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Can limited England reach the 'promised land'?

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Ben Dirs | 13:44 UK time, Saturday, 1 October 2011


The New Zealand media have a lot of fun with what they perceive as the pompous attitude of English rugby journalists and fans: "You simple southern hemisphere folk fail to understand the intricacies of the game," goes the line. "All that fancy running and handling - 'proper' rugby is about grunt and grind, dour attrition and sticking it up your jumper."

While such a perception is overly simplistic, the neutrals who witnessed England v Scotland at Eden Park could be forgiven for wondering how 140 years of rivalry, 128 previous games - all that so-called sporting warfare - had failed to trigger an arms race and drag the northern hemisphere game out of the trenches.

The match was not without its tension and drama, that's for certain. One minute Scotland were through, then it was England. Then Scotland again. And finally England. Indeed, there will be a journalist in the northern hemisphere, somewhere, who will claim it was a game that could have been "scripted by Le Carré". Down south, they will take a dimmer view.

Before the game, England manager Martin Johnson said "it's going to be tense, it's going to be nervy, there's going to be anxiety". Chalk that comment up to experience - or call it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Either way, for the first 40 minutes, England's sole attacking ploy appeared to be Jonny Wilkinson's up-and-under. So anxious, England forgot about their other backs.

Outside Wilkinson, England's two most destructive runners, Manu Tuilagi and Chris Ashton, were left kicking their heels. Ashton, remarkably, did not touch the ball until the 59th minute. To be fair to Wilkinson, he was hardly helped by half-back partner Ben Youngs, who was indecisive under pressure and whose delivery was poor.

Jonny Wilkinson lets fly with a kick for England

Wilkinson has landed fewer than 50% of his goal kicks at the 2011 World Cup. Pic: Getty

Monitoring social media sites during the game was a joy: "Wilkinson's past it... Wilko's God!... Wilkinson's past it... Wilko's God!" The truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle. The man has a big old set on him still, as he proved by knocking over a couple of crucial second-half kicks. But a wayward first-half display left you wondering where he had mislaid his Mojo: check the little people of Queenstown, check Dave Alred's kit-bag, check Mike Tindall's pockets from 'that night' in Altitude - it has to be somewhere.

The uncomfortable truth for Wilkinson is that, if his kicking game is off, then Toby Flood looks the better attacking choice. People sometimes accuse me of being a sporting romantic, an aesthete for aesthetics' sake, but if you have destructive three-quarters, then you might as well use them. It is not just 'chucking the ball about', it is the rational option.

Of course, when your set-piece is getting mangled, playing with any kind of fluency becomes a challenge. "[The first half] was a bit like the Argentina game," said Johnson. "Lots of free-kicks and penalties, our set-piece creaked, we couldn't get a foothold. They had a bit more urgency." He could have added "more intensity", "more nous". Dare I say it, "more passion".

There were times before the break when England looked and played like strangers. Static receivers, poor lines of running, missed tackles - and worst of all, no-one delivering a good old-fashioned rollocking. It suggested this was a side badly lacking in leaders, a side full of players who do not know who to turn to when the opposition gets amongst them and starts ripping up their plans.

The second half was better. But not by that much. "You play these games in isolation," added Johnson. "The game is not always going to be beautiful - but we finished it off."

That they did. But will the template that finished off Argentina and Scotland finish off better sides? Is it the correct template to win a World Cup? And surely winning the World Cup should be the ambition of any England side. Big resources and big money comes with big expectations.

"There is more than one way to reach the promised land," wrote a British journalist last week, referring to this unhealthy southern hemisphere addiction to creativity and guile. In six World Cups so far, the promised land has been reached by one northern hemisphere side, England in 2003. That is an awful lot of teams that have taken the wrong direction.

The good news? England are in the quarter-finals - and France, who they play in the last eight, were absolutely appalling in losing to Tonga. Marc Lievremont's side appear to have all the team spirit and camaraderie of a rock band entering the final stages of a 200-date tour. If we are talking Spinal Tap, then this was France's Stonehenge moment.

"France are just like us playing at school," texted a friend at the end of match. "Some days they're just not up for it - too cold, opposition too big." Only a joke, but he has a point.

Beat the flaky French next Saturday in Auckland, as they have every chance of doing, and England are in the semi-finals. A victory for the English style of play? Well, that depends on your definition of 'promised land'.


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  • Comment number 1.

    unless they up their game the could well be out next round, after all, the talk had been that Scotland was now a second tier nation.

  • Comment number 2.

    We can beat France. We can also beat Wales or Ireland. We are also capable of losing to all three, and probably will unless we bring our "A game" with us.

    If the All Blacks don't choke between now and the final, I can't see a way past them...

  • Comment number 3.

    Given the lacklustre displays by both France and England in today's games, the Northern Hemisphere representative in the final is likely to be winner of the Ireland v Wales quarter final. C'mon the celts!

  • Comment number 4.

    England always seem to get criticised for winning! However when other home nations lose a tight game it is called 'heroic' or 'glorious' or people talk about pride in the performance (i.e. Wales vs SA, Scots vs Arg/Eng). It's crazy. 3 of Jonny's kicks were from over 50m out a distance that Paterson for instance won't even take on. Sure there was the one on the 10m line he should have nailed and he had a bad miss on a drop kick but he nailed some penalties from wide out and that right footed drop goal could be the kick of the tournament so far. We did enough just as we did in our other games. We have shown no particular game plan or special moves and so I think we enter the quarter finals as an unknown quantity and dare I say it the underdog. I'd be pretty happy as MJ or one of the players, although I would tell the journo's that the other team were great, we need to improve and that we will just take each game as it comes, thus ticking the boxes required in interview.

  • Comment number 5.

    Knock out rugby England have turned up. They'll go all the way to the final playing a tight boring game.

  • Comment number 6.

    For some reason it seems England were playing under the impression they were far more on the rocks than they actually were. They really didn't have anything to worry about. Regardless of losing that game, even by more than 8 points they were still through. Scotland had to realistically score four tries for the bonus point AND stop england from being within 7 points to knock us out. That was it. Where the whole idea that if England lost by more than 8 points threw them out of the competition came from is beyond me. Someone, or a lot of people, didn't do some basic maths (unless I haven't). I was actually rooting for scotland to win (by more than 8 points even though England would come SECOND in the group and therefore play NZ in the quarters) just to see scotland go potty until someone did the maths and realised they still weren't through. Would of been banter.

    Regardless of the fact england were not ACTUALLY under much pressure they thought they were and played rubbish. But we'll make the finals.

  • Comment number 7.

    Yawn another doom and gloom post. Its a knock out tournament you don't get through by playing champagne rugby and losing.

    The first half was dire, the second half showed a massive improvement with Manu more and more involved in the game.

