RWC: 5 Things You Need to Know About England

RWC: 5 Things You Need to Know About England

RWC: 5 Things You Need to Know About England

The English have much of the home field advantage, as they did in 1999 when Australia brought back Bill for the second time. This time, though, they have a very tough pool and a closer field in general. They don’t have a firmly established midfield and they’ve had a few off field dramas. How will they cope come Friday night and beyond?

1.  Farrell and Ford

The English, by reputation, have a reliance on the flyhalf position at the World Cup. Although, to be fair, Rob Andrew and Jonny Wilkinson have dominated the 10 jersey at the RWC. With Andrew wearing it (mostly) for the first three and Wilkinson for the last four. It’s pretty clear that the Poms like to settle on a flyhalf and stick with them.

And it seemed for some time that they had done just that, with Owen Farrell having established himself as the first choice 10 over the last few years. Farrell got started early, having just turned 17 when he made his debut for Saracens. Since then, he’s played 113 games for the club, earning 1112 points. England didn’t need him until 2012, though. They had that Wilkinson fella until then. Since, though, he’s played 31 tests for England and scored 300 points – 290 from the boot – continuing the English tradition of the flyhalf essentially being a foot with a maths degree.

But the arrival of George Ford has made the decision less cut and dried. Ford has only played 13 tests, but has racked up 124 points himself in that time – despite only starting 9. Ford seems a more dynamic player in attack, though. He’s scored two tries – the same number Farrell has in 31 tests – and has an array of passes and kicks which wouldn’t look out of place in a gold or black jersey. His club, Bath, play a game which uses these strengths and sees the wide channels being used more often than you might see at Saracens.

Ford has recently received the blessing of Wilkinson, himself. But the decision is likely to come down to defensive ability, where Farrell has the edge.

2.  Sam Bloody Burgess

You can’t read a Rugby article at the moment without hearing about Sam Burgess. There’s always someone with an opinion. There is a lot of discussion about whether he should even be in the squad, let alone whether he should be playing at 6 or 12. There are those who think his lack of ability in the forwards shows that Union players are more skilful than League players. There are those he think his climb into the squad proves unequivocally that League players are better than Union players.

It’s all a load of what the Soap Dodgers might call old tosh. The reality is that Burgess is about as solid a defender as you’re likely to find and can run the crash ball with the best of them. He’s also defensively solid enough to play at 13. That makes him pretty attractive as a centre for the English in a World Cup, which seems to bring out the Roses’ conservatism even more than usual.

Either way, there is no question Sam is a big game player and will make a contribution to the team. And Channel 9 will be praying he plays against Australia. It’ll be a sure ratings grabber.

3.  Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

The fact that Burgess has been selected for England would seem odd since Manu Tuilagi has had the big centre spot sewn up for a long time. The Samoan-born centre has 25 tests for England and has been doing pretty well. However, he won’t be attending the tournament after being left out for disciplinary reasons. It seems was convicted of assaulting a female police officer, which was enough for Stuart Lancaster to leave him out of consideration.

The other notable omission, again due to disciplinary issues, is Dylan Hartley. Hartley was dropped when a suspension for headbutting overlapped with the first game of the World Cup. Hartley is England’s most experienced hooker and they struggled at the set piece without him recently.

But there may be a silver lining for the English. Graham Henry, widely regarded as the catalyst for the famed All Black cultural changes in the last decade, thinks it is a masterstroke by Lancaster. And if the discipline on and off the field improves and translates onto it, he may well be right.

4.  The Pomgolian Scrum

It’s either one of the best scrums on earth or they are a pack of cheats – depending on your perspective. I’m of the opinion that, if the ref doesn’t call it, it’s no point crying about it. So, whether we like it or not, we have to deal with it. There is no question they play hard and fast with the rules at scrum time, but it is effective. And they have given the Wallabies a towelling there in the last several years.

But they’ve struggled at the set piece in their warmup games and other teams are improving – especially Australia. Also, if new interpretations about playing the ball when it’s available are enforced, the English scrum may turn out to be less of a weapon than it previously was.

5. From the Frying Pan Into the Fire

The Six Nations has been a close fought affair the last few years. The English haven’t won it since 2011, in the leadup to the last Rugby World Cup. They have been the runners up each year since. The Championship this year saw England get over everyone except Ireland – that includes pool A rival Wales. But, while the Six Nations is a tough competition, the question remains whether it compares to the crucible that pool A will be this year.

The winners of the ‘Pool of Death’ will first have to dispatch at least one other top five team while staving off the threat of a motivated and exciting Fiji team. And then, if they don’t go through the pool in the top position, their path to the semis will be impeded by South Africa. t’s a tough slog, but England may be heartened with a little home-field advantage.

  • Seb V

    Burgess being a league boy I bet runs hard but high. I can see Hooper and Poey targeting him for easy turnovers.

    • Julesie Bolwell

      It will be like taking candy from a (very large and ugly) baby for Pocock!

      • rossco

        Burgess won’t face the Wallabies – he’s there to bully the weaker teams in the pool stages, maybe come on against Wales from the bench.

        • Julesie Bolwell

          Put my money on him being on the bench.

    • Marcus Pontmercy

      If im not wrong he was turned over against france

      • m0b1us

        He was actually surprisingly good against France – dull yellow card aside. A couple of
        errors against Ireland when he came on but then settled down nicely. Fantastic hit
        on Madigan which almost resulting a 60m turnaround and try for England.

        • Marcus Pontmercy

          i watched both games, I would say he’s still finding his way in union but his character and mindset is what a winning team needs.

        • Hambone

          thats a very nice hit… poor kid was about a third of his size..

    • Nutta

      The same comment was made about Hayne albeit from a different perspective and yet talent finds a way. You can’t doubt Burgess is a true athlete with massive strength and once at the point of contact he would find a way with either ball in-hand or making a heavy hit. But I think his downfall will not be at the point of contact but rather it will be off the ball in positioning and timing to make the tackle/run etc. He stands to be manipulated out of the game without bringing his assets to bear. Then he’ll go back to Mungo and we will all get to listen to the same shite as came from Gasnier about not getting the ball enough and not having an impact because rugby is a shite game blah blah blah.

    • Chris M

      I’m not 100% across his work thus far this year, but what I’ve seen is pretty good. Mind you, that’s mostly been in club highlights.

  • theduke

    Good point re: the scrum.

    Who is the ref for this game and what is their history with Oz/Engerland?

    • Poite

      Not good

      • theduke

        Oh. Crap.

      • stivo

        That’s really not good
        On the bright side, our world cup record against South Africa is good (ish)

        • The Slow Eater

          I think the Saffas would prefer England to Oz. I think they’ve won something like 9 of the last 10 games agains the Poms.

        • Nutta

          Agreed as they play similar games with big bashy forwards, set-piece orientated, kicking 10 but with 2 power-runner midfields if they choose to use them. They both dislike us as we play differently

        • m0b1us

          A lot of tight games in there though. England are due a bit of luck vs. the Bok.

      • Mart

        That’s my biggest worry about this game. Otherwise I feel like we’ve got the wood on them… it could go pear shaped

        • m0b1us

          Interested in why you’d think that? I think it will be a tight game but Australia haven’t beaten England for a while
          and not in a RWC since 1991 (not that that means a whole lot).

      • Klaus

        Almost rigged by the RFU that appointment seems!

        • Patrick

          And the ABs get Wayne Barnes against Argentina… no easy rides for sure!

  • Avid

    The Wallabies team was built for England. Fully expect Toomua + Hooper via centres during the game.

  • Jack

    “He’s (Burgess) also defensively solid enough to play at 13.”

    Is he? I’ve not seen him play at any level in rugby, but given that 13 is comfortably the most challenging defensive position in the backline, I’d be surprised if he’s already got the nous to defend at centre, let alone lead the backline in defence — as the centre often (though not always) does.

    • Chris M

      He played there capably the other week, though I haven’t seen the game. He has also been defending there for Bath infrequently, as well.

      I wouldn’t say world class but I’ll stay with solid enough.

    • Muzz

      I would be surprised if Burgess could competently defend at 13 regardless of how good of a tackler he is. It’s more about reading the play defensively than simply knowing how to put a man on the ground. Remember the debacle of Tahu playing 12 against the Springboks a few years ago? They targeted him and made many linebreaks through his channel and it was embarrassing. I hope England play Burgess at 13 against Australia because they will lose if they do.

  • Nutta

    Best of luck to Fiji.

  • The Slow Eater

    Thanks for the article. I think it’s fair to say the poms have of late quite comfortably beaten us in the forwards. It appears now that their tight 5 is sliding whilst ours is on the improve. Should make for a cracking game.
    If Burgess is playing 13, it will be interesting to see how he goes agains TK.

  • Grizwald

    The English pack has looked uncharacteristically flaky in the warm up, we’ve a light and short hooker that’s not known for his scrummaging plus we’ve not chosen a grunty type lock in the squad to help out in the scrum. The Aussie scrum looks much improved from what i saw in the shortened rugby championship.

    If England’s pack is potentially overrated the backs are almost certainly underrated. Jonathan Joseph isn’t talked about much in the SH it seems but he’s a class player, Johnny May is flaky as hell and I would have probably gone with Nowell as he’s a lot more dependable and more of a utility player.

    Unless Lancaster has other plans for the Aus/Wales game the bench is unbalanced IMO. Assuming Ford keeps the starting #10 slot Farrell will cover 10 and 12. Concessions seem to have been made for Burgess, he can cover 6 but I don’t suspect he’s spent anytime in training at 6. If Mike Brown goes down injured at FB there’d be a lot of shuffling/disruption. The Two Vunipola’s however are excellent impact subs otherwise the we have closers rather than game changers on the bench with Farrall and Wigglesworth.

    I’m hoping home advantage results in us being more than the sum of our parts. I’m more confident about beating Wales than your lot at the moment.

    • Garry

      JJoseph and the back three look the goods in recent matches. They will surprise alot of Sthn Hemisphere onlookers. And the Poms set piece has been luke warm, and their ruck work ordinary. Their backs look better than their forwards, what will they do with their 10 man game plan?

      • m0b1us

        Not worried yet – we’ve only seen warm up games with sides still in preparation. England were being flogged
        the entire week leading up to the second France game for example.

  • Cramps

    Good write up

  • Hambone

    i wouldnt be to surprised to see hartley come in once his suspension is up… i saw talk of this a few weeks ago, which would put him in line for the oz test.. their scrum is defiantly lacking without him..


Mrs Mac thinks Chris talks about Rugby far too much. She's probably right. If he's not coaching, he's watching. And if he's not doing either, he's jibbering incessantly about it. He has also been named as a finalist in the Asteron Life Community Coach of the Year for 2015. Mrs Mac remains unimpressed.

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