What we learned from England v France Rugby World Cup warm-up
England managed to edge their Auld Enemy in the first fixture of a Rugby World Cup warm-up double header with France, running out narrow 19-14 winners at Twickenham.
With Stuart Lancaster’s side being the host nation for the 2015 edition of this tournament and 7/2 second-favourites with Coral to lift the trophy, what did we learn from this outing? Here’s what our rugby writers observed…
Early French dominance gave way rather easily to their hosts, despite the visitors grabbing an early Morgan Parra penalty. It was the only time in this admittedly close contest that they were ahead.
When Les Bleus later enjoyed a man advantage, with England debutant Calum Clark showing his naivety at this level by picking up a caution, they could not capitalise on it, and that was in large part down to some questionable decision making…
Parra predictable at penalties
Getting points on the board is what any ball sport is all about, but France kicker Parra always opted to do what comes naturally to him from penalty situations and have a pop at goal. England’s weakness in the scrum afforded him plenty of opportunities.
France may be better served, especially from oblique or uninviting angles, to try and use such advantageous situations as setting up attempts to cross the try-line rather than aiming between the posts every time.
Two fantastic tries from winger Anthony Watson on the occasion of his ninth cap have surely established the Bath man as a first-choice option out wide under Lancaster from the Rugby World Cup roster.
Outshining fellow outlet Jonny May, who also crossed when full back Alex Goode’s clever chip found him, what price is there on Watson being top try-scorer at the 2015 Rugby World Cup? Coral quote him as a 33/1 shot.
Cipriani and Cown-Dickie fail to impress
Hooker Luke Cown-Dickie came on as a replacement, but got his distribution all wrong, leaving England having to defend hard against the French.
Danny Cipriani also came off the bench, yet not into his familiar fly half role, but at full back and he struggled to get into the game.
Joining Clark in making their union international bows were Henry Slade and rugby league crossover Sam Burgess. Neither man lacked for commitment.
Burgess put a crunching tackle in on France skipper Dimitri Szarzewksi, which got him onside with the Twickenham crowd, but there are signs he needs to maintain discipline after being booked for pulling back Parra.
Fly half Slade, meanwhile, showed vision and quickly moved the ball on, which has hopefully caught coach Lancaster’s eye. There is room for improvement, but any negatives about his performance were vastly outweighed. Burgess and Slade look a clever combination.
Another win over Les Bleus means England maintain their position as 6/5 favourites to top Rugby World Cup Pool A.