What can England really take away from what is seen as an abysmal World Cup?
They certainly showed a lapse in concentration throughout the tournament, but this might be excusable due to the young inexperienced majority within the squad, with a lot of players making international debuts in the tournament. But you would still expect the few veterans to lead and guide the youth.
Against Wales, penalties were given away so cheaply, in typical English fashion, and Dan Biggar was more than happy to just keep knocking the points over. Surely the team should have realised after a succession of Biggar penalties that perhaps something had to change?
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Of course the calamitous decision not to kick for the posts stands out as another big talking point for England’s campaign. And whilst it was, in hindsight, a bad call, I actually applaud Robshaw and the squad for doing it because it kept things in their own hands.
A draw would then make the Australia vs Wales fixture more important, of which, England could do nothing about. By going for the win, they kept their destiny under control.
However, the subsequent two lineouts that England had in the Wales 22 were poor. The first was a driving maul from close range which not only disintegrated once Wales applied pressure, but the basic structure of it was all wrong from the start.
The Welsh defence should be applauded, but surely after one maul failing miserably, England should have learned and taken it off the top of the second lineout which was on the boundary of the 22. England’s back three were looking dangerous on the break but with no real attacking flair in midfield, with Joseph out and Slade not included there was no guarantee of that working either.
The decision to leave Slade and Danny Care out of all match day squads except the final dead rubber against Uruguay proved costly when they ran out against the South Americans.
They may not be the best team, but Slade played a great, creative game from 13. The signs only improved when he moved inside to combine with Joseph and form a potent combination that I believe should be seriously considered for England’s future.
Here, the blame cannot fall to the senior players and their poor decision-making but to Lancaster, who should have prepared his bench with some players that could come on and create one play to score. If I could have had any Englishman to have on the bench to bring on for an off the top lineout from 22 metres, with one minute left on the clock, it would probably be Henry Slade and Danny Cipriani. Both men, Lancaster had omitted from that game, the latter from the entire squad. Why?
Despite all the negatives that would inevitably come from a shock comeback from a depleted Welsh team, and an Australian drubbing at Twickenham, the Uruguay game brought a lot to mull over for the coaching team, or the new one if one is brought in.
As mentioned, Slade and Joseph formed a potent midfield option that could see England move away from the era of conservative team selection and end up with such a creative midfield that any team would be worried about what they could do.
England have not really had a natural inside centre with a good kicking game for a while now, with Barritt and Burgess filling that role. Slade could offer that, he brings all the attributes from fly-half and outside to the 12 position, and with Joseph’s quick feet outside, he could really be the perfect fit for that position.
Jack Nowell also displayed his ability against a weak Uruguay side, perhaps brightening England’s future and giving England fans some hope, as many sit with crossed fingers, awaiting the decision of Lancaster’s future.
Personally, I think the change is needed to potentially a Southern Hemisphere coach, with previous international experience. But only time will tell, one thing is for sure, I doubt the England boys will be watching much of the World Cup from their sofas at home without the regret creeping in.