    You can batter Youngs all you like but 99.9% of the pressure put on him was down to the inability of the forwards to dominate the breakdown. Shocker there isn't it.

    Until our front 5 work out that they are far more effective at hitting rucks and securing possession than standing out wide waiting for the ball to be delivered so they can take it up on their own and be turned over the better as far as I am concerned.

    I get sick of people bitching about a Palmer and Lawes second row when its rare either hit rucks and work to secure the ball like Deacon seems to have to do on his own. If we can sort that out then we can release the backs and release Youngs to cause the level of devastation that we know they can cause.

  • Comment number 8.

    England have scraped through with wins against Arg and Sco barely beating both teams who are both in the higher end of the top10. Thankfully France are in a dreadful state so England should win that one too but as soon as they hit anyone else they are gone home. Wales or Ireland would relish the chance to play England at the state they are in right now.

  • Comment number 9.

    England played well against a side who will always up their intensity several notches to play them and this game had added tension of winner-takes-all. Scotland nearly pulled it off and were superb at knocking us off our stride in the 1st half but you have to give credit to an England team who didn't panic (too much) and spent the 2nd half putting themselves in a position to score and taking most of those opportunities, still in the face of an extremely dogged opposition.

  • Comment number 10.

    As usual, the French will pull a rooster out the hat and there will be no Jonny drop goal to save the day. The AB's, meanwhile, seem to be self-destructing. Without the talisman, Danny Boy, they're a basket short of a picnic.

  • Comment number 11.

    @timothieus Marjot - If 2 teams were level on points then the head 2 head record takes precedence over points difference, so had Scotland beaten us by more than 7 points, then they would have been through. The only situation when points difference would have counted is if Argentina then lost to Georgia with no points then Eng, Sco & Arg would all have been level on points, each having lost to one of the others so the only way to separate the teams would be points difference. So England were, actually, under rather a lot of pressure at one point (3-12 down)!

  • Comment number 12.

    ok. fair enough. missed that one when i went through the rules (quickly). well. in that case. well done boys.

  • Comment number 13.

    Here we go all the same comments just wait till you meet France , Wales or Ireland they will show you up.
    Just look at Englands RWC record better than all the so called celtic nations.
    4 games 4 wins that is what matters.

  • Comment number 14.

    @5 - Yep, England are going to be boring and reach the final that way. But I'd rather that than play champagne rugby and get knocked out. In rugby you don't get prizes for style. If rival fans don't like it. Then so be it. They are free to change the channel or switch off their tv when we play.

  • Comment number 15.

    First half England barely had the ball at all, and silly mistakes gave the ball back to Scotland. Scotland just had one plan and it didn't involved possession, it was about territory when instead they should of been putting the ball in the hands of Evans and Lamont, both looked extremely dangerous.

    Second half was a different kettle of fish, England kept getting over the gain-line every time, the only problem was that Wilkinson had the game-plan of keeping the scoreboard ticking with the drop goals to my personal annoyance as we got in try scoring situations and just went for the posts.

    England are through however have to take their chances a lot better in the future and more importantly (long term) we seem to have found an outside centre who will scare defenses

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm inclined to agree with #7. The pack weren't at home in the first half. Given the chance, I reckon the back line can upset any team, (though I see Tindall more as an extra back rower, if you follow me). Armitage impressed me most in the first half, though mainly in defence. However, the simple answer is still faster ball..

  • Comment number 17.

    Ask France who would you rather face in the 1/4 finals. Argentina England or Scotland. I do not think the answer will be England. I am glad NZ are facing Argentina not Scotland. The last time Scotland played NZ they did not even try. Let alone score a try. NZ Argentina will be a better match to watch.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think England's performance in the world cup has been pretty poor. However, too many people (mostly Celts) are dismissing them out of hand. I don't think I need to remind them that teams that do that for England have a habit of losing. Austrlia dismissed us in 2007 world cup and got beaten, they did it again in the Autumn internationals and got beaten. France and Wales did it in the 6 nations and got beaten. For a team that is apparently useless and relying on luck, they seem to be winning more than any other NH team. Let's not forget than Wales were lucky to win one of the games against England before the world cup as England dominated them. Despite their poor performances against Argentina and Scotland, it would be a complete fool that would dismiss England.

    The main weakness in England is definitely our forwards. They seem to be incapable of doing any of the things forwards are supposed to be able to do. Their ability to win at the breakdown is extremely weak, probably the worst of the teams going through. They VERY rarely disrupt or turn over the ball through counter rucking. The scrum is pretty poor and their discipline is atrocious. They are also extremely slow getting back to their feet or getting back into position after tackles, penalties and scrums. MJ really needs to get on their backs and tell them to up the tempo and MOVE rather than ambling along. Whilst they plod along out of position they are essentially out of the game.

    Lastly, our general pace is very poor. We very rarely have chasers on our box kicks which means our opponents are under no pressure and can happily kick or run it right back at us. We also don't tend to run onto the ball at speed, which makes it much harder to break the defencive line. Lastly, we are far too predictable. There is little change in running line or passing tactic. It's nearly always pass the the next person in the line as opposed to things like dummy runners or having someone switch direction.

    Get these problems sorted and England have the potential to be a very powerful team. Individually our players are pretty good and we have some great runners. They are just not being exploited properly.

  • Comment number 19.

    Everyone's talking about how awful France were, but for the first part of their game, they looked far better than England ever did. If England and France both play the way they did today, it's certainly not clear that England will win.

    On the other hand, Scotland played very well, England failed to turn up, and England still won. Sadly for Scotland, if they couldn't put away an England who couldn't be bothered, they do deserve to go home.

  • Comment number 20.

    Not much mention of how Scotland played? In the first half england had the wind behind them and it was wet so the up and under was a good tactic and worked well. Made ground when we had the ball. Scotland tried hard but until they score tries they got no chance. England dont play boring rugby anymore. Look at our last 6 nations, Autumn internationals etc. Two matches we have had tight games, should only help us build up for the tight game later. When England get the breakdown correct, they are a threat to anyone as all teams know. (not including SA or NZ)

  • Comment number 21.

    England can reach the final by playing as they have. France have been absolutely awful in this tournament. Yes of course they always have the ability to put in some amazing performance... The forward orientated English game put France to the sword in 03 and 07, I can see it happenning again in 2011.

    Both Ireland and Wales are beatable. Both sides are of course capable of beating England but... yes, England could once again find themselves in a rugby world cup final for the third tournament in a row.

    Do they have the game to take on New Zealand (who I believe will reach the final)... no chance.

  • Comment number 22.

    Oh dear! How sad! Never mind!

    Now gerrome!

    To think again maybe!

  • Comment number 23.

