In the previous tactics articles, found here and here, I have focused on the breakdown and the different ways pods are used. In this article I will instead look at the fascinating tactical battle that unfolded in the latest installment of the Calcutta Cup.

Scotland produced a magnificent performance to beat England at Murrayfield. They exposed England in a way that not even the Irish managed in Dublin last year. However, by the end of the game, England had actually already worked out some of the answers to the questions Scotland posed in the first half. In this article, I will focus on 4 areas where Scotland asked serious questions of England.

Problem 1 – Scotland get around the English press

According to Brian O’Driscoll, no less, England’s defense has the fastest press in the world. Jonathan Joseph at 13 is key to this system. Eddie Jones said in the press conference before the game his defence is the reason Joseph gets picked ahead of Ben Te’o. Most sides press hard with the closest 3 players to the ruck. Some teams go as far out as the fifth player. England often goes with the whole line, leaving only the wingers back.

Joseph reads when to lead this press and when to turn his shoulders out to drift. The faster a team press, the closer players have to be to avoid a line break. As a result, the English press can sometimes get narrow. This leads to England being vulnerable out wide.

Scotland v England. Calcutta Cup 2018.

In the picture we see a loose 3 pod spearheaded by Jonny Gray (5). Finn Russell (10) is behind the pod. Joseph is England’s 7th player from the ruck. Other teams would drift here, but England press. Gray pulls back to Finn Russell who loops the ball over Jonathan Joseph (13) to Huw Jones (13, out of shot). Scotland were brave enough to sit deep and get outside (or in this case over) the press of Joseph. This is where the majority of their running meters came from during the match. This phase led to a 50 meter gain and a try 2 phases later for Sean Maitland.

The solution?

At halftime, England switched defensive alignment. They slowed their line speed just a little, defended as a straighter line and challenged Scotland to win collisions. The Scots proved entirely unable to do this and scored only 3 points in the second half. In future, England simply needs to read the way an attack is trying to exploit them and switch systems better.

Problem 2 – Scotland attack the 2 man ruck

As explained in a fantastic series of articles by Conor Wilson, beginning here, England use a 1-2-2-2 system with a free man. This attacking setup relies on forwards being fit enough to get into position before the defence is properly organised. This allows England to produce lots of fastball from 2 man rucks. England are able to speed the game up even more and this leads to a virtuous circle where there are ever greater holes in a defence.

Scotland negated this system by playing both Hamish Watson and John Barclay. This left them short of back row carriers, leading to problems getting over the gain line in the second half. However, it allowed these two turnover experts to slow up and pick off under-resourced English rucks. It exposes the critical weakness of the whole English attacking system. If you fail to get in place before the defence is ready, you risk being turned over because you only have one man clearing out the jackal. This was helped by Scotland adapting better to the refereeing style of Nigel Owens.

Scotland v England. Calcutta Cup 2018.

In the picture, we see John Barclay (6) over the ball in his own 22. Chris Robshaw (7) is the lone English forward in shot. He has missed his 1v1 attempt to clear Barclay and is now trying to pull the Scarlets back-rower to ground. 5 Scottish forwards are in the shot. They recognise there is no need to go into the ruck and complicate the picture for the referee. Barclay wins a penalty and the pressure is relieved once again. Scotland won 97% of their rucks. England only managed 91%, conceding 13 turnovers. This was a huge factor in the outcome of the game.

The solution?

During the second half, you may have noticed England suddenly able to string together multiple phases, almost for the first time. Scotland were still able to effect turnovers, but these were coming after 15 phases rather than 5.

After Sam Underhill’s yellow card, England adjusted their alignment to better resource rucks. This was done simply by placing their 2 pods closer together. In order to maintain attacking width, they asked for a longer pass from the base of the ruck. A large proportion of England’s second half running meters and possession took place while down to 14 men.

England simply needs to recognise and adapt faster when an opposition is slowing their ball and gaining turnovers. Sam Underhill also made some difference in this area, but the real change happened as a reaction to him leaving the field.

Scotland v England. Calcutta Cup 2018.

