In the third blog looking at what went wrong as England Rugby became the first host nation to not make the knock-out stages of their own World Cup, we look at how the style of play changed. England have a chance to bounceback from this bitter disappointment when they take on Ireland and Wales in the 2016 6 Nations Championship. Our superb range of Twickenham hospitality packages are available for these crucial matches which could shape the future of English rugby.
That England can play an expansive style of running rugby is not in doubt … so why didn’t they in the World Cup?
Proof of the pudding came in the Six Nations when it went to the wire – all on points differential as to which of Ireland, England and Wales would be champions. England had no choice but to throw it about. And throw it about they did.
In the end England fell one try short of a first title in four years as they out-ran France in a sensational 12-try contest 55-35. They attacked relentlessly in a thrilling match and so nearly pulled off a remarkable win. An unforgetabble contest for guests enjoying the very best Twickenham hospitality packages.
A brace of tries apiece from Ben Youngs and Jack Nowell plus scores from Anthony Watson, George Ford and Billy Vunipola saw them pile up their highest ever total against France. But while the win put them level on points with Ireland and Wales, their inferior points difference meant they fell just short.
Yet when it came to the World Cup there was no Burrell and no Nowell. Both discarded. The former dropped from the squad; the latter in the squad but never even making the bench.
Instead Lancaster pinned his hopes on the one dimensional hard tackling defensive duo of Barritt and Burgess, with the equally dour Farrell ousting Ford from the fly half position at the eleventh hour.
It was disastrous decision-making. Compounded by the fact that there was an alternative – putting faith in the exciting Henry Slade and Danny Cipriani.
These were the two stars of the QBE internationals against France. Slade and Cipriani have the ability to create space and make breaks. Individuals who can open up a side by producing something different.
Cipriani never made the squad; Slade made the squad but never made the bench.
So what was the point in them playing in the warm-up games if Lancaster had no intention of putting them on the park? He clearly didn’t trust them.
It was as if the head coach completely lost his nerve. A rigid game plan had no room for individuality or risk-taking.
By throwing out of the window that template of running rugby which made England top try scorers in the Six Nations, Lancaster flipped. Or, as the Rugby Paper put it: “It saw Lancaster and company revert against Wales to a percentage mentality of playing to stop the other side winning through pressure and kicking penalties, rather than England going out to win it through their own attacking ability.”
There were other very strange attitudes. Lancaster seemed mesmerised by Burgess, the hard man of rugby league.
Burgess was totally exposed by his coach; he has no idea how to play centre. Even Bath, his club, think he is a flanker. And worse Lancaster played his favourites out of position.
Brad Barritt and Sam Burgess had never been partnered together before they took the field against Wales. To accommodate Burgess, Barritt was required to vacate his regular slot.
In the second half against Australia you had a fly half Owen Farrell at centre and a centre Joseph on the wing. Lancaster was simply out of his depth.
You can’t win a World Cup without a great set of forwards but you also need a fly half and centres who can dazzle. Ultimately England had neither.
Brought low by hopeless selection and tactical naivety. We have the players; they just weren’t on the pitch.
What a waste.
Can England gain revenge on Wales for their agonising defeat in the World Cup? You can see all the action in VIP style with our Six Nations hospitality packages at Twickenham. Our Twickenham hospitality packages offer you the ultimate experience at the world’s best Test Match arena.
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