    Brave of you Ben after the reaction to the Argentina blog! At root it comes down to why people watch sport full stop. Part of it is watching people endevour to perfect a craft, part of it is in the entertainment of that craft, and part of it is the rush provided by tribalism. If you lose sight of the first with too much emphasis on the second then the sport risks becoming superficial so there is some justification to defending the "intricacies" of a low scoring contest. However if you throw aside the entertainment all together then you really are selling people short. And as you say its counter-productive. England regularly have more of the ball against tri-nations teams but always seem to struggle to fully reflect that in points purely because of the lack of ambition and creativity. I mean why were they even attempting those difficult kicks at goal in the first half?

    I think England do deserve credit for coming through a fairly tough group with four wins; but when you compare it to the 3 tries the All Blacks scored in the first half of their game v France then its fair to ask questions.

    And as to whether I'd prefer my team to play expansively and drop in the quaters or batter relentlessly to a defeat in the final - (a) I think its a false choice and (b) even if it weren't I'd choose the quaters myself!

  • Comment number 24.

    England have the ability to play some lovely rugby, i.e. against Australia last autumn, but at the moment we seem to have gone back to a game of aimless kicking. If we do reach the final and we continue with kicking the ball away then we will get put to the sword, as the All Blacks, Wallabies and to a lesser extent the Proteas (no Springbok on their chest so it feels wrong to call them that) all have a back three who counter instead of kicking. If we can stop giving aimless penalties away and keep the ball then I think we could at least reach the final.

  • Comment number 25.

    What an awful game,
    What an awful world cup,
    Trying to talk this game up, is like putting lipstick on a pig.

  • Comment number 26.

    NZ have not been tested yet. They will be more worried about an Argentina 1/4 final than a Scottish one that for sure. Dont forget the Scottish conditions today. The weather was in their favor and slowed England down. Still Scotlands kick and rush game nearly paid off. A dry day and you would have seen a better England. All good experiance for the young players.

  • Comment number 27.

    Carter looking out, McCaw with niggles, Aussies and Saffas falling to bits, France losing to Tonga. Winners of England & Ireland/Wales to win the cup. Hope it is England, but I've got a nagging feeling that Ireland are going to shock the world, in the words of a certain boxer. But England could win. No stand out side, especially if Carter is out. Their stand in stand off is embarassingly poor. If I had to put my money on it, BOD to lift the cup in a month. And there couldn't be a more deserving winner as player or person - class act. That said, tip o' the hat to Scotland's players and coaches today. Wholehearted effort in the game and dignified response afterwards. A credit to the game.

  • Comment number 28.

    England have shown in 2 matches that they can win when playing badly and are in a losing other team in the tournament have been in similar position, my point being in tight matches in the knock out part England now have the experience and knowledge of how to grind out a win..will probably get slammed for this but how would have the ABs reacted in a similar position..I am not sure...England have won 4 from 4 and have every chance of getting to the final..bring it on

  • Comment number 29.

    England won, but we didnt play well. It was always going to be a close game. We won, as we did against Argentina, we should be relatively happy with that. Some people on here cant seem to understand how hard a tight game like these can be. As we saw in Wales v South Africa its always difficult but the most composed team usually wins.
    James Mathews, you do talk ALOT rubbish. Your perception of each teams level seems to change week by week. All the top teams are capable of beating each other ON their day. The difference bewtween them isnt as big as people like to think it is.

  • Comment number 30.

    I am not sure if Johnson got the team selection wrong, or it was just that key players did not perform, but I am sure that the problem was not assessed and fixed quickly enough. The English game management was poorly executed on and off the field. Scotland played with a superb passion and commitment that disguised their shortcomings as a last-eight nation. But England would not have been on the back foot, especially in the first half, but for serious under-performance in three key positions. Loose head prop and half backs. Matt Stevens was not in control of his position and England lost possession time and again because of his binding or head position (below hips –actually, in the dirt). Youngs was indecisive throughout taking far too long to release the ball from the back of a scrum or breakdown. He let the ball stay within the scrum too long, so never any quick ball, and often so long that the England eight too often lost control of the set piece before the ball was released to the backs. Youngs kept taking an extra step or two before making a pass, and gave some awful ball to next receiver. Too slow and too indecisive. There was never a proper link between the forwards and the backs. These were the main two culprits for starving England of a platform, but the half back combo also came to grief because of Wilkinson's newly developed kicking frailty. Clearly, no longer a one-off blip. Quite apart from the poor kicking return, Wilkinson then tried to over-compensate by making bad game decisions. The biggest culprit of all though was Martin Johnson. The said three players were not performing, and should have been substituted in the first half, and at half time at the very latest. Yet they all trotted on after the interval and stayed till the latter stages of the match. Shocking. I get the impression that substitutions were largely made according to a pre-match plan rather than what was actually happening on the field. Thank goodness, when Corbisiero, Wrigglesworth and Flood came on with barely 10 minutes left, their impact transformed the match. I do not understand why Johnson is so slow to adapt. I fear England's further chances in the competition will disappear in Johnson's myopic blind spots. Personally, I would prefer Simpson to Wrigglesworth and a berth has to be found for the terrific Tom Palmer.

    Conclusion: strengthen the front row; quick ball off the back of the scrum or breakdown; kick penalties. Simple game. BTW, does anyone else wonder wonder what Lewis Moody is actually contributing to the matches? Quite apart from his lack of effectiveness in the loose, when England leak penalties from infringements by the forwards, mad dog does not seem to be the path to cool-headed discipline.

  • Comment number 31.

    England 'can' get to the promised land - whether they will or not is another thing.

    I know it's a cliche but the pool stages are about qualifying for the next stage, which they have. England V Scotland was never going to be pretty and Scotland caused England a lot of problems. I think Eng were so worried about the scoreline they were going for drop goals and kicks from distance, when they should have put faith in the backs. That was what I was dissappointed with.

    However, I'm not too worried about the performance because again, they have found a way to win a game they were losing.

    It's about time England started games the way the finish them. Again, too many penalties in the first 20 mins. They can't let teams get ahead on the scoreboard, then try and catch up. Second half much better intensity.

    I expect England to play better next week against the French as that game will be totally different and who knows which French team will turn up?

  • Comment number 32.

    "In six World Cups so far, the promised land has been reached by one northern hemisphere side, England in 2003. That is an awful lot of teams that have taken the wrong direction. "

    I think Ben, the fact that South Africa have won two world cups without scoring a try in the final rather spoils your point here, wouldn't you say? Whether people like it or not, the reality is that defences win world cups, not 'creativity & guile'. Look at Leicester in the Premiership at the moment... the top try scoroers after four games, yet third from bottom because their defence has been awful. NZ are indeed a very creative attacking force, but without their strong defence, they wouldn't win as amny games as they do.

  • Comment number 33.

