>> Gus­cott: Brown or Wat­son? Jury’s out

The Rugby Paper - - Front Page - JEREMY GUS­COTT

Mike Brown’s early re­place­ment gave us a glimpse of what a new back three may look like with An­thony Wat­son switch­ing to full-back and look­ing com­fort­able through­out.

Wat­son’s grown as a player and de­vel­oped so much over the last 12 months so that now when he catches the ball, he looks up and is a real threat each time, es­pe­cially when at­tack­ing from those deep po­si­tions rather than out on the wing.

He has a vast skillset and mixes his game well, but I would be sur­prised if Ed­die Jones doesn’t stick with Brown as his No.1 full-back in the build-up to the World Cup.

Brown, be­low, like Dy­lan Hart­ley, is un­der pres­sure for his po­si­tion but they are not picked for abil­ity alone – it’s their lead­er­ship qual­i­ties that Jones rates highly and there is still no one to ri­val Brown’s dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion and prow­ess in the air.

The Har­lequins No.15 has been a main­stay in the side for the whole of Jones’ ten­ure, but there is no doubt for me Eng­land look to have far more of a threat with Wat­son wear­ing the jersey. We know his try-scor­ing abil­ity and speed to beat a man and he’s cer­tainly im­proved un­der the high ball. That area of his game would not be a ma­jor con- cern now for the Eng­land coach as it was 18 months ago. The main ques­tion for me is who would be able to take that killer chance in a World Cup fi­nal? Which of Wat­son and Brown would spot the over­lap, for ex­am­ple, and have the nec­es­sary skillset to give the scor­ing pass to the man in space. That’s still the big ques­tion mark over Brown, although in fair­ness it is my one and only doubt over Brown and is that worth mak­ing the change now? I’m not sure, yet. The whole team know they will have to up the ante mas­sively for Aus­tralia next week. Jones talks about clos­ing the gap on New Zealand but I think the All Blacks would have put 40 or 50 points on Ar­gentina yes­ter­day. This is not a good Pu­mas team and, to me, Eng­land are suf­fer­ing from over-fa­mil­iar­ity. That’s why we saw so many frus­trated faces both from the play­ers and coach­ing staff at the fi­nal whis­tle. It was a mas­sive op­por­tu­nity to show how much they have moved on, es­pe­cially af­ter spend­ing a week in Por­tu­gal train­ing to­gether – but it was a very rusty per­for­mance over­all. One ma­jor pos­i­tive was the per­for­mance of Bath open­side Sam Un­der­hill, who gave us a les­son in tack­ling. He also showed his fit­ness by get­ting back up off the deck to chal­lenge for the ball or make an­other hit. His work rate was su­perb, as was

that of Court­ney Lawes.

Henry Slade did well in place of Owen Far­rell, but his part­ner­ship with George Ford wasn’t breath­tak­ing and it of­fered lit­tle more than the tried and tested com­bi­na­tion. I’d like to see Slade in more of an at­tack­ing role but yes­ter­day he seemed to be in a de­fen­sive role for much of the game, which didn’t show his true po­ten­tial.

The pair linked well for Semesa Roko­duguni’s try and it was a sen­sa­tional long loop­ing pass from Slade to put the flyer away and that’s where the two-playmaker pack­age works, some­thing we’ve seen on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions with Ford and Far­rell.

The line speed in de­fence has im­proved and that will only get bet­ter with im­proved fit­ness, which Ed­die has high­lighted re­cently.

But it must have been a hellishly frus­trat­ing game to play in.

I’ve not seen a Pu­mas side this poor in a long time, it was only two years ago that Ar­gentina could tear any

Main ques­tion for me is who would be able to take that killer chance in a World Cup fi­nal? Which of Wat­son or Brown would spot the over­lap?

team apart at the World Cup, and did.

They went through the phases and main­tained pos­ses­sion but they can’t pen­e­trate de­fences like they used to. Their try through Nico­las Sanchez came af­ter 30 phases in which they ground Eng­land down.

I think they are a stale team and play too much to­gether as the Jaguares and then the Pu­mas – it’s as if they’re to­gether 12 months of the year and lack fresh, new ideas. They’ll strug­gle un­less they pick some of their many tal­ented over­seas men.

Ed­die is push­ing the play­ers to get their hands on the ball and make an im­pact and there is still some way to go. When the ante is turned up next week I think the play­ers will re­spond.

The play­ers know that no one is nailed on and Jones will not be afraid to drop some­one. The team will not be as bad next week be­cause. if they fail to win, a lot of play­ers will be out of the Samoa game.

Jones has the likes of Far­rell and Maro Itoje to come back into the mix next week and hav­ing rested them this week they’ll be rar­ing for a star. I’m not sure Jones will para­chute them in be­cause although it’s an im­por­tant game, it’s not a must-win.

Jones knows the big­ger pic­ture is a long run in to the World Cup and he wants his back-up men to show they are good enough to start.

Fail­ing to put this av­er­age Pu­mas team to the slaugh­ter was not how Jones would have ex­pected the au­tumn to be­gin and the play­ers must step up next week against a fastim­prov­ing Wal­la­bies out­fit.

PIC­TURE: Getty Images

Im­pres­sive skillset: An­thony Wat­son, tack­led here by Emil­iano Bof­felli, shone at full-back

Needs more at­tack­ing role: Henry Slade looks to off­load

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