ENGLAND SPORT MUSINGS – RUGBY AND THE LIONESSES

Fair play to the Welsh, when they needed to step it up they did, they showed that strength of being able to up the ante in a rugby match where they had been second best and keep up the pressure to see out the victory. England on the other hand were the complete opposite. In total control in Cardiff with a dominate 40 minute first half performance. A 10-3 lead did not flatter them at all, to be fair if they had scored another try nobody would think it would have been a midway injustice, even from the most biased Welsh person. However the lack of leadership and the fact that they could not find a way to stop the Welsh resurgence once things started going awry says everything to me about this Red Rose team. When things are going well they look like world beaters, when things are going wrong they look like world losers. For whatever reason they never adjusted their kicking tactic (which worked so well against Ireland) and once their rampant opposition dealt with that they didn’t even attempt to change their style. A clueless performance from the players on the pitch and Eddie Jones now needs to rectify these problems and fast. Warren Gatland mentioned England’s bottle as they have now lost the last 3 matches that really mattered against the Dragons. To be honest the New Zealander is right as we stand, however much it really sticks in English guts, even though they have beaten Wales 6 times in the last 9 fixtures.

MUST FINISH WELL

Its not all doom and gloom for England. They are still in with a shout of winning the tournament, Wales have tricky fixtures away to Scotland and at home to Ireland. The English now have two home matches against Italy and then the Scots come to Twickenham. Two wins is the minimum requirement, preferably with dominant performances, which will at least see them finish second in the table. It will not solve all their problems but it will show that they can at least bounce back from a poor showing. Let’s be honest if you go back to the end of the 2018 tournament, finishing 5th out of 6 on a run of defeats, that continued for a few more games, if you had said they would win either of the Irish or Welsh away matches in 2019 plus win all their home games and end up with 4 victories out of 5, that would have been seen as a very decent showing prior to the competition. The irritation is that they played so well in Cardiff for the first 40, but then collapsed when things went against them, so whatever the outcome of their remaining games a heck of a lot of work is needed for England to challenge in Japan and by challenge I mean (and so do the RFU, England coaching team and players) being in the mix as contenders to win the tournament. Italy and Scotland need to be dealt with and the build up to a real challenge for World Cup glory can then begin.

THEY MOST DEFINITELY BELIEVE

England’s Women emerged victorious from their sojourn to America with an excellent showing to win the She Believes Cup. They now go to the World Cup, later this year as, in my opinion, the second best side in the world and thoughts of them winning the title are most definitely real. For me whilst the way they dominated Japan (a team in their World Cup group) to take a 3-0 lead and then see the game out very professionally to secure the trophy, it was their draw against United States in the previous match that showed me this side is ready to take on the world and win. They went behind against the hosts and whereas in previous years they would go into their shell and play damage control, they came out and eventually took the lead. The Americans came back into it, you would expect nothing less, equalised and there only seemed one winner. But England held their own,  didn’t try and batten down the hatches and took the game to the reigning World Champions and a draw was the least they deserved in what was a superb contest with a pulsating end to end last quarter.

WHAT NEXT?

Well its the World Cup in France this coming summer. Four friendlies are scheduled before they head across the channel, so still plenty of time to build on the fantastic position they are currently in. Obviously fingers crossed for no key injuries, losing Jordan Nobbs, is already a major blow despite their recent success. The target now is to win the tournament, they have shown they have the ability and fortitude, whilst Phil Neville has done a superb job so far in overseeing the team as they reach the high level they are currently at, which must now be maintained. They finished 3rd in Canada in 2015, the target is to go at least one better, though two better is the preferable and real option and it is not just a pipe dream.

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