Rugby Union

Six ways England improved against Ireland

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England turned out a performance against the number 2 ranked side world rugby that was unrecognisable compared to the match against France.

There is still plenty to get right as 2015 progresses but here are the 6 biggest areas of improvement in the last 2 weeks.

1. Intensity

Straight out of the blocks it was obvious that this was an England team more switched on than their previous outing; though it would have been hard not to be. Every player looked dynamic and urgent, and removing all other factors the team that exemplifies this best typically wins.


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The All Blacks, so long the standard bearers for world rugby treat every game like a must-win. Their off days are few and far between. England will hope to replicate and surpass their approach to this weekend come the World Cup.

2. Carrying

One aspect in which the England squad has looked thin has been gain line ball carriers. We have largely a passing scrum, with both starting locks more known for deft touches than smashing down walls, and without Manu Tuilagi our crash ball options are reduced.

This was never more obvious than against France, where time and time again their big men smashed through us and we failed to make a dent.

This problem is exacerbated when Billy Vunipola chooses to offload rather than charge forward, and in his place Ben Morgan worked his way into a previously unlikely starting berth.

3. The Breakdown

One could have been excused for dreading the contact area with the likes of Sean O'Brien and Peter O'Mahoney on the prowl, but the English loose forwards put in performances of statement. Between the two "6-and-a-halfs" that England employ, they managed to secure quick ball for Ben Youngs, who looked far sharper as a result, and stifle the Irish counter to a significant degree.

This aspect of the game is always a focal point, and with the controversial exclusion of Steffon Armitage from the squad, Stuart Lancaster will be pleased with the workload of his selections.

4. Lineout

Improved. But not cured. England won their first 5 lineouts but none were clean. However, with the likes of Devin Toner and Paul O'Connell in the air; that is a good return. The inclusion of Parling was clearly designed to bolster the set piece but, with a historically efficient lineout, England can sure up this facet of play with a range of personnel.

Tom Youngs was much improved, but still looked like a player under pressure. Which he is. Largely because of the continued good form of Jamie George. In the knockout stages accurate lineout throwing will be under a microscope and George could still prove the go-to man in this department.

The scrum still looked worryingly lightweight with 2 put-ins lost against the head and Ireland comfortable on their own ball. But one thing at a time.

5. Kicking

Even Ben Morgan got in on the action here. Kicking was used to much better effect against Ireland than against France. Youngs and Ford both probed the corners accurately, and the cross field option was used to devastating effect with a former Full Back on the Wing.

Compared with aimless, central long balls deployed against France, there was clearly an improved directive from the coaching staff and awareness from the players. 

6. The Scoreline

At the end of the day, England needed a win here. A second consecutive loss, and at HQ, could have dashed much hope of even escaping the pool. The victory was all important and in that sense the Rugby World Cup of 2015 has truly begun.

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Ireland Rugby
Rugby Union
England Rugby
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