The England rugby team under Eddie Jones is officially ‘back in a good place’. An impressive display in front of their adoring fans, answers many questions and emphasized twin victories to open the Six Nations.
At times England were very good against France and ultimately, one cannot argue against a 44-8 scoreline. How good were England, and how bad were France, will be part of the post mortem in the coming days. Crucially, England have gained a healthy points difference to go with their two bonus points as they continue their renaissance in 2019.
Wales in Cardiff in a fortnight is going to be a mighty step-up for Eddie Jones’ men but, they have done all they can in the first two weeks of the tournament. As for France, their big men were treated with disdain. Courtney Lawes’ masterful hit on Mathieu Bastareaud late in the second half will be constantly replayed on YouTube.
Jonny May close to being the best winger in the World
Jonny May deserves his time in the spotlight. He deserves the high fives from teammates (see main photo), as he was once again exceptional on Sunday afternoon. A hatrick was just reward for his finishing powers yet it was his energy and all-round game, that continued to impress.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) February 10, 2019
England’s rejuvenated kicking game has given May and England’s backline a new lease of life. As Eddie Jones pointed out in post-match interviews, England left ‘plenty more points out there’. Still, six tries in any game is pretty impressive – especially in the Guinness Six Nations. True, England pushed their luck understandably; given their dominance on the scoreline but, could not convert some of the openings they had. Still, it buoyed England rugby team fans and critics alike.
On the other hand, the one bright spot for France was Antoine Dupont. He showed everyone why France should be building their team around him. His side attempted a recovery, but the damage had already been done. And it was the first half, where Eddie Jones would have taken great pride in.
England once again Excellent in the first 40 minutes
A 30-8 scoreline to England in the first half was every bit as emphatic as it suggests. We wondered whether England could replicate their brutal start against Ireland, and they did. The collective team effort – notwithstanding some individual brilliance – meant the opposing French team were put in their place from the off.
What is perhaps the most pleasing aspect of England’s rebirth is their innovation.
The predictable England of last year has been replaced by a team playing heads-up rugby. This was expertly illustrated by Jonny May’s second try. As England were attacking a few metres out, the easy option for Ben Youngs would have been to pick out Jamie George or Courtney Lawes. Instead, Youngs switched to Owen Farrell, who threw out a long pass to give Jonny May a millisecond to turn Damien Penaud inside out, to score in the corner. Sublime team work.
England will be a danger to any team in the World Cup when they work this kind of approach.
Mark Wilson is now a regular England Rugby team member
Mark Wilson was once again tireless in both defence and attack against France. Whether it was an important turnover, breaking the gain line or making another tackle, Wilson was everywhere. As was the bloodied but unbowed Tom Curry.
England’s backrow has barely been mentioned in dispatches this year which is a big compliment. The great warrior that Chris Robshaw is, may not make it back into an England jersey. With Sam Underhill to come back, England are well served in the openside and blindside jerseys. Another man who deserves a mention was Jamie George. George was quietly significant on Sunday despite the odd overthrow or two. His battle with Guirado was captivating on Sunday afternoon.
With Mark Wilson in fine form, the challengers to his selection will have to impress Jones and his new Defensive coach John Mitchell, to remove the Newcastle Falcons backrower. In his first start on Twickenham in the 2019 Six Nations, he looked like a regular, as did many of the men in white.
England becoming more clinical
After such a fast start, England failed to live up to their opening forty minutes, across the whole match. This was not surprising, given that France could not have been much worse in the second half!
What was pleasing was how dangerous the England rugby team looked despite bombing a few passes in the second half. Their passing was generally sharp, on point and incisive. Credit must go to France’s flat out defence in holding England to 14 points in the second forty.
Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell dictated the way England wanted to play, it was clinical and effective. And in some critical analysis, when they each left the field, England lost their intensity. Rightly however, Eddie Jones had to give the reserves a go.
If the 2019 Guinness Six Nations is an indicator of a tournament to be held in September, player rotation and knowing that some outside the run-on XV need precious time on the field. Give men like Dan Robson confidence, and this England rugby team could truly develop over the first few Internationals of this fascination RWC calendar year.
Sad fact; France looking rudderless
How sad it is to see a great rugby nation like France, look so bereft of ideas come the final whistle. Much had been said in the week leading up to Sunday, about the investment of youth as the way forward. On Sunday’s evidence France need to press forward with the likes of Dupont, Romain Ntamack but they will need some gnarled warriors to help get them ‘back on course’.
Damien Penaud can also hold his head high, as one of France’s best against England. Penaud’s try was everything we love about French rugby – dashing, daring and in the blink of an eye. How depressing to see so little of it these days.
Jacques Brunel looks like a man on borrowed time. Some of his selections have mirrored the eccentricities that his predecessors Philippe Saint-André and Marc Lièvremont were famed for. Why play Gael Fickou on the wing for example? He is an excellent centre who would have combined well with Mathieu Bastareaud.
As solid as Morgan Parra is, Antoine Dupont is the one genuine world class player that France have. Les Bleus have the players but they are either picked in the wrong position, or are confined to the scrapheap.
A 44-8 defeat is a humiliation for France and they never looked like challenging England. They miss serious firepower and aggression up front, and they need a general at fly-half to guide them around the paddock. Dupont, Fickou, Ntamack and Thomas Ramos are their national sides future, so their is hope…..if, they get selected?
England v Wales will be huge
It will be massive. Games between these two nations always are. Wales will go under the radar given England’s first two rounds but it is the perfect scenario for them. They are on form – eleven successive wins is testament to that – and they are at home. Nothing girds the loins of a Welshmen with the sight of an English team entering their territory.
England were good Sunday but they will need to be far better to topple Warren Gatland’s men.
For England, they now know that they must raise their game a notch further. One cannot underestimate just how big that win for England was over Ireland in Dublin. There are not many more daunting places than the Aviva Stadium against an outstanding Irish outfit. In rounds one and two, they were impressive.
On February 23, this England rugby team will be under no illusions the task that awaits them, yet with good planning and a fit roster, they can ambush Wales like they did against the Irish.
Oh what a match – do not miss it!
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