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Baa Baa's game

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England 35 - Barbarians 26

What's everyone's thoughts on the game?

Here's my verdict:

Obviously the first half was good. Genuinely believe that the forwards doing the basics made all the difference. Charlie Hodgson just linked the forwards and backs nicely. Stand outs were Tom Palmer, Dave Attwood, Nick Easter and Steve Thompson. The off-loading skills were excellent, particularly from the second rows, and it gave England go forward that they've rarely achieved within the last year or so. Dave Attwood in particular was ferocious at the breakdown, and made a couple of offloads that I'm afraid Steve Borthwick just cannot make. I think this might be the start of a gradual phase out for Borthwick, and possibly Simon Shaw, as the youngsters make their mark. Parling, Attwood and Lawes are a good bunch.

Second half was almost a total disaster. The Barbarians bench hugely strengthened their team, with George Smith, Jerome Thion, and Census Johnstone making a huge difference. However, in contrast the England bench weakened the team massively. When Attwood, Thompson, Golding, and Armitage went off, their replacements (Payne, Mears, Ward-Smith, and Worsley) most certainly made things a lot worse. Things started to collapse a bit. Line outs were missed by Lee Mears, the scrum was weakened with Tim Payne and lightweight Lee Mears, there was no offloading from a far less creative forward pack featuring Payne and Worsley, and we lost the breakdown battle (presumably not helped by Armitage going off).

On the whole, I think the game made clear the value of a strong pack, and also the value of forwards looking to offload in the tackle and pump themselves upfield. In the first half that allowed the backs the space and the gaps to exploit. Both Mark Cueto and Ben Foden in particular looked solid and very effective. Again, Mike Tindall showed why he should be the first name on the team sheet, bringing solidity and intelligence to the midfield. Wasn't particularly impressed with Danny Care yet again, and thought that defensively, Shontayne Hape didn't have a great game, although when Matthew Tait came on he did himself no favours, missing tackles and getting turned over whilst contributing nothing in attack.

When the Leicester boys return to the squad, we should feel confident about putting out very strong 22s in Australia. However, it's vital to select the right team. The first half today showed the importance of balance and attacking intent from within the forwards. If this goes missing (with the reintroduction of Payne, Deacon, Moody), we will be in trouble against the Aussies.

If I was to pick a 22 for the first test now I'd go with:

Wilson, Thompson, Cole, Shaw, Palmer, Croft, Moody, Easter, Youngs, Flood, Cueto, Barkley, Tindall, Ashton, Foden

Golding, Mears, Attwood, Haskell, Care, Wilkinson, Banahan

Picking players on form. Powerful front row. Good scrummagers. Powerful second row but good hands. Predictable back row. Best half back pairing. Most exciting and well balanced back line. Bench full of impact players. Rather see Golding than Payne, and rather see Banahan than Tait. Wilkinson, Flood and Barkley can cover centre if necessary.

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posted May 30, 2010

I thought the first half England looked very good with Hodgson directing things in the backs.

When Steve thompson went off the scrum was a lot weaker, like wise when Hodgson went off England seem to lose their drection, the Barbarians started to get a foot hold on the game and England seem to be struggling in the second half.

Lets hope that the England management will learn from this game has they go on to Australia. It is now the time to start building a winning team in time for the Rugby World Cup next year and beyond.

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posted May 30, 2010

England have lost more than they've won against the Baa-Baas recently so I think that result is very encouraging (I didn't see the game, mind).

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posted May 30, 2010

Da Baron, I thought it was 5 games apiece now.

could be wrong though?

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posted May 30, 2010

Martin Johnson has stated that England were not smart enough

but he later went on to describe Attwood's performance as outstanding.

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posted May 30, 2010

The England team seemed to lose direction with the replacements, and maybe this should have been dealt with by the captain. Tait certainly looked poor. Barkley looked like a 12 playing 10, but did 'ok'. Care, as usual in my view, was unimpressive and Simpson should have replaced him instead of going to the wing. Hadn't seen Golding play before but he impressed and I hope his injury is not serious. Cueto was impressive and Strettle worked hard for little reward.

For an England with many 2nd and 3rd choices this was not too bad a showing.

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posted May 31, 2010

i'd start these for the tests based on that performance
15. Foden
14. Cueto
13. Tindall
12. Barkley
!0. Wilkinson (for toulon form)
9. Youngs
8. Easter
7. Armitage(admittedly Moody will start)
6. Croft (Haskell as impact)
5. Attwood
4. Shaw
3. Wilson
2. Thompson (mears on bench)
1. Flatman (if golding is out)

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posted May 31, 2010

Johnson said England must be smarter.

We all know the selection for the Summer tour is odd and still smacks of being about winning the next game and lacking forward thinking.

But yesterdays game showed another side to the inexperienced manager - making tactical substitutions at the right time, in the right positions.

Johnson did not judge the game accurately and his substitutions were frankly awful.

He can claim England need to be smarter, but it starts at the top.

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posted May 31, 2010

Tino - Hodgeson and Golding coming off were for injury not tactics...

Barkley was pretty abysmal, he completely failed to control the game from 10, and when England were on the back foot and needed to bring some shape to the game he should have been the guy to do that. He looked totally out of place and shouldn't even be considered cover at 10 on that showing.

Similarly once Golding went off the scrum started going backwards and there was less dynamism in the loose as Payne ambled around being turned over and knocked backwards.

DWS actually looked quite good, but by the time he came on England were firmly on the back foot - and he came on for Attwood who had been immense. Haskell and Armitage all but disappeared from the game in the second half, which made life very difficult for England as the Baa Baas had very quick ball throughout the last half hour of the game. Bringing Thommo off made the front row look weaker still - but I'm not convinced he's an 80 minute player anymore - although he's probably booked a test place ahead of Mears with some very good work in the 1st half.

On the positive side, aside from Thommo, Attwood looked excellent and has probably now earmarked himself as Shaw's long term successor as a big powerful unit with a very good offloading game. Palmer looked mobile and put in a lot of hard work. Easter looked more powerful and made far more yards than Rush. Golding equipped himself well, being prominent in the loose (despite conceding a couple of penalties) and gaining parity at the scrum. Hape looked very strong in attack. Tindall gave the backline a lot of go forwards. Strettle and Foden both worked hard, tackled well and looked inventive when counter attacking. And my man of the match was Cueto, who showed a great eye for gaps and ability to beat people.

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posted May 31, 2010

Oh Dear. Jonno wants a smarter England does he? Well, perhaps they should learn from the way they played in the first half. England showed what they can do when they actually run and pass (two fundamental parts of the game). What England tend to do is employ the only two tactics they know. Ones that they have used for many, many years. Kick the ball away, and slow the game down by giving it to the forwards. This last tactic is made better when England employ a scrum half that takes at least two mins to get the (attacking) ball out of the ruck and give it to one of the fat boys (watch the highlights of last years England V Barbarians match for how this works).

I want to watch them play but I tend to fall asleep.

Jonno needs to employ the fast, talented backs that seem to hang about on the wing waiting for a pass.

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posted Jun 1, 2010

Do you think Danny Care takes 2 steps before going to the loo?

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