    England seem to be struggling lately with a syndrome that has blighted Wales for a very long time, they have forgotten how to dominate a game, Wales have always bee able to raise their game against the top sides to compete, but not been able to dominate sides they should be putting to bed, England have suffered from this so far but i do believe they are a significantly better side than their recent performances...

    By contrast, what NZ do so well is they go out and whilst understanding the gravity of the task they then play for the win and go about dominating sides, not simply competing, Eng. looked as though they were trying not to lose the game in the first 40...

    Just because you know its going to be tight, close and physical, you don't necessarily have to play that way, they should have moved the ball wide, stretched Scotland and looked to play some rugby as they did last autumn and to some extent in the 6 nations, as we know Scotland are strong in the tight, don't play where their comfortable...

    Average performance from Youngs and Wilko who have less than no chemistry have been the problem, Youngs (and Eng. generally) look lost going forward without Flood, who provides structure, moves his team around the field and brings other people into the game, he must start if Eng. are to mount any kind of challenge...

    Monies on Ireland for the final mind, any takers?

  • Comment number 34.

    The first 40 minutes must have been straight out of Andy Robinson's team talk. Lots of scrums (in which they had the edge), scrappy, lots of high balls and the Scots kicking a few goals. It was as if England didn't know what to do yet surely this would have been expected - Scotland did not have any weapons to hurt us other than those. Second half we played better. Biggest worry is our half back combination and we need to get that sorted but we look dangerous when running. Our game in 2007 was, in my opinion, in a much worse state and we reached the final and almost nicked it. So on this evidence we can win it but need to sharpen up and dictate the pattern of play. In the two close games (Argentina and Scotland) we let them play the game they wanted for the first hour. One thing that did please me was out fitness levels - we finished very strongly.

  • Comment number 35.

    I think it's been a great RWC so far...

    Ireland beating the Aussies, Tonga beating the French, Wales outplaying SA and so close to beating them, and several very close games that I couldn't take my eyes off - today included.

    I think it's facinating...

    I wonder what the odds are on a Wales V Aus Final....?

  • Comment number 36.

    Watched thé game in France (who, by the way are worried about meeting England).

    Armitage is going to run riot through the French lines.

    I think Toby Flood has to start against France.

    I can only recall one moment of indecision by Youngs.

    Little 2nd phase play because England were keeping an eye on the scoreboard and doing the sums (in the first half we didn't get the knock-out style rugby promised by Johnno).

    I think England are improving.

    They've topped the group by scoring tries.

    I'm optimistic about the French but fear a home-nations semi.

    In any case, England nowhere near as bad as the media says.

  • Comment number 37.

    I fail to see why so may contributors, and rugby critics, sorry, sports commentators and journalists are so obsesed with form and precident. If previous form was anything to go by, the AB's would have won the last 3 RWC's. Surely the whole point of a competition such as this is that teams do not perform according to form, some rise to the occaision, dare I say England in the last two, and some fail, or is the word choke, mentioning no names. So the phrase "if they continue to play like this..." is nonsense.

  • Comment number 38.

    Well then Ben. I feared that after your tweets regarding this blog I was going to have to tread very warily of your mothers wrath. I have come to the conclusion that at least this time you watched the same match as me. Once again the French commentators seem to have been a little more "kind" on the English performance than you but you are at least reasoned and restrained. What is worrying is that some of your points are actually very valid.
    Johnny did not have a good game and might have got himself a seat on the bench for the quarter finals to come on as an "impact player" (awful phrase) and kick a couple of penalties & a drop late on. Ben Youngs was also below average and didn't seem to know what was going on behind him. Several times he would start to the left & reverse as there was nobody there! With the Scots playing the offside line as close as they always do (ie just over it) there was rarely time for the ball to get to the backs before the Scots defenders.
    The forwards were better. After the first 15 mins where they conceded 4 penalties (NOT 5 Tom Fordyce, please get your figures right) they conceded only another 6 in the match. They had taken the style of refereeing (not at all bad Mr Joubert) to heart and adapted their game. A distinct plus point.
    By the way Ben, your Blog name of James Mathew doesn't fool anyone any more. It is obvious that you just chuck these in to wind up people as no-one can really be that silly. Comments that England have struggled against two teams in the high top ten (I presume that means 8 & 9) is really is very condescending and disrespectful to those teams. It also forgets that these teams are fully professional with squads who earn their living from Rugby in the same way as England. They are not Japan with maybe 4 full time players, or even Georgia (15 of whose squad play in France by the way) & Romania. Next season Argentina will be playing in the reamped tri-nations against NZ, SA & Aust. Scotland will as always be a thorn (or perhaps a thistle) in any side who take them lightly.
    And finally (!!!) Yes YOU might like to watch great flowing Rugby whilst you're in the stadium but for the vast majority of us who haven't been able to save up or get the time off, or both, we'd just like to hear the words of Jim Rosenthal once more, albeit slightly changed.
    "I've waited 37 years to be able to say this. England are World Champions"

  • Comment number 39.

    No.11 you are also wrong. I think you'll find that a resounding Scotland victory of +8 points with

  • Comment number 40.

    Finger trouble sorry.
    Scotland win by +8 without 4 tries combined with Argentina win without 4 tries ( entirely probable based on group results so far) would have meant all finish on 14 points, hence points diff reqd between the lot which is based on whole pool not just games between those involved, hence no huge pressure at any time for England as pointed out correctly by previous comment. Simple maths that the so called sports journos neither here on tv can grasp.

  • Comment number 41.

    What should not be underestimated is that the Celtic nations always save their best games for England. Its a cultural thing.

    As for the game, Youngs was poor. When playing behind a scrum in trouble, get rid of the ball, not wait for the opponents to over power you. Its not the same as playing for Leicester.

    The problem was Stevens who had obviously taken scrummaging practise from the Aussie prop, Matt Dunning, who routinely found himself folded in half. It settled down once Corbisero came on and maybe Stevens should be coming off the bench.

    Moving forward, the French are always a risk but the question is do they have the heart especially as Lievremont is leaving? Wales or Ireland will be tough in the semi finals but will they be emotionally exhausted by what promises to be a titanic Quarter Final.

    On the other side, the Aussies won't make the finals because of their disgrace of a scrum which is as pathetic now as it was 8 years ago. The Bok will beat them in the QF and then there will be a hell of a game against the All Blacks.

    If its an England-All Black final without Carter and McCaw then its anyones.

  • Comment number 42.

    Erm, Ben, isn't this a results business? These sorts of scratchy assessments are surely best left once a team's tournament is finished, or perhaps after the 23rd of October...

  • Comment number 43.

    Wales will make it to the final, to face New Zealand, I think England is lead by old men such as Tindall and Moody, and the young ones have plenty of enthusiasm but like we saw at the end of the Six Nations, if you put the team under pressure, they crack.
    Honestly I think Ireland had a one-off against Australia, not taking the victory away from them though, massive achievement.
    Wales have been the most consistent, and have a team full of enthusiastic winners, not like old squads, who would accept the title of "underdog".
    Players like Warburton, Lydiate, Scott Williams, George North, they all came through the system because they were winners, losing hits them hard, and doesnt seem to be an option for these guys.

