It remains a moment in my rugby life when I withdrew from the Inaugural World Cup in Australia and New Zealand because I could not afford to take the time away, despite best efforts of the England Management to persuade me. Especially when I had come back from a severe and career-threatening injury. I was lucky enough to still be good enough for the 1991 Rugby World Cup and so it will be for Jack Van Poortvliet whose heartbreak is so understandable. He is young enough to feature again but it is still hard to bear. As one door closes, another opens, and Alex Mitchell takes his place – in my view the No 1 scrum half in England so I do not think we will suffer and in fact his speed of play will be a huge benefit – clearly the selectors do not agree.
N’Tamack’s untimely injury really is a disaster for France as with Cyril Baille, as they are two of the world’s best players. The Tricolore’s strength in depth is undeniable but this is a hammer blow,
It is a heart-breaking time for players Iosing out as the eyes of the world turn to what will definitely be the strongest ever tournament and I really do feel for them, it is also a time of great human emotion. The warmup games do matter therefore but not in their results other than for momentum. That is why just getting a win mattered for England although in two matches they have failed to fashion a try through the backs which continues to bother me. Is it surprising? Wrigglesworth has never coached a back line before at this level and it is hardly Borthwick’s skill. Their strategy is unambiguous, do we need any more evidence than the total waste of Henry Arundell’s apparent skill – no-one gave him a chance to play last week. He can still light up the world potentially but where does his confidence come from?
I do not blame Borthwick in some ways because he has inherited a group of players who used to be a team (RWC Semi-final 2019) but three years on now struggle to impose themselves (‘good at nothing’, he said himself) and we were a few minutes away from slumping to 10th in the world.
Talking of George Ford, who managed those last few minutes and saved the ignominy, it may be that he retains his position. No point putting in Marcus Smith because the game plan makes him redundant unless Alex Mitchell’s arrival changes things and Kevin Marchant keeps his place.
Perhaps the Aussie panel who exonerated Farrell today and will now receive more (negative) column inches than anyone may also have more impact than we think. Other than causing thousands more mums around the world to reconsider whether their children should even be playing the sport, had they been more draconian it may have forced England to drop the shackles and play for their lives without their Captain.
It is well known that the Australian rugby authorities do not agree with the recent head injury protocols and concerns, so now the world is also aware. They do as much disservice to the game as another Australian Eddie Jones has done to this England team.