On the positive side, Wales beat Ireland 23-16 to give England a good chance on winning the championship – and they did the easier, although not easy, part of that by beating Scotland 25-13 in fairly impressive style
On the other hand, however, frustration was a very common word from the coaches and players after the game. Frustration, that is, at how all of England’s chances did not add up into more points, which will now probably come to decide the tournament as points differences is all that divides England (+37), Ireland (+33) and Wales (+12).
Stuart Lancaster said: “We’re delighted about the opportunities we created, but equally we’ll look back at the tape and the tries that were disallowed and the opportunities we missed – it is frustrating, without a doubt.”
England scored three tries – one each for Jonathan Joseph (the tournament’s leading try scorer), George Ford and Mike Brown – a very respectable haul, for sure. But it really should have been more given the chances they created – the England coach counted 12 line breaks.
A good deal of these came in a frantic first 20 minutes in which England dominated and could have been 20 points up, instead of just the seven courtesy of Jonathan Joseph, finding a great line and then neatly stepping and escaping Stuart Hogg’s tackle.
Within just two minutes, Luther Burrell made a clean line break, but unwisely elected not to play in Anthony Watson in the corner, nor offload quickly to Ben Youngs once he had gone into the tackle. Also, Jack Nowell made a good break but chose not to use options either side of him and Mike Brown was running in under the posts but didn’t quite have the pace to beat Stuart Hogg to the line.
There was a good honest and measured reaction from the England camp to the performance, recognising the positives but insisting on the need for learn from shortcomings.
“Creating chances is one thing, converting them is another,” James Haskell said. “But [with those chances] you know you have the makings of a good performance so no panic sets in.”
“We have to be hard on ourselves this week. There will be a lot of learning to take out of it.
“When that ruthless edge comes, we will be a very tough side to play.”
George Ford, who had another very strong game, also said there was a lot of things to improve.
He said the positive is that the team created chances, and the negative is that they didn’t take them, adding it’s difficult thing to train taking those chances but the support runs need to improve.
The performance, promising as it was, will need to improve because the final game is against France. Or probably need to improve, at any rate, because, as Haskell said, “you never know what France team is going to show up” – thoughts on the French team echoed by Ford (“unpredictable”) and Youngs (“a bit random”).
But that’s not to say there’s a lack of respect for the France team. When pressed on all the different championship permutations, all in the England camp were quick to insist they need to win the game first, and that any undue focus on other results or changed gameplans would only distract from that.
The game against France ends the Six Nations in what promises to be a thrilling last weekend.
England top the table with six points and a points difference of 37, four more than Ireland and 25 more than Wales, both of whom are also on six points.
Ireland travel to Scotland and Wales to Italy, leaving Twickenham to play host to the finale against France.
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