England v France should have been another tense affair, with England grinding a second win in their first home game of the 6 Nations. Instead, we witnessed a 44-8 annihilation. England’s plans for beating France were constructed over multiple phases and may be more at home in a military manoeuvres manual than on a Rugby pitch. Here we will investigate these moves in detail, and find out why they worked so well.
England v France | How England cleared the backfield with attacking bombs
England are known to kick with high frequency. But in this 6 Nations, their kicking game is not just about finding the right areas. It’s now all about pulling players out of position and bending the opposition backfield to their will. Watch this giant bomb from Slade.
Slade (yellow circle) aims to draw both of the French backfield defenders out of position. He puts up a giant attacking bomb right between them, and as expected they both try to defend it.
With the French backfield now non-existent, Slade (red circle) wins his own bomb back. Ashton (yellow circle) puts in another kick into the newly created space. May jogs over for the try. You can see Huget looking over his shoulder, wondering why no one was home.
The exact same scenario unfolds again here. This time Farrell puts up the huge bomb right between the French backfield defenders. England successfully draw two backfield players into the fray again. Parra is playing in a pseudo-fullback position but he is also the French no. 9, so he moves into his distributor role expecting the ball. However, England win the ball back.
With the French backfield wide open, Ashton (yellow circle) puts in a kick that finds acres of grass. He goes close to the line, and England score a short time after.
These bombs are an impressive example of making space and capitalising on it immediately, but now let’s look at something a little more elaborate.
England v France | How England forced France to fold
This is a much longer, more deliberate manoeuvre. England get lineout ball and set a maul. This draws the French forwards in. Tuilagi crashes and now the French forwards are all on one side of the ruck. They will have to ‘fold‘ around the ruck to get back in proper defensive alignment.
England now go through a few phases, but France are still struggling to fold their forwards around in the direction of the red arrow. England are now dangerously close.
Because France can’t get all of their forwards back in defensive alignment, Parra (who should be sweeping behind the line) is pulled in to defend beside the ruck. England make sure to pin him at the bottom of the next ruck, and now the trap is set.
France have been desperately trying to fold for the last few phases, and they have now overcommitted to defending around the ruck. England fake right, go left and May scores again.
This is a multi-phase play with many moving parts, and it’s truly impressive how all the players know exactly which role to play. This is something that Ireland is developing as well with their Roman legion approach, and you can read about that below.
Now let’s look at a recurring theme for England.
England v France | Another sub two-minute try
England scored against the All Blacks and Ireland in less than 2 minutes, gaining a mental edge by putting both sides behind early. The same thing happens here, with the same result. This time, it starts from a turnover and finishes without a ruck even forming.
England’s blitz defence wins a turnover. They immediately pass into the backfield, giving Daly (blue circle) time and space to read the French defence.
He makes his move.
Now Daly has options, but he chooses to deploy the kicking game once more. Once Parra (red circle) is forced to become fully engaged in a potential tackle, Daly kicks. May backs his pace, and scores with 65 seconds on the clock.
The 1014 Rugby reviewed how England used these multi-phase moves over on their YouTube channel. See the following video for more information.
Can England’s momentum lead them to a Grand Slam? Will their kicking game work against all teams? Let us know your thoughts.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes