Rugby Union

Where do England require the biggest shake up?

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Having lost two of their three group games, the English team will not be progressing to the next stage of the Rugby World Cup.

Four years ago, amid controversy of player misbehaviour and drunken antics off the field, Martin Johnson chose to fall on his sword and resign from his post.

Current coach, Stuart Lancaster seems destined to do the same, or be moved elsewhere within the RFU. The inevitable coaching reshuffle will no doubt see several heads rolling.

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Rather than looking at the forthcoming review by the RFU on the coaching set-up (and perhaps the wider executive management at the RFU), I thought it worthwhile looking at the playing personnel who look to restore some pride in the next Six Nations and begin the build-up to Japan in 2019 for the next RWC.

In the clear light of day, whether through Lancaster’s “schoolmasterly” approach or through lack of experience (an argument I don’t adhere to), the players on the field were seemingly unable to adjust to changing scenarios in pressure situations.

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Outfoxed, outwitted and outplayed by Australia, as was the case against Wales; the team looked bereft of ideas at how to handle the changing fortunes during the games.

It seems that they are in need of a leader or set of leaders on the field who will take responsibility – know when to play for territory, when to use the pack to plod upfield and when to go for the kill.
Former players have mentioned that whilst very personable and professional in outlook, this generation of England players are all just a bit ‘nice’.

Where are the successors to the never say die attitude of Martin Johnson, the cynical spoilers such as Lawrence Dallaglio or the belligerent bullies of the likes of Dean Richards?

They seem nowhere to be found – look to the pack and you see no snarling menace from the front row – the second row may leave you struggling for line-out ball but hold no terrors for opposition.

Similarly the back row – give Ben Morgan or Billy Vunipola some headway and they will prove difficult to tackle but neither will have the wide-eyed fury of Mick “The Munch” Skinner or Lewis “Crazy Horse” Moody.

In fact, across this current crop of players, you have to look behind the pack to see some players with a bit of steel in their eye – Owen Farrell (much maligned in the press for taking Ford’s place) has undoubtedly the desire to chop down any opposition and the nerve to put away most penalty kicks.

Sam Burgess too, similarly panned by the press is undoubtedly a huge presence on the field as is Brad Barritt but in terms of their performance, neither really lives up to expectation.

It is when you look to England’s last line of defence that I think we finally see the right kind of attitude – Mike Brown at 15 has been England’s rock for two years or more. His belligerent spirit seems destined to boil over at every confrontation but I cannot remember a time it’s done so.

Perhaps then it is time to relieve Robshaw and the pack of the bonds of leadership and look at a general to command with a world-view of the game. Brown certainly has the presence and attitude, albeit with little experience of leading a team.

Should there be a new coach appointed after Saturday’s match, I would be suggesting a change in captaincy would work wonders. My vote would be for the “angry man” wearing number 15!

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Topics:
Rugby Union
England Rugby
IRB Rugby World Cup

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