CIPRIANI ON CRACK
We all love (to hate) a bit of sensationalist journalism. Figures like George Hook and Eamon Dunphy divide opinion on these shores with their outlandish claims, and as much as we give out about it – we all love the controversy.
However when it comes to controversy, outlandish remarks, and downright stupidity – we have to talk about Danny Cipriani’s comments in his Paddy Power blog.
- “Not one Australian would get into that England team right now.”
Because David Pocock isn’t fit to tie the shoelaces of Ben Morgan, and Matt Giteau has nothing on the acute talent of Brad Barritt of all people. Right Danny.
- “England’s defensive structure combined with the attacking weapons they have at their disposal make it hard to see past an England win.”
England have an excellent attacking back three, but picking Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt as the 10/12 axis is like buying a Ferrari and never going above 30km/h. It nullifies the effect their back three have, you need more creativity in that midfield if you really want to make the most of Anthony Watson & Mike Brown.
- “Robshaw went with his gut, he trusted his instinct and it almost paid off. The decision was challenging, brave and it has to be admired. It was a good decision, despite the three point defeat.”
It wasn’t a good decision, it was an arrogant decision made by a team who completely folded under pressure. Also, it didn’t nearly pay-off – England were bundled into touch immediately in the most embarrassing and humbling of ways.
Claiming Robshaw’s decision was brave and admirable is the most pathetic of straws to cling onto – if you had a decent leader on that field it would have been three points to England, and they would have played themselves back into drop goal territory after receiving the kickoff.
But instead you had Chris Robshaw. Robshaw is an honest and hard-working player, and leads by example excellently. But there is a difference between a leader and a captain, and England have paid the price for failing to recognise this discrepancy.
EARL OF MOYROSS
An injury to Jared Payne means that we won’t see Schmidt’s first choice selection of Henshaw & Payne in the midfield together before the France game, which must be a bit of a worry – Wesley Fofana and Mathieu Bastareaud will be a tough task for the pair who haven’t played together since March.
So, Keith Earls is propelled into the 13 shirt for tomorrow’s clash with Italy. After a fantastic game against Romania, Earls looks hungry & devastating ball in hand, and is increasingly physical and busy off it. One of the form players in the Irish backline, it’s brilliant to see Earls hit the form that is/was touted of him.
But again, the centre or wing debate rears it’s head. After a great game on the left wing, he’s brought back into the centre. I’ve always found Earls to be more valuable on the wing, and it is a bit frustrating that once Earls begins to excel there he’s transferred back to the centre.
While it may be just for the Italy game, Cave, Fitzgerald and Madigan were all other options for the role. Does this indicate Earls is next in line if Payne is ruled out of the France game? As much as Earls’ defence has improved, I’d still be apprehensive about him squaring off against Toulon’s Bastareaud in Cardiff.
Nick Easter linked up with the England squad this week in place of Billy Vunipola, the 37 year old preparing for his third World Cup. His presence will have been hugely valuable in Stuart Lancaster’s camp this week, his experienced head providing some much needed direction in their time of need.
Buckets of experience, the former England captain will provide an important pedigree to Lancaster’s under fire squad. He’ll come off the bench with 20 minutes to go, and England will hope he has some influence on proceedings before the final whistle.
Australia Vs. England is the big clash of the weekend. If England win, they keep their qualification hopes alive. If they lose, they’ll be the first host nation to go out in the group stages.
I’d have Australia as favourites to topple England. Despite Danny Cipriani’s ludicrous claims, Australia have a better roster of talent. Pocock and Hooper are two of the best backrow forwards in the world, and it’ll take a mammoth display from England’s limited breakdown specialists to keep them at bay.
Australia’s scrum is no longer the weakness it once was, Matt Giteau is an excellent playmaking 12 that allows Australia to really switch the focal point of their attack and add a lot of width on their ball. Israel Folau is an exceptional talent, and Australia have done all that’s been asked of them thus far in the World Cup – 4 try bonus against Fiji aside.
England have flattered to deceive on the other hand. They have come into this tournament frighteningly under prepared, and haven’t settled into any kind of stride & form. However, their backs are up against the wall and they will be incredibly motivated for this game.
This is the most important game Stuart Lancaster has ever coached, and the most important game his players have ever played in. They’ll be well aware of this too. With a home crowd behind them, they’ll be hugely fired up as they look to claw back some respect after their implosion against Wales.
The Wallabies have struggled in Twickenham before, and it’s a problem venue for Michael Cheika’s side. But there’s a lot of pressure on Lancaster & co. and they’ll either crumble or excel. It’s not as simple as the better side will win – in a World Cup game of such magnitude, the script goes out the window, and it should be massive game.
FLOWER OF SCOTLAND
Scotland take on South Africa this afternoon in the big game of Pool B, and Scotland should have genuine aspirations of taking at least a losing bonus point. Without fawning over Japan’s victory once more, it was a reflection of how South Africa aren’t firing on all cylinders, and how to break them down. Heinke Meyer’s side were vastly improved against Samoa, but Scotland have come into this tournament nicely so far.
Vern Cotter & Gregor Townsend are two of the top coaches in the game, and their influence on Scottish Rugby is palpable. They’ve been hugely unlucky in recent seasons not to claim more victories, and Cotter needs a marquee win. What better than a wounded Springboks outfit?
Scotland have not selected their strongest XV for this game, with an eye on the final game against Samoa. It looks like they’re planning to concede the win here, and instead focus their efforts against the islanders, to ensure their qualification.
Yet there’s still a cloud over South Africa, and today could be their defining moment; is the camp troubled, or was it the kick they needed?
Both teams will qualify, but with Scotland undefeated so far and South Africa registering a loss, Scotland can still emerge from the top of Pool B in a huge upset.