Calling beasts and ball players… England needs you after dismal show against Australia
22:30 GMT, 18 November 2012
England's 20-14 defeat against a weakened, under-pressure Australia was the lowest ebb of coach Stuart Lancaster's tenure and an alarming indication that they remain a long way adrift of the leading countries.
England have just five days to instigate a transformation before taking on South Africa.
Here, Sportsmail addresses the major problems and the action needed to resolve them.
Brace yourself: Chris Robshaw prepares to be hit by Wycliff Palu and Nicholas Phipps
Unbridled glee: Australia celebrate their third win in four Cook cup matches
FRANCE PUT LOCK ON NO FOURTH
France's impressive 39-22 win over Argentina in Lille on Saturday cemented their fourth place in the world rankings.
Unless Samoa beat France this Saturday, England will probably have to beat South Africa and New Zealand to get back in the top four.
The rankings on December 2 will determine the seedings for the 2015 Rugby World Cup draw, which takes place the following day, and England would have to be in the top four to avoid being in the same pool as France or the top three.
Calling the shots
Decision-making was a central flaw.
The most significant lapses came in the second half when chances to kick for goal were ignored as the hosts strove for tries.
Captain Chris Robshaw authorised
kicks to touch for attacking line-outs which came to nothing, while Ben
Youngs took a quick tap penalty which also produced no return. Even with
ample time remaining in the game it appeared an ill-advised approach.
'We thought it was the right thing to do. I'm not going to criticise
the players' decisionmaking. We will look at it and look at the
different things we could have done.'
Robshaw gauged that his pack were in the ascendancy and it didn't pay
off, but his leadership has been accomplished enough to give him the
benefit of the doubt.
Youngs has erred in this way recently
with his club and it can't keep happening. The simple solution is to
take points whenever they are on offer, particularly when a game is so
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Translating the training
There had been talk of how the
England squad were hitting excellence in their preparations, but that
quality didn't materialise.
During the first half, in particular, Australia's efforts with ball in hand were resoundingly superior.
England were ponderous, their side-to-side attacking wooden and predictable.
There was plenty of endeavour but
little awareness or artistry. It was as if their minds were cluttered
with training-ground scenarios and the result was a torrent of errors.
'We have to translate what we're doing in training into the execution
you need at the top level. Our intent to play was there, but we lacked
Action: There is a need for more natural ball-players in midfield.
Perhaps 'paralysis by analysis' has returned, with so much detail in the game plan that players are muddled.
The coaches must pick creative backs and trust them to play instinctively.
Open the flood gates
Man of the match was Australia's rookie No 7 Michael Hooper.
His exploits in the loose and at the breakdown exposed the fact that England do not have an out-andout openside.
Robshaw is a fine player but his strengths are those of a No 6 rather than a No 7.
The best English openside is Steffon
Armitage but he is not being considered as he is at Toulon – even though
tonight he will receive an award in Paris for the best overseas player
Lancaster said (of players based in France): 'We could pick someone, but we wouldn't be able to play them against New Zealand, so what do we do then'
Of his team's breakdown problems, he
added: 'Understanding the referee's interpretation at the breakdown is
something we need to do better. If we are going to move the ball to the
wide breakdown, we've got to look after the ball.'
Action: Picking Armitage would be a positive step but it won't happen.
England must still rejig their back row but the minimum requirement should be to commit sufficient numbers to keep the ball.
Instead of a forward loitering in the line, their focus must be to hit rucks and deliver quick ball.
No mistake: Nick Cummins evades the attentions of Toby Flood to score Australia's opening try
England have a proud tradition of
forward domination but Lancaster's side had to operate with less
possession than Australia, even though the Wallabies had been pounded
into submission by France the previous weekend.
The most imposing forward was Australia's captain Nathan Sharpe, and England are crying out for figures of his stature.
While the home pack contains players
with a broad 'skills set', there aren't enough giants to intimidate and
Not even the anticipated scrum supremacy materialised as Joe Marler, in particular, struggled.
The set-piece problems can be considered a blip as England's star has
been on the rise in that department under Graham Rowntree's guidance.
But instead of recruiting
multi-purpose athletes and sending them to the gym to pump iron, maybe
there should be a hunt for one or two big beasts to spread terror in
Having insisted that it was 'time to
start beating these teams', England lost but then set about 'taking the
positives' and 'learning lessons'.
While head coach Lancaster insisted
that the home side were 'devastated' by the result, it jars when there
is an immediate attempt to highlight silver linings.
Nevertheless, there were a few
positives, such as Alex Goode's clever, inventive contribution at full
back and the impact of replacements such as Joe Launchbury, Tom Wood and
Action: England must accept and confront their shortcomings rather than lingering on modest areas of encouragement.
Only a harsh, intense response can revive them.
Quick ball: Nick Phipps releases early for Australia
Reliable: The right boot of Toby Flood accounted for nine points
With the Springboks next and New
Zealand after that, Lancaster needs at least one win, although hopes of
being among the top seeds for the World Cup draw on December 3 have
He and his assistants will agonise over the best line-up to face the Boks.
Well, Alex Corbisiero should return
at loosehead and there is a strong case for Launchbury to partner Geoff
Parling in the second row.
Wood has done enough to return to the
starting XV and should wear No 7 as a more dynamic, explosive flanker
than Robshaw, who should switch to blindside.
Ben Morgan's hat-trick for Gloucester on Saturday is evidence he can usurp Thomas Waldrom at the base of the scrum.
There is little reason to change the
half-backs or back-three unit, but a daring move would be to employ the
power, passing and big boot of Billy Twelvetrees at inside centre
PS: The 'regal purple' kit went down like a lead balloon and led to referee Romain Poite calling England 'pink'.