SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Defeat to Scotland is a harsh lesson for England’s new regime
SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: It’s a harsh lesson for Steve Borthwick and England’s new regime… but the disappointing defeat to Scotland could actually do them GOOD in the long term
It was a fantastic game at Twickenham yesterday, and Scotland deserved to win because they had more in their back division. England have so much to work on. There are harsh lessons for Steve Borthwick to take from defeat in his first game in charge.
I’m still very positive about Borthwick’s appointment as head coach. But he and his team will have to realise what is needed to be successful at Six Nations level very quickly if they are to turn things around.
I think that if England had won the game last night they might have learned the wrong lessons, so a loss could actually benefit them in the long run.
There were three main things that caused me frustration about the England display. The first was that the box kicking of Jack van Poortvliet was far too long on a consistent basis. I wrote in my column ahead of the game that England couldn’t afford to kick loosely to the Scotland back three. That is exactly what happened.
Duhan van der Merwe’s stunning try was what I talked about earlier in the week about the Six Nations players of today creating iconic moments fans will remember forever.
The defeat to Scotland taught Steve Borthwick and his new regime plenty of harsh lessons
Scotland deserved to win the tense clash but there are several things England must now learn
It was a brilliant effort, but from an England perspective it came about because Van Poortvliet’s clearance didn’t allow his team-mates to compete for possession.
Van der Merwe was allowed all the time in the world to run the ball back and, to his credit, he did it brilliantly. I am sure Kevin Sinfield would have been disappointed by England’s defence.
I am equally as sure that when Sinfield reviews the game, he will be asking why the England players were kicking so long.
You either kick short to compete or go as long as possible to hit grass and turn the opposition defence. England did neither and got stuck in a halfway house. They paid the price for doing that with Van der Merwe’s try.
The other crucial moment came in the aftermath of Ellis Genge’s try. Genge’s effort was an excellent score and showed what England can do when they play with pace. It came at a crucial moment in the game and when it happened, I thought it would be the key to England going on to win. But straight from the Scotland restart, England knocked on. That sort of error is an absolute killer for a head coach. Scotland scored immediately from the field position they were given by the mistake. You can’t legislate for that as a coach.
My final point is Borthwick’s decision to replace Genge and Kyle Sinckler. I thought both props were having excellent games. Mako Vunipola and Dan Cole are hugely experienced Test operators, but I would have kept Genge and Sinckler on to continue the momentum.
Jamie George played the whole game in the front row, so why couldn’t Genge or Sinckler?
Scotland have fine players. They are a good team. They played with width and skill and were guided well by Finn Russell. Jamie Ritchie also had an excellent game as captain.
Duhan van der Merwe stunning try was an iconic Six Nations moment fans will remember
I thought Ellis Genge (C) and Kyle Sinckler were having exceptional games, which made it confusing as to why Borthwick decided to replace the pair with Dan Cole and Mako Vunipola
I am sure England’s defence coach Kevin Sinfield (L) will be disappointed with them today
For England, things aren’t going to change overnight. There will be disappointment at the Scotland defeat, but I would not make big personnel changes for Italy.
At the start of a new era for English rugby — when the players are getting used to how Borthwick wants to operate — continuity of selection is vital.
There were plenty of positives against Scotland and the attack showed signs of promise. Nick Evans has not had much time with the team so that bodes well for the future.
Against Italy, I want to see England focus on playing with pace on a more consistent basis. They scored some nice tries against Scotland when they did that.
When they didn’t and slowed the ball down to box kick, they not only looked less dangerous but also executed poorly. That got them into trouble.
With all due respect to Italy, England should be too good for them. But the performance will be as important — if not more important — than the result if Borthwick is to get his team’s Six Nations back on track.
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