How can England solve their problems after humiliation by France?
England have begun the inquest into their biggest defeat at Twickenham in the stadium’s 116-year history after France dazzled their way to a 53-10 victory.
Ireland in Dublin is the final assignment of the Six Nations for Steve Borthwick’s men before preparation for the autumn’s World Cup ramps up and here is the fallout from Saturday’s debacle.
What went wrong?
For all but a brief spell in the third quarter, England were overpowered in the contact area and many of their failings stemmed from that.
France were magnificent, playing rugby from another world to plunder seven tries, but the way the home pack were physically dominated was disturbing. The obvious powerful differential was compound by England’s lack of intensity that meant they lost the collisions time after time.
What can be done?
Head coach Borthwick has three main levers he can pull – change the tactics, change the personnel and change the mindset. The gameplan will be adjusted as Ireland’s strength lies in their tactical cohesion rather than the type of power brought to bear by France, while Borthwick is certain to freshen up the team. How he picks his players up off the canvas will be the biggest challenge as it was the type of result that leaves permanent scarring.
Who could be dropped?
No 8 Alex Dombrandt and scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet are the most in danger, while centre Henry Slade can not be far behind.
Dombrandt was the most ineffectual of the forwards on a day when he needed to get stuck in and Van Poortvliet has struggled ever since the July tour to Australia, potentially benefiting from a spell out of the team. Slade, meanwhile, has played three games yet has barely been seen.
Do England have a chance in Dublin?
It is hard to envisage any scenario whereby Ireland – installed as 1/8 favourites by bookmakers – fail to claim their first Grand Slam since 2018.
Andy Farrell has guided the Irish to the summit of the global rankings and even allowing for the number of injuries sustained in Sunday’s win over Scotland at Murrayfield, they have the firepower to see off one of the weakest England teams in Six Nations history. Accurate, relentless, skilful – Ireland take some stopping as even France discovered to their cost in Round 2
What does this mean for the World Cup?
Passage into the quarter-final was taken as a given but on the evidence visible at Twickenham on Saturday England’s Pool D clashes with Argentina and Japan are fraught with danger.
Borthwick has one competitive match followed by four warm-up games to shape the side – precious little time given the mess he inherited from Eddie Jones. Ambitions are being revised and if they get out of a group that is completed by Samoa and Chile, they will have done well.