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Jeremy Guscott's tactical view

There is one area I hope England have specifically looked at and that is the way Ireland's backline defends.

It is very much a blitz defence and more often than not Brian O'Driscoll comes out of the line at least two or three yards ahead of Gordon D'Arcy.

As he is also ahead of the winger alongside him, whether it be Tommy Bowe or Keith Earls, it creates a dogleg.

O'Driscoll is looking either to make an interception or to drive the opposition back inside but we saw the French, on at least one occasion, get outside the blitz and secure a good attacking position which led to them scoring.

I would expect attack coach Brian Smith and Riki Flutey, as chief playmaker in the England backline, to recognise the opportunity and look at ways they can exploit it and leave O'Driscoll in no-man's land.

We may only be talking about one occasion, but one occasion in these close matches can be the difference between winning and losing, and making the most of that opportunity is crucial.

They have got to either make O'Driscoll hesitate, because he will be coming full blast, or keep him coming forwards to create space to exploit.

This England team hopes to win the World Cup and everybody knows on their current form they have no chance

If you keep him coming then the likes of Mathew Tait have a split second to catch and pass, giving an inside ball to either the blind-side wingers or full-back Delon Armitage so they can run through the gap left by O'Driscoll coming up quicker than D'Arcy.

The other option is to use them as a dummy runner to catch the eye of O'Driscoll, causing him to hesitate, and then sending the ball past him - that is a risk but rugby is sometimes about risk and reward.

However, it might be that Ireland have seen it and that O'Driscoll will be reined in, meaning Ireland's backs come up four abreast instead.

England's last performance, against Italy, suggests to me that they are playing too many mind games, not with the opposition or the media, but with themselves.

They talked themselves into getting bogged down last time because they convinced themselves that was the way Italy were going to play.

Italy did play reasonably well but there is no way they should have been that close to England - the whole England team underperformed.

Despite what Martin Johnson said there is no kind of witch hunt against Jonny Wilkinson.

Every player in that team knows they played below their best and they should realise they need to up their game against Ireland, because if they play the same way at Twickenham I expect them to get absolutely thrashed.

England boss Martin Johnson
Johnson said criticism of fly-half Wilkinson was unwarranted

Wilkinson was highlighted because of the poor kicking but his kicks were made to look bad because of poor chasing, and he also missed a couple of goalkicks he would normally make.

I'm not pointing the finger at Wilkinson - I haven't called for him to be dropped - but a lot of England's players have had too many chances to play well and have not performed.

Some performances against Italy were unacceptable and every single one of those players is extremely fortunate to be playing this weekend.

They have got to go out and prove that they are the players Martin Johnson believes they are.

I think it was a poor, poor performance but Johnson would have forcefully criticised his side and told them to go out and prove everybody wrong.

For all your analysis and practice you're not programmed and when it comes to the match you react to what's in front of you, and that is what England are failing to do.

When they get an opportunity it is ingrained in them to play by numbers, so you see them returning a bad kick with another bad kick, and it is very difficult to get out of.

England require quick ball and then they need to use some moves, use runners and decoys and execute accurately, but they just don't seem to have the will to do it.

Johnson saying that they don't play for the crowd or the media is absolutely correct - they play for themselves and they play to win.

But this is a team that hopes to win the World Cup and everybody knows on their current form they have no chance.

Jerry was talking to BBC Sport's James Standley.



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see also
England 16-20 Ireland
27 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Italy 12-17 England
14 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
France 33-10 Ireland
13 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
23 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
England unchanged for Irish clash
23 Feb 10 |  English
Sexton handed Irish fly-half spot
23 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Scots make four changes for Italy
23 Feb 10 |  Scottish
Jeremy Guscott's Six Nations Q&A
16 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott's Six Nations Q&A
08 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Rugby union on the BBC
05 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union


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