Monday, 9 February 2009

Swinging lower

So, despite the snow still being reasonably thick on the ground on Saturday morning I was still as keen as mustard to run out against Tring 4ths in the afternoon but, just to make sure, I sent a text to our skipper Colin which went along the lines of "Please tell me the game is off."

Call it a lack of moral fibre on my part if you like but, despite the fact that this was probably our best chance of a win this season, at my age I play rugby purely for fun and, frankly, the idea of scrabbling around on the frozen tundra of Chesham had very little appeal.

Fortunately Colin agreed and the match was duly cancelled, with the consequence that I could plan my afternoon in the warmth of my living room in front of the Six Nations on TV.

Half an hour into the opening game, however, I was beginning to wonder whether I would rather have been outdoors freezing my nuts off in the snow, such was the poor quality being served up by both England and Italy.

It was difficult to know what to make of it all. There was the painfully embarrassing spectacle of watching a great flank forward unravel in the alien position of scrum half for Italy, and then the disintegration of the gameplan of the men in white as what little clean possession they won was kicked aimlessly back to the Italians.

The press have been pretty savage in their condemnation of this England performance and, to be fair, it had little to commend it. It wasn't so much a terrible performance, in my view, but more of a non-performance. England capitalised on three moments of gross incompetence in the first half by Italy and ran in a couple of nice tries in the second half. Aside from those fleeting moments, however, they simply didn't play.

What was clear was that viewing the Ireland v France clash afterwards was almost like watching an entirely different sport, such was the pace and invention on view and in yesterday's clash at Murrayfield even the Scots played with more wit and invention than England had managed, never mind the Welsh. And if Brian Smith honestly believes the team was "spooked" by the noise of the Twickenham crowd he has a big shock coming his way in Cardiff on Saturday.

What perplexes me is that in the autumn Johnno's England appeared to start off with an idea of the game they wanted to play and the type of players they wanted to play it. OK, so the wheels came off to an extent against the big guns of South Africa and New Zealand but the idea of trying to play a wide attacking game with players possessing genuine flair was still the right one. However, in the wake of a couple of heavy defeats England now seem to have lost (or at least mislaid) the courage of their convictions and have opted for a safety-first approach. How else can you explain the parachuting in of Messrs Goode and Noon in particular into the starting XV against the Azzuri?

What is plain is that if they continue down this "try not to lose" path then they are doomed to failure. Martin Johnson has never struck me as a bottler in the past. I therefore pray that he has the balls to pick an attacking line up against Wales - in the immortal words of Derek Trotter, "he who dares wins, my son."

Danny Cipriani and Matt Tait would be a start.


Nursedude said...

Even the BBC announcers on this game realized that ripping Bergamasco's awkward performance at scrummie would be like making fun of a mentally challenged child's inability to grasp calculus. Italian coach Nick Mallet gave England a belated Christmas present by having Bergamasco try to play scrumhalf.

anne bebbington said...

Thank goodness the Ladies showed them the way!!!