Rugby Union journalists and bloggers have adored the first two weekends of the Autumn Internationals. England’s two opening games have been close; very close and someone mentioned a cigar!
Close games make for excellent viewing, live and on the TV. Such games create divided opinion amongst rugby fans. Deciphering these opinions is particularly important in the run up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. Here we provide an A to Z of the England v All Blacks game.
A is for Chris Ashton; a player who has try scoring in his DNA and a much improved D.
B is for Beauden Barrett; in a close head to head with the excellent Farrell, he just came out top.
C means close; just like the South Africa game. Incredibly fine margins exist; with England starting perfectly. However, a mere 3 minutes of All Blacks intensity at the end of the first half gave them the momentum and they were able to consolidate this in the 2nd half.
D could talk to the excellence of the D but it is decisions; decisions by captains, coaches and officials became the major talking points. Read’s decision to take the scrum, Farrell’s decision to take a line out, Jones’ decision to replace Hartley, Hansen’s decision to bring on Scott Barrett and the officials ruling that England try wasn’t legal due to an earlier rear foot penalty. Plenty of decisions.
E is for Eddie Jones and his belief in the process and his principles
F means England’s co-captain, Owen Farrell. An excellent performance at 10, two tackles we wil all remember; however with Adrenalin pumping, a kick off straight into touch gave the All Blacks more momentum than they deserved.
G is for All Blacks Jack Goodhue; a fine Super Rugby campaign but his start surprised many. Our prediction is that this experience will reap dividends at RWC 2019
H can only mean Dylan Hartley. Many were stunned he was replaced so early; a thumb. England’s lineout capitulated in the 2nd half. Itoje and Kurtis seem bewildered and unsure what to do. The All Blacks had brought on Scott Barrett, the speed of their lift increased and they negated England’s most dominant attacking weapon
I is for injustice - the English press told us that
J translates to England’s game on Saturday versus Japan
K can only mean Kyle Sinckler. We first saw him play for London & SE in 2010 at West Park Leeds and he was a wrecking ball. His contribution versus the All Blacks showed raw talent, increased maturity and technique.
L signifies that for England it was still a loss but oh so close. England’s first 33 minutes shows they can win the 2019 RWC
M is all about margins.
N allows us to highlight Newcastle’s Mark Wilson. He has been mighty impressive and will be the starting 6 when Billy is back
O is offside. At the ground we thought Lawes looked offside but on TV maybe not. Modern rugby evolves quickly and players rate required to play on the edge. Monitoring offside is an inconsistency World Rugby appear to be aware of; might they consider two on field officials or maybe technology
P requires talk of penalties. Many pundits have applauded Read’s decision to take the scrum but have been unsure of Farrell’s decision to take a lineout rather than 3 points
Q is quizzical
R started England’s 33 minutes of dominance, aka Brodie Retallick’s inability to take the kick off. There was some redemption as he steered his team to lineout dominance in the 2nd half
S means start and England showed has this should be done
T takes us to the TMO and his decision to review Underhill’s try. A try that showed Underhill’s running ability
U has got to mean unlucky; that’s how most rugby fans in the club bars reacted to the result
V could mean the All Blacks victory but could be validation that England are back on track
W is win.
X allows us to highlight those who showed “X-Factor”
Y signals the international pedigree of Ben Youngs; an impressive performance and great vision to lead England’s first 33 minutes
And finally Z, which saw black and white shirts create a rugby spectacle in difficult conditions; thanks to both teams and see you in Japan next year