The picture is from early in the game. It shows how isolated the 2 man pod of Dylan Hartley (2) and Maro Itoje (5) are. In this case George Ford (10) passes inside to Owen Farrell (12). The 2 pod is able to effect a 2 man clearout of Hamish Watson at the subsequent ruck. This results in an England penalty. If Ford passes to his forwards, England risk being turned over instead.

Problem 3 – Scotland defend the lineout maul superbly

France gained much from the rolling maul when they played Scotland. It was a clear tactic for England to try and replicate their success. This is an area where England are reasonably strong, at least historically. It was a sensible tactic to try. However, Scotland defended the maul extremely well.

Scotland were willing to slowly concede ground to allow an opportunity to break up the England maul. Some of this disruption was done legally, but in other cases players were allowed to ‘swim’ or come around the side of the maul. They were able to tie in the carrier and force turnovers or push England into touch. Scotland forced several lineouts deep in England’s half. When England tried to milk a penalty, Scotland stayed disciplined and forced England to kick instead.

Scotland v England. Calcutta Cup 2018.

Here we see England finally move away from the rolling maul. Instead, Mako Vunipola (1) takes a simple crash ball off the top of the lineout. He makes around 10 metres. The Scotland defence expect England to attack the open side through George Ford. England have been dangerous off lineouts in this 6 Nations. They scored a try off a similar 2 phase play against Italy. This time, however, England hit Owen Farrell on the blind side, who jogs in untouched.

The solution?

Sometimes the opposition just have your number. England should have realised the tactic would not pay off on the day and chosen other options. Personally, I would like to see more strike moves off the top of lineouts instead. Owen Farrell’s try was a well-worked example of this. England could have benefited from moving away from lineout mauls much earlier.

Problem 4 – Scotland are alive to defensive errors

Scotland have become increasingly dangerous as their attacking instincts become sharper. Gregor Townsend, Vern Cotter and Dave Rennie can all take great credit for the transformation of Scottish rugby. The second Huw Jones try in this game looked very simple, but there was a lot to it.

Scotland v England. Calcutta Cup 2018.

In the picture, we see Nathan Hughes (8) and Owen Farrell (12) standing approximately 7 meters apart. We see Mako Vunipola (1) struggling to get in line inside Nathan Hughes. We see Jonathan Joseph (13) warning Owen Farrell that Scotland will probably pull the ball back to either Grant Gilchrist or Finn Russell. He sees the inside defence has numbers and wants Farrell to go after Russell.

On the Scotland side, we see Grant Gilchrist with his hands up ready for the pullback. This is what Joseph has spotted. We see Russell has Stuart Hogg (15) outside him. He already has Huw Jones (13) to worry about. Joseph wants Farrell to cut off Russell and force Scotland inside.

Huw Jones spots the small gap between Farrell and Hughes. He carries hard into that gap and is able to burst through. His pace enables him to finish fantastically well. Most people watching will assume England simply missed a tackle. There was far more going on than that. Scotland’s alignment around the ball created so many options that they caused a moment of indecision in the England defence. Scotland were good enough to ruthlessly exploit it.

The solution?

There is not much a team can do about high quality attacking play. Farrell should have been tighter, and England should have called an extra man over to that side. Errors like this are usually missed by everyone but the coaches. Unfortunately for England, this time Scotland were alive to the possibilities they created.


Scotland were outstanding in more areas than I have covered in this article. Their scrum was a match for England’s, they won the kicking territory battle and dealt brilliantly with England’s attacking kicks. They had a very clear game plan and executed it to near perfection. They neutered England’s attacking game by playing two breakdown specialists and they successfully turned England’s line speed against them. England began to work out how to adjust, but by the time the changes were effected, it was too late.


Author: Daniel Pugsley

I am a 31 year old from Yorkshire, England. I have played social rugby for 25 years in England, Japan, Italy, Poland and the UAE. I teach English as a foreign language, which explains why I’ve lived in so many places. I recently moved back to England and have had to take a break from playing, but I hope to pull on the boots again soon.


  1. Too slow to figure it out – the same story as against Italy last year. Are England too dependent on their back room staff telling them how to play or lacking leadership on field?

    • Hi Jack, I think it is a real concern, the defence only seemed to change after half time and the attack only when Underhill was carded. I don’t think players like George Ford or Owen Farrell can be accused of lacking rugby IQ, so I can only suggest it’s on field leadership.

