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Ruthless Ireland teach England a lesson

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Tom Fordyce | 22:46 UK time, Saturday, 27 February 2010

Damned lies and statistics? Not always.

In the sodden aftermath of Ireland's 20-16 win over England, two little nuggets sparkled in the dank February gloom. England had 60% of the possession but were out-scored three tries to one; Ireland made 99 tackles and missed just one.

From those numbers comes the story of the game. One side had a cutting-edge, the other did not. One trundled manfully for little reward; the other made their openings count.

Big games are often decided by small margins, and so it was here. In contrast to the visitors' parsimonious defence, England conceded the key score of the match off first phase possession, a simple take by O'Connell off the top of the line-out, Tomas O'Leary popping the ball up and Tommy Bowe crashing past both Jonny Wilkinson and James Haskell to go under the posts and steal the win away.

It was nothing complicated, nothing Ireland haven't done before, but England let it go. So much possession had they enjoyed that they only had to make 30 tackles all day, but in that instant, the game was gone.

The Irish defence was remorseless. It creaked at times and was often on the wrong side of the law, but it was mighty effective all the same. In Paris two weeks ago the French back row had powered through their opposite numbers, while the backs squeezed through grasping hands like soapy eels. It couldn't have been more different this time.

"Sometimes, for all the systems in the world, you've just got to put guys on the ground," said Paul O'Connell afterwards, with refreshing candour and a wink towards his side's defensive mastermind, Les Kiss. Seldom has a coach been less aptly named. His green-shirted rearguard smashed and bashed all day long.

bowe595.jpgIreland's Tommy Bowe took his chances against England at Twickenham

Willie John McBride used to say that Ireland played better without the ball. He was proved right on Saturday, and you sensed the old stager would have enjoyed it - the rain, the rumble, and most of all the result.

Ireland's experience, of how to play the conditions and how to win tight games, proved critical. As soon as the rain came hammering down, 20 minutes in, all thoughts of a match as open as the fixture here two years disappeared as quickly as Danny Cipriani's international career.

Against Italy a fortnight ago, England kicked too much. On Saturday they went the other way, loathe though anyone who watches them regularly should be to write such words. They made 140 passes to Ireland's 58, but it mainly took them sideways. When they did kick from hand they did so poorly, with direction awry and the chase lacking.

Ireland were content to keep it tight. They kicked almost two-thirds of their possession, didn't bother with a single off-load out of the tackle and, when they had the territory, converted it into points.

Faultless it wasn't. Errors and infringements almost cost them dear. They shipped an uncharacteristic 14 penalties; normally at international level, that's enough to cost you the game.

Over the past two years, however, the key men in the team have become used to winning. There was no panic when they fell behind late to Jonny Wilkinson's drop-goal, no caving in when England's forwards threatened to drive to the line at the death.

England had their opportunities. Mark Cueto made a half-break but then chose to kick the ball away with Mathew Tait on his outside; after Irish skipper Brian O'Driscoll was stretchered off midway through the second half, they had four minutes of uninterrupted possession in the Irish half but failed to turn it into a single point. Even at the very end they were just three metres short, but short they stayed.

At the scrum they were impressive, at the line-out pretty solid, especially having lost Simon Shaw so early in the piece. At the breakdown they were very much second best. Eight times Ireland forced turnovers; only once did England do the same.

They could argue that the reversed penalty that led to Keith Earls' try should never have been given. Certainly, listening to French touch-judge Christophe Berdos trying to explain himself in English to South African referee Mark Lawrence was of the year's great sporting comedies. Did Danny Care do enough to warrant the decision? Maybe not, but his handbags with O'Leary took the gloss off a decent running, sniping display.

Ireland too had cause for complaint. While England's forwards were convinced that Dan Cole had got the ball down for England's try, television match official Carlo Damasco didn't seem to have sufficient evidence to give it - not from what we saw on Twickenham's giant screens, in any case. Still, you could forgive an Italian for being in generous mood after the earlier result in Rome.

The biggest talking-point for England fans afterwards was Wilkinson. Had his late drop-goal been enough to win the match it may have deflected attention from his other struggles, but instead the bars and stairwells around the ground rang with impassioned debate about his worth.

Was he standing too deep when receiving, or were the forwards to blame for generating slow ball and Care at fault for his slow pass ? Should he have spotted Bowe's match-winning charge and brought the runner down as he did of old, or should Haskell shoulder more of the blame?

What's less open to argument is that his kicking was well below the standards he has set himself. From the kick-off onwards his radar seemed out. From the hand he was too often long or aimless, from the ground wayward in a way that drew gasps from the stands all around. He would have expected to have landed the penalties he missed on 11 and 64 minutes; that he didn't was always going to be significant in a match this tight.

Martin Johnson was stalwart in his defence afterwards. "I thought he played very well. They were difficult conditions out there, and he got us ahead." At the same time he was unable to hide his disappointment. "I didn't think we'd concede another try. That is a tough, tough loss."

Johnson insists his England are going forward, despite the loss and the subsequent scuppering of any Grand Slam hopes. If they are - and any talk of Slams always felt fanciful, anyway - it's a slow, drawn-out process.

Maybe it's foolish to expect a sudden dramatic upturn in style and results. England have been like this for a long time - hard-working, dogged, but only occasionally inspired, their fans perpetually waiting for the great leap forward.

This current crop of players, for all their endeavour and determination, do not compare to the best of previous generations. Try to squeeze a member of the starting XV from Saturday into the World-Cup winning team of 2003 and see how you get on. Any at all? Shaw for Ben Kay at a push, but beyond that, it's hard to make a convincing case.

For some that won't be a problem. Teams capable of winning World Cups, by definition, don't come around very often.

Then again, England have the sort of resources at their disposal that should deliver more. Last year, the RFU announced turnover of £119m and profits of £9m. Each international at Twickenham is worth £10m in sponsorship alone. Despite this, England haven't won any sort of trophy in seven years.

Then there's the spectacle. You could forgive it on Saturday - as Johnson said, "It wasn't a thing of beauty to a lot of people, but it's wet and muddy and you're playing Ireland" - yet the message from this season's Six Nations, almost across the board, seems to be this: never mind the quality, feel the tension.

If it's not always easy on the eye, it's even harder on the nerves. Johnson won't give a hoot about the first, and only a little about the second. For him, there's too much result to worry about first.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Tom, not so sure England's lineout was solid, certainly not early on. Harley didn't have his best game. Flutey and Haskell were largely anonymous but Foden was excellent when he came on and will be pushing for a starting place against Scotland.

    England got turned over too often and Ireland were clinical in converting their chances.

    If Jonny had kicked his goals at his usual percentages then England would have sneaked it. Then again, Sexton's goal kicking was equally poor. Had O'Gara started England might not have been in with a chance at all.

  • Comment number 2.

    Fair blog Tom, and I enjoyed your Maoist analogies six paragraphs from the end. The parallels are striking.

    Up front, Ireland fan so cards on the table.

    Todays match was all about Ireland playing the conditions and the opposition effectively as you said. I dont believe you will see Ireland play in the same way against Wales in a fortnight or so, simply because they are much more incisive. However, it was a good game plan for playing England. Wilkinson is limited but I don't think English fans should place all the blame on him, altho that is not to say I think its not time for someone else to have a go. The team was devoid of leaders. I don't recall any of the England pack making a real contribution bar perhaps Cole who, aside from his try, did a decent job in the loose and stong armed Healy throughout in the scrum. He is undoubtedly destined for a high number of caps, injuries allowing. The back row was swamped by Irelands. I didn't actually think David Wallace played overly well, but Heaslip and IMO Ferris in particular had a cracking game. A lot of the post game BBC focus was on England's failure to get over the gain line. If you look at the sheer impact Ferris has at the tackle, he now must be right up there as one of the best six's in the world. If only Ireland gave him more ball in hand.

    I think now Johnson must start making a few changes. Foden played quite well when he came on. He should start. I think Laws should be brought in, as realistically, Lewis Deacon isn't of the requisite quality. Perhaps Flood should come in at either 10 or 12. For Ireland, the victory was the most important thing and hopefully will give them to confidence to play a more expansive game come Croker and the Welsh.

  • Comment number 3.

    Very pleased Irish fan. Not going to lie, doubted it at times, but we came through in the end. We were a country mile away from the performance of 2 weeks ago. Key stat for me, out of Ireland's 20 points, 15 of them were tries. Huge effort! No more settling for 3 points every time we get the chance. Ireland won today by scoring the tries.

    Is it time for JW to go? Probably not. But I do think Flood deserves a shot to show case his talent. England went for the drop goal too soon as well, in my opinion. With 8 minutes left on the clock there was a good chance Ireland would score again. Poor decision making cost them at times and fortunately Ireland were able to capitalize on it. A lot of players in that English team need to up their games though. Armitage and Monye in particular showed good potential last year and so far this time around they have been non-existent. Also so much for Bothwick bossing the line-out, that probably wasn't all his fault though, as some of Hartley's deliveries were shocking. Special mention should go to D Care as well, who's indiscipline cost his side again in the run up to the Earls try.

    Also can you Tom or someone else explain the offside rule, with regard to rucks and scrums? The Irish forwards were repeatedly penalised when it came to being offside at the side of a ruck (Brian Moore was kind enough to point this out), but to me Danny Care looked off a lot of time, on the Irish scrum.

    Here's hoping England can do us a favour against the French, that way we can at least retain the Championship.

  • Comment number 4.

  • Comment number 5.

    It seems England can't win even when they win. A loss today fair enough, but don't tell me the better team won. It seems to me this article is just a continuation of the rubbish England whatever happens.
    You go on about statistics and possession, 14 penalties for infringements would have got English players sin binned last year with howls of derision. I well remember Borthwick being told to tell his men about persistent infringements or a sin binning will come after only 6 penalties. To say that once the rain came Ireland's only intention was never to offload and kick for position is correct, but of course when England do just that it is somehow boring rugby. Before anyone says England do it all the time...they don't.
    England bossed the much vaunted Ireland scrum all around the park. The breakdown I think was pretty even, you could argue one way or the other, same with the lineouts where I think England were better as they had more of them due to the Irish kicking. Whilst not missing many tackles they had to make twice as many, when England do this it's proof yet again they had kicked away possession.
    MJ said England were guilty at times of NOT kicking which is entirely right. Many times they should have done this and put the Irish back on their line and under pressure, but I think that constant negative worm that has been shouted at them got into their heads which they should ignore.
    Wales tried to play out against France and didn't have the skill to do it so in the second half they changed tactics and played up the middle and started to get back in the game. Of course when England do this, again it's boring rugby.
    Ireland have won 6 out of the last 7, fair enough, though some close scorelines but they were not the better team. When England win and are not the better's boring rugby.
    England will beat Scotland and we have always had the game to beat France even away, so whilst I'm disappointed I'm not disheartened, we are getting better and better.......and the others aren't.
    I'm no fan of Borthwick, but he wasn't that bad.

  • Comment number 6.

    Is Jonny rugby's Beckham?

  • Comment number 7.

  • Comment number 8.

    simple fact, Ireland won three tries to one. They tactically played a better game and used the ball better. England had the ball more but have little to no idea what to do with it and even when they did kick it was very poor as nobody seemed to want to chase it. On lineouts Ireland won hands down, caused problems for your ball and mostly won our own ball. Easily won breakdown area and scrums were fairly even. You need to wake up and smell the roses, you have no team strategy, or players are ignoring the coaching staff - take your pick but your are not getting any better, in fact static at best. You have two away games and could lose both of them, 2 wins out of 5 is not a team progessing.

  • Comment number 9.

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

  • Comment number 10.

    Oddly enough I feel England are progressing somewhat, although by very small degrees; yesterday's performance was in my view far better than the ones against Wales and Italy, among other things because the quality of the opposition was much better.

    Games like this are won and lost on the tiniest of details - yesterday's was lost on a missed tackle leading to a gift of a try in the dying minutes (yes it was Haskell's fault by the way); on the inability of all three officials to notice a blatant obstruction following JW's chip into the Ireland in-goal; and on the reversed penalty which should never have been awarded. 3 tries to one, yes, but with a slightly kinder turn of events and more even-handed refereeing, it would probably have been a try apiece and an England win.

