short of their expectations and Ireland I believe peaked in their Grand slam year and are now looking a bit disjointed. Realistically it has to be between Australia and NZ, especially as the location of the finals will suit both in terms of support and familiarity.

    Australia for the win

  • Comment number 63.

    The simple reason England lost is that they are still playing rugby similar to when they got to the final of the WC in 1991. They have a big pack which can out muscle the opposition. However the back line, particularly Fly half and two centres are entirely predicatable. They either pass the ball along the back line meaning a drift defence is all thats needed. Or any of the three positions put there head down and try and smash there way through the opposition back line (which works sometimes at schoolboy level). This results in slow ball from the ruck and the same moves again. I played at a high level of schoolboy rugby and University rugby and we had better moves than this and realised this was what was necessary to score tries. That said, I think the pool of players Johnson is picking from is limited. Where are the Will Greenwoods' who can control the play in a playmaker role? This is whats needed in the centre over picking someone who is 18 stone

  • Comment number 64.

    My money would be on the ozzies too much presure on the AB's

  • Comment number 65.

    England has 2 major problems and until they fix these they will always struggle to beat other teams. The main difference form the England of 2003 and 2010 is the 2 problems. England’s Pack probably the best in the world as a unit, and will get better. England can pick a back 3 which are frightening if they would drop Cueto!! However the real problems are 12 and 13 they are too predictable, not very talented, and awful at exploiting space. If England’s midfield were half as good as 2003 they would have beaten the AB’s on the weekend.

    Just a note for the World Cup. Once again as always the All Blacks have peaked too early. If I was a betting man I do not believe they will make to the Semi finals

  • Comment number 66.

    Interesting but rather predictable blog this one with the usual rants and servings of 'expert' opinion - why does there have to be so much analysis and critism - I for one expected NZ to blow England away particulary when we went 17-3 down but the teams effort and endevour to get back into the game and 'rattle' the All Blacks towards the end, was a highly commendable feat.

    Taken at face value Saturday's match was entertaining and enjoyable - which is more than can be said for most of England's performances in previous years (post 2003).

    England have made progress, fans should acknowledge this, give credit where credit is due and set realistic expectations - We are moving in the right direction (at last!)

  • Comment number 67.

    As I wrote in my earlier comments, for me next week is not too relevant for me if England can win against Samoa and South Africa that would give them a massive boost for the six nations and a good six nations is always good for the moral before a world cup.

    I am not convinced that home advantage has the same advantage as 20 years ago. All of the nations are now well travelled and the "fear of the unknown" which used to be a problem for NH sides travelling south is not as relevant as before (and actually I think it was the fear of the unknown for the fans too when NZ came to twickenham and Lomu trampled all over us there was fear or at least nervousness before it started in the stands. In 2003 we expected our team to win, massive difference mentally and one we now dont want to let go of) thanks to the Lions tours and the number of internationals we now play "down under" we the home countries are familier with all of the SH teams and how they play.

    I am hoping to see a really strong six nations tournament followed by a world cup dominated by the Northern Hemisphere.

    Really though :)

    I think the autumn internationals should reveal a lot.

    Ireland vs NZ
    Wales vs NZ

    France vs Aus

    Eng vs Aus
    Eng vs SA

    The first weekend is 1-0 to the SH 3 big weekends to go :)

  • Comment number 68.

    Despite both side's performances the biggest thing for me was that it was actually a great game to watch. Refreshing to see England throw the ball wide. Execution isn't there for England but you will never get better at something unless you expose these frailties at test level and work on them.

    One thing I do have to say that seems to be missed by many commentators here is that this side was an "experimental" side for NZ. There were at least 4-5 new players and combinations and tactics thereof that hadn't been involved for tri nations. All this considered NZ still pulled through at England HQ in front of 82,000 singing fans. I think the NZ coaching staff will be quietly pleased for the slow build up to next year. This tour looks like it's being used to test combinations and settle on preferences. I think we'll see the fruits of these efforts next year. Quietly quietly building.

  • Comment number 69.

    just see Keven Mealamu has deied headbutting Moody and Graham Henery says He is probably the cleanst playerers in the world God are we talking about the same player who helped pile drive a lion in to the floor ???????

  • Comment number 70.

    I know "mort de rire" sometimes it is better in French die laughing...

