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Murrayfield misery for England?

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Ben Dirs | 21:57 UK time, Thursday, 11 March 2010

"In international rugby, passion is very important. It is a warrior sport, you are searching for the toughest competitors who will put their bodies on the line - players who inspire the nation." Andy Robinson, Scotland head coach, talking to BBC Sport

It's a fantasy many of us have indulged in: the spurned employee, handed the chance to put one over his or her old boss. The chance to say, "things are going just fine, thanks, how about you?"

Just as Andy Robinson could be forgiven for saying the very same thing if his Scotland side rumble England on Saturday: the RFU's worst nightmare, hand outstretched, eyes narrowed and wearing just the ghost of a smile.

Murrayfield is where it all started to go wrong for Robinson as England coach - an 18-12 defeat in 2006, the start of a record-equalling run of seven defeats on the spin. Looking back, it's easy to come to the conclusion the RFU bigwigs got it right.

But Robinson will point to battles lost in the boardroom, the lack of access to players, the lack of control full-stop. All stuff Martin Johnson has been given - and if England come a cropper in Edinburgh, all stuff the critics will say hasn't improved things one jot.

Still, Robinson himself is calling it just another game, and Phil de Glanville, who played with Robinson at Bath and under him when Bath won the Heineken Cup in 1998, insists Scotland's coach won't be allowing revenge to obscure his vision.

"Most of the players and management weren't around when he was there and it wasn't their decision to sack him," De Glanville told BBC Sport. "He won't be eaten up by it.

"He'll keep it in perspective and be wary that he wants his Scottish players to focus on the technical aspects of the game and not get too fired up in the extraneous stuff -
the sort of stuff Jim Telfer's been coming out with this week."

Telfer, who led Scotland to a Grand Slam in 1984 and was Ian McGeechan's assistant coach for the celebrated 1990 clean-sweep, reckons Scotland are a better team than England and that, "in terms of rugby philosophy, Andy Robinson and Martin Johnson are about as far apart on the spectrum as it is possible to get".

De Glanville says that's just Telfer being Telfer and that his two old team-mates have more in common than many might think.

"People forget that Andy Robinson was effectively the head coach when Martin Johnson won the World Cup with England in 2003," said De Glanville.

"Clive Woodward was the figurehead, but the majority of the coaching was led by Andy at that time. Every coach makes mistakes early on in terms of applying the right approach, and Johnno's only criticism of Robbo might come back to that.

"But in certain aspects of rugby philosophy I'd have said they were very close. Andy's vision of how the ball it should be moved around is probably a bit more ambitious than Martin's, but in terms of understanding the importance of set-pieces and of the forwards and building the momentum of the game, they're very similar.

"I don't perceive any individual animosity, I think they've got a fairly healthy respect for each other. The only other side of it is that Johnno was brought in after Andy, although Brian Ashton was in between, so Andy might be thinking, 'is Johnno a better coach than me?'"

De Glanville doubts Robinson, a fiercely patriotic Englishman as a player, will attempt to summon the spirit of 1990 in the Scotland dressing room in an attempt to inspire his troops. However, Robinson has hinted otherwise, stating that "whatever it takes, we will use".

"I will leave it to others to explain the passion I bring to the Scotland team," Robinson told BBC Sport before the tournament started. "I would like to think it isn't questioned."

It isn't, according to scrum-half Chris Cusiter: "Andy is as desperate for the team to win as any of us Scotsmen. There is not one player in the Scotland squad who has questioned why Andy is in charge of Scotland. We trust him implicitly."

Which is more than you can say for the RFU. If Scotland do beat England on Saturday, the tide of criticism which has intermittently been lapping at Johnson's feet these last few months will become a wave.

Murrayfield, where it all started to go wrong for Robinson and where things fell apart for Ashton, could, in years to come, be regarded as Johnson's Bannockburn, too.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Can't see Scotland winning on Saturday. Read an article in the Telegraph where Danny Care states that Englands backs are starting to click in training. There finding the gaps and with some deft sidesteps are ripping through the opposition. How would Scotland cope with this? I just don't think they are in the same class as tackle bags!!!!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Just keep thinking like that, (it may be true) but the more those south of the border think like that.....the more the chance we'll upset them. Looking forward to a good day out and enjoying the city pubs before and after.