      • Hi Daniel, great article. Interesting comment by Eddies Jones after the Wales match – he praised his players for sticking to the game plan (which was yielding nothing). That suggests to me that the players are drilled to do what the are told. In my view, Joseph is a great player because he reads the game for himself (Alex Goode is another). I’m not sure that so many England players have that ability.

        • Hi Nick, thanks for the comment! I agree, not enough England players are good at operating outside the game plan. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jones was privately thinking something different when he made his comment!

      • Great article Dan. Really really good breakdown.

        Ford said they knew what needed to be done. What was telling that they couldn’t implement it. Which for me means they were physically just too slow. I thought the clearing out and ineffectiveness of our back row was massively highlighted, and we need to adjust it. Our desire, in particular when Launchbury was casually blown off his feet, was very telling. This in the long run I think will be good for England, as they’ve never been in this position.

        The Ireland game they had the frowns removed with the 6N trophy, after this game they had nothing. And really felt what a loss feels like. They won’t want it again, and will be edgier to change it.

        Whether it was a mental or a physical thing, maybe its a little bit of both. But. i can’t help but feel Simmonds and Underhill a little earlier with Robshaw at 6 would be a much better balance. Simmonds in particular was forming the ruck the second the carrier hit the ground in the Welsh game. We could’ve used his energy today!

          • Hi Conor, thanks for the comment, high praise from the master! I think it’s mental, from the Lions tour and the nature of the Premiership. Interesting that Sarries were again off the pace at the weekend. All the English sides have been off it this season at various times.

            My back row would be 6 Simmonds, 7 Tom Curry, 8 Billy V. Backup would be 6 Robshaw, 7 Underhill, 8 Hughes. I want the proper openside and the carrying 6 who can also get over the ball, a la Sean O’Brien & Sam Warburton for the Lions.

        • I’ve read that Jones put them through a very tough training session before the game, and that he is concentrating on conditioning this week. Could it be that his top priority is simply improving their fitness, and this took away their edge? Seems a strange time to do it, even recognising that he doesn’t get much time with the players, but I am no expert.

          • Could be. I heard the Friday the day before was the most intense session England have ever had. This to me does indicate these games are merely tests for the WC, and he doesn’t care about them a dime in the build up in comparison.

            Of course he wants to win every one, but maybe hes trying to replicate the stress and exhaustion of the test environment to the extreme level with hardly any rest. Scotland thoroughly deserved their victory. But as the AB’s know a team learns more from a defeat than a victory. Maybe hes trying to get the cleaners more intelligent and efficient, as will be shown tomorrow, and was hoping ENG could cope with the tiredness.

            We’ll find out! But should we win the WC because of things like this I will not be complaining.

    • Hi Konke, I think teams have attempted to target the 2 man rucks before, but England’s speed of alignment and passing from the base was slower than usual. Scotland are a very fit team who got back into defensive shape very quickly. Scotland’s two open sides allowed them to execute better than anyone else has, and they really got after England in this area. Do you think this is a blueprint for other teams to get at England? Or did England adjust already in that final 15 minutes?

  2. Very good article, only point I would make is you said England figured Scotland out in the 2nd half restricting them to just 3 points but I don’t think you considered Scotland changed their game plan and were playing with a lead to preserve.
    Scotland also should have had a walk in try if Pete Horne hadn’t mucked up hs pass.
    Good stuff ?

    • Hi G McKenzie, thanks for the positive comment! I do agree that Scotland changed their plan in part because of the game situation, but England also didn’t present the same picture to Scotland to allow them to exploit the same deficiencies. It’s a little bit of chicken and egg I guess.

  3. Great Article,
    For me it highlights how tight the margins are in international rugby.
    England were slightly under paced at the breakdown, and made two defensive errors and that was game lost.
    It is an interesting point you make about England pressing as wide out as Joseph, this press led to Maitlands try, from a beautifully executed but very low percentage pass from Russell. In my opinion 50% of the time that pass lands on Joseph and England score. Potentially the wide press turns from match loser to match winner.

    • Hi Mark, thanks for the positive comment! I agree about the rush defense, it almost led to tries for Farrell and Care and Joseph could easily have intercepted for another. We have scored many tries, especially against Australia, as a result of the press so I will be happy if we persist with it.

