Argentina were by far the better team in their deserved victory over England on Sunday afternoon. A ‘rudderless and sloppy’ England loss at Twickenham against Los Pumas was the visitor’s first triumph at the ground in 16 years.
It was a special performance by Michael Cheika’s Pumas built on rock-hard defense and sheer desire. As for England rugby, this was a dismal setback that heaps yet more pressure on Eddie Jones. Familiar problems blighted England rugby yet again. England’s discipline was awful with a succession of soft penalties mixed in with a totally inept attack. Argentina had 37% possession and yet looked totally comfortable in dealing with England’s predictable game plan. This was a sobering setback for England rugby.
Charlie Inglefield dissects England’s performance with Japan up next.
England loss at Twickenham – totally inept, rudderless attack
In the lead-up to the match we talked about England needing a game plan that in turn would help ignite their faltering attack. Against Argentina England deployed the same strategy on kicking for possession and territory. One-out-runners were deployed and nothing happened as a result. Again.
England rugby has the resources, and the player talent in the Gallagher Premiership to be an attacking threat. On Sunday Argentina more than dealt with England’s attack. Marcus Smith was a peripheral figure throughout and Owen Farrell had one of his worst games in an England shirt. Such sloppy work highlights this failing combination – a partnership that needs to be ‘nipped in the bud’ quickly on Sunday’s evidence.
It was all so predictable. England had no line speed in attack and what we saw was painfully slow distribution outwide that gave the likes of Manu Tuilagi no chance of penetrating Argentina’s aggressive defense. The one player who deserves credit was the muscular incursions of Joe Cokanasiga. Big Joe made some decent dents and took his try well.
One of a number of talking points that face Eddie Jones in the coming week is what to do with Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith. Individually they are fine international players but their combination at 10/12 is not working. Smith looked suffocated at fly-half, and Owen Farrell’s distribution outside of him was non existent. Jones is as stubborn as they come and will likely persist with these two for the visit of Japan.
Many England rugby fans would like Marcus Smith as the main pivot of the team because he has a far superior attacking game to Farrell. The arguments around Farrell being a test match animal is totally true yet his attacking threat is not what it once was. Farrell’s influence and leadership in the squad is clear to see. However, his inability to work with the referee on the pitch puts a big question mark on his captaincy.
England looked rudderless in the final quarter and they really needed Farrell to step up.
Yes, Smith is still relatively green at this level but he has the talent and work ethic to grow into the world-class bracket. England is running out of chances to nail their team for France next year and one suspects that the number ten jersey is chief among the key decisions that a England loss at Twickenham must now force.
Changes at 9 and 8 required ahead of Japan fixture
Ben Youngs for so long has been England’s premier scrum-half. But the immediate impact of Jack Van Poortvliet coming on in the second half cannot be ignored any longer. England looked more dynamic and busy with Van Poortvliet on and surely he should be the starting scrum-half against Japan. There are concerns around Raffi Quirke coming off for Sale on Saturday but, if fit he should back up Van Poortvliet. England will likely take three scrum halves to France and therefore Ben Youngs still has a significant role to play.
Sam Simmonds also made an impact coming off the bench for Billy Vunipola in the second half. The Exeter number eight did not get much of a chance to showcase his running skills but made some hard yards in the last twenty minutes. Vunipola could not dent the Argentinian defence and made a number of uncharacteristic errors. He is still a valuable member of the squad but England need to do something different with their attacking alignment and Simmonds should start against Japan.
Soft penalties continue to stall England’s consistency
It has been said countless times before how England gives away soft penalties. Against the Pumas England were guilty of far too many ‘easy’ penalties. One example was in the 61st minute when Luke Cowan Dickie was very lucky not to have been yellow-carded for tackling off the ball. England’s rising penalty count kept on giving Argentina hope and the Pumas did not need to work for them.
England’s discipline is a familiar failing that does not look like getting any better. In a knock-out competition that the World Cup is, England will always give the opposition a chance because they keep giving up double figure penalties. It is up to the senior players to lead by example in this compartment. The referees these days are very clear in their communication about warning players whether it be ‘hands in the ruck’ or for potential offside offences. England’s players keep on transgressing despite the warnings given to them.
Applause all around; Michael Cheika’s amazing journey
The win over England will be so sweet for Cheika. Here is a man who has just led lowly Lebanon to a Rugby League World Cup quarterfinal a week ago. Holding a full coaching plate full, he is used to upsetting English fans – Cheika knocked England out of the group stage of the 2015 World Cup seven years ago and he has knocked the wind out of supporters again at Twickenham. Applause all around.
It was a thoroughly deserved victory by the Pumas too. They were superior in their endurance and precision – and scored two cracking tries to outline that they are not just a forwards’ orientated team. Twickenham was silent and shocked to say the least. Eddie Jones faces a massive week because Japan will definitely fancy their chances next weekend.
Editors note: by contrast – Red Roses success a fine example
What is noteworthy is that, this week the men’s side can only be awestruck by the near opposite state of the women’s team. The Red Roses are on top of the world, making their eighth World Cup final. Aiming to add a third title, what a contrast there is between both sides at this time. England’s women are leaders, both in type of play, and their attitudes. The men on the other hand do not hold the same command of their game.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 5, 2022
So if ever the men could take notes on their counterparts, it is today. The women are full professionals, focused on their task at hand – the 2021 Rugby World Cup final, versus New Zealand at Eden Park, Saturday, November 12. One week late, the men will host the All Blacks at Twickenham – a nice convergence in scheduling, that both men and women can see as significant.
Not to copy. Not even to use similar tactics but to emulate the culture and attitudes of the women. Unbeaten in 30 matches, they are at the apex of their sport – something the men could do well to emulate. And following in the Red Roses footsteps now is not anything to laugh at in 2022.
England v Japan – Saturday, November 12. Twickenham
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