    Having said that, we do need to address Wilkinson's position, or perhaps simply the way Johnson wants his team to play. What is staggeringly evident is that JW and Flutey cannot play together. Flutey has been anonymous since he's been paired with JW and it's no accident that his best games for England have been with Flood. If MJ wants Flutey in the team he needs to make an extremely hard decision: drop Wilkinson. Alternatively, he can decide JW is his man and resign himself to doing without the creativeness of Flutey. In which case he might as well get rid of Tait too, and draft in Noon.

  • Comment number 11.

    I enjoyed the game yesterday - atrocious conditions made it a tense affair.

    Well done Ireland, clearly a team with a sharp penetrative edge - Bowe took his chances superbly. However, your scrum does creak a little and I'm not convinced by O'Leary this season. As has been mentioned above I did also wonder how many penalties you would have top concede before the ref took stronger action. Still, you looked the better more cohesive unit and carried out your gameplan well.

    With England the eagerly anticipated 10 - 12 Axis of Wilko Flutey was desperately disappointing again yesterday. I'm a bit suprised Flood didn't get on at any point.

    I thought the front five forwards did a decent job however the backrow were poor - all three. Which is a worry. When are Croft and Rees fit again?

    The back three disappointed again. Until Foden came on when he ran with purpose and intent. Sorry - Cueto and Monye for all their supposed strengths looked poor in comparison to Earls and Bowe. How many chance do they need? Will they ever score? They can defend Ok but that isn't enough for wingers. They need to score or at least be threatening - those two aren't. Cueto too slow and Monye isn't aware enough.

    PS Lets not make too much of the Care incident. Just one of those calls.

  • Comment number 12.

    archLionheart, what an unpleasant character you are (i baulk at calling you a rugby supporter)
    Well played Ireland. The game was won in the backrows with the Green three being more dynamic and aggressive in both attack and defence.
    It's not about possession, it's about using it. Ireland scored 1 try off 1st phase, 1 off multiple phase and 1 from turnover ball. That's a reasonably balanced return for me.
    AS for England, Foden showed when he came on that the youngsters will play their own game if they are allowed. THe management need to catch up.

  • Comment number 13.

    PS Agree 100% with WillyGilly in post # 3 about the drop goal: it was way too early to hope to hang on to a 3-point lead against a team of the calibre of Ireland.

    More specifically though, JW made the drop goal during what was arguably England's best try-scoring chance. Care had made England's best (only?) gain-line break and the Irish defence, for once, was all over the place. Had Wilkinson passed instead of going for the drop, England I believe would have at least come very close to scoring a try. And even if they hadn't scored it, they would still have remained deep in Irish territory, thereby creating more scoring chances and letting the clock run in the Irish half rather than in their own.

    Easy to say with hindsight but England and JW need to understand that a lead is not necessarily a win - we came uncomfortably close to defeat against Wales and Italy for that very reason, and against the superior Ireland team we were finally punished for it.

  • Comment number 14.

    The commentray on this game was even more one-eyed than usual and the whole presentation didn't even attempt at presenting a balanced view with the half time more or less devoted to talking about Wilkinson.

    This presentation made it easier for Murdoch and the Tories to further undermine the BBC as it is disenfranchising non-english viewers.

  • Comment number 15.

    as a neutral i must say i found this game bizarre. It's not often that you see a team dominate possession and territory to that extent and lose. I understand this argument about turnovers, but you can't seriously argue that Ireland's forwards have done well when they get about 30% of the ball. England's forwards didnt really have a chance to do any turnovers did they, especially when you consider their extraordinary lack of defence.

    I don't see why England should have kicked more, they had plenty of territory. The chronic lack of penetration and confidence that they have in attack is their problem, and the reason why they are so mediocre.

    As for Ireland, they seem to have hit their peak by winning the six nations last year. Their team is very experienced, to the point of being over the hill, and yet they don't look capable of dominating anyone. They are so underpowered up front that its a real surprise when they beat a good team like SA. Don't see that happening very often though, and certainly not away from home.

    As for this argument about the drop goal being early, are you mad? it was in the final ten minutes of the game, if they got a penalty would you be advocating kicking for touch? you take the points on offer, which wilkinson does very well.

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm not a great rugby watcher but for me the most creative sides in the Six Nations are currently Wales and Ireland. Pity one of them cannot win the Grand Slam again this year. The countries with the biggest resources - England and France seem far to conservative in their approach. I was very disappointed with the French attitude in the 2nd half against Wales - far too much kicking out of hand which allowed the Welsh to get back into the game, very dangerous considering the talent they have in the backs.

    IMO the long kicking is killing the game as a spectacle. The most creative kick (and dribble) being James Hook's against France.

    Overall the best rugby has been when the ball has been passed along the line at pace resulting in a try. Perhaps an element needs to be introduced from rugby league whereby teams keep the ball in hand - and only kick for territory after the sixth phase of possssion. Thoughts!!

    I'd also like to ask seasoned union watchers - what has happened to the rolling maul. The best one I recall being England's against France early in the first half in 1995 at Twickenham when England advanced 20-30 metres deep into French territory. It was just sheer brutality!!

  • Comment number 17.

    Archlionheart, I know you're upset after yesterday, it was a hard game for England to lose, but that does not in any way excuse some of your comments re the Irish team which I feel are at best begrudging, and more akin to bitter and blinkered.
    For starters, regarding Ireland just winning tight games by kicking, firstly tell me again, how exactly did England do so well for their few golden years? That's right, a kicking and pack-dominated game and a metronomic place-kicker.
    However the main point to be made here is that Ireland won by scoring three, yes THREE tries, each of which came from line-breaking moves, pace, handling, and skillful play.
    England got one try which was one of the most outrageous video official decisions I've seen since, well since France were given one against Scotland a few years back that won them the championship. But yesterday's decision was worse.
    The next thing to point out to you is that last year Ireland dominated England (and Wales) pretty much all over the park, and the only reason they didn't win by 20 points or more was because O'Gara's kicking game was very off (and against Wales we just couldn't get a break or get clear of Jones' kicking and the referee), and so England never really had to chase the game which would have opened it up for Ireland to take them apart. The 1 point win was a travesty of the way the game actually went.
    Yesterday England had more possession and played well at times. Both teams made alot of mistakes, but overall, considering the conditions and what was at stake, it was a very good match with alot of running and attack-minded play, and hats off to England for going for it, they ARE improving and the results against top nations will come.
    For Ireland I expect to see very expansive games against Wales and Scotland, it's not really the results now but performance too, we don't have so much to lose & we have to bring our game to the highest level in preparation for the WC, where reaching a semi-final and giving France, NZ or SA a great game, or beating Australia or England would be a very good achievement. Reaching a final would be a massive bonus, maybe requiring a kind draw.
    Now England, go out and do us one against France, it would be fantastic for this Irish team to win one just more championship, no doubt in the near future this team will break up (the stallwarts) and we will experience a lengthy period of transition/decline. Just not for another year please!(don't care about next year's SixN, just the WC now)

  • Comment number 18.

    Just want to add that I agree with aitchin's comments about Ireland up front, our scrum and front row is our weakness and if we can't sort it out before the WC there's no hope of beating one of the top 3 in the WC or away from home. Decline is on the way anyway as a good few lads have many high-level miles on the clock and we ahven't won too many games the easy way, it's been alot of hard graft over many years. Still, an incredible testament to the consistency and other attributes of the team over this period, we have only won a couple less Six Nations games than France in 10 or more years, and quite a few more than England. One more championship win instead of all the second places (looking very likely again this year), and a WC semi-final spectacular would have capped this era in terms of achievement

  • Comment number 19.

    Not overly impressive by Ireland, but we were on a hiding to nothing after Paris, and Twickenham is not the ideal place to go and try to rehabilitate trashed confidence.
    We still have problems, and will never have the depth to dream of a real tilt at the World Cup, but this was a job well done.

    For the posters who seem convinced that the officials were determined to hand us this one on a plate, go back and watch the video for English players entering rucks from a variety of angles that would have baffled Euclid. And what on earth possessed someone to refer to the great job done of bossing Ireland's "much-vaunted scrum"? Clearly a comment that owed more to a vague idea of big mullockers from the farms of Kerry than having seen our pack in action - I reckon only Steve Redgrave has spent more of his career going backwards.

    Last year was probably the peak of what Ireland can reasonably expect. The whupping by the French should be healthy in that it forces us to try to address obvious serious shortcomings. The question for England is whether Johnno has the imagination to try something other than defaulting to the ugly tactics that were ultimately vindicated by having a vintage crop of players able to win a World Cup. The current group will only get as far as rumbling over for the odd try like yesterday's unless he can get some organisation behind the tanks.

  • Comment number 20.

    You are obviously that, Mrs Kelly's son, so what other response should be expected. Obviously a fragile disposition as well.
    I spoke a few home truths in my post but nothing that could be construed as offensive.
    Others seem to agree with me that Ireland have peaked, which I said, and England are and will get better.
    Bullhayes, suggested 2 from 5 is not progress which I agreed, but that made the assumption we had already lost them and I challenged him that if we did indeed win those games, would he come on this site and admit it was he that needed to smell the roses......I suggest he wont.

    You KNOW it's a fact that when other teams kick it's called playing tactical yet for England it's "boring". The idea being of course is to keep saying it and eventually it will be believed. Bit Like the Australians calling England a one man team after they had won the world cup.
    You KNOW that if England had infringed that many times there would have been howls of derision and perhaps a binning. And you KNOW that come the world cup Ireland WILL NOT be in the can never really say that about England as bad as they may be playing as history has shown.

    If you read my earlier post you will see I readily accept the win by Ireland although differ with the content of the game. But as long as people keep calling England boring just to slag them off and criticise their style of play, whilst playing the same game and calling it tactical or playing to the conditions, I'll continue to hold the mirror up to their respective faces. Yours as well.

    Sorry if I've stepped on your sensitivities, but home truths are hardly insults.

  • Comment number 21.

    Archlion, you chose to ignore my comments re-your original post, that's a pity as I've addressed some of the points that you repeat in your last post!
    Just want to add now that I don't think anyone would call England's performance boring yesterday, and I've pointed that out above. I think though that if you try to address that reputation by knocking other teams you're on a hiding to nothing other than tit-for-tat comments.
    And while we're at it, South Africa are also boring, Australia of recent vintage, and certainly Argentina. But I think the conclusion overall is that the game of rugby union has become more boring due to the laws/rules with negative/conservative/pragmatic approaches winning world cups.
    With that in mind, fair play to Wales especially (considering their resources) & France who have almost always kept it creative and risky. As for Ireland, we needed like England to play to our strengths, and we needed to gain belief from winning. Our game has developed but we don't possess the pack to dominate against powerful teams and therefore often don't have the platform to play the game we'd all love to see. Still, it would be nice if you would be gracious enough to admit that our three tries yesterday, especially the first one, were tries that you would have been proud to see your team score. Look at the running, dummies and passing and kick of all the players involved in that first try and tell me it wasn't a thing of great skill

  • Comment number 22.

    mrbozotoyou, fair comments generally, not sure i'd agree with you about the decision for the england try though, looked a try to me. Keith wood even said so, on the program i was watching.

    archlionheart, your frustration is understandable, but i think several of your points are flawed. At the moment i can see no reason to be sure that england are getting better. Their performance 2 years ago in the same fixture was plainly better. They're not a particularly young side, and they look bereft of confidence in attack.

    As for being certain that Ireland cant make the final of the world cup, this is just wrong. the wc is a knockout tournament in which pretty much anything can happen. Ireland are currently better than england, so surely have, at the very least, a better chance than england. england having made three finals means nothing. if history teaches us anything, it's that we learn nothing from it. France have never won the wc, does that mean to you that they never will?

  • Comment number 23.

    As an England fan, i have recently moved abroad and started watching a lot of Super 14 Rugby, when i compare super 14's rugby with the England v Ireland game 2 things really stood out.

    The English backs are really slow, and if not actually slow (Monye) then no idea how to use the pace. Cueto is a very slow player as it Tait. The Irish wingers both had the ability to use killer pace to score tries as do the Welsh wingers, our backs are just far too slow.

    The pace England play the game at is really slow!! England keep the ball behind a ruck for far too long. Its painfull to watch, when the ball does come out of the ruck the opposition has had so much time set up their defence that we go nowhere.

    England deserved to lose today, not just because Ireland had a better team (fast backs at least) but because England played with a boring style of Rugby. We need to learn a few lessons from the Welsh!!

  • Comment number 24.