      • Love the article, this is exactly what i crave.

        From my initial watch, i always pick more when i watch it a second time, Finn R was looking for that edge rush. You could two guys lining up outside the winger plus one. Now it looked like the edge rusher would rush regardless, so if you are looking for it you could float it over the top. There is a huge gap and all you have to do is get over the rushers head. The other tactic could be the grubber or chip into space just behind the edge. We saw the grubber a few times. As England you got to watch out for being predictable in defense now that everyone knows about the line speed and the wide edge rush

  4. Great article Dan; very insightful and clear.

    Like most, l’ve long been concerned about the balance of the England’s back row. Having 3 genuine line out options (e.g. with Lawes at 6) is a huge plus in my opinion – particularly for England’s game plan. Having, for example, Robshaw at 6, Simmonds/Underhill/Curry at 7 and Vuniopla/Hughes at 8 has a potentially better balance, but leaves only two genuine line out options.

    You can’t have it all, but what do you think has a greater importance in the balance of back row? Or, do you think the 3 line out option is not a key variable?

    • Hi Owen, thanks for the comment! I believe this is why Jones is desperate to find a power winger, bringing Solomona, Earle, Cokanasiga and Ibitoye into the squad to have a look. Our attacking structure relies on excellent breakdown skills but we also need go forward. Right now we sacrifice breakdown skills to play Lawes at 6 and Robshaw at 7. Our defensive structure requires a pacey 13 like Joseph or Daly. Our attacking structure requires a second playmaker like Farrell at 12. Therefore we can’t afford a power centre so we need a power winger. Without the power winger, we must pick the extra forward carrier. If we find that wide carrying winger we can afford to play Simmonds at 6, Underhill/Curry (I prefer Curry but am happy to see Underhill get a chance) at 7 and a big 8 in Billy or Hughes. Otherwise, I fear Jones will not play the out and out 7 we need. I think the other solution is Luke Cowan-Dickie at 2, but Jones wants Hartley for his set piece and energy. Sorry for the long reply!

      • Sorry Owen, to address your concern about the lineout, I think we have great second row jumpers and high quality throwing hookers, we can afford to lose that extra jumper. However, Robshaw and Simmonds can jump as additional options. A left field choice would be Don Armand, who is a heavy duty carrier like Lawes and a lineout forward, but has a bit more breakdown presence.

        • I keep reading this about Armand, but that’s down to the way Exeter play: he doesn’t have to run very far to get to their breakdowns…I think he might get exposed in the wider, faster games at International level

  5. Despite my misgivings about back row balance, I dare day Eddie Jones will make few, if any, changes and nor should he. This is only one result and a great opportunity to learn from (as the AB always do). I do not like the clamour for knee jerk reactions you regularly hear in the main stream press; which is why I am such a big fan of the 1014 with its positive / balanced outlook. I am really looking forward to see how England react in their next two games.

    • I totally agree with you that there is no need to overreact. I think England showed enough in the second half that suggests Scotland’s blueprint to success in this game would not be easy for anyone to replicate. I can’t wait for the France match!

  6. Great article and spot on.
    Glad England did not get any quick ball off line out where their 10,12,13 ripped us last year.
    Not sure what Eddie got from scrumming against Georgia but that is the best we have scrummed against England since the Bear.
    Berghan may just have turned into a top prop, having arrived as a journeyman.
    Barclay was my MOM but Jones, Russell and Watson all great.
    End of Hartley for me

    • Thank you Keith! I would be surprised to see Hartley dropped, but I would like to see Exeter’s Luke Cowan Dickie given a chance off the bench with George starting. I think we know what Hartley brings and can return to it if it proves to be the better option. The South Africa tour might be a chance to see whether the two younger men can deliver against the Boks.
      Berghan was great, and while I never expected England to shove Scotland all over the place, I was surprised the scrums were so even.

