21 Jun

by Rob Wallace
21 Jun 2004

Frankly, I’m pretty disappointed with the England team on this tour. They didn’t play much good rugby, and I thought their off the ball play was even more cynical than their usual breakdown ball-killing. Add in the confused, completely out-of-touch rhetoric from Woodward and Dallaglio, and you have an ordinary team in disarray.

I think Wynne Gray got it right with his Herald column today “England ignored the self-assurance they used to become world champions; they were shown up in both tests as a group who resorted to bully-boy tactics when their skills deserted them. It has happened to all top rugby sides on the slide. When age hurts or skills deteriorate, the indiscipline escalates.”

That pretty much sums it up for me – ugly play by a bunch of arrogant heavies who lack the talent to actually outplay the opposition.

As for Shaw, it was a calculated deliberate attempt to harm an opposition player. There was nothing accidental about it, and it was certainly cardable. You can argue about the colour, but if Dickinson from 30m away thought he was aiming for the head then red was appropriate. Shaw was as stupid as Cohen in the previous game. There was a helluva lot of off-the-ball incidents in this test, most instigated by England. As for Robinson, it was lucky no-one saw his earlier little right hook that may or may not have connected. He should just ease it back a notch because the Aussies will wind him up nicely otherwise.

Back to the NZ players. Meeuws seemed to have a much tougher time with White this week, with White and Regan also able to upset Mealamu. Meeuws probably needs a few games like this to sort out the technical aspects of LH – I’m sure he’s strong enough, it’s just fine details he needs to work on. The English scrum was very sneaky and probably out-thought us given they were missing a lock. Jack had a very good game, and while Holah played well I think it was clear he’s not quite in the same league as McCaw. Rush has been a revelation – I wondered how he would foot it back at international level but he works hard, appears in all the right places and makes few mistakes. He’s just what we need at the moment.

Marshall didn’t have one of his better games and I wonder if he injured his left hand as he threw a couple of shocking passes to his right, both that were yards forward. He was also back to his ‘meerkat’ state of popping up his head and looking around, before throwing tiny short passes up everywhere, rather than the long wide pass.

I’m not sure about this backline alignment, being so flat, but I’ve now twice heard Smith saying this is what he wants. Carlos just gets so lateral with it….

The backs didn’t get a lot of good quality ball, but used what they had well. I thought Evans found out how big the step up really is – he needs to get his basics sorted out first and be a little less expansive until the game opens up.

Overall, while I’m delighted with a 2-0 series win over England, there is still a lot of room for improvement on that last performance.

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