Eddie Jones and England will be kicking themselves for not claiming back the Calcutta Cup after Saturday’s Scotland v England 2022 clash.
It was a pulsating clash at Murrayfield, with Scotland sneaking home 20-17 despite England dominating possession and territory. The difference came down to Scotland taking what limited chances came their way. Eddie Jones was seemingly correct in his pre-match assessment that Scotland was two years in front of where his young England side is at.
Despite the disappointment of losing to Scotland, there were certainly some positives for England to take into Rome next weekend. In particular, Marcus Smith, who ably directed his team around the field like a seasoned pro – despite the outcome.
Wasteful might be a descriptive term, yet the evidence is better illustrated in the below highlights and analysis from Charlie Inglefield.
Russell and Smith the stars of Scotland v England 2022
Finn Russell and Marcus Smith were the best players on the field. Despite difficult weather conditions, Russell and Smith did their best to get their respective backlines moving. This was another step up for Smith, playing his first game outside the safety net of Twickenham. He did his job admirably, kicking for the corners effectively and sniping dangerously. What Smith desperately needs next week in Rome is for his team to get somewhere near to his wavelength. With over 60% possession and territory, England really should have had a couple of scores in the bank. A mixture of a clunky attack and efficient Scottish defence kept England out.
Finn Russell also played a huge hand in getting Scotland over the line in an incredibly tense finish. He showed remarkable restraint and kicked intelligently throughout, importantly knowing when to attack and when to play the percentages. It felt like this was Russell’s finest hour in a Scotland jersey and he is only going to get better which augurs well for Gregor Townsend. A major question mark over Jones was his use of substitutes going into the final quarter, the prime one being the substitution of Marcus Smith.
England’s pack fire
In November last year, the Springboks showed that England’s set-piece needed some work and fine-tuning. For the most part, England’s front five had the better of their counterparts on Saturday afternoon. The scrum did not move backwards and the lineout was secure. This bodes well for the remainder of the tournament.
Eddie Jones will be pleased with aspects of England’s forward play where the set-piece went well in the cauldron of Murrayfield. Nick Isiekwe slotted in nicely beside a strangely quiet Maro Itoje and justified his recall. Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler were industrious and powerful as well. The performance of England’s forwards should have resulted in an England win given how much possession England’s backs had to work with.
Simmonds deserves another chance
It was a fascinating battle between the two back rows. Sam Simmonds – when he had the chance – made good yards in what was an encouraging first half for the Exeter number eight. In the second half he faded and it will be interesting to see what Eddie Jones does for Rome next weekend. Alex Dombrandt did not have much of a chance when he came on for the last few minutes. Simmonds is undoubtedly an attacking weapon but has he convinced Jones that he should start against Italy? As Sir Clive Woodward suggested in his column for the Daily Mail last week, there is an argument to suggest that Simmonds goes in at blindside to create room for Dombrandt at number eight.
Personally, I hope Jones does not jettison Simmonds. He should be given another chance to shine in Rome where attacking options will be more forthcoming than at Murrayfield. To have these two talents in Dombrandt and Simmonds should not be wasted by England’s management.
Cowan-Dickie and Marchant looking over their shoulders
Joe Marchant deserves some sympathy for the fact that he was in isolation for most of his preparation for the Scottish game. He was then shunted to the wing which is not his favoured position. It was on Marchant’s flank that Darcy Graham had some joy culminating in that wonderful try to Scottish test debutant Ben White. Marchant should really be given an opportunity to partner Henry Slade in the centres. Their partnership worked well against the World Champions, South Africa in the autumn. Elliot Daly went well in the first forty minutes but was not an influence in the second half. If he is kept for the Italy game it may be best for him to swap places with Marchant.
Luke Cowan-Dickie should have scored off a rolling lineout maul and was stopped by the smallest chap on the field in Darcy Graham. It compounded a difficult afternoon for Cowan-Dickie with his yellow card resulting in a penalty try which was then swiftly followed by a seven-man scrum where England conceded the penalty that won the game for Scotland. Cowan-Dickie will learn from his afternoon’s work but it may be that Jamie George starts against Italy.
Eddie Jones will rue the changes he made late on the game. It was not George Ford’s fault that England lost but why did he take off Marcus Smith? Smith had just scored a glorious try, England was 17-10 ahead and marching towards a hugely promising victory. Likewise with Jamie George not being put onto the field. Watching poor old Joe Marler having to throw in was frankly ridiculous. Like Ford, this was not Marler’s fault. People will understandably point to the swift return of Owen Farrell but this was Jones’ mistake and not the players who were on the park.
England down but not out
England was not found wanting with their intensity and spirit. Unlike last year. It is undoubtedly a brutal defeat and they will feel it badly until they step out against Italy. Scotland is becoming the real deal with a team that is packed full of British and Irish Lions. England fans need to remember that Tom Curry’s men went into battle away from home against a more experienced Scotland outfit minus Owen Farrell, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes. The likes of Steward, Smith, Isiekwe, Malins and Marchant have a handful of caps between them. They will learn the lessons and come back strong judging by all of their respective characters.
It does make Italy a game where they need to make an emphatic statement of intent before taking on Wales and Ireland at Twickenham. The 2022 Six Nations looks like being more open than perhaps first thought. Ireland has to go to Paris and Twickenham, France has similarly tough assignments at Murrayfield and Cardiff. Scotland head next to a desperate Welsh team in Cardiff and also Dublin. It is by no means over for Eddie Jones’ England but their resurgence needs to happen quickly and that starts with Italy next weekend.
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