  7. Thoroughly enjoyed the analysis (As an England supporter more than the match). One has to be careful in any criticism of England given their recent track record but there are clearly 2 areas of concern in the forwards. It is universally recognised that the English pack is nothing like the force it was. In particular we seem caught between a mobile, ball carrying front row (ie Vunipola whose tight scrum performance is admittedly improving) and a more traditional tight specialist (ie Cole and Hartley). Of recent times Cole has produced the powerhouse displays necessary to dominate the opposition and Vunipola probably never will. England have some medium to long term strategic decisions to make as to what they wish to achieve in this area. Equally the England imbalance in the back row is becoming a cause of great concern. Scotland deliberately targeted our back rows inability to get to the breakdown quickly enough and even greater inability to compete for the ball on the ground. End result – England on the back foot and failing to adapt to changing conditions quickly enough. France and Ireland will have taken note.

    • Thanks for the kind words Arthur! I think you are right about the disjointed front row selections. I believe we need to pick Marler, Hartley & Cole or Vunipola, George & Williams together, depending on which way we want to play it. Personally I would like the second trio, but I would happily settle for the better set piece group to start and those guys to finish. Genge, Cowan Dickie & Sinkler would be an all action alternative bench if we decided to start the Vunipola group but still wanted high energy replacements. I agree about the back row balance too, and would like to have a Lions style group of carrying 8, traditional linkman / breakdown 7 and a 6 who can carry and make lots of tackles plus get over the ball. I see that as being Simmonds at 6, Tom Curry at 7 and Billy V at 8, with a backup trio of Robshaw, Underhill and Hughes.

  8. Really enjoyed your piece. Well written and accurate. (Given up with mainstream media, sometimes wonder if they are watching the same game as me.) If Gregor can find a solution to the mental away form then Ireland will be a great game between 2 clever teams and Scotland to sneak it. If not, Ireland will win..I don’t think an English rebound is a foregone conclusion either against the French. They are starting to ruck really well and if Basteraud plays and Thomas returns it could be a long afternoon if England don’t come up with a plan B quickly. Need Underhill on sooner. (or start…but that’s not going to happen )

    • Thank you for the kind comment Robert. France could be dangerous and a better back row balance would certainly help. In the absence of Tom Curry, I would agree about starting Underhill. I think you are right and he will be on the bench though.
      I think Scotland will be much better in Dublin than in Cardiff. The key will be their defense. If they can slow Irish ball enough, I don’t think Ireland’s attack is quite where they would like it to be. The Scots can hit Ireland on the break and get around the outside of the Irish defense to make meters just like against England. I’m looking forward to it!

  9. Superb article, Daniel. Scotland certainly made the most of their smaller, more mobile pack and demonstrated that a huge pack is not always an advantage. I don’t think England have to worry too much about the French trying to replicate our tactics but the Irish backrow are a quality unit more than capable of getting to the breakdown fast and forcing turnovers. POM, SOB and CJS will probably be on speed training even now!

    I can also see the Irish standing off mauls as they are forming and then hitting them before the ball is released at the back. This twice paid dividends for us and leaves me wondering if this might not become a standard way to defend a lineout against a bigger pack.

    Thanks again for your wonderful insights:-)

    • Thanks for the positive comments Paul! I agree with you that France aren’t really set up to replicate what Scotland did to us, but Ireland might have gained more useful insight from the game. I was encouraged by the ending, even though it was too little too late. At least England showed they could adjust their style and that, along with picking a better balanced back row, might be enough to get us back on track. Scotland must be looking at Ireland and thinking they can take much from the way Wales played too. Wales had virtually no ball and were 2nd best, but when they did get some possession they looked capable of tearing Ireland apart.

      • Again. I have to disagree with you. England looked completely toothless in attack. When they took the ball from own 22 to Scotland 10 meter line late in the game when time was at a premium? It took nearly 3 1/2 mins & Scotland wasn’t committing players to the ruck like they did in first half. Almost giving England ground for time. A pen and quick tap got England to Scotland 22 where they completely stagnated. Scotland played more aggressively in defense and England went nowhere. OF’s passes were slow and never looked like they would unlock Scotland. The lack of imagination was glaring. TBH the one player England was able to expose and take advantage of? Horne. I thought he had a poor game and wouldn’t be shocked to see Grigg or if Taylor/Dunbar are healthy replace him. He got turned over, missed tackles and as noted basically screwed up an open goal.