    When I saw probably the cleanest player in the world I thought of Will greenwood!!!!!!!!!!!!!! certainly not any forward in world rugby

  • Comment number 71.

    Interesting reading the comments from the english supporters, being a kiwi in dublin for 10 years now.

    I agree that there's promise in the england team. A team with a good forward pack can always win games and shutout opposition. And I think england has that potential. Plenty of people calling for a change at 13 and for a more expansive running game...but are the england loose trio right for that strategy. I'm not sure Moody or Easter suit a very fast expansive game but they do suit englands narrower game. But no matter what england are a team that can win a RWC.

    On the game I have to say that I think Gears try was fine. It was close but my view is that if you can't say it wasn't a try give it. Hartley's try wasn't. It was offside (but can understand why it wasn't seen) and Hartley didn't play the ball immediately as required. He was stopped, he waited, and then he went forward. It looked like he even tried to get up. And I can't believe people calling for a penalty try for the other non-try. You need to use your arms and he did or attempted to do so (ended up being a hand)...not a perfect tackle by any means but if you called it a penalty try you would need to have sent him from the field.

    As far as RWC goes Eng/Fra and the 3N teams are all potential winners.

  • Comment number 72.

    Midfield is too one dimensional, we need a strong, inventive runner with good handling at 12 but I'm not sure if we have one to be honest and if we must play a defensive 13 it might aswell be Wilkinson if he is fit as at least he will offer some variation and creativity as opposed to Tindall's bludgeoning. It might offer some balance.

    The backs need unleashing, but the ball has to be quicker and the runs timed better, too often the ball gets wide but is practically dead by the time it gets there.

  • Comment number 73.

    Thanks for your prediction SMV :)

    So England, France, Australie, New Zealand or South Africa will win.

  • Comment number 74.

    Assuming 3N means the SH teams LOL

  • Comment number 75.

    I believe Australia will win the RWC however they will have to sharpen up in the scrum, they were taken apart by the welsh front five and I can't see them finding it any easier against England. Frightening to think how good they can be when the scrummaging is improved. Be interesting to see what tactics M Johnson employs after seeing such a poor aussie front five last saturday.

  • Comment number 76.

    For me it will be England as you say we raise our game for the big one

  • Comment number 77.

    However I dont want NZ in the quarter final

  • Comment number 78.

    JonSoutham - sorry my comment on potential winners for RWC was more directed at those who have given England no chance and those who see NZ as the winners already.

    It really comes down to the draw. For example I'd give Eng a great chance against Aus but a slim chance against NZ. And as a kiwi see Aus as the biggest threat. But you can never tell what the draw throws up...look who SA played to win last time, from memory Fiji, Argentina, and England (not the strongest english team in recent time either).

  • Comment number 79.

    New Zealand's speed in the breakdown and on the hoof catches the referees off guard. The first NZ try came at fantastic pace but the final pass was at least 5m forward. The tackle or lack of it to keep Hape out should have been penalised. Also around the breakdown there were All Blacks arriving at pace in numbers and the ref failing to establish the off-side line. If the Refs can't use their linesmen then England need to match the All Black pace and get a bit more of the rub of the green

  • Comment number 80.

    The draw is indeed everything. And as you say the last world cup wasnt exactly of the highest quality compared to others

    I felt England were weak and have no idea how we got to the final

  • Comment number 81.

    This was always going to be a difficult opening and I am encouraged by England narrowly defying the bookies' 13 point start. Victory was always going to be unlikely against rightly the best side in the world. England have a good pack and should be able to overcome Australia on Saturday for the Cook Cup. Certainly things are looking better than they have for a while. On the evidence of the NZ game England could go the rest of the autumn unbeaten if they stay tighter in defense. Build on that over the course of the Six Nations and by the time England step off the plane next August they could realistically be aiming at 2nd or third. The RWC structure is unfairly kind on them and i'd love to see it a bigger test for the larger nations. It's time for the IRB to pull their collective finger out.

  • Comment number 82.

    watched the first half and could not get my head around englands defending, a number of times they left the abs 3 on 1 with ashton it was school boy stuff. nine times out of ten when the abs gt the ball they broke the game line, england conversion rate certinly wasnt that high. The forwards looked gd apart from the line out which seemed to have an off day, they were buildin a gd platform for ben youngs to get quick ball to there england backs. now this is where englands problem is they were to predictable. Toby Flood is a gd fly half but not world class unfortunatly for england he is all weve gt, happy and tindall are solid in defence but didnt look gd going forward. tindal looked lost with ball in hand which ud expect from a debutant like happy not someone who has won a world cup and six nations titles, surly he is playin on borrowed time, but again who have we gt comin through, ashton, youngs and foden are all goin to be about for years to come but unless they get a fly half that can dominate test matches and really take it to the likes of carter england will always fall just short.

  • Comment number 83.

    The Englsh team is getting there, but it's not there yet - as many if not most of the preceding posts seem to agree. At least it seems possible to put a finger on weak spots with more confidence now. Most urgently, I think Johnson is still looking for centres who can tackle strongly on both shoulders and might be reviewing any notion that sheer poundage will do the job. Sadly, the names which keep coming up on these boards as alternatives tend to belong to people whose tackling is even worse, and whose collective tactical assumption seems to be that their opposition suffers from similar deficiencies. I'd like to see Armitage given a run at wing, though. As it stands now, the second row lacks shove, leap and menace: I think Johnson might be looking at his options there. And I'd advise Croft and Flood against getting too comfortable, too, not that I can think who would replace them immediately.

    And what does Johnson do about the line-out throws? Drill seems not to suffice. Maybe there's a basketball coach out there? He certainly hasn't better hookers.

    There are some clear areas of strength in the side too, and notwithstanding their throwing-in, that includes the contribution of those self-same hookers.

  • Comment number 84.

    The same negative responses with a combination of the same dire lack of anything constructive to say from a few of the bloggers on here. There is really no use in stating 'Tindall was terrible' or 'we haven't got any hookers who can throw straight', albeit that last one does have some truth to it, never the less what is the point in chastising a team, did it work for you before? Do you honestly think that repetitive moaning without suggestions of how to improve will really help in the grand scheme of things? I think we could all have a gripe but then we'd just be depressing ourselves. Personally I saw a lot to be optimistic about, although some of our more pessimistic readers would say the AB's almost lost instead of England almost won it. What I did see in this game is a team who pushed a very strong New Zealand team more than they were pushed for most of this years tri-nations which is certainly a plus point.
    Final point for those saying Johnson should just scrap the team and pick a new one? I'm sure i've said this before and i'm not afraid to say it again, teams need to lose! The team from the golden years of 2002/2003 had grown together since Woodward first took the job and lost a hell of a lot of games. The difference is Woodward kept the same core players together and they developed into the best team in the world. Half the reason that this current England team (and all the teams that followed the 2003 team) is that the minute they lose some games half of them are shooed out the door along with the coach! There is no miracle quick fix with international rugby, world class teams are built not simply just born.

  • Comment number 85.

    Oh and btw to trydon (post 65) "If England’s midfield were half as good as 2003 they would have beaten the AB’s on the weekend.".....Englands midfield on the weekend was half as good as 2003, believe Tindall was there or there abouts throwing George Gregon into the stands a couple of times.

  • Comment number 86.

    For the first time since Brian Ashton was woefuly booted out of the England setup and Martin Johnson taking over the team looks like it has a way forward after an optimistic display against a physical,pacey,skilful and clinical All Blacks side.

    England plus points
    Englands front row caused problems and Dylan Hartley is a brilliant mobile hooker although the line out throw needs work. Great backup with Thompson on the bench.
    Sheridan the monster, enough said. Coles did well and if he keeps improving is set for a great future. Courtney Lawes looks like the answer at lock, unforgiving and robust.
    Moody, never say die attitude from the captain coupled with Easter's great ball carrying late on was encouraging although I think Jordan Crane and Tom Rees could both add something to the back row.
    Youngs, did well and looked sharp and with Care in the squad think scrum half position looks well contested.
    Ashton, looked pacey and swiched on in defence.
    Foden, this guy is world class. Lethal on the counter attack.

    England downside:
    Predictable distribution from fly half.
    Predictable attacking lines from centres and lack of skill with ball in hand.
    Defensive shape needs work as we got caught out wide a number of times.
    Not clinical enough in oppositions 22.

    Replace Flood with either; Hodgson, Gerahty, Cipriani
    Partner Flutey with Tate/Waldock
    Steal Shawn Edwards from Wales for defensive improvement
    Watch the All Blacks clinical game and copy


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