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Monday, 3 April, 2000, 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK
Naive England must learn to adapt

Drenched and bedraggled: England's parade was rained on
BBC rugby presenter John Inverdale witnesses a shock defeat for England and wonders where Clive Woodward's men can go now.

So proud Clive's army were indeed sent homewards to think again, and the question is not so much why, but how.

Six Nations Championship
How on earth did a team that on paper was so palpably more talented than its opponents get reduced to the shambles that England were for large chunks of the second half?

A bemused England fan on the way home with me suggested that global warming was to blame.

English players just simply never have to perform in conditions like those at Murrayfield any more.

Eyes wide shut: Woodward faces the media
When was the last time that the Rec at Bath was a good old quagmire? How many matches in the Allied Dunbar Premiership have ever been postponed because of the weather?

At least that was his argument.

Well, possibly. More likely was that, as Matt Dawson admitted, the team became flustered and lost their cool.

A team of young guns that had been firing on all cylinders on hard pitches in Rome and Twickenham, were found wanting in the type of old-fashioned match your dad used to take you to see.

The scoreline may have been 19-13, but the match was more compelling than any 62-36 game of rugby basketball.

Scotland dealt with the conditions better than England
So what are the pluses and minuses for England?

Clive Woodward talks of four steps forward and one step backwards.

At Murrayfield, the fact that England were crying out for players like Dean Richards to get "back to basics" showed that there has been a certain naivety in sacrificing all options at the altar of "total" rugby.

Sometimes a good old welly down the field is as good an option as any.

Johnny Wilkinson may have become the finest crash-tackling outside-half of this or any other generation - but perhaps a lack of experience told as he and his back line tried to fashion another miss-move behind the gain line in their own half of the field.

Territory in those conditions is nine-tenths of the law.

England were unable to adapt their game to the conditions
Austin Healey ran into more back alleys and cul-de-sacs in a single afternoon than he would expect in a season.

And Phil Greening may well be the best hooker ever to play on the wing (with apologies to Sean Fitzpatrick) - but actually in his role, it's rather more important to throw the ball in straight and to the guy you are aiming at.

England will look at their end-of-term report and will conclude that they could - and should - do better.

This defeat was in no way as disappointing as the quarter-final loss to South Africa in the World Cup.

There was no shortage of commitment at Murrayfield.

In Mike Catt and Mike Tindall, they have an impregnable midfield, in Matt Perry a full-back of increasing stature, in Dawson a leader who will learn from this set-back and in Lawrence Dallaglio and Neil Back two men on the fringes who are the equal of any in the world.

But does this team add up to one that can take on and beat the best in the world?

This summer in South Africa - when the heavens will be keeping the cats and dogs to themselves - will be the true test.

Jannie de Beer won't be dropping five drop-goals, that's for sure.

The conditions will allow England to be fluid and fast-moving.

If they falter in the Cape, then the defeat by the Scots may be seen not just as a blip, but as a serious examination of England's short-comings which they failed to irradicate and which poinpointed deeper-lying faults in the side than many of us realised.

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See also:

02 Apr 00 | Rugby Union
Brave Scots defeat England
02 Apr 00 | Rugby Union
England sorry for trophy 'mix-up'
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Scotland v England: Picture gallery
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