  10. But England didn’t close Scotland down the entire half even though they changed their system. You didn’t mention the Horne gaffe. Horne had 3 players on his outside coming at pace with England defenders all trailing. If Horne releases pass before Brown contacts him Scotland score a walk-in try. Also the other part you failed to mention: England’s rush defense is used to create field position and turnovers that allow England to score from shorter range. Without that option, they were forced to go through multiple phases and as a result basically went nowhere. I can recall several occasions when England went side to side, to side (oh the irony). Last but not least Scotland in the second half was quite content to give forwards more carries. Scotland also played a lot more conservatively.

    • Hi Jesse, thank you very much for your contribution. I have to say I disagree with a lot of what you are saying, but then if we all agreed on anything it wouldn’t be much of a debate! I am not alone in thinking England’s tactics were the reason the game began to look different. This is a Nick Evans quote from his Guardian column:
      “It’s not as if England were blown off the park. In the second half the power game actually started to get into Scotland and it started to work, the ball-carriers were making dents and, while I know England will be disappointed, in the long run they’ll take a lot out of defeat.”
      I believe it would be strange for a team dictating the game like Scotland did to suddenly stop doing what had worked so well and instead invite pressure on themselves as you suggest. They may choose to attack more conservatively, and I can kind of get on board with what you suggest on that side of the ball. But defensively I don’t agree that Scotland would stop competing. In my opinion they simply found less opportunity to exploit England’s breakdown.
      I didn’t notice Horne having a bad game, I will have another look at that. Horne’s non-pass was the one time Scotland opened England up in the second half, and it wasn’t done in the same way as the first half line breaks. I think it supports my argument rather than Scotland simply backing off.

  11. Great analysis , people talk about learning from mistakes but a lot like the world cup pool match with Australia where they couldn’t match back row speed. England did have a lot of possession and yardage in the second half but unlike previous matches were unable to grind their way up the pitch as could not sustain possession at the breakdown in particular. Was impressed how the Scots defence seemed to get tighter closer to the goal line especially in the second half unlike the leaking sieve I had to watch on many previous occasions. Really curious to see if Jones will change the back row after this – hopefully Underhill will learn form the mistake and come back a better player…Stuart Hogg did after his sending off in Cardiff

    • Hi S Fowler, thanks for the compliment! I agree with you, there were definite echos of the World Cup pool game. With regards to the Scots defense, they made 6 breakdown turnovers in their own 22, that’s 6 visits for England with no points. It made a huge difference. I think they’ve struggled in the past to slow opposition ball enough and in this game they did that extremely well.

  12. Daniel,
    Like Steve and Gareth’s review, I am in awe of the speed with which you have put together such a detailed and persuasive analysis.
    The Tier 1 International game is determined on fine margins. If England really were as bad as a lot of people are claiming they would have been looking at a much more embarrassing score. The teams were competing well but Scotland’s edge at the breakdown and their willingness to take a risk when in possession paid dividends in the first half, giving them lots of territory as well as their scores.
    I do think it was Scotland’s more conservative approach that made the second half seem closer. They seemed to realise that they were able to deal with the English attack and therefore didn’t have to play so open to gain territorial advantage having built up a comfortable lead.
    Scotland deserve credit, not only for an inspired first half, but for the maturity of the second half performance. To me, on top of the patient come back against France, that shows the team is maturing and learning how to close games as well as how to score points.
    As for England, I would caution against the view expressed by some that this was simply a bad day at the office. (I never heard a single comment from these people about how bad Scotland were at Twickenham last year, it was all about how amazing the England performance was). There are two really tough games left for them and I would not be at all surprised if they lost both, especially as France seem to be turning the corner.
    Thanks again for your article – most enjoyable.

    • Hi Garry, thanks for your very generous comments! You are right that Scotland are developing, and they were composed and controlled in the second half. I don’t think they were defending in a particularly risky way in the first half either, they were just very smart in how and where they attacked the breakdown and defended mauls. When a team has been having so much success on the floor and that suddenly dries up, this invites pressure. I am inclined to believe it was due to England better resourcing breakdowns rather than a conscious Scottish choice to stop winning turnovers. It’s not like they were giving penalties away through competing.

    • Thank you Patrick, as an England fan I don’t often root for Scotland but I am hoping for a repeat performance next weekend from your boys!