    For those people advocating a start for Foden against Scotland, Armitage's injury looked serious enough to me for that to be a very strong likelihood.

    But I don't think it will fundamentally change anything: Armitage is hardly a "defensive" full back and although Foden may play with a bit more freedom, I suspect Dan Parks will pepper him with more garryowens than he might have done to Armitage.

    The real problem is the 10-12-13 link. There is little point in having England's best playmaker (Flutey), England's quickest and most elusive outside centre (Tait) and England's best finisher (Monye) if they only get the ball in situations where they can't do anything with it.

  • Comment number 25.

    England are paying the price for appointing a totally inexperienced Manager. Johnson has had no opportunity to learn his trade - to find out if he is any good at this - before being thrust in at the deepest of ends. Fran Cotton has been proved utterly correct in his criticism of the decision to appoint Johnson. England have the most money and the most rugby players yet it is frittering these advantages away through mismanagement at the top of the RFU. Appointing Johnson appears to have been a craven attempt to short cut good solid team building - on the coaching and playing side - with appointing an uber successful captain as manager and hoping that he can replicate that success. It's unfair on Johnson (who's probably somewhat bewildered at the position he is in), the talented and experienced coaches who are far better qualified than him to do the job and some very talented players who are not able to give there best because they are operating in a dysfunctional set up. Those at the very top of the RFU are not dynamic rugby men who have cut their teeth at the hard edge of international rugby. Rather they are the 'old farts' or businessmen, neither of which are qualified to dictate the Engalnd's rugby playing future. We need people such as Fran Cotton and his ilk in those positions if England is to get anywhere near its potential and remain there, whilst it has such abundant resources. Other unions must look at us with disbelief (and relief!) at the way we are frittering our advantages away. Until the RFU addresses these fundamental issues in the way the game is run at the top England will have to continue to travel in hope rather than expectation.

  • Comment number 26.

    I'm afraid I have to say that I agree in part with archlionheart... I believe England are improving, but we must remember that what makes a great team is consistency in selection. The 2003 world cup winning side basically played for many years together, and for example, the Ireland centre partnership of D'Arcy-O'Driscoll have much more experience together than Flutey-Tait... So I believe England fans must have a little more patience, it takes time to build a grandslam and world cup winning team.

    I couldn't help but feel that England played too much rugby in the build up to Ireland's turnover try (which was ruthlessly and fantastically finished btw). They were making ground at first, but when the Irish defence got comfortable the ball should have been kicked for territory... It did seem that there was evidence of the 'negative worm that has been shouted into their heads' as archlionheart mentions. As for the reversed penalty, I was disappointed but understanding when it was given, I think all England fans felt Care's frustration at O'Leary not giving the ball twice in a row, and not getting penalised... And Care's actions have oft been unpunished by previous referees. But that is rugby, and close games inevitably turn on things like that. But once again Ireland were far more clinical than England, when they got those opportunities. I also felt that there was maybe some case for collapsing the England maul as it rapidly approached the Ireland line, although i admit I was getting emotionally involved at this point, and i haven't seen the replay... But it did seem as if Irish defenders dropped to the ground multiple times in attempt to stop/slow it down.

    All in all, I believe that England still need to find the balance between running the ball, and playing tactically. They also don't yet have that great self-belief and confidence that allows them to grindout close games, like Ireland do (I'm not suggesting that's Ireland's only skill) But i get tired of the constant negativity and pessimism surrounding the team. After all they 2 from 3 like Ireland, and I would love to see them spoil the French party in Paris... Although my head doubts it very much...

  • Comment number 27.

    From what I watched yesterday Ireland showed England at times how to play fast ball rugby The 3rd try was a very good example, quick ball of the line out, England defending for the line out as it had done all game and Ireland change tactics for once. Yet again England's use of the ball at breakdowns and scrums was slow and laborious. Until England learn to mix it up more opposition teams will be able to defend against them very easily. Foden once brought on became our James Hook, offering different options and forcing the opposition to react in a slightly different and sometimes slower manor. As stated on a previous comment Care yet again because of his impetuousness cost England 7 points, wingers not looking to see what players are in support possible cost points as well. It does appear that English players are having the art of doing things on impulse coached out of them and replaced with a very automatum style.

  • Comment number 28.

    Cannot agree with buileshuibhne. I think Ireland have decent strength in depth nowadays. I also think that Tom makes the same mistake as the majority of England supporters by harking back to 2003. That was all 7 years ago. Wilkinson and Johnson are the last ties to that final, and it's time those ties were cut. Andrew should go as well. Time to employ a proper coach and cut the Leicester connection.

  • Comment number 29.

    When have England really had a "cutting edge"? At their peak they were ruthlessly efficient, well drilled and had a dominant pack. They were in my opinion the most professional side in the NH and were able to dominate without being particularly creative (this was when MJ was playing). As the professional era has progressed all sides possess more of those qualities. Teams like Wales and Ireland now are well drilled and no longer have a physical disadvantage (as they did for many years against England). But both Ireland and Wales have cutting edge when they use it (not always). England have turned away from players who have that edge - if you are always going to grind out games you cannot expect to win on a regular basis - you may not get hammered (on the scoreboard). The Martin Johnson "experiment" has not worked - I hope for England's sake MJ will open his mind and allow a different thinking (with the help of others). MJ ponder this - what have your England team created with regard to scoring tries during your tenure?

  • Comment number 30.

    archlionheart I'm taking reference to your post no.20 for the following comments.

    I to think England are improving, very very slowly. Beating the Welsh is a good example of this and almost beating the Irish yesterday. However as wejmillar points out, it takes time to build a Grand Slam team, something MJ won't accomplish in his second 6n tournament. The key match which will show us how England are coming along is the one in Paris. If England can (dare i say it), beat the French or even get close, then MJ and England are going in the right direction. If not...

    'And you KNOW that come the world cup Ireland WILL NOT be in the can never really say that about England as bad as they may be playing as history has shown.'

    What utter trash.

    How on earth do you know Ireland won't be in the final? Moreover how do you know that you can never rule England out of reaching the final. Just because you managed to fluke a way last time, doesn't mean your boys will become possessed by a higher power and manage it again. On form and the teams available I'd say that Ireland will get a lot further than England come WC time. Debate that if you wish.

  • Comment number 31.

    Truely I have not chosen to ignore your post, I have just not seen them until now.
    I have consistently said in my posts I accept the result (what else can you do with a result?) but differ on the game and the better team. I was told to smell the roses, well I am. England are getting better and will continue to do so. They will beat Scotland and I think they will win in France because they are capable of doing so. Come the world cup they will be in the semis and or finals.
    The tries Ireland scored were executed very well but in my view came on the back of English errors and an appalling refereeing decision, but they got them.
    To say the English try was outrageous is just a joke. If nothing else the Irish were all handling the ball on their knees and a penalty try should have been awarded without going to the video, predicated incidentally by another Irish penalty had the video ref said no. Which of course he couldn't as the ball was clearly over the line. Worse decision ever? If you didn't see it then I suppose that was the time you must have been facing the other way with your head in your hands. There has been not one complaint about that save yours.

    You slight England in their "golden years" for being "pack dominated and a metronomic kicker" as though at the same time Ireland (and presumably everyone else) was playing fantastic flair filled rugby. The fact is that when England won the world cup they had not only beaten but slaughtered most teams they had come against, home and away, and a good many of the tries were slick fast backline moves after the forwards got them in good positions. But of course beating everyone home and away for two years is not good enough is it when it's England, you're still able to slag off their "golden years" as boring, but it's really only designed to make yourselves feel better that you were mediocre.

    After mentioning our "metronomic kicker" in the usual disparaging way that we and he have become used to (highest points scorer by the way, and wouldn't you love it to be an Irishman), you then go on to say the reason you didn't win by 20 was OG's kicking game was off. So it would have been ok for you to have a kicker who can get you points and position but when it's England you speak of it as though it's a fault. You can't have it both ways. Far from me being gracious why don't you be gracious and admit that Johnny was not, is not one dimensional, pound for pound the best tackler ever and before all the injuries etc was the best there was.

    Others have made comments saying you could bring Bill Beaumont back in like that was a fault. For all this talk about so called running rugby, seems to me the best games I remember where home championship games played in the mud, rain ,snow, packs driving forward and ball under the arm rugby with Bill Mclaren calling the shots. Now if you kick for position to get your forwards there it's called boring.

    The result is the result, so be it, but Ireland have peaked and England are getting better.........what I said at the beginning.

  • Comment number 32.

    Seems everyone has a different opinion on where we (England)went wrong or were weak yesterday.

    I thought the front row did well and the much put upon Payne has more than held his own this Championship.

    Armitage is struggling for form and Foden would be a good replacement, Monye's defence is awful and he needs to go for Ashton and I'd like to see Young come in for Care who is simply not good enough

    The difference yesterday for me was that Ireland are much better at playing the ref, they have street smarts, something England used to have, I feel we do have the players, we just aren't playing them.

    With Lewes, Croft, Sheridan up front and the backs I've named I think we can go forward, I'm not sure Johnson agrees though.

  • Comment number 33.

    Watching on TV I was wondering after about 20 minutes how long it would be before the ref stopped saying "hands off" and sent someone to the sin bin. Sadly for the game and for England, the answer was never. Credit to Ireland for playing the ref much better than England, but why was he so pernickety about players remaining behind the back foot whilst allowing blatant cheating to continue elsewhere?

  • Comment number 34.

    i'm just not sure why people seem so convinced england are getting better. they have maybe 7 or 8 thirty year olds in the starting team, so they're not lacking in experience. They just don't carry much of a threat, to the extent that they can have all that possession and still only score one try. they lost at home to Ireland yesterday, who are a decent team, but they're not new zealand. England are miles off the pace of the world's best teams. I don't mean that in an offensive way, i grew up with england dominating everything, and i had no problem with that. It's just fanciful to imagine it will always be that way.

    This is not a management issue, it's not about the tactics, or any one individual letting everyone else down, it's just that this england team isn't particularly good. consider tom's point in the article, how many of this england side would get into the 2003 team?

  • Comment number 35.

    forgot to mention about the ref. arguing over one or two debatable penalties is a smokescreen. It's annoying when things seem to be going against you but consider this. That england team, that won everything, would they have been worried about one or two bad decisions? i don't believe so, in a home game against that ireland side, they'd have been 15-20 points clear and it wouldn't have mattered.

  • Comment number 36.

  • Comment number 37.

    Archlionheart - your comments are at best mean spirited. I recall Will Carling facing criticism after a tight win back in days of English pomp. A win is a win and one point is as good as a hundred.

    Simple fact is that the game is played to score points not to hold onto the ball aimlessly for 60 minutes. The sad fact is that this was England's and Wilkinson's best performance in a while, and the weather was their friend on the day.

    Comments about the number of penalties and lack of cards really are a bit one-eyed. The referee penalised offside at rucks (primarily Irish) to a degree usually unseen in 6N matches, and he ignored (predominantly English) entry into rucks from the side to a degree usually unseen in 6N matches. Cards would have been harsh.

    England had the upper hand in certain facets; however they had 60% possession and they still lost. That is quite an indictment. If any other 6N team had 60% we'd have faced a 30 plus point beating. The truth is that at least half of the English team/squad are not good enough at that level, and if I supported them I would be rightly concerned because they do appear to be the best players available.

    English rugby has no cutting edge, and it's tough to see where that might come from when the players play in a league that showcases and glorifies that level of play every week. MJ might do well to introduce a policy of not considering premiership based players for selection.

  • Comment number 38.

    I suppose the only statistic matters is that ireland won. All the rest is tosh. When you lose an inch or a mile is the same. Are England progressing, of course they are. The real point though is how far they can go in this progression. On the form today i would say a fair few changes have to be made. front 3 were fine, lineout did well enough. Back 3 were outplayed by a streetwise and very aggressive Irish 3, Ferris continues to be their standout player by a Clonmel mile.

    I think the problem is the midfield, not much going on there and no-one to boss the game the back just drifted across the park right to left. little sense of urgency. The backs are where the changes need to be made, but I would wait until after Scotland and France, 2 away games which will give an indication on where things lie. The Jocks will be up for it, but they have way too many injuries. While France in Paris chasing a grand slam looks like a real challenge for any team. That said france have been shown not play for 80 minutes so there is a chance - slim though.

