Six Nations: ‘Scotland were world class but England’s Marcus Smith should have stayed on’

Matt Dawson

I was talking to a Scottish mate after Scotland’s Calcutta Cup win against England on Saturday and he was in a bit of a daze about how well they had played.

I had to convince him. Scotland were world class with their rugby intelligence and thoroughly deserved to win the game.

Both teams played well but Scotland played incredibly without the ball, under pressure and in the wrong areas of the pitch.

I don’t think I met an England fan post-match who thought differently. England were completely outplayed.

There are plenty of things to be encouraged about, but England were not good enough to beat Scotland.

‘Taking Smith off did not make sense’

One thing that did not make sense was taking England fly-half Marcus Smith off for the last 20 minutes of the game.

There had previously been some reluctance to start Smith because of his lack of international experience given he is only 22.

After his Murrayfield performance, there is no question that Smith is the man for England at number 10.

No-one can say ‘he needs to have experienced players around him’ any more. Of course, that is always going to be of benefit, but saw from that performance it was not necessary.

As we saw when Smith was replaced, England could not finish the game off with George Ford even though he is in form.

Smith looked comfortable and confident and you should not be taking fly-halves off when they are in total control.

He is going to be tired and his stats are not going to be where they were at the beginning of the game, but he had control of the England performance.

I don’t think it was necessary to put another fly-half in to see the game out with only a seven-point lead.

‘England made poor decisions’

Despite the defeat, there are plenty of things for England fans to be encouraged by.

England were good in possession and they had attacking intent. The problem was they lacked a bit of rugby nous.

With so much possession, you could see what they had been trying to do on the training park: go through a couple of phases then kick the ball in behind Scotland.

But there were really good opportunities for England to attack through the hands rather than kicking.

That kicking had come because of what they had practised, thinking they were playing away from home and the conditions were going to be wet and slippery.

It is absolutely right to have that as your go-to, but there were moments when it was time to attack and go for the try and they couldn’t quite decide when that moment was.

In the second half England shoved it up their jumper a bit and changed tactic – and the first 20 minutes went really well.

It was not until the penalty try given after Luke Cowan-Dickie batted the ball into touch and his subsequent sin-binning when England lost their heads.

At 17-17, they still should have been in control of the game but they went chasing it, then Scotland had the momentum.

England had been in a really good position at 17-10 but they had inexperience in their team and as soon as that pressure came on they did not have anything to resort to, so they made those poor decisions.

You can’t practise those things; it is not something you can ever do in training. You have got to have that understanding as a professional sportsperson to do the right thing at the right time.

When Cowan-Dickie went off and they gave the line-out to Joe Marler, surely they had enough experience in the team to know not to do that. That was odd.

It will disappoint England because it was unnecessary, but they will learn from it.

‘England are not out of the race’

It is still very early days in the Six Nations and you cannot write anybody off yet.

England go to Italy next and can get themselves back on the horse and remember how to win a game. Then they are at home against Wales. England are definitely not out of the race.

They will probably struggle against Ireland and France but there is plenty of time for England to bounce back.

I am not thinking there is going to be a Grand Slam this year so every team is going to lose a game and therefore England are in with a chance.

Ireland were ruthless in their 29-7 29-7 victory against Wales. They are back to the precision they had four or five years ago, with a bit more intent and imagination.

Can Scotland compete with that? They can definitely give as good as France can give to Ireland.

Depending on a few decisions and the bounce of the ball Scotland could nick it when they go to Dublin in the final round of matches.

Matt Dawson was speaking to BBC Sport’s Becky Grey.

Source link

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *