SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Anthony Watson’s outstanding try against Wales shows the importance of the winger
- England put in a good performance to beat Wales 33-30 at Twickenham
- Flying winger Anthony Watson showed his importance with a great try
- Ben Youngs didn’t put a foot wrong and George Ford’s passing was top notch
It might have been a little subdued before the match but we should have known England and Wales would provide some action to perk us up. This was all action, you didn’t know where to look and although the score line was ultimately pretty close, I was impressed by England. With the exception of some poor discipline, they are very nearly back to where they were before the World Cup final. It has been a good bounce-back.
There was much to admire in the first half — not the least the sight of a razor sharp Ben Youngs enjoying his best England game in a while — but what really caught my eye was quality of some of their passing.
Anthony Watson picked his way past the Wales defence for his try but the opportunity was manufactured by a beautifully angled and time pass from Youngs after England went to work with a line out drill. It would have been so easy to mistime that pass or push it forward a couple of feet and get pinged. It was absolutely text book.
England beat Wales 33-30 at Twickenham on Saturday, becoming Triple Crown winners
Flying England winger Anthony Watson’s outstanding try proved his importance to the side
Ben Youngs (right) had his best England game for a while in a good team performance
I’ve always been a huge Watson fan, whether it be wing or full-back. England are always better for his presence and he’s done remarkably well to return from some serious injury issues over the last two seasons, a spell which had included two achilles operations which can be career ending. To come back with his pace and footwork in good order is outstanding
Fantastic hands also lit up England’s second try. If you were being harsh you could criticise the Wales defence because they seemed to have plenty of numbers but the quality of George Ford and Owen Farrell’s passing was very difficult to counter. When you execute at pace and you have real speed like Elliot Daly out wide you are always going test a defence.
Unlike some I had no problem with the looking to attack as the clock ticked over for half-time, I like that positivity and if you are going to regularly beat excellent sides you need that but on this occasion it backfired with a penalty in midfield and three points for Wales.
George Ford and Owen Farrell’s passing was very difficult for Wales to answer throughout
What I do have a problem with though was the shabby defence straight from the kick off for the second half when England were half asleep and seemed to have virtually no cover down the short side. It was a brilliantly taken try and all credit to Wales – they are such a superb side to watch when they let rip like that – but it was a poor try to concede for England. Those lapses of concentration can be so costly. All England needed after the break was a couple of quiet minutes, they didn’t even necessarily need to be scoring points themselves.
Happily a couple of quick penalties settled England and my theme of quick hands again came into play for England’s third try when the whole tempo of the passage, initiated by Youngs, was a high with the key moment coming from a superb tip pass from George Ford which saw Manu Tuilagi walking over. When I call for more pace in England’s play it’s not just about foot speed, it is also those fantastically quick and clever passes.
It’s a shame England lost discipline in defence and Manu Tuilagi was shown a red card
Its a shame England lost discipline in defence again which made life harder than it should have been at the end with the yellow card to Ellis Genge and red for Manu Tuilagi
I felt a little for Tuilagi because I didn’t see any intent there but it was unquestionably a red as he acknowledged with an apology to George North and a quick shake of the hands. He launched himself recklessly at North and although the Wales wing was dipping very low that is irrelevant because Manu didn’t attempt to use his arms, it was an illegal challenge. It only caught North a glancing blow and thank goodness … it could have really caused some damage.
Against 13 men Wales worked it well for two consolation tries which rather skewed the scoreline. It didn’t seem as close as 33-30.
I have no idea what Joe Marler was up to with Alun Wyn Jones in the first half but I do know Gareth Thomas’ hilarious comments at half-time were priceless and may well have defused a bizarre incident. I was dreading Mark Pougatch coming to me for a comment but Gareth stepped in like the great man he is.
What did Marler think he was doing? Millions were watching on the TV including kids and that has no part of our game. And say Jones has chosen to kick off and retaliated with a flurry of punches, that would have been caused totally by Marler’s stupidity.
The authorities might yet take a dim view, I’m not sure there is any precedent on this one.
England prop Joe Marler appears to grab Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones in the genitals
We wait to see if England ever will actually complete their 2020 Six Nations campaign later this year against Italy, but overall it’s been an improving campaign and they are back in a very good shape.
It started with Eddie Jones picking the wrong team for France in Paris when England also failed to shake off their World Cup hangover. And the reason for the latter is that they never properly dissected their miserable performance in the final, preferring instead to dwell on an excellent semi-final win over New Zealand and a comprehensive quarter-final victory over Australia. Defeat at the Stade de France was very easy to predict.
What I hadn’t anticipated was Eddie’s decision to experiment in the back row with Tom Curry at No 8 and Courtney Lawes at blindside flanker. I’m not against experimentations and versatility per se but I am not convinced the specialist No 8s like Sam Simmonds and Alex Dombrandt should not have been tried first.
Eddie Jones picked the wrong team for France but overall it’s been an improving campaign
The win in Scotland was important in terms of regaining momentum but we learned nothing about the side that day other than they kept focussed on the job and mastered the incredibly difficult conditions. England were much better against Ireland, well certainly in the first half, although they took their foot off the pedal after the break, which they again did yesterday.
Going forward I would like to see a few new players challenging for selection. I would include the Simmonds brothers from Exeter — Joe and Sam — and Dombrandt in that. England also need to get some new scrum-halves involved. There are a few youngsters around, Dan Robson is firing again and Will Cliff going well for Sale.
I’m guessing there might be an opportunity for that against the Barbarians and on the two Test tour to Japan — if it goes ahead — although nobody should take the Cherry Blossoms lightly.
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