  • Comment number 44.

    It's not just the players that need to up their game. Johnson needs to make quicker decisions on replacements when someone (Ben Youngs) is having (another) bad day at the office. When it comes to the really big games he freezes a la Charlie Hodgson. Johnson also took a big risk keeping Tindall on when he got injured.

  • Comment number 45.

    OK - just so you know - I said it first (well maybe not first) but England will beat Australia in the final.
    Quite how i haven't worked out yet but I'm just about to fill in my lottery numbers...........

  • Comment number 46.

    Why is everyone talking about boring rugby from England?
    The top try scorer in this RWC is AShton with 6 tries and several England players are in the top ten scorers... which is weird for a team that has no 'panache'.
    And yes I love old wilko, but on a bad day he should be replaced, Flood set up a try within five minutes of comming on!

  • Comment number 47.

    Just a quick aside on one England player. I have never been a great fan of James Haskell. I have met him a couple of times, and quite apart from being the archetypal gym-monkey, he said few words to an ankle-biter like me, but is very lippy if there is a tv camera anywhere nearby. However, quite apart from his contribution as a cut of traditional English rostbiff, I think he is beginning emerge as a player with real backbone. Fair play.

  • Comment number 48.

    When England won the RWC in 2003 they also had a difficult game against a home nation oponent, namely Wales. In the quarter finals Wales lost to England by 28 points to 17 even though they outscored England by 3 tries to 1. Fortunately Wilkinson did not have an off day then as he kicked a conversion, 6 penalties and a drop goal. Based on past history I am confident England will progress further in this year's RWC.

  • Comment number 49.

    England's main problem seems to be a reluctance to use the talent they have at full back and on the wings. Tindall and Wilkinson are predictable and one dimensional. The one time the backs actually showed some ambition at the end they scored. It was embarrassing to see johnny attempt a drop goal in the 2nd half when we were 5 yards from the try line and still had over 20 mins left. I'm mystified why so many English fans seem happy to watch such mediocre performances from their team. I agree that you don't have to play fantastic running rugby to win every game but it's not as though this England team is doing the boring bits well. They were sloppy and are lucky to be in the quarter finals. We should expect more given the amount of resources the RFU pile into the team.

  • Comment number 50.

    I thought England were terrible. But Scotland are so limited in what they do we were able to scape through. The one time we put a bit of pace and width on the ball we scored. What was Wilkinson doing trying to drop a goal from 10 yards out. That must be orders from the coaching team, the last thing we wanted to do was play straight in to there hands.

    Scotland deserve to be going home for the lack of ambition they showed against Argentina. If England had lost today I would have no complaints if we were going home - our coaching team seem clueless.

  • Comment number 51.

    England were pretty clueless considering they were meant to be one of the tournament favourites. Lucky they had their Samoan ringer today as without Manu Tuilagi they would have struggled to get over the game line at all.
    A good side (which Scotland lets face it are not) will not tire in the last 20 minutes or fail to punish the sort of shody first half display England put in. Be hinest only a very favourable draw in the quarters leaves any hope of further progress.

  • Comment number 52.

    I am an England fan but found myself genuinely humbled by Alastair Kellocks press conference, he had the professionalism, humility and strength of character to conduct himself with dignity in what must have been a soul destroying press session. Scotland played far more rugby in hand than England but Englands defence was robust and at times pretty stunning (Ben Fodens outstretched hand just halting an Attack which meant that De Luca was coming onto the ball unexpectedly close and he fluffed the pick-up).

    England didnt click as a team and at times looked confused and rudderless but this was at least in part down to the pressure Scotland put on England. For those that criticise Englands play, they are also critising the opposition because, if England were that bad by their own making throughout the match, then why did Scotland not win?...i.e. they must have been worse.

    As an England fan I rarely expect to win matches against our home nation bretheren, but I have hope that we might win. The World Cup is a leveller, something even the ABs have failed to overcome since they won the tropphy last and these matches cant be seen as a development phase for any team, it is the now and winning is everything. This is however, a literny that I am sick of hearing for the other tournaments and England AIs.

    We shoud expect nervy, tight, and possibly ugly matches becuase of what is at stake.

    Go back to Alastair Kellocks assessment..there in lies the truth.

  • Comment number 53.

    Ok a couple of points - There ARE points for style, you get one point for scoring four tries - something I believe England have managed twice in the group stage.

    Scotland are a limited team who play to their strengths of spoiling the ball and kicking. I have to say they do this well but at the end of the day England scored the only try of the match.

    South Africa played a "limited game" in 2007 (hell they play it now as well) where they kick the ball as long as possible and then defend like trojans.

    Had England lost would the comments be "how far can Scotland go with such a limited game plan"?

    Finally those of us who follow the game have said since the beginning of last season that Success for England at this world cup would be a semi-final outrageous success would be final. So far they are on track.

    Against sides who actually try to attack occasionally this England side looks better as the broken field runners we have (Foden Armitage Croft Youngs) are dangerous, when a side comes purely to spoil the game by standing a yard offside at every breakdown then of course you dont look as good.

    And finally while I think the referee had a relatively good game his management of the scrum was diabolical - everytime it stood up under England pressure he reset it then as soon as England started going backwards it was a penalty to scotland.

    And finally can I play the "if the kicker wasnt missing" which you insisted on playing against Argentina? If Wilkinson had been on form we would have had another 12 points and it would have been a pretty good scoreline...

  • Comment number 54.

    England are looking much like they did in 1991 - plodding, predictable, but it's going to be hard for someone to get over the line against them. Turning next week into a repeat of the Scotland game would be a smart move - invite the French to slowly hang themselves, give away penalties and England will turn them over.

    For some reason, I fancy the Italians to turn Ireland over, although I seriously hope I'm wrong.

  • Comment number 55.

    England and Ashton are amongst the top try and point scorers as they have had 2 very easy group matches - playing Georgia and Romania B and racking up the points means nothing.

    England fans cannot be happy with the way they are playing, they could easily have lost both matches against Argentina and Scotland, especially if the Scots hadn't come out with the most braindead gameplan international rugby has seen in the second half.

    However, I would encouraged if I was an England fan. You haven't played well and are due to play a team which is not only terrified of playing you but is an absolute shambles at the moment. A decent performance will probably get them through and then they are one good performance from the final, and England probably have a good performance in them.

    I will be disappointed if England get to final playing this poorly (I am not bothered about the style) but Scotland, Argentina and maybe France will just have to look themselves in the mirror and say "we bottled it".