    To sum up current team are probably running very fast down a very short road, a change of heart, mindset and personnel is the only way England will progress any further.

    Thought the atmosphere was awful as well, why do people bother to turn up if they all look and sound so bored?

  • Comment number 39.

    Can't argue too much with this blog. The possession / tackle / passing stats really do tell the story.

    Lots of huffing and puffing, but no houses being blown down. On the plus side though, England did play some half decent rugby and the game as a whole wasn't too bad despite the conditions.

    Congrats Ireland - class showed when it mattered.

  • Comment number 40.

    Any thoughts on the atmosphere at Twickenham? While it was an improvement on that at the Argentina match last November (pauses, shudders horribly at the memory) it didn't feel a patch on the Millennium Stadium on Friday nor the Stade de France two weeks ago.

    Thoughts too on changes ahead of the Scotland game for England? Most seem to agree Foden should come in for Armitage, but elsewhere? Ashton in for which winger? Ireland supporters - happy to see Sexton start again against Wales?

  • Comment number 41.

    You have summed England in a nutshell

  • Comment number 42.

    Foden for Armitage, Cole to start, give Flood a go at 10.
    Lawes for Shaw if he's injured, agree Deacon looks out of depth

  • Comment number 43.

    Sexton has to be given a run now at 10. O'Gara will always be there and we know what he is capable of at this level. realistically Sexton could provide much better attacking rugby long term and if he flatters to deceive then O'Gara can always be drafted in.

  • Comment number 44.

    42. Deacon was fine yesterday. The problem wasn't in the tight 5. Stop mindlessly climbing on the bandwagon. Lawes has been playing at 6 for the last three months - is that really good preparation for coming up against Hines? Good guy to have on the bench in my view.

    9, 10 & 12 need to sort themselves out: Hogdson to get a chance ahead of Care maybe this will help Wilko. The jury is out on the anonymous Maori for me - he has played two good games for England and one for the Lions with quite a lot of caps. Very few alternatives though.... how is Turner Hall playing?

    Monye to go - not good enough. Has had ample time to do something over the last two seasons and has not cut it. I'd like to see Strettle back but Ashton will probably get the nod.

    Flood to get some game time too please.

  • Comment number 45.

    I have to say that there are lots of positives to take from England this year, but also too many negatives. England's back row were very good against Wales but were found wanting against both Italy and Ireland. I wonder how different the results may have been had Tom Croft had been able to play blindside allowing James Haskell to play number 8? Martin Johnson is making progress but as always there are too many shackles on the players. Also selection is an issue.

    Charlie Hodgson is the best Fly Half in the Premiership at running a line but he is unable to cope with the responsibilites of kicking goals. This means we need a second kicker. Wilkinson at inside centre is an option, Toby Flood another. Ben Foden or Nick Abendanon are playing better than Armitage currently and form must count for something. Also Chris Aston is England's most dangerous weapon at the moment and instead we keep playing Ugo Moyne, who to be honest never looks like scoring. Cueto defends well but perhaps against Scotland it is time to try out some younger players to see what they can do?

  • Comment number 46.

    Archlionheart - are you sure you watched yesterday's game?? We used what little posession we had very well and defended brilliantly. It is you English who call yourselves boring, not us. We think that England are very good and you may well make it to the world cup final but not under Johno. Declan Kidney has been coaching rugby team since he was 19 and is probably the most experienced in the world. You may well be playing against us in the WC final. By the way, Englands try yesterday was held up by Donnacha O'Ceallachan, before being rippend out of his hands. Should that try have stood??? Not sure, but the ref was playing advantage to England, O Ceallachan hanled on the ground and drew the ball over the line firmly in his arms. Should it not have gone back to the original penalty?? Comments for anyone on this? The reverse penalty decision - well the same happened to us against France - part of the game!!

  • Comment number 47.

    I think the irish are fooling themselves about how good they were yesterday. Tackling was fantastic yes but you have to worry when your scrum gets taken to the cleaners and your lack of possession forces you to make near 100 tackles. "Playing the conditions" is really England put you under pressure and forced you to kick possession. Of course we did the same thing to Italy but because its England its "boring" rather than playing tactically. I don't think the England lineout was "bossed" and when you have the majority of possesson you get turned over more as your not defending as much, though I will concede the Irish backrow outclassed their English counterparts. I find it very patronising from the Ireland fans telling us how bad we were and how good they were considering victory was acheived by only the slightest of margins. It could have very easily been very different.

    But alas as has been pointed out 3 tries to 1 cannot be ignored. The first try came from an excellant counter, the second from what I consider a very debateble penalty and the thrid from non-existant tackling. The only England try came from sustained pressure. What I am slighly worried about is our lack of strike runners to finish off the chances we made, last year our strike runners were mainly Flutey, Monye and Armitage. But all 3 of these guys are nowhere near the same form as last year. I think prehaps we need to throw caution to the wind and pick some of the form players of the GP. Though we need to balance this with consistant selection so I'd pick for next week

    1. Payne
    2. Hartly
    3. Cole
    4. Borthwick (c)
    5. Lawes
    6. Haskell
    7. Moody
    8. Easter
    9. Care
    10. Wilkinson
    11. Aston
    12. Flutey
    13. Tait
    14. Cueto
    15. Foden

  • Comment number 48.

    The flaw is not in the players, but in the tactics. Maybe Saturday was not the day for fast flowing rugby (if anyone can remember what that it was), but the variety of tactics just was not there. The Irish got too comfortable in their defence.

    The fault is Wilkinson's (or it could just be the training). He was and is a very talented player with the skills that should keep him at 10 right through the world cup. His trouble is that it is not (any more) part of his thinking to get the line moving (and varying it). Watch videos of 2002/3 he is always talking to his line - perhaps getting ideas from Will Greenwood - but it just isn't there any more. The 'big pack' mentality has stopped him from being more creative.

    I know they want to beat Scotland, but let's have it as a bit of a try out for more variety. Ireland would have lost if they had had to defend against all possibilities. Grunt and grind will win you matches, but if that doesn't work where is plan B?

  • Comment number 49.

    as stated in many comments, it's apparent that several changes are needed if we have any hope in the two remaining games.
    actually I originally wanted to thank Wales for showing us, through their second half performance, how to beat a much vaunted French side - pressure them, get in their faces and attack them with quick ball, they were crumbling in the second half, and had Wales scored from the break by Jamie Roberts (which they should have done)then I think France would have completely gone to pieces.
    so that,IMO, should be the game plan at Stade, whether England are good enough is a different matter altogether.

  • Comment number 50.

    Most of the article is pretty accurate. What needs to be pointed out however is that the failure of the national team (and let's be frank, it is a failure) is a rather complex conundrum that a new coach and some new players won't necessarily fix, at least not easily.

    English teams, in general, lack flair and imagination. The way we play team sports is more often than not, to quote Tom, 'hard-working, dogged, but only occasionally inspired'. In the football world, it's the reason Matthew Le Tissier earned himself just a handful of England caps, despite being the outstanding player of his generation by quite some way. English management and coaches simply don't trust players with flair and they certainly don't like the idea of players expressing themselves on the field.

    Back to rugby, English teams have been, for generations, singularly uninspiring. Sure, there's been the odd very good side and some very good players along the way. As an example, David Duckham springs to mind from the rather turgid 70s sides. The problem is that there has been lots of other great English players around over the years who have been simply let down by the system or who were never picked at all. If they were picked, they likely weren't persevered with.

    In the mid 1980s, something happened which still has major ramifications to this day.

    There were 2 players competing for the England fly half position back then. One was an ex-public schoolboy who went to Cambridge. He was a solid enough player alright but generally pretty uninspiring. The other was not a public schoolboy but who went to Oxford nonetheless. This guy was more of a maverick, an attacking fly half with the guile to unlock defences but clearly, at least in the minds of the selectors, more of a risk.

    To cut a long story short, the uninspiring guy won the day. In fact, he went on to win 71 caps playing safety first rugby. He had great defense and, although he was only an average goalkicker to begin with, he actually became a world class goalkicker. So, fair's fair. However, he only scored 2 tries in those 71 internationals, a shocking return for the supposed playmaker of an English rugby side and a pretty successful side at that. That was his game though. And his name? Rob Andrew of course.

    The other guy hardly got a look in. All told, he won just 10 caps, an appalling not to say ludicrous statistic for someone of his ability and all this despite him being much the superior player of the two. Of course, this would never have happened had he played for France, Wales or Ireland, ironic of course given that he also captained the Welsh Schools before choosing England. However, his face but more importantly his style of rugby just didn't sit well with the conservative, safety first England selectors and his international career was all but over. His name was Stuart Barnes.

    And here we are, 25 years later and guess who's at the helm of English rugby? Now, in my estimation, Rob Andrew at fly half set English rugby back 10 years. Other international teams of that era had proper playmakers, guys who could make a difference. Rob Andrew was lucky in many respects because he had great players around him, notably the likes of Jeremy Guscott, Will Carling and Rory Underwood. But just think what that England side could have accomplished with a Michael Lynagh type figure at no. 10? The mind boggles.

    And so, onto the present day. Here we are. Can an organisation which is run by this guy who epitomises this dull, adventureless style of rugby seriously transform the way the game is played here? People are calling for the head of Martin Johnson and rightly so in my opinion, but surely Rob Andrew needs to be shown the door as well? Maybe his impeccable public school and Cambridge background really does open doors. It certainly seems to be keeping them open.

    Now let's just say that Andrew and Johnson are relieved of their duties. What then? Well, it would be a start. However, we then need to look at the way the game is played in this country as a whole and it brings me back to what I hinted at at the beginning and that's that we just don't seem to be capable of playing team sports the right way anywhere. Our club rugby is boring and it's probably the same story all the way down the levels and down to the way we're taught when we're kids. In other words, this needs a shake-up at the grass roots level and ALL the way up to the international 1st XV. That's quite a job. We need to somehow ignore what's probably decades of conditioning and which is now embedded in our collective psyche. Okay, it's an enormous job.

    There has also been talk in the recent past of the need to get rid of Jonny Wilkinson. And yet, in past years, he's been feted as the best player in the world, a world class fly half and some type of rugby God. The truth of course is somewhat different. He was a match winner for sure but only because he could kick goals in pressure cooker type situations, no mean feat certainly. He was never, though, a world class playmaker or someone who could really take a game by the scruff of the neck. He could tackle, he had great defense and he could kick. That was it. Indeed, one could say he was simply a better version of the type of player Rob Andrew was. And yet, he was and possibly still is the most famous rugby player in the world. How come?

    English football also has a similar player who's also nowhere near world class and yet who's the most famous player in their world. David Beckham, like JW has been a very good player. To my mind, neither have been close to world class but have seemingly conquered their professions. Both are now no better than mediocre and yet both are being persevered with by their national managers. Both need to hang up their international boots and call it a day. But then, this is England we're talking about.

    So, back to rugby. What next? We can't go on like this. It needs someone to look at the sport from top to bottom and to somehow reverse years of negative, dull thinking. My own instinct would be to replace Rob Andrew and Martin Johnson with immediate effect and to install someone at the top of the game to oversee its transformation. Who might that be? I have no idea but there must be someone around who could take the job on.

  • Comment number 51.

    Part of Englands problem is that this team minus injured players scored more tries last six nations then the other teams,so Johnson is probably waiting for them to click again.
    I think the back three plus inside centre is where the problem lies, personnely I would go with Foden.Sackey and Strettle plus a big boshing centre a sort of young Tindell whoever that may be.

  • Comment number 52.

    What price now a fit Tom Croft?

  • Comment number 53.

    I haven't read all the comments, so apologize if this has already been covered. But archlion, the reason that many consider England to be boring is the slooooooow ball from rucks.

  • Comment number 54.

    Fred, I suspect you may be right to point the finger at Rob Andrew - England are never going to be free to develop an exciting, attacking style of play when the man with the money is the guy who virtually invented boring rugby! I remember well the days when Wales' only hope of scoring was to fling it wide and hope that Ieuan Evans could work a bit of magic, while England had all sorts of talent outside but preferred to win games through forward power & penalties. England may well be inching forwards and Wales may be going backwards at present, but I know who I would rather be watching!

  • Comment number 55.

    Tom, Tom -

    "loathe though anyone who watches them regularly should be to write such words"

    Such words as "loathe" perhaps (vb. - hate or detest), when you actually mean "loath" (adj. - reluctant or unwilling)?