  • Comment number 3.

    Think it'll be a good match regardless. Being a neutral (well almost, being Welsh we naturally lean to our Celtic cousins) it will be a good match to watch. I would say that England might suffer from over-confidence here and apart from the Italy game Scotland have been playing well.

    Oh, and Pip, sorry to be picky but it's "they're finding the gaps" not "there finding the gaps"

  • Comment number 4.

    Im guessing that MJ does not believe in the headline quote from Andy Robinson based on his selection policy!

    As an England fan it pains me to say it but I think that we will probably lose on Saturday! We don't travel well at the moment anyway (and haven't for several years and our current form is pretty much awful.

    Having seen the last 2 Scotland games they have been playing some fairly decent rugby but due to indiscipline and the lack of winning mentality they have failed to close out games that they could easily have won but I think they will step up to the plate in front of a full house at Murrayfield tomorrow.

    I think the difference will come from the back row which is an area Scotland are fairly strong and that england are less than dynamic in!

    I hope I'm wrong mind you and that England produce a similar 4th round game as they did against France last year but none of the signs look good.

  • Comment number 5.


    I hope you didn't read my post as over confidence! My point is that l am sure we are great rounding tackle bags but not any good when we face real opposition. Think we could easily lose to Scotland. Just bored of hearing our players saying how much they are improving in training.

  • Comment number 6.

    Man for man, how many English forwards would you take over the Scottish pack? Not many, if any I'd argue. If the Scottish pack - and especially the back row - plays to their potential, Scotland will win.

    The English love discussing the potential of their backline but really, has there been a more stagnant English backline in the past decade? As a Scot, I would genuinely like to see England play good, expansive rugby with Flutey, Tait and Armitage getting their hands on the ball but it's quite obviously not a priority for Martin Johnson and nobody expects it to happen anytime soon.

    Robinson is doing a very good job at Scotland with the usual limitations on playing staff (and the SRU blazership of course). Hope the Scotland players can turn in a performance to do the memory of Bill McLaren proud.

  • Comment number 7.

    Both teams could certainly do with the win on Saturday to salvage their respective 6 nations, but who will want it more? I think both teams are quite evenly matched, so if Scotland can keep the nagging errors out of their game then hopefully we can come away with a win. It'll be tight, and I don't think it will be a high scoring game, but fingers crossed!

  • Comment number 8.

    Come on men of the rose, show the Scots those thorns.

  • Comment number 9.

    As a southern hemisphere neutral, this championship has proved strange to watch. It seems to me that teams are more scared of losing than they want to win, and only really start to play rugby when they are under immense pressure. For this reason I think that this weekend's games between the TC contestants is going to either be a great watch or an incredibly frustrating one. For the Scots it seems to be about winning mentality and cutting out the silly handling and other technical infringements. For the English, with a huge player base and funding, there seems to be no excuse for the poor rugby that is being played up the international platform. Although I believe this may be down to the coaching, not all the blame can be down to MJ, as players have a responsibility to step up and express themselves. A key difference here also seems to be the lynchmob that is the media, and come Saturday evening, I predict there will be calls for someone's head... I just hope that it is England's so that somebody can finally appoint a coach capable of fulfilling England's potential (Jake White?), since Andy is clearly doing a great up and coming job with the Scottish!

  • Comment number 10.

    I sense that, apart from the usual (and quite boring) chest beating from the one-eyed supporters on both sides, there is a genuine air of uncertainty on both sides over Saturday's result. Both teams have their issues and both have misfired thus far in the championship but England should start as strong favourites in my view.

    Crucially, Scotland lack the strength in depth that England are blessed with. Without Thom Evans, Chris Paterson and with the lumbering Morrison and Nick De Luca (who cannot catch a rugby ball and who seems to cough up possession every time he is tackled) in the backs - I simply cannot see Scotland scoring tries.

    I would love to be proved wrong, but I think that England will grind out a win at Murrayfield and I don't think that it will be pretty to watch.

