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England were superb against Ireland – BUT!

If the England Rugby Union Squad still want to win the world cup in Japan this year, 2019 then one ingredient is still missing in the current magic mix – At scrum-half.

Why? Eddie Jones has mixed around the back line and forwards to a great extend to rightly test which combinations will work best, sometimes courageously leaving out some big names.

But why has this not happened at scrum half? We’ve had Ben Youngs and Danny Care for some years now and neither have delivered the simple, slick pass to whoever was at number 10. We’ve been comparing England to Southern hemisphere sides for donkeys years and when the All Blacks enjoyed world dominance a couple of decades ago, one outstanding factor in their game was “Quick Ball”.

It’s what every team strives for in the current attritional state that can happen with flat defences. So why then, when you’ve seen Care and Youngs warming up before a match will you see them slinging a ball out with no back lift yet when it gets to game time there are stutters, sideways movements with ball in hand and our backs are robbed of valuable time.

We now have a back division to better any team on the planet so why is Eddie Jones not solving this very basic issue so that England feature more heavily as favourites when they offer the rugby free bets for the beginning of the majot tournaments? This goes back to Stuart Lancaster’s era and the “Burgess / Burrell Affair” when you had the backs all being mixed around with frequent personnel changes and nothing consistently working but I don’t think even back then were given all the time to deliver. Don’t forget at this level we are talking about small margins and fractions of seconds extra given to a back to either break a defensive gap or not.

When England have brought on Wigglesworth or Lee Dickson in the past, Englands back line seem to look and operate in a much tidier fashion because these too couldn’t try anything too fancy with the only brief chances that they were given and so they kept it simple, basic and passed that ball quickly.

I’ll harp back to Sir Clive Woodwards reign when you had Matt Dawson, Kieran Bracken and Andy Gomarsall all involved. With all of them, they gave two choices:

1) Pass the ball sharply of with either hand, no back lift, no step and now sideways shimmy.

2) Go direct – The constant slick passing can let the guard down of the back row which can leave gaps.

This gave England a complete team – possession from a big pack, I back line with real attacking pace and flare – but more importantly : THE LINK of the sharp service to let the backs perform to their optimum ability.

England should have Dan Robson starting in this six nations with perhaps, although currently out of favour, Danny care on the bench for impact at pace in the scrum half position but almost any scrum half in the Premiership is serving their backs closer to world cup level than England. if England are really going to  be contenders to win the Rugby Union World Cup, they need to be able to look at all positions and have the feeling that each player can hold be compared to the best in the World. At srum half, at the moment, this just isn’t the case.


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February 8th, 2019 by Simon A

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