England’s World Cup exit has led to calls for yet another cull of the playing staff – but they have been down that road before. How about winning something first?
England head to the home of Manchester City on Saturday for the game that no-one wants. Stick 100 points on Uruguay and frankly who cares? Struggle to put the South Americans away and the knives will be sharpened even more for Stuart Lancaster and his coaching team.
Score a mere 50 and they will be beaten by the stick of 2003 again, after all, England’s last world-class team put 111 points on Uruguay in Brisbane that year.
In the great scheme of things, England could score 400, and it means the sum total of nish, nada and nothing – England are already out of a World Cup which will go on without them for the next three weeks.
There are some fans who have tickets for this weekend’s funeral pyre of a game and, frankly, they can’t be bothered to make the trip.
Well they might be missing out – they could say they were in there at the start of England’s journey to World Cup glory in 2019. In true sporting parlance England must draw a line under it and move on.
But how about moving on to the Six Nations instead and let the 2019 World Cup, take care of itself?
Now is not the time to chuck the baby out with the bath water and have a complete re-shuffle of the squad. Yes, there should be changes, not the major surgery some are calling for, and just because a bloke might not be around in 2019 does not mean he can’t do a job in the next year or two.
England have got out of the habit of winning trophies, barring the odd one-off pot such as the Cook and Calcutta Cups and it is about time they had one to put on the shelf at Twickenham.
England have not nailed a Six Nations title since 2011, and we all remember what happened that year, so the focus should move to winning that now. Park all thoughts of Japan in four years’ time and just go out and win a medal or two.
In the last four years England have come second in the Six Nations every year and have lost Test series away to South Africa and New Zealand whilst winning one in Argentina in 2013. It is time to get some silverware for the cleaners to polish in South West London.
Lancaster’s first game in charge was at Murrayfield in February 2012 and a cuddly toy for anyone who can name the men who made their Test debuts that day. For the record they were Brad Barritt, Lee Dickson, Phil Dowson, Owen Farrell, Ben Morgan, Geoff Parling and Jordan Turner-Hall. The week after, in Rome, Rob Webber made his first appearance and England finished runners-up in the championship.
Elsewhere Charlie Morgan has picked a possible 23 for 2019 and his crystal ball gazing looks like it may have come up trumps.
But whoever is England coach in the New Year should not pick that 23 to run out in Edinburgh on 6 February next year.
Mike Brown will be 34 at the next World Cup and you wouldn’t want to be the person telling him he is finished as England build for the future. If an old dog like Nick Easter would help win the Six Nations then pick him, likewise Dylan Hartley. Then the coach can gradually bring in players like Henry Slade – who makes a belated World Cup debut at the weekend – Jamie George, Paul Hill, Maro Itoje and Jack Clifford.
There is a model to follow in all of this. Since 2011 there is a side who have given international debuts to 37 players but managed to maintain their place at the top of the world rankings and won three Rugby Championships in the meantime.
They are called the All Blacks and they have mastered the trick of filling their boots whilst slowly introducing players to Test rugby.
England have nicked quite a few ideas off the New Zealanders over the last few years, this is one Lancaster or his successor should pinch immediately.