    My prediction would be as follows: After a frantic opening quarter where the Scots batter the English defence, to no avail and fail to capitalise on possession and field position (sound familiar?), England will gradually strangle the match and win it in the last quarter when the usual, pointless raft of substitutions rob Scotland of what little shape they have allowing England to score a couple of tries.

    I should point out that I am a Scot and I would dearly love to see a home win but bitter experience tells me otherwise.

  • Comment number 11.

    Although Scotland have lost all their 6 nations games so far I think they will beat England simply because they will not be as bad as England.

    Calcutta cup matches tend to be the worse games of the 6 Nations and on the form of the 2 teams this doesnt look like changing this year. Thankfully I will be playing on Saturday and will miss the game as its far less painfull playing rugby than it is having to watch England try and play it.

  • Comment number 12.

    "Man for man, how many English forwards would you take over the Scottish pack? Not many, if any I'd argue. If the Scottish pack - and especially the back row - plays to their potential, Scotland will win"
    I'd certainly take Hartley and Cole in the front row. Murray is not the player he was and Ford is still Ford - ineffective. Jacobson is the Scottish equivalent to Payne, i.e. holds his own in the scrum and thats about all you get from the pair of them.
    The second rows are evenly matched and obviously Scotland have the advantage in the back row. I'd say one of Haskell / Worsley would make it into Scotland's team. Scotland's backrow look good with ball in hand, but are they prepared to get their hands dirty and do the hard stuff, I have not seen any of this so far.
    Eng's backrow is weakened without Croft and Rees, who are potentially world class.
    Backline advantage goes to Eng, but as yet they have seen very little quick ball.
    Sat's winners will be the team that win the contact / breakdown area, will Scotland get to the breakdown first or will Eng's back row out muscle them at 1st and 2nd phase.

  • Comment number 13.

    Being half Scottish and half English. The Calcutta Cup matches are always facinating. If the sun is shining then I think England will secure the win, the backs I think will start to come together. Also as Hugh said De Luca is always turning the ball over and I wouldn't be surprised if Worsleys sole job is to smash him all game. I like the article Ben, a lot is riding on this match for all involved and Andy Robinson would just love the victory and he will make sure Scotlad are well fired up. I cannot wait.

  • Comment number 14.

    A very patriotic Scotsman going to my first international rugby match tomorrow. Very excited. Hoping for a great expansive game with plenty of tries. I'm very much a "football man" so I can't wait to experience the big-match rugby atmosphere.

    Very much agree with Riley_Ives stating that Scotland have been playing well but indiscipline and inexperience has cost them dear so far, especially in Cardiff!!!

    Hopefully a more resolute, stubborn and disciplined defence can see the Scots pick up their first win in this year's competition.

    Should be a cracker.

  • Comment number 15.

    Von Stoobing

    I'm fed up with the anti SRU stance in our country also. To me the current Chief Exec and his colleagues brought in with him have been doinga great job dragging the finances of the SRU into the real world. Yes things could be better, and yes maybe they are thing they could do better themselves, but so could everyone involved in scottish rugby, and so could the state schools and so could the local clubs.

  • Comment number 16.

    and yes my spelling and typing is rubbish...lets hope England are too

  • Comment number 17.

    prince Paolo

    Don't expect too much atmosphere from scots rugby fans - most are too boring - you may be shouted at if you stand, or even sing. Its another example of how we could all do more. Those of us that try to sing often get told off for spoiling a good conversation about the latest House of Bruar collection of sporting jackets

  • Comment number 18.

    The fans that traveleld to Rome were great, the ones that sit on their bums in Edinburgh, just sit on their bums.

  • Comment number 19.

    and I still can't type

  • Comment number 20.

    I've watched lots of tri nations games having lived in Australia for a long time but now I'm back in the northern hemisphere it's great to see all this banter. Yes the kiwis and boks are the best teams but they have no soul, watching as a fan. The 6Ns might be littered with indecision and scrappy play but this pails into insignificance compared to sense of occasion, atmosphere and friendly - mostly - rivalry. So whoever wins on Saturday -- come on England!! -- and no matter how many times I scream at the players and coach to do something useful with the ball, it'll be a cracking occasion. Something the southern hems can learn from.

