Stuart Lancaster had pretty much done a good job as interim England head coach and the game against Wales looked to be his crowing glory.
Yes previously there was the black marks – picking a right Charlie at 10 being the major one – but he blotted the copybook by being so stereotyped in his management. Clock ticks over on come the replacements and everything goes tits up.
Owen Farrell was rightly getting a lot of the plaudits for a composed and assured performance at number 10. He’s pretty much made himself the first pick – it should mean the end of Charlie. But he was vastly helped by who was filling the number 9 shirt. Lee Dickson had shown during his two substitute appearances in the first two games of the Six Nations he should be picked to start ahead of the faltering Ben Youngs.
Yes there was some criticism of Dickson for some of the slow ball from rucks when he was just standing there moving the ball back and forward with his foot. But that was all you could fault him for. After the initial blast by Wales where they nearly took the game away from England but thankfully, due to a great Strettle tackle, came away with nothing, it was Dickson’s sniping run from his quickly taken penalty tap that got England going. From there through his speed to the breakdown and quickness in getting the ball away out for Manu Tuilagi to pound through the Welsh defence, England spent a long time on the front foot.
It made Farrell’s job a lot easier than if Youngs was there with his lollygagging to the breakdown, followed by the two steps before the head high hospital pass to his fly-half. But then the clock ticks an hour gone and bang off comes Dickson and on comes Youngs and that’s where the game was lost.
Dickson didn’t look injured, didn’t look particularly knackered. So why change him? And why is no one admitting this was the major cause in the loss? As Youngs struggled to get into the game as he repeatedly fluffed his lines. Replacements tend to struggle to get into the pace of things, it makes such a difference when those replacements are in such important positions.
No coincidence that as the more replacements came on the more England struggled and those replacements were the ones responsible for the errors that cost England the game. especially with stupid penalties the one thing Lancaster had done a good job eliminating from their game. It’s also bizarre that Tuilagi who had run himself into the ground, after all he’d only just come back from a period off due to injury, yet stayed on for the whole 80 minutes.
The substitution of Farrell was required because he was gone but then that brought on Flood – a Charlie by another name – who flounced around and was on hand to do bugger all when Lawes was having the ball ripped from him for the winning try.
Lancaster has the makings of a very good team if he just didn’t hinder himself with stereotyped thinking.