Seems like England are having to defend themselves not only on the field but in the media spotlight at this World Cup too.
Criticised by former players, the wagons of the camp are being circled with everyone expressing the fact that they’ve not lost faith, they’re all on the same page and believe they will force their way through to the next stage of the tournament.
I’m not sure that the party line will be so overwhelmingly favoured by George Ford; the England's Six Nations number ten who was dropped for tactical reasons for the Wales clash last Saturday. He's also expected to miss out for England's next game against Australia.
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Coaches Mike Catt and Andy Farrell admit they’re looking to attack the Australians at every opportunity and it seems like Jonathan Joseph will be fit enough to return to the fold, so why is Ford not starting?
With club-mates Joseph and Anthony Watson outside him and being acknowledged as the greater attacking threat at fly-half, you might assume Ford would be the go-to player to get their challenge back on track in this must-win outing.
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Not the case in Stuart Lancaster’s thinking obviously. Owen Farrell had a good game against the Welsh with a near-flawless kicking display, albeit this was in a different role to the one they claim to be adopting against Australia.
A different style
Could it be they are looking instead to rely on a bit of ‘old fashioned’ English ten-man rugby with Farrell looking to control territory by kicking long (and hopefully away from the waiting arms of Israel Folau) and using the pack to establish a platform to work from?
That is pressure play though; kick badly to the Australians and they will be dangerous – they won’t be easily beaten in the air by attacking wingers and, should they be able to pick up the ball in broken play, they have proven finishers across the ranks.
Lancaster said in the build-up to the Welsh match that he accepted that the spotlight was on him, but that he would stand by his selection – he will need his team to bounce back to reflect some of the glare.
By contrast, the Australian team are keeping very quiet in terms of their tactics – their coach Michael Cheika is keeping tight-lipped, claiming they’re not sure what they’re doing themselves as he ducks back under the media radar.
Australia have been able to progress serenely so far in the tournament, albeit with a couple of casualties in the previous games, with comparatively easy wins against Fiji and Uruguay so he will hope that a more relaxed camp will allow his wealth of talent to deliver on Saturday and gain momentum into the knockout stages of the tournament.
For England, like it or not, this is the equivalent of a knock-out game and the media scrutiny will do nothing but intensify over the coming days. Lancaster will have to ensure his charges are ready. If not, they will be the first home nation to go out of the Rugby World Cup in the pool stage.