The England midfield partnership is yet to click, TMO's are here to stay, Mike Brown's excellence and the Fijian threat are all covered...
By Adam Hathaway
Brad Barritt and Jonathan Joseph still to click
We didn’t learn anything about this pair at all. Brad Barritt is reliable but when he makes an error it looks even worse because he seems to have nothing else in his armoury, despite his protestations, to make up for it in attack, while Joseph is a threat with the ball in hand and a bit of a gap. What is more worrying for England is the way they failed to gel – although only in their second start together – and time is seriously running out. Whisper it quietly but Sam Burgess could be starting for England at 12 sooner rather than later. He might not fix the midfield entirely, with Burgess you get what it says on the label, but he would give England more than the six metres go-forward Barritt managed against Fiji.
TMOs are a fact of life and won’t go away
The Television Match Official is here to stay so we might as well get used to it, and if the technology gets the decisions right, surely that is the way to go, no? If Nikola Matawalu’s try on Friday had been given in the last minute of a World Cup final, and settled the game, the arguments would rage for longer than those about one of Geoff Hurst’s goals in 1966 or Bob Deans’ ‘try that never was’ for the All Blacks against Wales in 1905. If I have taken a day off work and travelled to a game, spent the best part of £300 on tickets, food, beers and the rest – then I couldn’t give a monkey’s if I have to spend a minute or so waiting for the correct decision to be arrived at. Television companies might have a word though if matches start encroaching on the 10 o’clock news. Mind you, they don’t always get it right. Just ask Mark Cueto.
England need a bit more beef
No one thought they would see an English pack struggling at scrum-time in the World Cup but that is exactly what happened at Twickenham. It is easy to blame the props and hooker – although the loss of Dylan Hartley is hurting England here – but there is more to it than that. The props need someone with a bit of ballast behind them to give them a shove, which makes the absence of Dave Attwood from the 31-man squad even more baffling than it was in August. Being a second row is not entirely about running a line-out. As Dan Cole said at the weekend: “Would I like a 150kg, 6ft 10in lock behind me who who’ll make me look really good? Yes.” Nuff said.
Brown the Lion Heart
If the British & Irish Lions were touring next week – so that means no Leigh Halfpenny – Mike Brown would have a more than decent shot at making the Test team. The full-back is showing no signs of his concussion suffered in the Six Nations and England would probably have been sunk without him against the Fijians. Even if you forget the two tries, both finished with typical Brown aggression, he also pulled off a try-saving tackle, caught everything in the air and has the knack of knowing when to kick and when to run. He is also Chris Robshaw’s right-hand man. Who was on Robshaw’s shoulder when it was kicking off in the Cardiff tunnel in February? Yep Brown. Robshaw couldn’t have taken a backward step even if he had wanted to, because Brown was right behind him.
Watch out Wales
After what happened in Brighton on Saturday, with Japan knocking over South Africa, nothing in this World Cup will surprise us. It would not be in the same league as rugby’s biggest upset if Fiji did the same to either Wales or Australia and that is a worry for those two teams, especially the Welsh. There are always moans that the smaller nations get knifed by the fixture list at the World Cup but this time it might just work in Fiji’s advantage. After playing Australia, on Wednesday, they have got an eight-day turnaround before they face Wales, who would have had only five days to recover from playing England. Wales obviously have more depth than the Islanders but they have had a few narrow squeaks against them before. Warren Gatland will have to play his cards cannily against a fully-refreshed Fiji side, who as we saw last week, can play a bit.
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