    But I forgive you - no doubt you lost concentration briefly, in your disappointment at seeing England 'loose' the game.

    All of which is quite a coincidence. As England were indeed very loose ...heh... and I loathe them!

    Great to see the Irish lads stuff those white-shirted throwbacks. Erin go bragh! (or whatever it is they say over there - pardon my spelling...)

  • Comment number 56.

    not sure I agree with Hookers armpit saying problem not in tight 5; how much quick, quality lineout ball did we get yesterday? scrummed well though, payne had measure of hayes, but think Hayes is weakest tight head in scrum in whole 6N.
    Lawes may have less growl than Hines, but we'll only find out by picking him and letting him have a go, Deacon has had enough chances over last 3 years.
    Do you think Lievremont would have given a French Lawes a go by now, 18 months before WC? Yes, thought so,there's the problem.
    One positive from yesterday, no grand slam to go for now, so give Foden, Lawes, Hodgson, Flood a go.
    I've got a ticket for Paris and I'd rather see us have a go and lose by 15 points than grind out a 5-8 point loss and score 5 penalty goals, what good will that do us in l/t?
    Think Twickenham crowd have been spoilt in 90's, 00s until 03; some of us with longer memories remember 80's, Grand slam in 80, wooden spoon in 83.
    When everyone fit




  • Comment number 57.

    PS - Wilko is an anally-retentive bombscare. Always has been. He needs to chill right out and try to enjoy what he's doing.

    (Oops - did I just say "has been" - LOL! - "my bad"...)


  • Comment number 58.

    I think what has been missing certainly in the english game are two fold the investment in talent at the grass roots and a youth team collaboration. That team have made huge strides over the last few years.

  • Comment number 59.

    Lets get this all in perspective. Ireland got a hammering in Paris. They now had to come to Twickenham and beat an emerging England team. Which they did in horrid conditions.

    Irish fans will say a win is a win. The Care decision was one of those calls, people are glossing over the try that England were awarded. Where the hell was the ball?

    Ireland have more attacking capability and you can not point to any current England players and say they are the known threats etc.

    Lay off Johnny it is not his fault. The blame comes with the tactics. Johnny can play one way and use him if that is how your team is set up and if not give him a break and use Flood. Johnson is clueless when will people see that? His teams look hapless with the ball in hand and have no idea where they are going with ball in hand.

    Ireland actually had an average came but took their chances which is the sign of a great team and which is what France have been doing for years.

    Is it in bad taste to mention we have won 6 of the last 7 games against England?

    England are getting better but are going nowhere with Johnson.

    PS how much longer must we endure Moore commentary? He is so biased it is a joke!

    Tommy bowe is magic x

  • Comment number 60.

    Much as I have always defended Jonny Wilkinson's selection, I do now feel that it is time to revert to Toby Flood at No.10 who was beginning at the end of last season to work well with Ricky Flutey and create openings.OK, he's not in Jonny's class as a kicker, but he manages to put together a fair number of points for Leicester.It's tries England needs.
    Ben Foden should stay,with Chris Ashton on the bench as winger if either Ugo Monye or Mark Cueto don't perform.
    The pack should be given another chance as if Easter,Haskell and Lewsey all perform at their best on the same day , they are as a good a back row as anyone's.Courtney Lawes should be brought in against Scotland, if Simon Shaw isn't fit.His absence made a huge difference against Ireland.

  • Comment number 61.

    First of all, to "Fred": Loved the post! I still remember the day Barnsey had his hands way above his head collecting yet another wayward scrum half's pass, and the scottish flanker bearing down on him in anticipation of a big hit. What happened; Barnes caught the ball, side stepped in the same movement leaving the flanker clutching thin air, barrelled his way forward (I think that verb's appropriate given his shape at the time), passed to Carling I think, on to Guscott, Underwood scores in the left hand corner. To my old mind, one of the sweetest tries of all time. Would never have happened with Rob Andrew, that's for sure!

    Anway, to yesterday's game. I firmly believe it was infinitely better than the turgid affair in Rome, but England didn't take their chances, and Ireland did...Simples !!

    I'm pleased we gave it more of a lash with ball in hand, but when we did kick, there still wasn't any decent chasing. The one english try was perfectly good, you could see it had been grounded and, as someone psoted earlier, the amount of Irish players at the preceding ruck playing the ball whilst off their feet certainly warranted a penalty try anyway!

    Ireland's first try, lovely kich through, sweet finish. Ireland's 2nd try, Care deserved to be penalised just before in my honest opinion. The time lag between the referee blowing and Care dumping O'Leary on his backside was negligible. He over reacted, and he got punished, but the rest of his game was fine. He should have gone for one quick tap penalty not long after, but that could be excused due to confusion over exactly where it should be taken from due to the kick or scrum conundrum.

    The last Irish try was just poor tackling. I agree that Haskell seems to have gone backward since the Welsh game and was virtually annonymous yesterday. Definitely his fault, and possibly Wilko's.

    Which brings me to JW! Sorry, but I also think it's time for him to have some bench time and let Flood have 1st crack at the Scots. Other posters have said that Flutey was annonymous yesterday, and he was, but how much of that is down to his partneship with JW? Last year Flood and Flutey worked well together, particularly against France, and I think it's time they got another crack for the last 2 games.

    Who else to go? I think Monye lost confidence during the Lions Tour, 2 missed tries in the 2nd Test, and is not the player he was last year. Time for Ashton maybe? Armitage also seems to be searching for form and maybe this injury will mean that Foden gets the chance he so richly deserves. He certainly upped England's game when he came on yesterday, although I couldn't help but notice that the first ball he received in open play, he kicked it back to the Irish. Only after that did he start to run it and that certainly got the Irish on the back foot!

    Other possible changes for Scotland; If Shaw's injury is that bad, then now has to be the time to start Lawes. Deacon went backwards too many times yesterday for my liking, and was nothing special at the line-out. I realise Lawes has been playing no.6 for a few months now, but there are quite a few other international teams doing the same right now, so why not England?

    Scotland will be difficult; they'll up their game another 25-50% because it's England, just go back 2 years! We need to make these changes IMHO to give us a real chance of taking the game to them, and at least if we win we'll get some silverware, the Calcutta Cup. A good win will give us heart for Paris a week later, and I think everyone knows that the last team the French want to be facing to win a Grand Slam, is England. Another win there would give us 4 out of 5, and that certainly represents progress. We just need to get some of these younger players a chance !

    My team for Scotland:
    1. Payne
    2. Hartley
    3. Cole
    4. Borthwick (c)
    5. Lawes
    6. Haskell
    7. Moody
    8. Easter
    9. Care
    10. Flood
    11. Ashton
    12. Flutey
    13. Tait
    14. Cueto
    15. Foden

    BUT....we could just as easily lose the last 2 games, and then I think some really serious questions will need to be asked of the management and, in particular, the coaches

  • Comment number 62.

    I for one am not a believer in this english team. Everyone talks about their potential but i dont think they have any potential. I think england for the next 5 years will be an average team that will continue to make up excuses after they lose a game and once they beat a team they will start then talk of improvement but i think come the WC next year england will be the exact same team that will beat the bad teams and sometimes beat a good team when they have an off day.

    This is as good as england are. Arimitage, flutey, monye etc are all great club players but they are barely average international players.

    My prediction is that england will scrape a win against scotland by kicking the ball and they will get smashed by france...then what...its back to making excuses!

    England are average....and that wont change!

  • Comment number 63.

    Have to say, I completely agree with Ian Churchill's team above. Wilkinson needs to go I'm afraid, he had a chance yesterday to dispell his demons, but just can't inject a cutting edge/ability to go forward to england's play. Forden looked really lively and exciting when he came on, great lines, pace etc; needs to have a go, as does ashton who might actually run straight as opposed to Monye. I would be calling for care's head in favour of youngs, but think he needs one more go to show he can carry off some matt dawson-esque runs and better service. And Cole just has to play, has played very well in his first few games, looks really good...

    ps deacon has to be sent back to leicester where he can actually make a difference!

  • Comment number 64.

    No flair, play to flat, defence none existent.
    One thing I will say in their defence.
    The opposition always manage to get players on the wrong side when the ball goes to ground.
    They roll around with their hands in the air, all the time slowing the ball down and getting away with it.
    We don't have any streetwise players any more like all the other teams seem to have.
    Something must be done soon in rugby because at the moment referees can have a big influence on the game.

  • Comment number 65.

    So England attempt the style of play that the media want thus concede tries and lose to a team playing the style that the media complained about England playing. So what's the reaction? Yes that's right the media complain.

    What exactly do you want?

    You complain about Wilkinson missing kicks but Sexton missed plenty himself. Care missed a vital tackle as well as Wilkinson, haskell was non existent throughout the match so Wilkinson can't be to blame alone. Nor can you blame the tactics when they were the ones that you were asking England to adopt.

    The reason that England lost is revealed in the following facts:

    'Ireland were content to keep it tight. They kicked almost two-thirds of their possession, didn't bother with a single off-load out of the tackle and, when they had the territory, converted it into points.

    Faultless it wasn't. Errors and infringements almost cost them dear. They shipped an uncharacteristic 14 penalties; normally at international level, that's enough to cost you the game.'

    Firstly the new laws mean that it is better not to have possession of the ball if you want to win, just kick the ball and try to force an opposition mistake. Only attack if you get possession in the opposition half. Ireland did this and won. England did this in their prior two Six Nations matches and won but received a ridiculous amount of criticism for it.

    14 penalties at international level is normally enough to cost you the game because it normally results in at least one yellow card. Ireland should have received at least one and could easily have received four but the referee gave none. Well done to Ireland for getting away with it and if you can then you might as well, but the referee should have done something; particularly when England were close to scoring and the Irish escaped through persistent infringement.

  • Comment number 66.

    It must be a big worry for England fans that the future doesn`t necessary look better. I was at the England v Ireland U20 international at Kingsholm on Friday night where there was almost a carbon copy of yesterdays game -
    In both games:
    1- England had all the possession in the world
    2- England kicked poorly out of the hand
    3- England backs looked pre-programmed, predictable and lacked creativity
    4- England shoved Ireland round in the scrum
    5- Ireland took their opportunities when they had them, scored tries and came away with a win.
    This cannot just be a coincidence - the similarities whilst watching the two games were striking - there must be something fundamentally wrong with the way these players are coached from U20s upwards within the England set-up.
    Was anyone else at the Kingsholm game? - Do you agree with me ?

  • Comment number 67.

    Is anyone afraid to say that as a manager, Martin Johnson is an abject joke?

    With no real creativity in the side, the funny thing is we would have won had Jonny just nailed his kicks like he should have done. If Jonny never misses a kick, England would win the Grand Slam. But as it is, he can't kick accurately at the mintue, and we literally have nothing else in the side that is remotely threatening against good teams.

  • Comment number 68.

    'Well done to Ireland for getting away with it and if you can then you might as well, but the referee should have done something; particularly when England were close to scoring and the Irish escaped through persistent infringement.'

    This is abolutely pathetic, utterly refuses to acknowledge the quality of chances taken by Ireland and superior finishing over some inane, impotent attacking play by England. If anything was persistent it was repeated dodgy calls made against Ireland throughout the game: you could mention the large number of unstraight throws in the English lineoue which should have been pinged for an Irish scrum. But, hell, it was the only way they could get lineoue ball against O'Connell and O'Callaghan, eh? But we won't mention those calls. Likewise, if you'll care to watch the game again, you'll notice O'Callaghan's leg and rather large frame being lifted up in the first Irish rolling maul. It was so obvious that Brain Moore, that legendary pro-Celtic commentator, enquiring as to why a penalty wasn't immediately awarded for something that was so patently illegal (this is all on the iplayer video). These were but a few things that went against Ireland; did I mention a highly debateable try? At best it was the ugliest piece of scoring you could imagine, at worst it was the non-try many suspect. Some go for you some don't, and Ireland had as many calls against them as for them. England wish they could have slowed Ireland ball as effectively but the contest is there and as fiercely contested as you would imagine. To blame refereeing is England football fan stuff - 'We woz robbed', etc. Turgid and poor thinking, much like the final attacking moves from England. Look in the mirror or get back to your normal sport.

  • Comment number 69.