  • Comment number 21.

    'Don't expect too much atmosphere from scots rugby fans - most are too boring - you may be shouted at if you stand, or even sing. Its another example of how we could all do more. Those of us that try to sing often get told off for spoiling a good conversation about the latest House of Bruar collection of sporting jackets.'

    Sounds like the barbour and landrover brigade that go to Twickenham. Upper class toffs are upper class toffs regardless of what country you are in! lol.

  • Comment number 22.

    If Scotland can play...or are allowed to play as they did for 70 minutes against Wales then England will be in trouble. Otherwise I imagine that the weather will play a big part. Scotland's recent wins against big opposition have tended to be when Murrayfield is gripped by freezing monsoon-style rain. The combination of of numb-fingers, a ball like soap and generally hacked-off players tends to foster the errrr..."broken" style of play that favours Scotland.

    Other than that, may the best team on the day win and please try to be passably polite to the visitors.

  • Comment number 23.

    the atmosphere might not be great in the stadium but it certainly is in the pubs afterwards - get down to the grassmarket before/after. the beauty of Dublin, Cardiff and Edinburgh is that the cities are small enough that the rugby takes over everything, unlike London where you'd do well to know that anything had happened by the time you'd caught a train out of richmond.

    As for the game, I am in no doubt that it'll be the dullest of the championship played by the least expansive of the teams (including Italy!). Scotland carry no attacking threat in the backs with the Parks Morrison combination and while Wilkinson will kick the ball about adequately, he too is dreadfully unthreatening. Scotland's back row look slightly more effective (niether Haskell nor Worsley will compete with Barclay on the floor) which may be telling.

    Prediction: good chance I'll drink more pints than points scored.

  • Comment number 24.

    Just read the following:
    "Johnson not contemplating defeat"

    Oh Come On!
    I think he should.
    Surprises happen, and for his future, he should be contemplating, if not defeat, then the consequences of defeat.
    Then he might just find a fulfilling way to motivate the team.
    For my own thoughts, the match is going to be a close call, and if the Scots score first, then defeat might just be in the wings.

  • Comment number 25.

    There's no way you would take Haskell over Kelly Brown at the moment. Your lack of a fetcher will hurt, England.

    By the by, Nick De Luca can catch now, thankfully. Some of you haven't been watching his Edinburgh form or latest international caps.

    Also Ford has been great of late. IIRC, our line-out is the best in the 6N? That and he's putting himself about in the loose.

    Clearly, some of you are living half a year ago.

  • Comment number 26.

    Oh come on yourself!!! Johnson is a true Man of the Rose he is a fighter not a loser. More than i can say for whingers like you.

  • Comment number 27.

    Do not wish, preciousMerryboy, to upset you in any way, but if you read the WHOLE of what I wrote, then whinging is the last thing you will see. One hopes)
    Johnson may very well be a man of the rose, and a fighter, but those were the days when he actually played the game, and in his position on the field, he was one of the very best.
    But as a coach, I honestly think he has not cut the mustard and if you take the time to read other 606 debates, that seems to be the concensus of a lot of English, and I emphasise, English, fans and knowledgeable rugby fans.
    He has the players, but they do not seem to gel under his management. If they did, then they would be up there challenging for the 6N, not just the Calcutta Cup.

  • Comment number 28.

    Johnno will be contemplating defeat all night coming up, guaranteed! He should also be contemplating what his next source of employment will be - although I pray he's at the helm for England for many a year!

    I mean, Louis Deacon and Steve Borthwick??!! That's a P45 in human form, right there.

  • Comment number 29.

    I also have a problem with my space bar! :-)

  • Comment number 30.

