Well done Ireland on your Championship. You have been by far the most consistent and relentless team in the competition and I fully congratulate you on a splendid tournament.
But now, it’s to Twickenham, where you bring your structure, your organisation and clinical efficiency to without a doubt the hardest game England will play.
Whilst the breakdown has been a problem, a lot of the issues that were addressed in the Scotland article, are identical to what we saw during the France game, the precision, and accuracy at the breakdown is a far cry from anything we can see Ireland doing.
However, what assists the opposition, is the play “Off 9”.
I cannot say how much we are missing Ben Youngs at the moment. Plus, the way we are running our options off 9 is causing a lot of the issues that we see at the breakdown as we are simply not running on with any intensity.
We will go into a little of the breakdown work, but then we will see the differences that “Brumby Mode” Philosophies and Intensity onto the ball caused to the breakdown result.
I’m going to show you two examples of England’s breakdown failings against the French, then, we are going to isolate the one killer principle that they have in common. After this, we’ll look at some of the England periods of dominance, and isolate how the play off 9 influenced them.
As always, let’s get into it.
Breakdown Failings Repeated
As we can see here, even with a “3 Pod” to try and commit more men to the breakdown, we nearly lose our ball, within the 5-metre line.
To note a common principle, that is KILLING England at the breakdown. Look at Haskell and Itoje in the first, and then Jamie George in the second. Neither, latch onto their man. They focus on hitting the opposition Jackals, rather than focusing on holding onto the carrier, and going into the ruck with them. This fatal flaw has led to Itoje and Haskell driving themselves entirely off their carrier, leaving Richard Wigglesworth to try and remove forwards who then flood into the ruck. The same problem happened with Itoje and Robshaw in the Scotland game with a Croc Roll, which left Lawes presenting the ball directly to a Scottish Jackal.
The Irish on the other hand, latch onto their man as they go into contact, ensuring formation of the ruck as the carrier is going down, and giving the opposition no opportunity to contest the breakdown. This ensures increased chances of ball retention and opposition influence. You also have to look at the French 6.
Using the same subtlety Scotland used, he managed to manoeuvre himself into the English “Cleaning Lane”, therefore tripping Robshaw and decreasing the chances of an effective clearout.
This wouldn’t have happened regardless, France were well set, but England must start focusing on securing their ruck, before clearing men off the ball. As this is killing them.
Play Off 9
The French D was effective, as can be seen in the second example in the breakdown portion. Whenever the French had momentum in the hit, they were able to jackal for turnovers/penalties, and at the least slow the ball down considerably. The antithesis to England’s multi-phase game. However, the way England played off 9, did not help. Launchbury and Mako, are two of England’s very powerful forwards, yet the play off 9 to them resulted in catching the ball static. The ONLY player I would say who can get away with this and making metres is Billy Vunipola. Sadly, injured.
Aside from this, passing static allowed the French D to rush England’s 1 out offence and give them the momentum they used for Jackalling. Danny Care occasionally scooted to fix the 1st Pillar. When he did this, it stopped the push, but it was few and far between.
This changed, on multiple occasions, when we went into Brumby Mode.
Sinkler and Haskell
Inspired by Sinckler and Haskell (they were the only rested players in the lineup and emphasises that England may be a little fatigued). Regardless, they came on, and went into Brumby mode, taking the ball flat and hard, attacking the same channel. It gave England the momentum they had missed all game.
We have the 2nd example above for an example of play off 9. This was the way by which France gained momentum. England were catching the ball static. It shows a lack of intensity that was changed completely when England went back into their focus on physicality. Thereby improving their quick ball, and creating momentum which made their structures and Prong attacks far more effective.
Whenever England have used Brumby mode they have been effective. And even heavyweight teams have struggled to keep with them. Why we abandoned it, I don’t know. But using static runners does not work, especially when we are as inefficient as the breakdown as we are, and the following examples, are key examples of how much better we can play.
Here, we can see the players off Care receiving the ball unbelievably flat, and fast. This prohibits any form of rush up as the ball is not out, and with the power they bring, got us gainline. Noticeably, it prevented any contest for the ball, as the line was still moving onside when the next attack was launched. It also shows when Sinckler received the ball static, he didn’t have the impact he made on his first carry and gave the jackal a chance.
This is what England have to improve against Ireland.
In this second example, we see how the run and alignment when Sinckler takes the ball affects the gainline from above. England commits multiple defenders, and free up space out wide, which if taken, could have won England the game. Could have. They didn’t take it.
It also shows the impact of a fast back rower. As Simmonds had separation, yet, with his speed, is able to form the ruck before turnover. Something Jones may want to think about.
This is not as potent as Sinckler’s runs, but we see here with forward momentum, how well the England attack can work. If they play flat, and if they run with intensity, going forwards.
Jones will be keen to remind them that speed and gainline will make quick ball easier, even within the Prongs. Add in a rejig of the breakdown philosophies and considering starting a faster more mobile back row the chances for the long-term success of the England Attack will increase.
Author: Conor Wilson
Recently retired from the Military, Skydiving and rare Steak Enthusiast and Player of the beautiful game of Rugby.
Joe Schmidt, Will Greenwood and Rod MacQueen are my heroes, and my proudest moment was putting Jason Robinson in for a try at a promotional Rugby day. It was truly beautiful.