England Takeaways from winning down-under
By Reece Donnelly
Irelands triumph over the all-blacks dominated the Rugby Headlines whilst England rather impressively secured a series in Australia. It rather reflects England’s tour, good but not quite as good as it could be. So, what were the good points the bad bits and how does this prepare Eddie Jones side for the World Cup
"Owen Farrell penalty kick" by Sum_of_Marc is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Fear factor back with England
Key individuals were missing throughout but the tour reinforced the fear factor of playing England. Ellis Genge along with Courtney Lawes were extraordinary, Whilst Billy Vunipola was playing like he was back in his prime in all three games. After a below par first test, the carries by the forwards created so many issues for Australia. This was a heavy upgrade from a weak and subpar six nations campaign. The arrival of Jack Van Poorvlioet definitely also played a huge part in this. Up until now Jones has been incredibly reluctant to replace Ben Youngs. JVP showed incredible composure at 21 years of age and now offers an option to change up England’s tempo.
Still lacking clinically
The forwards may have set good foundations, but the backline certainly lacked a threat especially compared to Australia in the first two tests. The inability to translate pressure into points creates a big concern. There once again as mentioned was improvement from the six nations though, Billy Vunipola especially stood out in the third test with a deceiving lineout trick which England may look to pounce on.
England certainly did have more balance restored in this series, Jack Nowell and Freddie Steward bought a lot to the party, England lacked a winger with real clinical instincts. Tommy Freeman in the third test posed a potent threat with some agile runs so could potentially change the lack of criticality in concerns. Of course, the wonder boy Henry Arundell is an option, he is definitely raw but could potentially be the sprinkle England need on top.
Selection questions harden
Without the choice of Tuilagi, England don’t have a destroying centre that can create gaps in the defence you didn’t know was there. Whilst Joe Marchant is talented, a lack of Esterhuizen who partners him at club level there were limited gaps to exploit at another level. There was a fling with Guy Porter as a direct runner, but he too wasn’t as effective, missing five tackles in the decisive test. It should now be suggested England can’t replace Tuilagi, but they can re-create the pure number of carries through forwards instead and someone like Sam Simmonds could be efficient from set plays.
Doubt remains over if Smith and Farrell can co-exist. Both had their typically special moments, and I am not taking away from has classy an act either are but it remains to be seen whether they complement or hinder each other very Lampard Gerrard esque. Does Farrells direction damage the flair of Smith or does it allow effectiveness in Smiths preferred wide channels. Its far from finished but we shall see how they progress
Optimism definitely shouldn’t be lost though, just four years ago England was in a similar position for the world cup in Japan. They finished fifth in the six nations a year before but then got to the final of the world cup. Could it just be Eddie Jones getting his side to peak just at the right time. There is more needed in terms of consistency and improvement to match levels of France, Ireland, and South Africa but England are heading on the right track, is this perfect timing? Let’s hope so!