    Best of luck against France

  • Comment number 56.

    Enjoyed this very much Ben.

    I was hoping you weren't going to start talking about "dangerous France" and gladly you didn't!

    There's no escaping from the fact that England have been poor, but at least they've gone out to win four games and they've achieved that goal on every occasion. France on the other hand sacrificed the game against the ABs before it even started and have only won 2/4. I know which team I'd rather be supporting right now!

  • Comment number 57.

    This is the Georgia who Scotland beat by 9 points and the romania they hammered by 10? Sorry I didnt realise that those points were nul and void just because England scored them

  • Comment number 58.

    "A good side (which Scotland lets face it are not) will not tire in the last 20 minutes or fail to punish the sort of shody first half display England put in. Be hinest only a very favourable draw in the quarters leaves any hope of further progress."

    What a pile of rubbish. Scotland did not tire, in fact much was made pre-tournament about how fit they are. Their as fit as any other side in the tournament.

    As usual every Celt will lay into England no matter how they play. One thing is for sure though, if they can play terribly and still grind out a result then the rest of the world better worry about what they are really capable... anybody remember the destruction of Australia last Autumn? Thats what their capable of.

  • Comment number 59.

    And just to add... no team pre-tournament would call playing France in the quarters a 'favourable draw' but of course as its England it must be. If Wales or Ireland were playing France it would suddenly be a 'very difficult draw'. LOL.

  • Comment number 60.

    Ashton cant help scoring against the minnows!!

  • Comment number 61.

    What's all the fuss about ? you win tournaments by winning games ! 4 out of 4 for England, so please stop whining - its Game on and were in the qtrs ! Johnson will now take them to a whole new level in preparation for the France game. The England teams have always been branded as unbeatable whether its rugby, football or cricket and everybody moans and slates us if we win but only just win because we played badly all i can say is that it says a lot about the other team (Bad Luck) !!! - Watch out France, Were gonna get you !

  • Comment number 62.

    When all is said and done, England have faced several determined and rugged opponents and won through. No, it wasn't pretty, there was little flourish, and we, the long suffering fans, sweated at times. But this muchmis true. Right now any of the other teams in our pool would gladly swap places with us. France have also been under par recently. I think the quarter will be very interesting because there'll be two sides both out to try and prove their doubters wrong, and everything to play for. I'll not book my ticket home yet, and I don't think MJ and the rest of the guys should either. We were writtennoff a few years ago in France and almost pulled through with less talent than we have now. I hope the world continues to underestimates the boys, it's a great place from which to spring surprises. The champers is still on ice.

  • Comment number 63.

    You lot are in Lulu Land if you think England will win the World Cup. Why would you want your team to win when they play such awful rugby? when our children look back and talk about the dominant force in rugby - do you for one second think England will be in that conversation. Aren't you embarrassed by these posts and comments like 'we finished it off' and 'There is more than one way to reach the promised land'?

  • Comment number 64.

    Noone is saying england will win the world cup moa - read MY post as an example. However we generally do better than this years hosts. What the comments are regarding is that a side should not be castigated for winning games while their opponents are being lauded for "gallant defeat"

  • Comment number 65.

    England are through to the Qtr finals and are still looking to hit top gear. They will do this against the French. We managed to pull it out the bag today but we will get better. Jonny missed three in a row but still managed to contribute more points to the cause than anyone else. He's still class and will be even better against France.

    Great game today - well done to Scotland - they showed so much grit and passion in the first half, I'm sure their try drought will end soon.

    So roll on next week and I cant wait to see England go one better. Swing low sweet chariot!

  • Comment number 66.

    "You lot are in Lulu Land if you think England will win the World Cup. Why would you want your team to win when they play such awful rugby? when our children look back and talk about the dominant force in rugby - do you for one second think England will be in that conversation."

    Yes. Because when you win that shinny gold trophy people tend to forget about how it was one. England have reached three world cup finals and each time there have been people like you writing them off and talking trash.

    You can play as much pretty rugby as you like, but ultimately winning is the goal. Playing pretty and losing is pointless, people might praise the side but when that side has not won anything it gets remembered as a team of also-rans... or 'chokers'.

  • Comment number 67.

    Good to see Ashton keeping up his good try-scoring record against the minnows, lets hope he can do it against the AB's in the final.

  • Comment number 68.

    Ok we arent as bad as they say but:

    9 is a problem. Youngs didnt look great today.

    The backrow almost never arrives at the ruck on time and we almost never turn it over.

    Palmer should start ahead of Deacon.

    While we went through a few phases (sill not enough), we needed to simply because there weren't enough runner to keep the play moving. Very few inside runners etc. No continuity.

    We just have to hope that either Australia or SA can beat or beat up NZ enough to give a home nation a chance.

    Glad Scotland are out though. Lets face it. They are rubbish to watch.

  • Comment number 69.

    I frankly couldnt care less if the World Cup was won by playing rugby that wasnt in the Southern Hemisphere style. I'll take an ugly World Cup win over being 'gallant and attractive losers' anytime.

  • Comment number 70.

    Agree with a lot of the negative comments. This game was an anti-climax.

    If England get to the final playing like this (I fancy 'Great France' to turn up next week - they have had their nervous breakdown game today when it didn't matter - in which case England cannot win playing so poorly) then it undermines the credibility and sustainability of rugby union as an attractive, competitive international game.

    Yes, some people will watch paint dry - but most value their time far more than that.

    This tournament is tainted in any case when competitive sides like Tonga, Samoa have been hamstrung by the schedule. Make it top 16 with equal time off for everyone. That will give teams ranked 7-12 at least a fair shot of making it out of the pools stage.

  • Comment number 71.

    Hey Ben. Who are these journos from the North that are patronising the Antipodeans? All I have read is the familiar litany of "Well I guess a win's a win but......" from just about every media outlet in the UK, coupled with a pile-on with respect to England's capability and a stern "they'll never beat [insert favored national team here] next time out".

    The awkward thing is though, that England tend to have this annoying habit of winning somehow. If I am correct we have lost precisely 2 games this year. Both were away from home and only one could be considered a pasting. We have also beaten both the teams that beat us, at their respective "houses". I may have missed a game or two but I think that makes us 10 and 2 for the year. Only three of those ten wins can be seen as being against "minor opposition".

    Now, let's imagine that, instead of this being the BBc website, we were a group of Germans or Italians discussing the progress of the National Football Team through a World Cup. Would we be bleating about style and form or would the result be what mattered? I think the answer to any attempt by the two Southern Hemisphere teams that play open rugby to wind us up should be what Germany would do: point to the record and move on.

  • Comment number 72.

    England will win the World Cup.

  • Comment number 73.

    Good on yer Giobob #5, you've shown yourself a little bit of a chump. If you don't support England, I don't care if they bore you. You're guilty of believing daft journalistic cliches. Think how bored the Scotland fans must be - one try this month?!

