What we learned in England loss to France in Rugby World Cup warm-up
England’s hopes of three wins in a calendar year over France were dashed by their cross-Channel foes, who edged them 25-20 in Paris during their second Rugby World Cup warm-up encounter.
Stuart Lancaster, 7/2 to steer his country to the title, should have learned some valuable lessons from this with less than a month to go before the host nation get the tournament underway on September 18th. Here are the observations made by Coral’s rugby writers…
Stricter discipline needed
This is best illustrated by the words of England skipper Chris Robshaw after the game. “We gave away penalties and our discipline was shocking,” he said. “Whether it was rust, or nerves, it wasn’t good enough. Credit to France, they put us under pressure and made us make mistakes.
“We gave too many penalties away… We can’t give teams like France and other quality sides head starts like we did. We’ll look long and hard at ourselves, because we let ourselves down in the first half. We played well in phases, but you can’t wait for 40 minutes to do that.”
Morgan Parra’s kicking in the first fixture of this Anglo-French double header was terrible; his profligacy from penalties in particular cost his team at Twickenham. No such mistakes from the boot of Freddie Michalak here.
Converting Yoann Huget’s try after scoring five penalties reminded everyone of the qualities magnificent Michalak has with dead balls. Les Bleus won this battle in no small part down to him.
Brown comeback timely for England
Only full back Mike Brown, on his international return following concussion, acquitted himself well during a difficult first-half in the Stade de France.
Looking largely lethargic, one man alone could not stop Les Bleus from profiting from the ill-discipline Robshaw and Lancaster will be keen to avoid seeing a repeat of this during the Rugby World Cup.
Brown’s experience looks like being essential to any England success in the tournament this autumn when there will be much less experimenting with the line-up and fewer changes to the starting XV.
Twelvetrees should fear for his place
Coming off the bench during this defeat, sloppy mistakes from Billy Twelvetrees will have hurt his chances of making the cut for the final England squad.
By no means the only underachiever in Paris, the lack of energy and hunger must be remedied, leaving Lancaster with some tough choices to make over who to take forward to the finals.
Could England be Pool A false favourites?
Weak scrums, as well as lacking at line-outs and set-pieces in this contest does rather make England look short at 5/4 to top their Rugby World Cup group.
Wales and Australia are elite opposition in Pool A and losing to a far from vintage France, albeit with a much-altered line-up, hardly helps the host nation to build momentum.
Jonathan Joseph (25/1 to be top tryscorer at the Rugby World Cup) going over late on, following Danny Cipriani in crossing, showed some spirit, but slowness out of the blocks in competitive action will pile further pressure upon an expectant English public.
Mistakes such as these can be easily eradicated, though, especially by riding the wave of emotion upon which tournaments on home soil are always accompanied.