Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Tyrone Howe: England are a world away from where they want to be

It is approximately 287 miles from Dublin to London, but Croke Park and Twickenham must have felt as if they were solar systems apart.

Argentina arrived missing three world-class players, had little more than two or three days together as a squad, but still should have salvaged a draw from the fixture.

England had the benefit of home advantage and eighty minutes match practice under their belts from the week before, but still managed to serve up a truly awful display of rugby. The boos and jeers told their own story as supporters can’t have been too far off asking for their money back.

There is a real sense of crisis in English rugby at the moment. Warren Gatland has gone on record to question the quality of the English Premiership and the individuals in the national side are certainly not producing the form that they have shown for their respective clubs.

It is enormously worrying for your ordinary English supporter to see an absence of any sort of gameplan or togetherness from the team.

It would be a long list if you were to jot down the areas that are lacking — most worrying must be the absence of ideas, an inability to perform some of the most basic skills and the look of a team that is running empty of confidence.

Apparently Martin Johnson is fed up with demanding ‘more’ from his side. However, the problems run a lot deeper than simply not giving enough.

The level of effort is not the problem and after this Saturday, the England coach may be forced to look deeper at why there is such a low level of understanding and confidence.

One couldn’t help but feel sorry for Ugo Monye who looked thoroughly miserable in the fullback position. People underestimate how difficult it is to switch from wing to fullback — few have made a decent job of it. In fact, maybe as Rob Kearney shows, it is more a case of a natural fullback being able to make the jump to the wing, rather than the other way round.

Hindsight, of course, is a wonderful thing and Monye in the fifteen shirt was probably an experiment worth trying.

Now, England have to be fair to the player and put him back into his natural position.

The Lions winger has had two games at fullback and England need to ensure that he doesn’t have a third. Against the All Blacks, it will not prove lucky.

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