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Sunday, 21 October, 2001, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Where did it all go wrong?
The knives are out following England's Grand Slam capitulation against Ireland in Dublin.
Who is to blame for England's loss, or are we underplaying Ireland's role?
Coach Clive Woodward has apologised to England rugby fans after his side's 20-14 defeat against Ireland.
The result meant England missed out on the Grand Slam for a third year in a row and questions are being asked about the side's character under fire.
Woodward said: "I can't believe how many errors we made. All we can say is sorry."
England centre Mike Catt said Ireland "wanted it more than we did", and certainly nothing should detract from a rousing performance by Warren Gatland's men.
Who, if anyone, is to blame for England's humbling defeat?
If I performed as poorly at my job as those professionals wearing white shirts on Saturday I would have a very guilty conscience when I picked up my pay slip. I hope they do too! England were atrocious, Woodward must be held responsible and should be replaced by someone who can get consistency from players who have, at times in the past proved themselves to be world class. Ireland were the best team on the day, but I wonder by what margin Australia, The All Blacks or South Africa would have won by if they had been playing against a side that made more mistakes than I have seen made when watching my son play in the under-7's.
Spirit and enthusiasm are always at a premium. Healy always has them, especially in a white shirt. His omission from the starting line up is not understandable. Neither is the continued use of Catt. His kicking, passing and general awareness seemed well below par and Woodward should reappraise his long support of this player.
As for the referee, I will not comment on a member of my own union, but I would welcome the public analysis of his work by an authority such as Norling.
Keith Wood's try came from a very clever set piece. He was able to collect the ball, run at speed undetected and was impossible to stop. However, the Irish were not otherwise threatening the English try line. Their other points came from penalties and here lies England's problem. They need to read the rules and avoid giving away needless penalties which usually lead to an attempt at goal. Most penalties are conceded by players being too hasty. England need to be more patient and win the ball legitimately.
Everybody seems to be talking about England missing out on the Grand Slam due to poor selection. If you ask me it was Ireland who lost out on the Grand Slam due to a terrible selection against Scotland. It's good to see a few gracious English fans.
I have to say that Ireland deserved their victory. However, England performed badly in nearly all areas. One bad performance doesn't make a bad side, but England must learn from this. No matter how many talented individuals you have in a team, it doesn't mean a thing if nobody performs. I have to agree with a couple of comments, Perry should definitely be in the starting line up and Greening was awful!
Let's not kid ourselves here. England won the Six Nations by a mile - 100 points clear. One defeat does not change that at all. Ireland won well on the day but had the match taken place when it was supposed to, match fit, before the Lions tour and without injuries it would have been a very different story. Those in doubt need only wait a few months until the next instalment.
Can't believe someone is suggesting sacking Woodward for losing one game. All teams have bad days. And you only ever learn from your bad games, not your good ones. I'm sure England will come out of this stronger.
England lost because they underestimated Ireland, who are a good side with leadership in the key areas and crucially, picked players who were physically fit and in form.
Woodward's fifteen was unbalanced and chronically lacked leadership. The Irish saw Balshaw not as a threat but as an opportunity, and to play the unfit Greening and Greenwood was a baffling mistake.
England need to face up to the fact that, had Humphrey's kicked all his first half opportunities, they would have been dead and buried by half-time.
Don't change a thing Clive. England won the competition by a clear 100 points and had the best defensive record. Ireland don't become world beaters only three weeks after being stuffed by the Scots, just the same as England don't become a bad side having lost one out of the last twelve.
Bring on the Aussies.
Ireland deserved to win. Too many English players had off days. Balshaw was terrible, Greening worse, and the continued selection of Mike 'run sideways and don't tackle anybody, ever' Catt is absurd. The ref was atrocious, frequently penalising English players for little more than wearing white, but we can't complain too hard. The Irish are a good side and were better on the day.
I believe that the main reason for England losing was the fact that the match was put off for six months. The players were not ready for the match, whereas Ireland had an extra two games and would have begun to gel more. Also, what should not be overlooked is that England suffered from the Lions tour with a large number of injuries. Dan Luger, Will Greenwood and Mike Catt have just returned from injury and Lawrence Dallaglio, Martin Johnson and Phil Vickery were injured. However, credit to Ireland for seizing their chance - plus their bribing of the referee.
I think we should give credit where it's due. Ireland were great and one big reason for this was their three back row men. Miller is back to his lions form of 97 and Wallace is simply the best number seven in Northern Hemisphere rugby. Foley is extremely underrated and did a lot of great work around the fringes. These three were first to every breakdown, ensuring good quick ball. They eclipsed England's all star Lions back row - just another indication of how badly the Lions selection was this summer.
It just goes to show England cannot just expect to win every game they play. Ireland have shown themselves to be a highly competent side over this Six Nations and should really have beaten Scotland too. Take nothing for granted and work harder. Here's to next year.
First, the selection process was not realistic: so many of the players came from the Harlequins/Wasps, at the bottom of the league. We have one of the world's best fullbacks in Stimpson but he is not even on the bench.
Balshaw is only good when playing against poor teams. The front row is useless: Leonard is past his great days. Greenwood isn't fit. The coach needs to be fired, he only likes those players who say "yes" and he has little game sense: why wasn't Balshaw substituted for Perry?
Hard luck England, on the day it just wasn't right! If your heart is not in it, it is most difficult to succeed (as Ireland found at Murrayfield this year). I believe this victory is very advantageous to us, but England will also gain in the long term. It shows that every game must be treated with 100% commitment and dedication!
England were not as bad as some suggest. Three factors contributed to their defeat - the Irish, Phil Greening and the referee! The first was the most significant - Ireland played out of their skins and deserved to win. There is no disgrace to losing in these circumstances, particularly when ring rusty after a six month lay-off. Playing like this, Ireland would have given Australia a really good match, and might have beaten them.
As for Phil Greening - I don't care how fast a hooker is around the pitch, if he can't hit his men in the lineout he is a liability. The game was close, and I think England could have won if they had secured any good lineout ball. Not only did it cost them possession but it also encouraged Ireland to kick the ball to touch, because they knew England were miss-firing.
The third factor was the referee. Before all the Celts scream in disgust, I think Ireland deserved to win. However the referee's interpretation of the scrummage and lineout stopped England in their tracks. In my view he subconsciously favoured the underdog in the first twenty minutes. Unfortunately for England, Ireland were certainly not underdogs on the day! Let's just say that onus will not be on Woodward's Christmas list.
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