Rugby Union

Lancaster wrong to commit England to power game ahead of World Cup

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In the 1992 World Cup, England progressed to the final with a limited game based upon a phenomenal pack and relying on Rob Andrew's metronomic boot.

In the final at Twickenham, second favourite to the brilliant Australians, they tried to play an open game, their players struggled to adapt to it, and they were beaten 12-6.

It seems that Stuart Lancaster is heading down the same path with his stated intention to play a power game against Wales and Australia, in case of a wet and rainy Saturday night during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The question that should be asked, for the Australia game, and especially should England meet the All Blacks, is what if it's a dry, still night?

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England had a storming Six Nations, playing rugby that few thought them capable of - a backline brought together by the injuries to Manu Tuilagi, Brad Barritt and Owen Farrell performing well.

The enforced selection of Ford at 10 put a true playmaker at the heart of England's game and they benefited hugely.

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Updated laws have given the advantage to attacking teams that play at a quick tempo, and for the most part England bought into it.

Though it should be remembered how they struggled for the 15 minutes before half-time in the Calcutta Cup, when Scotland played with the extremely high tempo that is their aim.

Back to basics

It seems strange therefore that the focus has been turned back on to so-called 'tournament' rugby, more so in light of Graham Rowntree's July admission that England needed to lose some bulk, to play at a quicker tempo.

Against France, England played some good attacking rugby, but their insistence on playing Sam Burgess at 12, and a back-row selection that leaves no place for a true open-side means only one thing - England mean to go through the middle.

Indeed, if they go wide and Australia play Hooper and Pocock together, then with the lack of pace in the back-row, England will be turned over at will.

Limiting options

Having someone in the back row who can consistently dominate contact situations and then pass out of them, as Burgess does, immeasurably speeds up the tempo as support runners can work off him with certainty.

Morgan has good hands but tends to either run at a tackler or pass, as does Vunipola. Neither Croft or Wood are distributors in inside channels. Robshaw will have his hands full on the ground, more so if Warren Gatland selects Tipuric at open-side. If Wales play Warburton and Tipuric together, then he may never even get to the ball.

One hopes that England won't revert to type and stick it up their proverbial-jumper when the going gets tough but their selection so far seems to suggest this is the case.

Australia don't have the same soft underbelly of a year ago, and meeting Wales head-on could go either way. Even if successful early on, it will not be enough to beat an All-Black team playing to potential in the later stages.

England need to play an expansive game from their opening fixture against Fiji, if they are to have any chance of being winning the World Cup. Selecting inside centres the size and speed of Barritt, Burgess and Twelvetrees would suggest that might be beyond them.

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Topics:
Wales Rugby
Australia Rugby
Rugby Union
England Rugby
IRB Rugby World Cup

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