    Perspective, perspective! England could just have squeezed a win if they had taken their chances, but they don't have the confidence to do that, and Ireland do. Why do England lack confidence? Maybe a combination of over-coaching (that report of abo's about the U21's is rather worrying), over-high expectations in the goldfish bowl that is England rugby, inconsistent performances (good results breed confidence) and a litany of injuries to first-choice players - some of whom like Armitage and Flutey are still finding their way back to form. Oh, and an inexperienced manager who is trying to do one of the toughest tasks in leadership - learn on the job while millions of armchair critics second-guess every move, knowing full well what happened to the last two managers.....

    England have had one excellent and one satisfactory World Cup in the last two. The next one may not be so successful, but then the above problems are not going to get fixed overnight. England's best chance is to get consistent selection (injuries permitting) and try and play their way into some form, and hope Johnson gets to grips with a couple of the problems under his direct control - the most urgent being the lack of leadership (as opposed to ability, of which there is plenty) throughout the team.

  • Comment number 70.

    I love watching England, win or lose but the problems start at the top, as always. Think back to 2003 - the team was fitter, incredibly well conditioned and passionate. JW was an effective cog in a well balanced machine. Hill, Dallalio and Back were the top back row in the world with immense physicality. Yes - the style of play was traditionally English as it is now. But then CW left in a huff with the RFU and things haven't been the same since. JW hasn't become a ' bad' player, but the machine doesn't quite work at the moment - or at least not consistently.

    Why is it that our league and development systems don't produce the freedom and intelligence of the NZ or Australian systems? I don't believe that they produce naturally more gifted players than us - although the lack of football means many of their best athletes end up in Rugby rather than alternative sports. There must be other reasons. Perhaps as a race the English are too reserved and considered to ever feel comfortable with the 'creative' approach. The French are masters - on a good day. The Welsh have bred some incredible players but struggle to have enough available each generation.

    Sorry - I don't know the answers, but until we can match the SH teams for creativity and passion we will always be having these debates.

  • Comment number 71.

    As an irishman I simply have to say that we won playing badly and it is down to the english lack of flare and diversity which lost them the match, england are not improving as a team!

    So you would have to question why did we win 6 of the last 7 games against england with the playing numbers of england over ireland? its quite remarkable and it defies the odds! Plain and simple ireland know how to breed players and the youth system is excellent while if i was english i would be embarrassed frankly and i would be calling for the heads of the guys both in management and those in charge of the development of english rugby.

    Finally this may well be an end of an era for this generation of irish players but we will enjoy this theres no better feeling than beating the ould enemy. england will be back sooner rather than later in my opinion.... but we will enjoy this one :)

  • Comment number 72.

    Your reply is full of assumptions and betrays only that you refuse to see things any other way despite much evidence to the contrary.

    "I have consistently said in my posts I accept the result (what else can you do with a result?) but differ on the game and the better team. I was told to smell the roses, well I am. England are getting better and will continue to do so. They will beat Scotland and I think they will win in France because they are capable of doing so. Come the world cup they will be in the semis and or finals."

    I never said you didn't accept the result, I commented on the bitter begrudging & skewed manner in which you did.
    I also said England are getting better and I didn't make the roses comment so I think you're mixing my posts up with others'.
    I think England have it in them to beat Scotland (who remain very mediocre), and possibly France if the French implode, but that doesn't look likely. England will need to improve alot to reach the World Semis/final, but they might well do. Certainly with another coach I think they could. If I was a betting man at the moment I wouldn't put anything on it.

    "The tries Ireland scored were executed very well but in my view came on the back of English errors and an appalling refereeing decision, but they got them.
    To say the English try was outrageous is just a joke. If nothing else the Irish were all handling the ball on their knees and a penalty try should have been awarded without going to the video, predicated incidentally by another Irish penalty had the video ref said no. Which of course he couldn't as the ball was clearly over the line. Worse decision ever? If you didn't see it then I suppose that was the time you must have been facing the other way with your head in your hands. There has been not one complaint about that save yours."

    Well you can always argue that tries result from errors, but if you want to be objective/reasonable you will appreciate when something skillful is done. Somebody else mentioned about missed tackles - Bowe has been scoring tries like this for the past 2-3 years, he has great pace, power, timing and handling, so give him some credit. And the lineout lads and passers.
    What appalling ref decision, Care being blown up for taking the law into his own hands and molesting an opponent in a fit of temper? In any event, you can agree to disagree on that, but it's not the penalty that scored the try, there were several phases of play and a super try wwas scored due to great passing, great timing and Earls electric pace and positioning.
    There is a case to be made for a penalty try, however two things - the ball was certainly not clearly grounded over the line, OCallaghan was under it and the ref nor anybody could see it, they just assumed it from the motion/position of the England player. And yes, there are plenty of people who very much doubt the try, most haven't bothered to comment because it didn't really affect the outcome of the game.
    Secondly how many times have England in scrambled defence infringed and not been punished? As often as anyone I can assure you. And there were at least two forward passes in their best attacks. You could just accept that it's swings and roundabouts.

    "You slight England in their "golden years" for being "pack dominated and a metronomic kicker" as though at the same time Ireland (and presumably everyone else) was playing fantastic flair filled rugby. The fact is that when England won the world cup they had not only beaten but slaughtered most teams they had come against, home and away, and a good many of the tries were slick fast backline moves after the forwards got them in good positions. But of course beating everyone home and away for two years is not good enough is it when it's England, you're still able to slag off their "golden years" as boring, but it's really only designed to make yourselves feel better that you were mediocre."

    You are making up your own reality here with several assumptions. I never thought that Ireland (or Scotland, or some other teams around the world) were playing great creative rugby when England were the top team, we were average, poor at times, and then got better.
    My point about the last England team was made in reply to your slighting of the Irish team, and as I said, if you're going to knock your opponent in that way you can expect tit-for-tat replies. You said, disparagingly, that Ireland have basically won tight games just playing a negative kicking game, seemingly completely ignoring how England won many games with just such an approach. You started it, so there you go.
    And by the way, in reference to yesterday Ireland played a very "attacking" kicking game, not just kicking for distance or over the sideline. When we did handle the ball across the backs it was done with great effect, at other times we didn't have the platform because of the scrum and conditions.
    Yes England were brilliant in their best years though Iwould argue not nearly as exciting to watch as they were in the early 90s), they generally battered teams up front and then had the armoury to take them apart. In the tighter games they tended to win by kicking, nothing wrong with that, but as time wore on they won more games that way and in the last World Cup were awful to watch, but fair play to them they made best use of the rules and their strengths and were incredibly strong, motivated and mentally tough.
    By the way, the World Cup Finals that England previously lost and won were great games.

    "After mentioning our "metronomic kicker" in the usual disparaging way that we and he have become used to (highest points scorer by the way, and wouldn't you love it to be an Irishman), you then go on to say the reason you didn't win by 20 was OG's kicking game was off. So it would have been ok for you to have a kicker who can get you points and position but when it's England you speak of it as though it's a fault. You can't have it both ways. Far from me being gracious why don't you be gracious and admit that Johnny was not, is not one dimensional, pound for pound the best tackler ever and before all the injuries etc was the best there was."

    You're trying to turn my post into other posts and points that you want to rail about. As I said, my comments about Wilko and co were to put some perspective on your disparaging and begrudging comments about Ireland, which you made first.
    Jesus man, every team has a kicker and needs kicking to help them win, especially when faced with tactics like England's in Dublin last year, which were to hang on in a game they were clearly outplayed in, and foul all over the place, and not take any risks whatsoever. Yes, if OGara had kicked even two of his 5 missed kicks then England would have had to adopt a much more risky approach and would have been picked off, as they were yesterday, to a lesser extent because yesterday England clearly had much more possession than last year.
    By the way, O'Gara is top 6 Nations points scorer of all time, so put that in your pipe and smoke it!
    I never said Wilko was one dimensional, that's just assumptions you're making to fit your argument. Wilkinson is a great player. He hasn't been surrounded by brilliant attacking players, and he can't vary his game very much, but in all other respects he's one of the all-timne greats. So is OGara, who while he doesn't quite have Wilko's pace and power, has more facets to his game, and has scored more tries at international level

    "Others have made comments saying you could bring Bill Beaumont back in like that was a fault. For all this talk about so called running rugby, seems to me the best games I remember where home championship games played in the mud, rain ,snow, packs driving forward and ball under the arm rugby with Bill Mclaren calling the shots. Now if you kick for position to get your forwards there it's called boring."

    It is boring, and slow (from the rucks) and Ireland have been as much to blame for games like that as anyone. The rules are simply not conducive to most teams playing a risky game, they promote conservative tactics, and France and Wales deserve alot of credit. England perhaps don't have the players to play a risky game with the current rules, or else it's down to their coach and director.

    The result is the result, so be it, but Ireland have peaked and England are getting better.........what I said at the beginning.

    No argument there, as I said England are getting better and will no doubt come around the cycle to be best team in Europe again soon. Ireland have probably peaked alright, a few lads with alot of hard miles on the clock, but some new lads were great yesterday, I don't know how you can not show some respect for the way that Earls, Sexton, Ferris, Heaslip and Bowe performed, and we have Fitzgerald (a big loss to us) and Kearney (brilliant if he rediscovers form) to come back, all young lads. Where we will really struggle is in the pack.

  • Comment number 73.

    What is wrong with everyone in this country! Negative comments and nothing but media criticism is all we get.

    England could have beaten Ireland yesterday, they played all the rugby and were by far the most positive. Irelands defense was heroic and they took their chances very well but they well beaten up front. Apart from the lineout, where Hartleys throwing is a problem, the only area where they outperformed England upfront was their tackling rate. Tommy Bowe is a good winger and took his chances well but the space was created for him not by Irish attacking flair but by poor defense and by the space created by Englands positive approach.

    I dont think there are any magic wands to wave in selection. The big problem in rugby remains unresolved; Wales played all the rugby and got beaten by a Freanch side content to defend and counterattack and the same happened at Twickenham. Until referees start penalising teams for slowing ball down and going off their feet at rucks defenses will dominate and rugby will continue to deteriate into a game of aerial ping pong like Gaelic footy or Aussie rules and not the gane of violent chess we all love,

  • Comment number 74.

    Givemeenoughrope, I will, don't tempt me. It's gas, England lose and the fault is all bad defending, wrong tactics, bad referee, negative opponent. Yet when England win it will be all about how great they were, not opponent weakness or any of the other excuses I'm reading here.
    You should be glad that England are much better than last year, when they were rubbish. They still got beat at home by a team coming off the back of a hiding. How we ended up with France and England away two games in a row is one that the organisers need to look at, it's patently unfair, and it really set us up perfectly for England to exploit vulnerability, but the better team came out on top

  • Comment number 75.

    As for your comments about Gaelic Football being "aerial ping-pong", you clearly haven't a clue, it's a vastly superior/more skillful, exciting game than rugby. Get out of your box!

  • Comment number 76.

    Great blog Tom, but archlionheart, were you watching the same match as everyone else? Just a few points:

    1- How were England the better team? Because they had more possession? What did you do with that possession? NOTHING. You can say England were the better team all you like, but better teams win games, England did not.

    2- "England bossed the much vaunted Ireland scrum all around the park". Who has ever talked up the Irish scrum? It's our achilles heel!

    3- Englands backrow were a clear second best to Irelnd's. Wallace didn't play amazing but Heaslip and Ferris wreaked havoc at the breakdown, especially Ferris, who completely outshone Haskell. It was clear for all to see.

    4- "we are getting better and better.......and the others aren't". So many things completely wrong about this statement, but please continue to believe it!

    You need to grow up buddy.

  • Comment number 77.

    Oh dear!

    Say something that doesnt fall in line with the negative orthodoxy and you get silly hyberbolic comments.

    Are England a better team then they were in the 6N last year when they lost away by a point away to Ireland the Grand Slam chanpions and thrashed France - I dont think so. Flutey and Armitage are back from injury and still look off the pace and because of that the backline hasnt fired. They will improve. It was Englands best performance so far this year and they could/should have won

    But the glass is half full not half empty. So far Wales, Scotland and England have been the most positive but France and Ireland who play the most negative counter attacking game have been the most successful.

    Who will improve the most between now and the World Cup - I would say that Wales and England have the most potential. Ireland will continue to struggle up front, Ferris and Heaslip are very good but can the tight five improve, I doubt it.

    Oh and anyone who thinks Aussie rules or Gaelic football is a better game - good luck to you, you must be enjoying the endless up and unders and aimless kicking. Perhaps we should introduce sleeveless shirts and handbag throwing as well.