  13. Great article. Scotland were well worth their win and it did expose England’s backrow. I remain uncertain of Underhill’s credentials – can he offer more than just be a tackling machine. Evidence in Bath’s games he has played in does not bode well on that front. If fit a bachrow of Simmonds/Vunipola/T.Curry would be my first choice with Jack Willis of Wasps one for the future. Simmonds has the hands/athleticism/body shape to be a high class back of the lineout option.

    • Thank you Andrew. I agree with you on all fronts. I was very impressed with Tom Curry in Argentina and I would like to see him given a chance. I think he wins more turnovers and is potentially the English answer to Hamish Watson. Jack Willis looks a great prospect too. Simmonds I love, and like you I would play him at 6 as I see him as a far more explosive version of Robshaw without compromising workrate. I’d like to see if he can keep that but add some of the intangibles Robshaw brings to a side.

  14. Great article! Silly question – do England have a nominated “defensive coordinator”. It strikes me that Joseph should be that person and Farrell should have done exactly as instructed.

    • Thanks Nick! In November it was reported Paul Gustard had made Joseph & Sam Underhill the defensive captains. I would assume Joseph still is, but maybe a different forward is the other one as Underhill hasn’t been starting.
      With regard to the second Huw Jones try, a lot of people said it was Farrell’s man. I disagree, the picture shows Joseph pointing and I think he is telling Farrell to go for Finn Russell. That’s exactly what he does initially, only reacting and trying to go for Jones once it becomes clear he will get the ball. Nathan Hughes would be the man to hit Jones, but I think he doesn’t get across because Mako inside him isn’t properly in line.
      In short I think the mistakes were from Mako & Hughes rather than Farrell for the try, although many people disagree with me and have blamed Farrell, or made it seem like this was just a simple missed tackle and not credited Scotland.

  15. “The Scots proved entirely unable to do this and scored only 3 points in the second half”. You’re delusional mate. With a decent lead on the bard, it was more down to Scottish game management in the 2nd half than any changes made by England. In fact, if England tried to play expansive rugby they prove they can’t. They play anti-rugby. They have zero Plan B.
    If England opened up at all in thE 2nd half, then the Scottish backs would have out run and outscored them. The Scots were the fitter team.
    England finished bottom of this 5 Nations Tournament. They have been found out tactically as France and Ireland also proved.
    I’m reminded of an old Associates track “Arrogance Gave Them Up”.

    • Hi Rugby Realist, thanks for the comment. There are some things I can agree with, for example England haven’t shown much of a plan B and Scotland managed the game well in the second half. I don’t think England are trying to play particularly expansive rugby, perhaps they should be. Do you really think that? England were found out tactically, as the article tries to show, but by the Ireland game they were showing signs of making the necessary adjustments. It wont last forever.

      As for being delusional, everything I said is backed up with evidence, so whether or not you agree with me there is no delusion here. Scotland had a high risk game plan, then once the lead was built they managed the game well in the second half as you say. That involved trying to get over the gain line rather than around the outside of the English rush. It didn’t work, although given the game situation Scotland didn’t need it to work they just needed to cut the risks. As for quoting songs: “still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest” The Boxer, Simon & Garfunkel ;p

  16. When your team get pumped and it’s only down to English mistakes ? – keep believing that but at some point England might have to try play the game properly

    • England did mess up in the France and Scotland games, particularly at the breakdown and our dynamics with driving our own cleaners off the ball. In turn cutting our multiphase attack and main source of points down. But to say we’re not playing the game properly is out and out trolling. We are a good team, whom matched the All Blacks 18 game streak, putting in some brilliant performances, whom at the moment are thoroughly off the boil through fatigue.

      This does not take away from Ireland, who were deserved winners of the competition. But our players are fatigued, and clearly undergoing huge conditioning work now so next year during WC season, we only have to taper them off. This is obviously, as Itoje, George, they’re not making half the impact in carrying and general play around the park that they made last year. Its no coincidence that our only impact players of note were Haskell and Sinckler. Both of whom were brilliant, but have had rests through injury.

      We were found out at the breakdown this year. Thats good for us, we have time to fix it. But judging us and making statements about how we ought to “try play the game properly”. Isn’t keeping with the comments and general ethos of the blokes on here. Which emphasises class and respect between opponents.


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