    You make the best of the team you have. No apologies for that! England will be tough to beat - and the team that does will deserve it. Might be Ireland, coming good at the right time!

  • Comment number 74.

    Sorry but somebody needs to correct your grammar. It's "whom to turn to", not "who to turn to" and "France, whom they play", not "France, who they play". No offence meant. Regards.

  • Comment number 75.

    Ummm...discipline? England? Hello?

  • Comment number 76.

    We have to remember New Zealand always look unbeatable at this stage and play wonderful rugby but when the pressures on they choke. By playing badly and winning England have had a much better preparation for real knockout rugby than teams like New Zealand have had.

  • Comment number 77.

    England have such a tough decision to make at 10. You've got to have more faith in Flood when it comes to goal-kicking. He also plays much flatter than Wilkinson, who doesn't seem to adjust how deep he stands from where he kicks for territory. I thought that this made a difference today as Flood created the opportunity for Ashton's try. I know it was a last gasp winner, but it actually all looked rather easy and Flood's flat position as first receiver contributed towards that.

    However, Jonny's work-rate is incredible and he appears to put in the biggest hits of anybody in an england shirt. His tactical kicking was good today, but his goal-kicking has to improve. He struck the ball well today in difficult conditions, from a long way out at times, but his percentages have been poor throughout the tournament and, if that continues, it will cost us a place in the final, if not the semi-final.

    So...Wilkinson at 12? Or, dare I say it....7?

  • Comment number 78.

    I'm very close to hoping England lose to France in the vain hope it will accelerate the departure of the inept Martin Johnson, his equally inept coaches and some of, if not all, of the useless administrators in the English game. What a shambles.

    Personally, I would rather look at the bigger picture rather than just this World Cup. I fear that us stumbling into the semi-final or even final will unjustly vindicate all of the above.

  • Comment number 79.

    For all those people who say ashton only scores against minnows.
    Are Argentine minnows?
    Are Scotland minnows?
    And have you forgotten a certain try against Australia?

  • Comment number 80.

    I have watched the England match this morning but watching the history of world cups , England always dont look the part until the knockout stages, the 2007 world cup comes to mind, but i cant help thinking that Martin Johnson still doesnt know his best side. I understand that Delon Armitage is good defensively, but why leave out a man that has scored a hat trick of tries on your comeback from injury! Mark Cueto adds lots of options at the back, i agree that the ball wasnt getting out to the backs but still you choose your best team.
    I was really impressed with the Welsh and Irish teams in this world cup and i think they will be tough teams to beat, but still think there is something ready to break out in this England team but its getting the balance right.
    I also agree if Wilkinson is struggling maybe its time to put Flood out.

  • Comment number 81.

    A very fair blog - leadership is an issue on the pitch. We only appear to up our game after half time afer MJ has 'shouted' at us - why aren't we doing it during the match? I feel comfortable with the back 3 (would have Armitage over Cueto) - Easter far more convincing at the back of the scrum. Would also go for Shaw and Palmer at second row. Still v concerned about Youngs, his distribution is poor, his head drops and he appears very indecisive. Tuillagi is our match winner he needs to be brought into the game much more - Wilko at inside centre, Flood at fly half anyone? and Foden, I think, is playing a blinder at full back '0' mistakes in defence. However I think we could do this!

  • Comment number 82.

    The NZ press has alway comes out with comments of this sort at this stage of a World Cup but the validity of their comments are not borne out by events. Perhaps when NZ have reached the number of finals that England have we can attach more credibility to their articles. We have after all to go way back into history into the last century to find when NZ last reached a final.

  • Comment number 83.

    Well lets look at this as a neutral. England backs? flaccid. Forwards?immobile. The half back combination (which one doesn't matter very much it seems)? dislocated. What's left? The hope that the French don't spark into some kind of form; if they do then book the bus home, and leave the cup to a rugby team to pick up.

  • Comment number 84.

    Everyone likes to criticise England, but take a look at our record, in the last two tournaments, we've won it and been finalists. That would make us the most successful World Cup team over the last 8 years. Not bad really is it? Even if we get to the semis and lose, we'll probably still be the best world cup team over 12 years.

  • Comment number 85.

    77 - Wilkinson at 7 - that would be cool to see!
    79 - yes, and yes, albeit quite big tasty minnows.

  • Comment number 86.

    Jeez, anyone having watched previous Eng/Sco games surely expected nothing else: brave Scotland in a slug-fest with stuttering England.

    Thought Jonno was a bit hesitant today - subs should have come on earlier. Especially someone (anyone) to replace Youngs, who the Gods seem to have replaced with a pub team ringer. Jonny, Tindall and Thomo struggled a bit today, and Haskell is not a no 8. The gamble with Stevens doesn’t look like it has worked. Manu seems like he’s always been a test player. Still on we march, and given it’s the equivalent of a 6N to the final, anything could happen.

  • Comment number 87.

    OF course both Scotland and England always want to beat the Auld Enemy.

    This time it was pretty much level-pegging, with England grabbing a last minute win that was arguably undeserved.

    But let's be honest, despite the significance to us in the UK, this game was of little consequence regarding the destination of the RWC. Two mediocre sides - arguably "second-tier" as some have said - neither of whom will be around come the business end of the tournament.

  • Comment number 88.

    Speaking with the rare distinction of being half French/half English(please do not ask me to choose) its fair to say both France and England have not played to their full potential as we know they can but going into next weekend's q/f I think England have got the edge over France to win this one but as everyone says which French team is going to turn up and that's the bit that's going to keep us guessing between now and the game

  • Comment number 89.

    Set pieces, especially scrum, were weak in first half. No platform for Youngs or Wilko to work off. The only time things looked better were when England brought on some war horses (Easter) and a stronger front row. Gave Flood some more time to release the backs. When England won the World Cup it was all about putting Wilko in an armchair. Need a more robust pack for that.

  • Comment number 90.

    sorry but why is johnson still the manager/coach,he is clueless,we got to the final by conceding rare penalties and wilkinsons kicking,south africa won the title twice doing this,england havent got the talented attacking players of new zealand and australia,so why do we try and play like them.we are good at power and consistancy and wilkos hypnotic kicking

    the biggest issue is ben youngs ,this lad seems to be englands main problem,extremely slow ,slow ball from the break down which encourages the other team to defend and counter attack and our team to be negative and invite pressure,kicks it aimlessly when he could pass,errors every game.on this evidence and england winning try simpson should be on for the france game

    if england play at their best and if the french do then england will win,they have the mental edge and the power on their side when(always tend to) these games get tight.

    johnson should be fired after the touranment, apart from winning a 6 nations (albeit choking horribly in the grand slam match) he hasnt done anything for 3 years . ben young seems his brain cells are dead and he is a clear 3rd choice when danny care returns

    come on england dont let a few individual performences drag you down

  • Comment number 91.