  • Comment number 78.

    Re the u20 game I think you will find it's a much changed team from the one that beat Ireland a few weeks ago, most of the outstanding players from that game were not released by their clubs.
    Re 74 as regards England being rubbish last year I think we scored the most tries, finished second and were beaten by one point at the hands of the GS winners.
    Still don,t let the facts get in the way of your rant.

  • Comment number 79.

    "England played all the rugby and were by far the most positive"?
    They played a lot of poor rugby, and a lot of really slow rugby.

    Positive rugby to me is putting pace on the ball, getting your wingers on the score sheet, having forwards involved in open play (heaslip), and backs that can open up defences (sexton dummy and chip, earls sidestep and darting run).

    England never threatened through the backs, or any form of open play.

    Most on here are biased naturally, myself included no doubt, but couldn't understand why Ireland were penalised so often, and on what grounds that England try was awarded. Even the ref was surprised.

  • Comment number 80.


    I agree thay played a lot of rugby - most of it slow and most of it outside the Irish 22. That was a tribute to Irelands slowing up of the ball and Englands lack of confidence in the lineout. They should have kicked for the corners and played the rugby in the 22.

    Whats your definition of open play? England hammered Ireland upfront, except the lineout. They drove Ireland back 40 yards in a rolling maul and Danny Care cut the Irish ine on several occassions. It was Irelands exceptional defence and clinical finsihing that won the game not their approach which was negative. I dont criticise them for that, it was the right thing to do - they won!

    Ireland were penalised so often because they were on the back foot all the time and played right on the line. They got away with much more then they were caught for. Thats good defensive play, they out smarted England at times. They played like Munster not Leinster!

  • Comment number 81.

    Rope -

    "Say something that doesnt fall in line with the negative orthodoxy and you get silly hyberbolic comments."

    Not sure what you mean by that, I certainly have no "negative orthodoxy", I think that was clear from my posts, mostly positive for both teams yesterday, maybe it's you with the negative?

    "Are England a better team then they were in the 6N last year when they lost away by a point away to Ireland the Grand Slam chanpions and thrashed France - I dont think so. Flutey and Armitage are back from injury and still look off the pace and because of that the backline hasnt fired. They will improve. It was Englands best performance so far this year and they could/should have won"

    Last year England were played off the park by Ireland, and only stayed in it because they were physical, broke the rules frequently and extremely negative, O'Gara missed loads of very gettable kicks, and England got a very late try when Ireland went asleep. In short, England were fairly rubbish in that game last year and should have lost by 20 points.
    England were much better this year, played a much more daring game, but you have to take into account that perhaps Ireland were not as good as last year, especially coming off a heavy defeat in Paris and having to play away again.
    I accept that England had some good results last year, France were alot worse than this year when you played them though, and Wales were (still are) really struggling to find form

    "But the glass is half full not half empty. So far Wales, Scotland and England have been the most positive but France and Ireland who play the most negative counter attacking game have been the most successful."

    Thought France were very positive against us at least and ran it from just about everywhere, did you not see the game?

    "Who will improve the most between now and the World Cup - I would say that Wales and England have the most potential. Ireland will continue to struggle up front, Ferris and Heaslip are very good but can the tight five improve, I doubt it."

    Don't know about Wales, but England really ought to improve the most, as they have the most to improve of those three teams!

    "Oh and anyone who thinks Aussie rules or Gaelic football is a better game - good luck to you, you must be enjoying the endless up and unders and aimless kicking. Perhaps we should introduce sleeveless shirts and handbag throwing as well."

    Ha ha ha, "up and unders and aimles kicking"??! When was the last time you saw eithre Gaelic or Aussie Rules? The ball is constantly passed with speed and precision, by both foot and hand. There is nothing, and I mean nothing in Gaelic especially, to compare with the hit and hope stuff in rugby, and the "kicking for safety", and kicking into touch etc. It's rugby that has all the ping-pong kicking that you mentioned, and if you can't see that then you really haven't a clue what you are talking about. Rugby is currently dull, dull, dull compared to the two sports you mentioned, stop-start, 1,000 rules about nothing, slow slow slow, negative, way over-structured

  • Comment number 82.

    PS Ferris and Heaslip in the top few in the world, Wallace still up there, Leamy when he comes back (badly missed by us, along with Fitzgerald, and to a lesser extent Horan and Kearney)

    I do acept that Ireland have had the big advantage of players having to play much less club games than England or France or Wales over the last decade or more

  • Comment number 83.


    My initial comments were based on viewing the game from the west stand with a lot of beer and emotion swirling around. Having just re-watched it on iplayer, gotta admit I didn't give England enough credit. Care had a few nice runs, and the English forwards were very powerful in the mauls and scrums. Foden got stuck in more than Tait/Flutely in a fifth of the game time.

    And yes, with the benefit of zoom and frame by frame replay, that was a good try by Cole, after about 3 infringements by Ireland in the build up, he drove his head under O'Callaghans sweaty armpit and grounded.

    Ireland made way more unforced errors, knock on's etc, but some harsh penalties...trying to take quick lineout, penalised....bowe and moyne bumped into each other, penalty and so many for offside in the ruck, binding in scrum.

    Anyway, am encouraged that England can take it to the French, and certainly have the physicality to beat them. Our defense was superb, missed tackles cost the game.

  • Comment number 84.

    Mr Bozo ..."so put that in your pipe and smoke it!

    Indeed I will.

    "if you're going to knock your opponent in that way you can expect tit-for-tat replies."

    Having read your post and some of the many others you have posted they have the common thread of being quite verbose, thin on substance and bordering on delusional.

    " You said, disparagingly, that Ireland have basically won tight games just playing a negative kicking game,"

    Show me anywhere on this forum where I have written, " Ireland have basically won tight games just playing a negative kicking game.

    "Your reply is full of assumptions.."

    It seems I am not allowed to make an assumption based on current form or games seen, players injuries written reports, blogs etc. But you can come up with a ridiculous statement like this. Saying something you couldn't possibly know.i.e. the reasons people choose not to comment. Nonsense!

    "And yes, there are plenty of people who very much doubt the try, most haven't bothered to comment because it didn't really affect the outcome of the game."

    "certainly not clearly grounded over the line, OCallaghan was under it and the ref nor anybody could see it, they just assumed it from the motion/position of the England player."

    You just presume to know what they assumed???

    The ball was clearly seen to be driven over and you ARE the only one who doesn't think it was a try. I refer you to "munstereen"83 whom I ASSUME is on the Irish side.

    I merely said I had been told to smell the roses but did not infer it was from you.
    You seem very sensitive at perceived jibes or insults yet don't mind coming in with your own. I refer of course to your reply to "givemeenoughrope".

    You go on (and on and on) in another post to say how when England lose they blame every body else, ref, negative team etc and finish by bleating an whingeing how the organisers have a bias against you and in favour of England.

    "it's patently unfair, and it really set us up perfectly for England to exploit vulnerability...,

    Completely delusional...but perhaps paranoia is a better word.

    And are you really trying to say now that your remarks about England in their golden years being pack dominated with a metronomic kicker weren't meant in a disparaging the words of another post,

    Give me a break!!!

  • Comment number 85.

    Some very naïve comments on here all in all. First of all, possession means nothing. Second of all, lots of possession with nothing done with it means less than nothing, especially when most of it's in your own territory (BTW territory - which does matter! - was pretty even) The match was very similar in nature to the Wales Ireland match last year. Wales had a lot of possession in that game too and were better than England were at Twickenham in fact.

    Paul, Ireland

  • Comment number 86.

    Fred's history of English Football (both codes) is a refreshing anecdote of the state of our sport, and how those of us who have grown up through these times, are unable to understand how Rob Andrew managed to acquire 71 caps while Stuart Barnes only 10 - it is one of the World's Great Sporting Mysteries. We were excited when Will Carling referred to the "57 old farts" because we thought, wrongly, that change was around the corner - and yet I remember that the debate quickly turned to "what to do with Carling" rather than "what to do with the old farts".

    To be successful as a rugby player in England is dependent on ones ability to follow a flip chart format from the age of 11. Any flair is quickly coached out of youngsters by our "leading schools", and consequently at the highest levels the England game turns into a relatively slow procession, but as long as it's the "game plan" that's ok and indeed considered good.

    "Urgency and Enthusiasm" would seem to be somewhat vulgar terms in the halls of the RFU, compared with a need for "Precise Correctness", which creates little and relys on opposition mistakes for opportunities. The fact is that England play a negative game that seeks to enforce errors and being creative is about "earning" a penalty, while any player that comes along with the ability to unlock defences is turned away because they lack these "fundamental English basics"...

    I was dismayed to read Jeremy Guscott lambasting Danny Cipriani for seeking to become a better player in Australia. Now, whether you're a Danny Cipriani fan or not, the point is that genuine talent rarely comes along in neat little packages, and I don't know how he expects DC to improve under a regime that looks backwards and besmirks his talent rather than uses it.

    Jonny Wilkinson has reemerged as Rob Andrew in disguise, while Danny Cipriani has a wonderful opportunity that regrettably Stuart Barnes never had, to improve in an environment where his talent will be appreciated and flourish rather than be actively stifled by England - what odds on him playing for Australia at RWC 2015 and/or 2019?

    While England continue to repeat the follies of old, insanity prevails by "keeping doing the same thing while expecting a different result."

  • Comment number 87.

    "possession means nothing" really, "most of it's in your (i guess you mean england's) own territory", i must have watched a different game to you. it's one of the oldest cliches in rugby that its the forwards who win games, because they're the ones who provide possession. As a neutral i think i can say that england are the only major rugby nation who could have lost that match with that much possession. Particularly as the england forwards actually scored the try and might have had another, they might be entitled to ask what the backs were doing (apart from giving away silly penalties).

    I understand that it's the day after the game and emotions are still running a bit high but fans of both teams seem a bit deluded. It looked to me like both teams have huge weaknesses. Ireland in the forwards, england in the backs. both teams have quite a lot of very experienced players, so i see no reason to imagine either is going to get much better in the near future.

    There seems to be an unwillingness to accept that the six nations has fallen back to it's previous weakness in relation to the big three. France are plainly the best team in this tournament, and yet only a few months ago were beaten 12-39 by new zealand in france. Just think about that for a moment, can you even imagine a northern hemisphere team winning by that margin in the south. and just to rub it in, quite a few of new zealand's strongest players are going back, so they can play in the world cup (e.g hayman, mcalistair)

    by the way, not sure why some people seem so uncertain about england's try. It was hard to see initially, but the tv programme i saw showed the ball grounded. Must have been english editing!

  • Comment number 88.

    i think the focus on Wilknson is a bit narrow looking at the players around him.

    following on from the Lions, the likes of Heaslip, Bowe and O'Connell have upped their performances it not maintained their form, the likes of Moyne and Fluety on the other hand will be lucky to be considered again going on their recent displays, and as for Armitage stating to his teammates that he would never play that bad again he would have been better served by having put in a performance first ahead of making that statement.

    Rugby cannot be dictated solely by a leader at No. 10 it needs leaders in other departments and quite simply Borthwick, Armitage etc do not seem to have the determination or stomach to try to grab the game by the scruff of the neck when compared to Ireland's leaders in similar positions. Armitage seems more content on making a name for himself for timing of late tackles ala his hit on Sexton in the first few minutes similar to the cheap hit on O'Driscoll last year!

    England need to look at themselves closer and ask whether they want to really play this game. the bulldog spirit seems to be lost on them at the moment.

  • Comment number 89.

    The problem with the England team right now is glaringly is an average team with few, if any, players who would make it into a world 15 side. Why should we expect them to play better than they are capable? What decent England side would give away 8 turnovers at the ruck; what decent England side would go 80 minutes without seriously threatening the oppositions line through the backs; what decent England side would have 60% of the posession and spend most of the time behind the gain line. For those fans who feel England were unlucky or played well open your eyes! Maybe if we watched exciting and expansive rugby in the premier league week in, week out instead of the turgid "bish bash" forward battles dished up to us Martin Johnson might have something to work with!!

  • Comment number 90.

    Ireland played negative, and won. Defence is the best form of attack for men of a certain Kidney. What it showed was that England are improving, Ireland have peaked.

  • Comment number 91.

    Ireland played defensively - not negatively. When the heavens opened on Saturday, it was clear that this was not going to be a day for expansive open 15 man rugby.

