Jones’s men need to show more ambition to fulfil their potential
England need to attack with speed and play with greater focus to defeat Australia next weekend
pressure. When England did get go-forward ball, they looked dangerous but the times this happened were limited because, regardless of whether it was taken one out or wider from the breakdown it was a direct, man-onman charge most of the time. There were limited offloads and it was significant that one try and another chance came from times when Mako Vunipola handled deftly and threatened to – but did not – take the ball into contact. This matters because without making ground after the initial contact, it is difficult to create momentum and space to play a wider attacking game.
What should also be a source of considerable discomfort to England’s forwards is that they continue to have problems successfully driving mauls, particularly when they come from line-outs close to their opponent’s line. This is not a new problem, it has been apparent for some time and it needs to be put right because they are behind several opponents at this. If they cannot be reasonably certain that they can convert penalty kicks to the corner into tries, they deprive themselves of a major tactical option.
It was, perhaps, wishful thinking that Henry Slade would step in for Owen Farrell and replicate the fluent axis that has developed between George Ford and Farrell. What was disappointing was to see Slade make errors that, from his Premiership performances, we know are atypical, particularly the mistiming and misdirecting of passes.
What this disjointed affair and Farrell’s absence showed is that the Saracen, whose tactical maturity has been evident for some time, is pivotal to England’s attacking play, whether playing at 10 or 12. Sometimes a player’s influence is not appreciated until they are not there and that was clear as England’s backs failed to find fluency. Given the dearth of quick ball, it was not surprising that the opportunities for Semesa Rokoduguni were limited but it was also apparent that England did not make sufficient attempts to make the most of his attacking prowess. This was not a matter of the way the game went, it appeared to be a lack of direction and ambition.
England will have to play well to beat the Aussies next week and they pobably will. The return of Maro Itoje and Farrell and the fact that it is Australia will lift England. The question is whether that psychological lift is matched technically and tactically.
England have home advantage and Australia are at the end of their season. This makes an England win more likely – they and their fans should accept nothing less.