    Haskell played well against Wales but has gone AWOL since. Having said that he can be effective on his day as he showed during the Autumn and against Wales. Eng are lacking an out and out 7, and I think S. Armitage should be starting there with Worsley at 6 and Easter at 8. Long term Croft at 6 and Rees at 7.
    De Luca has never produced the goods for Scotland, maybe he will stand up tomorrow and be counted, but as a whole Eng's backs have far more potential than Scotland's. I'd like to see a double change at some point at 9 and 10, Youngs and Flood should be starting in my opinion. Its only 12 months ago that Flood, Flutey, Monye, Armitage and Cueto tore Scotland apart, so Eng have been there and done it so to speak.
    As for Ford he is getting better but apart from the Wales game he hasn't shown much to date during the championship. Against France he looked lost.
    The weather looks to be ok for tomorrow, so let the best team win.

  • Comment number 31.

    "Its only 12 months ago that Flood, Flutey, Monye, Armitage and Cueto tore Scotland apart"

    Sorry Guiness but I don't remember it like that. It probably was England's second best performance under MJ but it wasn't that impressive. If Tom Evans had managed to beat Monye in the first few minutes it would really have been a game.

    Plus - I'm sorry to say I wouldn't pin your hopes on Rees - he has been injured pretty solidly for over two years poor lad and there are starting to be some serious doubts about his career.

  • Comment number 32.

    " Scotland's backrow look good with ball in hand, but are they prepared to get their hands dirty and do the hard stuff, I have not seen any of this so far.

    Sat's winners will be the team that win the contact / breakdown area, will Scotland get to the breakdown first or will Eng's back row out muscle them at 1st and 2nd phase."

    barclay is better than anything england have (fit or not) at the breakdown whilst beatie and brown are in awesome form and have been much better than englands back row so far, not to mention they still have strockosch on the bench (unless he's injured again?) who i would take over haskell any day. ford gets undue criticism, mainly for inconsistant throwing, but he is very good around the park and is very strong in the scrum. murray has been injured for a while and is yet to get back to the level he was before his lions injury but is still very solid and i'd have him over cole.

    10 has been the problem for scotland for a while and will continue to be despite parks good performances (that were pretty one-dimensional really). if england play like they did against italy they'll probably loose. scotlands defence hasn't been great out wide and we could beat them in this area if we get some good quick/turnover ball and go wide quickly, but i can't see us getting quick ball to be honest.

  • Comment number 33.

    Sorry, remarkable, please believe me when I say I do not deserve special treatment I just get so uptight when so many, are so down. Please give Martin a chance and hope, that like him, this team will really gel. If not then he must change them.

  • Comment number 34.

    "If" is a big word isn't it!
    "If Tom Evans had managed to beat Monye in the first few minutes it would really have been a game"
    But he didn't and Eng dominated that game.
    Rees has had a 'dodgy' shoulder for a long time and tried to repair the damage without surgery which did not work out, hence the need for surgery, resulting in his absence from the game for over a year.
    And your point is what exactly? Scotland's back row have been impressive to date this year, but as yet have not come out on top after 80 mins. And thats my point, Looking impressive with ball in hand etc is one thing but who does the unnoticed hard graft, which turns a good performance into a winning one? Eng's back row has struggled this season, but don't write off the likes of Worsley, Easter and Haskell (Croft included) who were at the top of the stats charts only a year ago in terms of turn overs and rucks cleared etc (the hard graft as I like to call it).
    Barclay could not lase T. Rees boots. Rees outplayed the southern hemisphere big boys during the NZ tour in 2008 and the AI of that year. He outclassed the likes of R.M'Caw and G. Smith. Who has Barclay outclassed consistantly?

  • Comment number 35.


  • Comment number 36.

    Maybe a little off the point, but maybe not! I really think on games like this the point I wish to make is highlighted! It is England verses Scotland, yet Scotland are coached by a man who is English and who also coached England. I know this is starting to be common place, but it seems just to defeat the point of national sport. Wales is now really a combo of Wales/England/NZ! not just Wales!!

    I think one rule should a least be brought in, as it is the same for players. Coaches can only coach one nationality.

  • Comment number 37.

    WE ARE SCOTLAND, TRAMPLED UNDER FOOT!..........Is that what you mean?

    If Robinson wasn't good enough when at England what makes anybody think he will be good enough to BEAT England?

