Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Swing Low, Sweet Schadenfreude

March 13, 2006

The critics are putting the boots to England's pathetic loss to France yesterday.

Ex-England World Cup winning captain Martin Johnson writing in The Telegraph:

England's last hurrah left the crowd in hysterics

... If they were abject at Murrayfield, then England set new standards of incompetence at the Stade de France. The Scottish game was a bit of a one-off blip, we were told by the England think-tank. Just a few errors here and there to iron out. Do us a favour. There is the odd rumour circulating that England do score the occasional try in training, but no one really believes it, and even if it's true, they must be lining up against a job lot of tailor's dummies.

... The whole match, as it happens, was a desperate advertisement for northern hemisphere rugby.

Mick Cleary writing in the same newspaper:

Inept England left down and out in Paris

Lost in France - a statement of fact as well as a dispiritingly accurate assessment of the state of English rugby. This was one of the worst England displays in the lengthy memories of many observers.

England were bereft of idea and devil. They lacked shape, penetration and confidence and were soundly beaten in body and mind. At times the standard of play would have embarrassed a middling League Two team. Poor passing, poor kicking, poor execution. It was lamentable. On a chill Parisian afternoon there was absolutely nothing to warm the hearts of the thousands who had crossed the Channel trusting that the ruinous defeat by Scotland a fortnight ago was but an aberration. The nightmare is for real.

England have become mired in their own conservatism. The bully boy has had his bluff called. When the game of might and maim is matched, England have nothing else in the armoury. They have steadfastly rejected claims that their attacking game is blunt and one-dimensional. At the Stade de France we saw differently.

For the second game in succession, England failed to score a try. That is a damning indictment of their approach.

Mick Cleary again, feeling so betrayed he required another column:

Troubled times for England as France run riot

There are other damning statistics beginning to pile high. This was England's seventh defeat in 14 Six Nations games since that fading night of glory in Sydney. Their ability to win on the road, so instrumental in laying the foundations for that World Cup triumph, has all but disappeared. England have now lost eight of their last nine games away from home.

Same newspaper, and former-England hooker Brian Moore gets in a rake:

We cannot tolerate this sort of cluelessness

... The conditions and setting were ideal for rugby, but what transpired was a catalogue of errors the like of which usually only happens in junior rugby. It was a profoundly depressing experience and, from my personal standpoint as a commentator, highly perplexing. How do you to try to explain the inexplicable?

Richard Williams writing in The Guardian:

Pretty Paris in the spring exposes ugly truth for ageing Englishmen

... Even more troubling for England's coaching staff is the extent to which their players have regressed over the last six months. In the narrow autumn defeat by New Zealand there were signs that some of the growing pains endured in the early days of Robinson's stewardship were finally being overcome.

... Since then the squad seems to have crumbled from within. An unconvincing victory in Rome was followed by a Murrayfield defeat which could just about have been ascribed to the sheer spirit of the Scots. Until yesterday, that is. On a glorious afternoon, the grievous shortcomings of this ponderous, predictable side were thrown into the sharpest relief.

James Lawton writing in The Independent:

French hint at zip and verve of old to leave England's World Cup ambitions in tatters

This wasn't so much a setback as a full stop. England simply have to start again.

Tony Roche has his take in The Sun:

England showed a total lack of ability to create a SINGLE line break.

This was against a French side with the oldest average age pack of forwards in their history — 31 — and playing no more than reasonably good rugby.

England had banged on about the number of penalties conceded and turnovers delivered in the 18-12 defeat by Scotland at Murrayfield.

Yet amazingly, England managed to exceed BOTH totals with an absolutely astonishing cock-up count.

David Hands in The Times:

Woeful England contribute to own downfall in horror show

Not for a generation has the national side produced so thoroughly depressing a spectacle, shorn of wit, invention and command of the game’s basic skills.

England replacement scrum-half Harry Ellis, writing in the same newspaper, thinks the critics can save their breath:

What's French for gutted?

No need to tell us, we already know. Our performance in Paris was awful, really awful, and the atmosphere around the England camp reflects that. We're disappointed, deflated, devastated, gutted, whatever you want to call it. We simply weren't good enough and the fans deserve much better than that.


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