Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Jonny scapegoated for second coming...

So, Jonny's been dropped from England's starting XV and Danny Cipriani will start at 10 against Ireland (and no, despite what the media are claiming, this is not the first time he's been left out - the 1999 Rugby World Cup quarter-final springs to mind for instance).

Wilkinson's axeing is a fair enough call - he was very poor against the Sweaties and Cipriani has been the better player on form all season - but a look at the rest of the team selected tells us all we need to know about Brian Ashton (or whoever it is that selects the England team these days). Not one other change is made to the team that capitulated against Scotland at the weekend. Effectively what Ashton is saying is that the defeat was Jonny's fault and his alone, that no other players were culpable, that everyone else has performed up to expectations during the championship.

So, Iain Ballsup must have had a fine all round tournament, Lesley Vainikolo must have made a telling impact, Jamie Noon must have been a real attacking threat, Nick Easter must have dominated the breakdowns and Phil Vickery must have proved himself to be an astute and inspirational leader?

No? Well how else do you explain it?

The Ireland game was a real opportunity to draw a line under what's gone before and start again with a view to blooding the core of a team to play the All Blacks on their own patch in June. Instead, underperformance is once again rewarded and risks are kept to a bare minimum. The following team, even with only a few days' practice, would have been a start:

Lewsey, Sackey, Tait, Barkley, Simpson-Daniel, Cipriani, Care, Sheridan, Paice, Stevens, Borthwick (capt), Kennedy, Croft, Haskell, Lipman.

Who knows, Ireland are in such poor shape themselves that England might even win on Saturday but, whatever happens, I believe that this selection, plus Ashton's handling of Ciprianigate last week, has shown that the RFU should be seriously thinking about eating a huge slice of humble pie very soon and that Shaun Edwards should make sure he leaves his phone switched on come Saturday evening.

1 comment:

sesenta y cuatro said...

Wilkinson has the class, Cipriani does not.

The english press wants to put Cipriani ahead of Wilkinson because he's young and he's good. But how good?

You will miss Wilkinson in years to come.