Sunday, 14 August 2011

Scott's England Rant

England vs. Wales Match report- Millennium Stadium- Saturday 13/08/2011
England Flop In Cardiff

Last week at Twickenham, England’s “B” team beat Wales in a closely contested game 23-19.

Saturday’s game saw

Martin Johnson make 12 changes to the starting line-up with the majority supposedly being England’s first choice team, Banahan, Cueto & Corbisiero were the only survivors from the game at headquarters.

There was a couple of first XV players missing from the line-up with Ben Youngs still recovering from minor surgery meaning Wigglesworth started at scrum half and Chris Aston failed a fitness test on his ankle before the game so had to sit this one out giving Banahan another chance to impress on the wing.

I'm not a big fan of Banahan playing on the wing, he doesn’t use space very well and always looks for contact. He quickly proved my opinion when he was left unmarked on the right wing, received the pass and instead of fixing the covering defender with an in and out run he simply tried to use his 6ft 7in 18 stone frame to power through. If he had scored I would have said well done but he didn’t, he was stopped by one of the smallest players on the pitch proving that his size is wasted.

Waiting on the bench is Charlie Sharples who’s pace on the wing is immense, plus the pending return of Ashton (both of who I think would have converted that chance) I can’t see a place on the wing for Banahan at the world cup.

I want to focus mostly on England’s backs but before I do I have to mention Nick Easter who had a cracking game at number 8, he always went forward with the ball and put England on the front foot. Also it was good to see a return for Courtney Laws after the neck injury scare in training a few weeks back.

The Backs: England’s starting back line of Wigglesworth, Flood, Cueto, Hape, Tindall, Banahan and Foden, looked on paper like it would cause problems for the Welsh defence, but they barely managed to break through the first line of tacklers. On the few occasions they did, nobody was able to show any finishing quality.

Toby Flood should not be a starting player for England, he had nothing in his locker to trouble Wales, which allowed them to play a rush defence and pressure the backs for the whole game. The set moves in the backs looked shaky to say the least and were so signposted that Wales could have had just one defender and still tackled the ball carrier.

Hape and Tindall as a centre pairing again looked solid in defence but showed absolutely nothing in attack; Hape looked massively out of his depth breaking up one attacking move with an unpressured forward pass and dropping the ball in contact on another attack.

Hape for me just played himself out of the England squad completely.

With the centres not causing Wales any problems, England didn’t earn the right to go wide meaning the wingers didn’t get much space apart from the Banahan chance mentioned earlier. Foden at fullback only had a few touches of the ball on the counter attack but he wasn’t in the game enough to have a real impact.

Wigglesworth looked a bit nervous in the first 20minutes but I think he would have got better as the game went on; unfortunately he picked up an injury before the 30 minute mark and had to be substituted for Danny Care. Care had another great game and should definitely partner Wilkinson for the world cup starting XV.

On two occasions in the second half Wales were down a player with yellow cards to Jamie Roberts and the Mike Phillips but even then England could not create anything scoring just 3 points in the 20minutes of play with a man advantage.

All credit to the Welsh defence for a solid performance, which saw them pinned inside their 22 for large periods of time and didn’t allow England a sniff of the try line.

At the other end of the pitch the Welsh finishing was clinical with Hook crossing the line on the only real Welsh attack.

Last week I discussed England’s chances in the world cup.

I did say that semi finals was reachable, but looking at that performance from a supposedly first choice team, England aren’t going to make it out of the group stage!

Big changes needed before England travel to Ireland for the last warm up game.

Yours in rugby,
Scott Vinnicombe

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