    So Ireland played the game of rugby that they needed to in order to win the match. Had it been a dry day, I think that Ireland's more mobile pack would have provided more possession for their backs and perhaps the winning margin would have been greater. But Ireland adapted their game plan to better suit the conditions. Their defence was brilliant (one missed tackle out of 99 - that is a staggering statistic), they played the referee better than England and they were far more clinical when they did get their opportunities to score. Three tries to one (and scored by their wings) cannot be ignored.

    England had a mountain of possession because in a tight forward dominated wet game, their pack is bigger and stonger than Ireland's pack, but they simply didn't know what to do with all that possession. That said - Irelands were smarter at the breakdown and their lineout was stronger than England's.

    I don't see that Ireland have peaked. They have an amount of experience that every other team in 6N would love to have. They don't panic. They know how to win tight games. It is a concern for them that they don't know how to win games in SH yet - but then the tours that they have made to SH over the past number of years have very much been with emerging squads rather than with frontline players - that's their own choice of course - but winning is a habit. I'd love to see them take a full strength side down under at the end of this season (and I think with Kidney they probably will)

    Danny Care was correctly pinged for taking out O' of these days he'll learn not to make stupid mistakes like that - no matter what the morals of the situation, you can't take the law into your own hands - let the ref deal with it. And Cole's try was good - TV replays saw the ball touching the ground

  • Comment number 92.

    If you reckon Ireland have peaked god bless england as I think they too have peaked, the only difference we can win at our best. If you look at our team its full of young talent heaslip, ferris, earls, fitzgerald to come back, healy, bowe, kearney. These players can only get better. England on the other hand have limited young talent (your best players are easter, wilkinson and im running out of names here). Was tait even playing yesterday?

  • Comment number 93.

    Re-communicated, I think you're a bit out of tune mate. 3 tries to one. all 3 scored by the 3/4s as gainst an english one inch scoring drive by a prop.

    You should try to be gracious in defeat. To me you just look like a sore loser, and I'd have expected better since you've had so much practice the last few years.

    England are improving if you compare Saturday to their previous outings this year. Probably their best performance under MJ, but they are not improving quickly or significantly enough to challenge the 6N any time soon. I'm sure the SH giants are quaking in their boots.

  • Comment number 94.

    To some degree I think England were outsmarted by an Irish side that played like England in 2003. Strong defence, a powerful back row and the mastery of the art of cheating. Add to that some quality individuals who know how to win. Didn't think O'Driscoll did much but he was able to trust those around him. Bowe was that man.

    England, however, were a bit like a school side - trying too much to be something they are not yet. The start of the game when England kept running and passing might have got a different reception if a try had come from it. If only we'd tried the same running rugby against Italy we might have become more adept at it for the Ireland game.

    We have a decent set of players who could develop into a quality side. Dan Cole for one has impressed and I think Hartley will get there. Ben Foden made a big difference when he came on - actually running with purpose and giving a target for team-mates. Matthew Tait is another who has at last been given a regular spot in the team - if only we'd stuck with him despite being dumped by Henson a few years ago he'd probably be a star turn by now (if he was Australian he'd have been a regular for years).
    Some weaknesses were highlighted - one being deafness. Nick Easter gave away two kickable penalties because he refused to obey the ref's instructions (clearly heard on TV). Haskell had one of his most invisible games and was clearly over-shadowed by Ireland' back-rowers. Ugo Monye (not so bad this week) has a total lack of vision for the game around him. Whilst posessing good individual skills - catching high balls, speed through a gap etc - unfortunately, when tackled he never looks to off-load the ball. Chris Ashton of Northampton on the other hand is able to off-load, kick and chase and tackle.
    Second Row is another area for concern - Simon Shaw is a qualityplayer but how long can he go on. Borthwick, while playing much better this 6 Nations, is nowhere near international level at Lock. Nick Kennedy seems to have been ignored (perhaps because his accent is too posh?). Courtney Lawes, like Kennedy has had one opportunity, done nothing wrong and shown promise and then is discarded.
    Finally, the coaches. THEY ARE TO BLAME. What they do sets the tone. Martin Johnson is doing a great job answering questions and responding to wins or losses. BUT, saturdays turn around in tactics from the week before, whilst brave needs to have been worked on. Flutey didn't really get into the game. Wilkinson is not a fly half who is able to set his backs on fire. Flood, sady missing for Leicester on Saturday evening against Northampton didn't even get 5 minutes. Look at the difference that Foden made (only put on due to injury).

    Anyway enough moaning - I've got work to do!

  • Comment number 95.

    I think the game was won by the Irish substitutes, both Kickers were way off all day, but once O Gara came on a few others the tide turned green. England lacked ideas, direction and I can gaurantee there are still those small minded enough not to care if we lost every match as long we beat an England team in Twickenham. One lead by Martin Johnson is just the icing on the cake. You need a new manager with new ideas. The talent is there but you lot are throwing it away.

  • Comment number 96.

    archlionheart should be concerned more about rooney, JT, stevie g and how copello is going to deal with the wag factor. You are on the wrong message board sunbeam.

  • Comment number 97.

    In my opinion, England neither deserved to win, nor did they deserve to lose on saturday, of course, in sport there is (almost) always a winner and a loser. Against Italy England didnt deserve to win, yet they did, whereas against Ireland they didn't deserve to lose, but they did. Thats sport for you. That's not to say that Ireland deserved to lose, it was just one of those games that went to those who took their chances, and hats off to Ireland for that, for they did it superbly.

    England need to get out of the rugby stone-age, so to speak. Crashing it up again and again and again will always end up in slow ball, as there will simply be too many men on the deck to allow the ball to come back quickly, especially now that rucking is illegal, it allows those on the floor more time to allow themselves to be 'trapped' in a ruck. Allow players to give others they see doing that a little ruck, and it wont be a problem for very long. Back to point: the England squads half backs, and to a lesser degree backs, do not have the creative spark that an O'Driscoll, a Hook, a Murphy, a Phillips, a Parks have, they simply dont. Care, as a result of getting slow ball will produce slow passes to static men, with no room to run. Wilko has never been a free-running fly half á la Cipriani/Sexton, and his distribution was, again, wayward so the backs never really got moving at pace, nor could they create mismatches, nor did they have the oppurtunity of a stetched irish defence.

    England retained the ball fantastically, produced fewer pens than of late (although Care again showed the silly side to his game) and did produce the occasional oppurtunity for quick ball, they just wasted these oppurtunities by not appearing to know what was the best chance to do when it arose. Instead, more often than not, misusing these few chances to put some pace into proceedings by choosing the wrong way, the wrong runner, the wrong line, taking the ball too soon into contact and slowing the play right back down again. Also, basics: when a kick comes up and only one man chases, usually Moody, then nothings going to come of it if the kick isnt perfect, and as stated many times already on this blog: Wilko's kicking out of hand was at best average yesterday.

    Wilkinson is not to blame for the mismanagement of play, its Care's job to boss the forwards at breakdowns and make decsions at the back of rucks, and it is Johnno/Borthwick's job to make sure that if something isnt working then it doesnt continue. He is though to blame for not doing his job efficiently: Kicks at goal, distributing play, and kicking for territory.

    There is alot of talent in the English squad, and in English rugby as a whole (why else would French rugby clubs want to pay big money to get our players over there?) but it is evidently being used in the wrong way, and the players don't seem to have the belief that they can turn things around. No-one wants to take responsibility on the field or off of it, and as a result rugby here appears to have hit a fairly solid wall. I hope things are changed, soon, as we have yet again another oppurtunity to upset the applecart if only a few things are handled better and the right changes made. Im not saying simple changes will make England world beaters, but at least a team who will give anyone a game, even if they lose. England could have won against Ireland on saturday, especially with the opuurtunities the Irish gave (pens etc) had they played slightly differently, and taken the chances they were given, but they didnt.

    How often is this going to be the story of English rugby?

  • Comment number 98.

    Ireland urgently need a tight head prop to put his hand up for them from somewhere. John Hayes has been a terrific servant for us but he's coming to the end of the road now. Having said that, once Ireland got the ball they used it with purpose. All their tries were quality ones. I don't know why some English supporters are complaining about Danny Care being penalised for throwing TOL to the ground? I've often seen Care hold on to the ball in International and Club games in precisely the same manner as TOL did on Saturday. In fact, show me any SH in the modern game who doesn't? Annoying as TOL's tactics were it didn't entitle Care to throw him to the ground they way he did. It was still open to England to successfully defend their line following Sexton's subsequent penalty kick up the line but they didn't do so. The try arose from poor defending by England rather than from the penalty against Care. England didn't lose because of poor refereeing, they lost because they didn't use their possession nearly as effectively as their opponents did. One really can't argue with a stat of 3 tries to 1 with nearly 70% less possession. As to Dan Cole's "try" I can agree that the ball eventually touched the ground over the try line but whether the video reply definitively showed that Dan was the person exerting the downward pressure at that point is very much open to question. I thought that the whole point of replays is that they have to be definitive other wise a 5 metre scrum follows. Imo England were quite lucky with the award of that try. Two other things which I don't understand from the game were why Armitage was not penalised for his late, elbow leading non-tackle on Sexton in the lead up to Bowe's first try, and how Heaslip could have been adjudged to have tackled the English winger in the air when the replay showed that the winger descended to earth foot up into Heaslip's chest?

  • Comment number 99.

    Did the better team win on Saturday?
    The more interesting questions are:
    Why & How did they win? & who's to blame?!

    I've watched many matches where Ireland have had far more chances to score tries, but where poor handling has let us down.
    In this match, we took a high percentage of the opportunities which came our way, defended well, & "it was just one of those days".
    The game seemed to go our way.

    Truth be told, the game could easily have been won by England - they dominated possession, dominated in the scrum, forced us to make nearly 100 tackles, & we conceded 14 penalties!!!
    Also, let's not forget that England led with 9 mins to go, & Ireland hung on for the last few mins.

    did the best team win? - Probably.
    Why - b/c they created & finished more chances than their opponents.


    From an English perspective, it has to be very disappointing - & hugely frustrating - to dominate possession & yet to pose virtually no threat through the backline.

    It speaks volumes that a side with:
    i. a superior platform to their oponents
    ii. 60% of possession
    iii. better ball retention through phased play
    iv. with 14 penalties to play with

    are incapable of creating & finishing more tries than their oponents.


    If I were an English supporter, I would be hugely frustrated.
    I would agree with Fred in post 50;
    this is a situation 30 years in the making!

    For 30 years, English rugby has been able to produce hugely powerful forward packs, capable of providing a strong enough platform to defeat all of the home nations.
    I remember watching England win Championship after Championship, & Triple Crown after Triple crown playing 10 man rugby.

    Ireland have now beaten England 6 times out of 7, despite a far smaller pool of resources, & a significantly weaker platform to work from.

    What can we glean from this???

    Simply put - England are not very skilled @ using their possession.
    Game after game they dominate possession, & yet the number of chances they create is minimal.

    All that is being demonstrated is that, at international level,
    the performance of the English forwards, is signicantly higher than that of the English backs.
    This is the difference between the English team, & the French team.
    The French team have powerful forwards & skillful backs.
    The English don't.
    Or, they aren't picking them.


  • Comment number 100.

    First I want to congratulate Ireland on beating us yet again. I hate it but you've beaten us consistently home and away and it can't always be down to luck or referees decisions

    To those who say they didn't deserve it I say poppycock; in sport we don't have phone ins or celebrity judges thank goodness, we have a score board to tell us who wins and who loses. In rugby, thank goodness, the contrivance of shoot outs is rare indeed; long may it remain so.

    You've beaten us consistently at first team and reserve level (so much for your lack of steangth in depth), you've even just beaten us at under 20 level. Well done, enjoy it and I hope it ends very soon.

    From Englands point of view I just can't see any progress at all. Last year I was really hopefull that things were starting to turn around and we were starting to play a bit; what a hope.

    It's certainly not all down to Wilko, but I really don't see why he remains first choice. I can't see how Hartley's got away with so little flack. The Flutey, Tait partnership hasn't worked and both Flutey and Armitage are shadows of their pre injury selves. Haskell's inconsistent and, as for Care, why is he still first choice?

    Even our usually reliable defence is just not that great any more.

    Rant over, and I still think we need to try and keep a settled team with no more than two or three changes.


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