England did seem to achieve parity for a while though, so fans of the Red Rose should not despair. The respective forward packs went at it hammer and tong for the best part of an hour and that was a good indicator of England's relative strength up front. Dan Cole's battle with 'the Beast' was a joy for the purists out there, while England's new loose-head prop with the punk rock hair-do, Joe Marler, had an encouraging day at the office. Potential is certainly there for England. Will that potential be fully harnessed though?
Springboks bullied England into submission
During the first test, Stuart Lancaster's men were eventually overwhelmed by the sheer physicality of South Africa's play. The Springboks seemed to pick up the intensity around the hour mark with 'impact' from the bench (Heyneke Meyer doesn't have substitutes apparantly) and England just couldn't live it. Once the Springboks smelled blood, they went for the kill and 'the Shark Tank' bore witness to another famous victory. That is no shame on England. Many good teams have succumbed to the Springboks in similar fashion before and no doubt they will in the future too.
|Alberts hands off Botha in 1st test|
When you are forced to tackle a 6"4, 120kg monster of a man like Willem Alberts continuously for 80 minutes, it must take a mental toll as well as a physical one. Putting your body in the way of that sort of power must feel like being assualted. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the English boys now checked under their bed at night, just to confrim that Mr Alberts isn't lurking where he shouldn't. He made quite the impression in the first test and was clearly the most influential player on the pitch.
England respectable but evolution is needed
Let's not forget that England had their fair share of notable performers too though. Chris Robshaw continued to defy 'logic' and persistent claims that he isn't a real 'fetcher', carrying on his impressive form from Quins' domestic triumph over Leicester last month. The England captain's performance underlined why Stuart Lancaster gave him the responsibilty of leading England's latest generation of rugby talent. His standards are impeccably high and he is someone that this team can be built around. That is a good starting point.
|Lancaster needs to be pro-active|
Lancaster and forwards coach Graham Rowntree may perhaps focus solely on building a bigger, meaner, more intimidating pack and beating the Boks at their own game. England did it before under Clive Woodward but I think that would be the wrong path to take this time around. Surveying their options at a glance, they don't have the appropriate players at their disposal at this moment in time, so perhaps a change of tack with a greater emphasis on stretching teams around the park is needed. As Albert Einstein famously quoted, 'Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results'. Who am I to disagree?
Gameplan and personel clarity needed from Lancaster
Albert Einstein may not strictly have had rugby on the mind when he came up with that quote but his other theories seem to apply (very loosely) too, so who knows??
His theory of general relativity outlined the concept that 'time and space are relative, not fixed'. Applied to rugby....one could infer that Dan Carter is class, therefore he has time and space. Charlie Hodgson is not and therefore continually morphs into a scared kitten when faced with the sight of a big, bruising forward rushing menacingly towards him.
|Ford could get the backline purring|
If England want to develop a more expanisive gameplan (as is generally perceived), they need to select the appropriate players first. Clarity and vision is needed from the coaches. Personally the armchair critic in me suspects that England needs a flyhalf happy to play flat on attack or able to vary the depth of the attack (maybe George Ford is the solution), and a centre pairing which includes at least one distributor whose main aim isn't to run over the top of the opposition (perhaps Jonathan Joseph). A Barritt/Tuilagi or Farrell/Tuilagi combination just isn't going to threaten the big boys i'm afraid. Tuilagi has to be in there somewhere though (despite his flaws) because he's a gamebreaker, and you just can't teach that. Add some nuances to his play and he'll be a world beater.
I know this may be controversial for some English supporters and some ears may beginning to burn at this point... but i'm not sure Owen Farrell is a long term starter for England. He has nerves of steel, can kick goals under pressure and is a pretty useful defender but surely England need more than that if they want to evolve?
What did you make of the English performance in the first test?
Do you agree with the selections and balance of the team?
How about South Africa....have the progressed or taken a backwards step?