    Not so long ago everyone was laughing (Scots included) at the performances of England under Robinson, suddenly he becomes this wonderful motivator, strategist and administrator of limited resources. Twaddle!

    England will win well in an hard fought game.

  • Comment number 38.

    Looking at the table, you'd think this would be a game that England should win, but given the performances so far, I'd say the game is a toss-up. England are the least bad of the two sides, but that is cancelled out by Scotland's home advantage.

    I won't predict a result, but I will predict a low-quality, dour match.

  • Comment number 39.

    It seems most people on this blog have failed to notice that Scotland are stone last having lost all their games including Italy. So why the optimism? Also comparing the very mediocre Robinson with the novice Johnson is a waste of time as they are both out of their depth.

    "norealidea wrote:
    I've watched lots of tri nations games having lived in Australia for a long time but now I'm back in the northern hemisphere it's great to see all this banter. Yes the kiwis and boks are the best teams but they have no soul, watching as a fan. "

    Obviously you've never watched rugby at Loftus, or Newlands or Kings Park, real atmosphere, cracking rivalry and most of all proper rugby.

  • Comment number 40.

    "Barclay could not lase T. Rees boots. Rees outplayed the southern hemisphere big boys during the NZ tour in 2008 and the AI of that year. He outclassed the likes of R.M'Caw and G. Smith. Who has Barclay outclassed consistantly?"

    ha ha ha ha ha! GuinessAndNuts are you serious? I'll admit that Barclay hasn't been a consistent performer over the last few years - but he is still a class player who more than competed with McCaw in the 2007RWC when Scotland played their "B" team. Tom Rees is a good player and I hope that he makes a full recovery, but to be honest (and I think you'll actually find a fair few English fans who agree with me here) I'd rather have Barclay out of the 2 of them.

  • Comment number 41.

    Less Guiness, more Nuts makes GuinnessAndNuts a more coherent boy.

    Well done lad, had a great laugh at some of your tubthumping. Are you that elderly prune in the St George's hat and jacket who waves the flat about at Twickers (previously Fortress Twickers)?

    Rees outclass McCaw and George Smith! By jove, that's a classic.

  • Comment number 42.

    These 6 nations have been a terrible advert for the sport, they really have. Rugby lacks that X factor at the minute, and it is struggling for popularity amongst better, more entertaining sports. It has long been established as an excellent sport and a fervent following remains, but as for capturing the general public's imagination, it has been found wanting. This is mostly due to Martin Johnson's poor England side, which is regressing as much as the progress which was made under Brian Ashton.

    It just isn't good enough.

  • Comment number 43.

    Is it just me or is Brian Moore th most biased commentator? I have started to turn him off and listen to the radio. Please tell me I am not alone......

  • Comment number 44.

    Scotland vs England. Why did either team bother? This must have been the most dire game of rugby I've ever watched. Devoid of skill, excitment, continuity, forward momentum or the capability to understand what is rquired to play rugby at the highest level. And what was the referee doing? Why werent the props yellow carded? The scrum saga was dull. England in New Zealand for 2011 could be the most embarrasing sporting expereince we ever see. Where do we go from here?

  • Comment number 45.

    Have read the above comments and agree with most of what has been said about the English coaching and the Scottish limitations regarding dearth of players (small population etc).

    MJ was a GREAT player and, as far as I'm concerned, did more than anyone else, including Jonny Wilkinson, to win England the world cup. As a motivator ON THE FIELD he was the best, without exception. I have never met the man but have to wonder about his ability to rebuild a side and his ideas about how the game has moved on since then. The England pack are OK, just, but not up there with the best in the world. They have moved on. We haven't. If, as an Englishman, I may say so, nor has any other pack in the northern hemisphere with the exception of France. Ireland's forwards are good but tiring, except their two locks, especially Paul O'Connell, who was brilliant today, (and God bless John Hayes). Scotland have their famed back row, of whom John Beattie stands out. Wales, basically, struggle up-front: Martyn Williams has waned this season, to me, and has no longer looked like one of the best flankers going. Tempus fugit.

    As to the backs: the English, Scottish and Welsh backs seem to lack imagination and flair as to how to break the defensive line. I know the Welsh will argue with this but, again to me, seem to do it individually rather than as a combined force. Against the top international sides individual skill, whilst good to see, is rarely enough to break top defences.

    As an aside to the BBC, should they be interested, it was noticeable today during your commentary on the Ireland/Wales game that even Jonathan Davies, from whom you can normally rely upon to give neutral comments, mentioned that Wales conceded 17 points to England and 10 points to Ireland whilst Wales were a man down, implying that Wales would have won otherwise. (Oh yeah!). It was not mentioned that Wales beat Scotland within the last 10 mins when Scotland were two men down! Maintain your record Jonathan and be honest!

    Last bit. In remembrance of Bill McLaren, for whom a remembrance 'service' was held at Murrayfield earlier this week, I would like to say 'Thank You' to all the Scottish Fans who booed and made as much noise as they could whilst an Engish kick at goal was being taken. You are true sportsmen/women. Bill would have loved it.


  • Comment number 46.

    Some really interesting contributions here - much more so than the normal biased drivel from all sides that often infects the site.

    I think one of MJ's problems is the lack of space to experiment and learn on the job - which is (becasue he was so inexperienced when appointed) the only way it will happen. A real shame he doidn't take the summer tour when first appointed. Under the kind of pressure he faces now it is an understandable reaction to batten down the hatches and try to survive, bit not really conducive to developing himself as a coach or England's game.

    The coaches have much to answer for - I think they are letting him down, and I suspect the malign influence of Rob Andrew somewhere in there. He is a meddler.

    But MJ has now made himself part of the problem - he has saddled himself with a team of reasonable talent that doesn't know how it should play. He desperately needs some self-confident and mature decision-makers on the pitch. Wilkinson has never performed this role, and Care and Hartley (for two who could fill the role) behave like headless chickens. The rest of the pack are largely anonymous (Borthwick, Deacon, Payne, Worsley, though Joe tackled heroically yesterday). Haskell has become a legend in his own mind and needs to sort himself out (a bit like Ben Cohen) and Armitage is knackered and needs a rest.

    My recipe for Paris - forget the 6N and start re-building now. Flood, Foden, Youngs, Lawes, Moody all in; Deacon, JW, Armitage, Haskell, Care all relegated to the bench.

  • Comment number 47.

    To my feeble mind Pianoshifter is right on the button here. " A team of reasonable talent that doesn't know how it should play".
    For once, and for God's sake, let's stop being so bloody conservative and play to win rather than not to lose. Let the accent be on attack rather than defence. Defence is obviously very important (which is why I would not pick Tait) but are we really aiming at a 0-0 draw?

    We English are not going to win either the championship or the wooden spoon so, just for a change, why don't we try something different: surprise the buggers and attack from all quarters; backs lying flat when it's (should be) our ball and the back 3 hitting the pass on the run rather than standing still because they assume the opponents will gain possession and so have to defend. If all goes wrong and the French score a try so what? Keep attacking them! Get in their faces, which you cannot do by hanging back.

    One of France's most dangerous players is Harinordoqui, as everyone knows. One of our best tacklers is Joe Worsley. Why not play Joe at 8? I know he plays as a flanker, and to my mind is always better at 6 than 7, but I'd try him at 8 against France - he is a good ball carrier in attack and has more pace and vision than Nick Easter, although not as much weight, and, as said, tackles like the best in defence. He is faster than Harinordoqui and so should hopefully, at least, disrupt his play.

    We all know about, or, rather, don't know about the problems with the backs. So much supposed talent! I have yet to see it! It is easy for old forwards/farts like myself to recall names of half-backs, three quarters and full-backs who played the ball that we had put so much effort into winning.

    I'm obviously a grizzled old forward, with all the subsequent scars, but at least I had faith that the backs behind me would do something more useful with the ball that I had shed blood to win than just kick it into the opposition's hands.

    Moody has to play at 7 if we are to disrupt the French. He remains one of the most mobile, disruptive and attacking 7's there is.

    Have to go now. Have been called by the domestic authorities.


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