    No, England cannot reach the promised land. England won against Argentina and Scotland but could easily have lost both games. No side that feels the need to cheat against Romania is in a position to win the RWC.

  • Comment number 92.

    This England team is in a far better place than the 2007 vintage, and we can all see what they are capable of; 4 wins out of four is all that matters in a rugby tournament, and every game needs to be played on its merits - what's going on in front of you on the field.
    This team can get to the final, and if they do that, anything can happen.
    When Johnno was appointed as manager (not coach!) I was delighted, and that was because I knew that he would put his mark on any team that he led - that's his record. So at half-time I was expecting to see what I saw - Johnno holding the centre of the group, laying the law down. The second half performance was immediately better.

    Here's the rub though - the guy is so good at this role that the rest of the senior players appeared to be mesmerised by him at half-time; the team was practically standing to attention as he talked. This state of affairs will take England so far, but if they are to go all the way they will find themselves in places where Johnno cannot help then, and that is when Moody, Tindall, Wilko, Easter, Shaw are going to have to step up and deliver.
    We are missing Sheridan. Corbisiero needs to start next week if for no other reason than the fact that he is a time-served loose-head, and not a swapped over tight head, like Stevens, which everybody seems suddenly to have forgotten. Stevens seemed to improve technically by 80% in the second half scrums, so I don't know if Roundtree had a word.
    Definitely still all to play for... I would also run with Flood as my starting 10, and thought this before RWC started. He stands right up in the traffic, and that style makes things happen.

  • Comment number 93.

    As a strident Welsh fan (the nickname's a bit of a give away), I obviously watched this match hoping for a Scottish win (come on the Celts). But it must be said, England have a habit of winning, and that makes the difference. They have the arrogance (and I mean this as a positive trait, if arrogance can ever be so) to think 'We just should not lose'. They expect to win, they believe they will win, they want to win. Yes, they don't dominate very often like other teams do or like they should, but they simply will not let anyone past them. Counter this with the Celts, who spend all their time banging on about how 'close they came', and how they were good ambassadors. Yep, great, you should be an ambassador for the game, but that does not get you a world cup; winning does. Now consider the SH teams. They do not want to simply win, they want to destroy, and therein lies the difference between NH and SH rugby. We in the north are happy for a ground out win and we 'take heart' from it. SH teams just don't like that. As for my prediction, England to beat France (but they will make hard work of it), Wales to beat Ireland. Then Wales to be 'gallant and plucky' but lose to the Juggernaut that is, let's face it, damn awful English rugby (you lot probably have some of the worst team groupings in the tournament - awful selections coupled with some very poor performances), and so England face NZ in the final. Now, if the English forwards turn up and play (and let's face it, on the evidence so far this is doubtful) they stand every chance of winning (as long as Tindall is not in the centre). But on current form, they will be well beaten. But, who else can say that they have played in 3 consecutive world cup finals, 4 in total - not the ABs that's for sure.

  • Comment number 94.

    How come everyone is getting the qualification scenario from this pool wrong? England were in trouble at 3-12 down because an 8 pt win for Scotland would have left Eng/Sco tied on 14 pts with Arg on 10 pts and with Georgia to play. Therefore, a bonus point win for the Argies would have put England out on the head to head rule; a 4pt win for Argentina (no bonus point) would have put Scotland out on points difference because of a 3 way tie on 14 pts. Anyway, it is all irrelevant! The only way Scotland will survive now is if Argentina lose to Georgia without scoring a bonus point. I must agree that the scheduling is completely unfair but it is down to an odd number of teams in the pools (5 instead of 4 or 6) - if the IRB really want to make the game bigger on a global scale then they should increase the number of teams in the tournament to 24. This will allow the likes of Spain, Uruguay and Portugal (who have all qualified for recent World Cups) an opportunity. The 24 teams should be split into 4 pools of 6 which would mean everyone would play once a week and all the games could be geared around Thu-Sun. After the pool stages the tournament then splits into a 3 tiers like a 7s tournament giving everyone something to play for - 3 sets of QFs in cup, plate and shield. The only niggle is that the tournament would be played over 9 weeks instead of 6 or 7 but imagine a plate final of Scotland or Italy v Samoa or Tonga. Personally I don't think the IRB are that serious about expanding the game globally - if they were then they would have given this tournament to Japan and not NZ (who NZ pipped in the voting for hosting). After all the tournament has already been played in NZ (87) and Aus (03). How about giving it to some of the developing nations or even Argentina for a change?

    Fancy SA or Aus to knock over NZ in the SF - the ABs still haven't been tested (France clearly weren't interested despite the opening 10 mins) and I think they will fall over when it really matters.

    I fancy a Wales v SA rematch in the final... (at least I dream of one!)

  • Comment number 95.

    Well if anything good comes out of the shambles of today, then at least Johno will come to his senses and realize that Tindall has won 50odd too many caps. Never should he have been picked in the squad let alone the team. Add to that Moody is not the man he was (never an out and out real 7 anyway) and that Jonny is struggling to find his radar. Changes please based on common sense. Oh, and can someone please explain to the players on the park that the ref needs to be played - regardless of his decisions! The outside backs can set the tournament alight but can the lads up front please wake up and smell the salts/roses!!
    Unless they show up with game A++ they're on the next flight home.
    Shockingly poor and needs some significant improvement.
    And just for reference, the Jocks did NOT deserve to win because they were worse than the English....

  • Comment number 96.

    Scotland were outstanding, England's forwards and Wilkinson were poor. Flood showed how to attack, bring him in from the start, leave Wilko for the last minute drop kick.

  • Comment number 97.

    93 - absolutely right, you should have Dirs' job!

  • Comment number 98.

    I agree with 95. Tindall should get his nose straightened and resume his celebrity lifestyle pronto. No leadership skills and an inability to think tactically. Oh and he seems to make an error with each touch. One way ticket to the jungle would do it. Mark my words!

  • Comment number 99.

    Maybe the promised land has only been reached by one NH team in 6 world cups, but every final bar one has featured a NH team.

    And apropos today? Well, after the final in 2003, asked what he thought about the game, Clive Woodward said, "I don't really care. We won. That's all that matters".

  • Comment number 100.

    Being a Rugby follower I thought I would give the England Union boys a watch today. That's 80 minutes of my life I will never get back. What an absolute turgid display. Poor decision making, a total lack of ambition and devoid of any ideas whatsoever. How many times were England in the last 20 metres and tried for a drop goal. Ever heard of running with the ball. It was like watching the Union boys from 20/30 years ago. If that is the best of England Rugby Union then I'm sure the Aussies and New Zealanders are quaking in their boots.

    What a wonderful advert for Rugby League.


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