Sunday, October 04, 2015

Where now for England Rugby?

No doubt the papers will be full of analysis of England's failure to qualify for the knock-out phase of the Rugby World Cup. There have already been some lengthy interviews with much hand wringing and talk of new lows in the aftermath of losing to Australia on Saturday evening. But let's get a bit of perspective here.

Firstly, it is only a game. Yes it's disappointing, but it's not a disaster. Australia were a far better team, more clinical in attack and dominating at the breakdown and set piece. It's hard to argue with their victory. Secondly, Wales did a fantastic job of staying in the game the previous week, pushing England into errors and eventually getting ahead and holding on to the lead. The way they defended the rolling maul in the last minute was a lesson in getting yourself organised when you know what's coming!

As for all the questions about the decision not to kick the penalty, I actually think it was a courageous choice that didn't work out rather than simply the wrong choice. I think England should be praised for putting it all on the line and Wales should get credit for defending the play in the way they did.

We all knew going into this tournament that the group stage was going to end in disappointment for one the top five teams in the competition. It happens to be England. It's tough, but there it is. Other big teams have suffered in the past. Wales themselves know only too well how it feels to go out in the group stages ('91, '95 and '07). Nothing is guaranteed. Just because we happen to be the host nation is rather less important.

I hope that any review is not a search for someone to blame and if Stuart Lancaster is to be replaced, then I hope this is done with dignity, a proper appreciation for what he's achieved, and without a sense of panic.

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