England v Argentina 10th Sept 2011
Predictably sluggish start from England. Up against a team representing a country where rugby still isn’t professional, who have played one test match in eleven months and who are missing at least one superstar player, England ground out a 13-9 win, having been behind until the 69th minute of the match.
It’s hard for me to support England under Martin Johnson. The way I see it: England rugby stabbed Brian Ashton in the back after he had taken a not-particularly-brilliant team to the World Cup final, losing only on the narrowest of decisions on a video replay. Why? Because media pressure demanded iconic Johnson (zero coaching experience) to take over. Ashton’s team (playing some of the most adventurous rugby England have shown for years) finished second in the 6 nations, having lost a game in once-in-a-decade circumstances to Wales and another in a mudbath at Murrayfield where plenty of decent teams could have come unstuck.
Now, with a better quality England team on paper at least, we have to watch over-coached, lethargic, one-dimensional performances. The reason England struggled for so long in this game is because they are obsessed with contact. All they did for the first 50 minutes or so was run into Argentinian defenders, which, with a pedantic referee patrolling the breakdown, was a bad idea. When they finally broke lose of training ground routines, they looked a little bit more potent.
England have a great front five and an exciting back three. They need a better 7 – Tom Wood the best option in the squad (though watching Steffan Armitage in the Premiership I’m sorry he’s never had a run in the team) – Haskell surely would be better off on the blind-side because he’s certainly not an open side in the calibre of McCaw, Barclay, Brussow, Warburton: a big, gym-freak who won ONE turnover all game. Easter’s alright but there are some more dynamic English number 8s who were left behind because of Johnson’s obsession with size and strength. I like Wigglseworth, but Ben Youngs was a welcome relief at scrum-half. If only England had tried out an inside-centre with hands and vision before this world-cup. They are so predictable!
At least England look fit. Or all of them did except Steve Thompson. Surely the worst of the three hookers in the squad. Too old, too fat, on the wrong side too often because he can’t get back onside anymore. He doesn’t have the running skills of old and I’m not sure what he adds to the team except perhaps scrummaging. Hartley and Stevens looked up for it and full of energy. Johnson’s got to start with them against Scotland. He won’t drop Sheridan though.
So, to conclude, unless England break free of their narr0w-minded, hit the contact mindset, they won’t win shit.