The bad news (or good news if you’re a pom)
It was a 5 try to 1 win for the men wearing soccer players kit. So any hopes of a ‘new team set up’ shmozzle are out the window for starters. England have had a knack of taking a bunch of guys excelling in the Guiness Premiership or Euro Cup, and turning them into chumps. Against the PI, to a man they at the very least put in a solid professional performance.
And there were a bunch who showed more than that. Rees (7) and Easter (8) are hitting their international stride. While I’d put Rees a step behind Smith for speed to breakdown, he brings more impact and physicality. Easter is a pommy Palu with more nouse and footballing ability. The hooker Mears has a touch of Jeremy Paul about him, with a few more kgs.
The tight 5 found yards whenever they wanted them, but didn’t monopolise the ball. Halfback Danny Care was almost Burgess like in his speed of ball clearance and nose for an opportunity, but more accurate with the pass. Clearance speed at the breakdown is a factor that England tend to forget to the relief of the rest of us, but with Care in the chair, it looks like his natural game. As we all know, big boys coming onto quick ball is lethal.
And the big boys aren’t limited to the pack. Essentially the back 3, in terms of size and pace, are 3 Lote Tuqiris – the debutant 15 Armitage having a man of the match performance. Against the PIs, out was the ponderous pommy side to side predictability, and in was dangerous open field running from taps, turnovers and kicks.
The good news
They have props for centres. Flutey and Noon are big boys (there’s a theme here…) but didn’t show the agility to get through a hole. I also wonder about their defence against a stepper like Giteau. Mortlock would worry them less.
For Cipriani, read Beale. Talented no doubt (for chissakes, check out his girlfriend) but it’s early days for the wunderkind. The PI’s only try came from a charge down on a kick he could have made 3 times over.
Wingers. Ball in hand they look dangerous. But ball over or behind them? This does rely on the Wallabies having a kicking game though…..
Speed to the breakdown. Smith, or even Pocock should have the edge here. Latu did a great job. As we know though, this is very ref dependent.
The PI scrum not only held up, it milked a few penalties….. wishful thinking?