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Jeremy Guscott column

Jeremy Guscott

Former Bath, England & Lions centre

The time has come for England to bite the bullet and drop captain Steve Borthwick for the match away to Wales.

Steve Borthwick takes on the Italy defence on Saturday
Borthwick struggled to make much of an impact in the win over Italy

When he carried the ball against Italy he was smashed backwards and I think England need to bring in Simon Shaw alongside Nick Kennedy in the second row.

England have to target the Welsh line-out on Saturday because they are frail there and if you put them under pressure they almost capitulate.

Kennedy can do that but England have got to bring in someone alongside him to beef up the second row.

My choice would be to bring in Shaw for Borthwick and make Phil Vickery captain once more.

I would also bring back Mike Tindall, if he is fit, in place of Jamie Noon at outside centre to counter the strength of the Welsh midfield, and replace Andy Goode with Toby Flood at fly-half.

The performance against Italy was the most lacklustre I have seen from England for a long time.

A match away to Grand Slam champions Wales is not the time for wholesale changes. Although Saturday's display was a continuation of the dross we saw in the autumn, now is not the time to experiment.

England boss Martin Johnson will not be doing too much planning for the future at the moment - his aim is solely to win the next game, against Wales.

I have been talking about England's need for tempo, rhythm and speed for a long time and they didn't have any of those elements against Italy

I still want him to bring in some youngsters and introduce a bit of spark and ambition to the side but I'm not sure it would be right to bring in the likes of Tom Croft, Mathew Tait and James Simpson-Daniel.

Do you really want to throw Tait in at the deep end in the Millennium Stadium against the likes of Gavin Henson or Tom Shanklin and Jamie Roberts?

They are big men and the Welsh backline is flying at the moment.

They would challenge anybody, let alone a raw, untested English backline, so I hope that Tindall gets fit because he will form a solid centre partnership with Riki Flutey.

I have been talking about England's need for tempo, rhythm and speed for a long time and they didn't have any of those elements in their game against Italy at all.

Jamie Roberts leaves Scottish defenders trailing in his wake on Sunday
Roberts was man of the match as Wales beat Scotland on Sunday

I am at a loss to work out what they are doing in training. There has been no rhythm, pattern or flow from England since 2003.

They have not been helped by the rolling maul, which used to be one of England's main weapons, being taken out of the equation by the Experimental Law Variations.

They used to use it as a way of controlling the pace of the game as well as an attacking weapon, and without it they seem a bit clueless.

Something needs to change, but I'm not sure what England can do to turn things around in seven days.

They need to talk to players individually and ask what the hell's going on because it's becoming embarrassing.

I haven't forgotten they won the game, and that is obviously good, but the manner in which they won the game is a worry.

England once again lacked any real pace or aggression in their game and if that is the case on Saturday at the Millennium Stadium they will be in big trouble.

Jeremy Guscott was talking to BBC Sport's James Standley.

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see also
Wales will be ferocious - Johnson
08 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Scotland 13-26 Wales
08 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
England 36-11 Italy
07 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Review - 2008 Six Nations season
02 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott column
03 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union


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