Opinion: England and Wales showdown - the ultimate Twickenham fizzer

The biggest rugby disappointment of last weekend was not the sparse crowd in Brisbane for the Global Tens.

It was not even the fact that Eddie Jones did not bite on the TMO controversy, a call which, to be fair, went England's way.

No, the biggest disappointment was the quality of the much-hyped England-Wales clash at Twickers.

Expectations were sky-high after round one of the Six Nations, when England dispatched Italy without getting out of second gear and Wales gave a technical and tactical masterclass to shut out a resurgent Scotland.

Pundits felt it was an early Six Nations decider, but that will now surely be the March 17 England versus Ireland match-up.

No clear-headed rugby person would have predicted a brilliant, frothy, free-flowing affair.

It was England-Wales, after all. But one might have wished for some crisp passing in both backlines, some intent to stretch the defences on the outside and not just break them up the middle.

Dewy-eyed old-timers might have loved it, the 12-6 scoreline, the tension, the bruising defence, the drama of two tries that might have been for Wales, Mike Brown's penetration from the back for the home side.

But instead, the try scoring was done within 25 minutes, both to England wing Jonny May, whose hitherto career high point was a solo try against the 2012 All Blacks.

Wales tactically kicked like drunken sailors, while the compelling 10-12 English five-eighths duo of George Ford and Owen Farrell were their polar opposites.

The latter set up May for his first try with a long grubber.

The second half yielded just one penalty goal, to New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe, a man who should be wearing the jersey of the Blues of Auckland rather than the Blues of Cardiff.

He should, in fact, be wearing the Red Dragons' No 10 jersey and kicking their goals from the get-go, and he was Wales' best back on an afternoon when fluency was just a seven-letter word.

There were moments of drama, such as the incorrect TMO decision made by Kiwi Glenn Newman, when Anscombe scored but was not credited. But there were precious few moments of real skill and ambition, of tactical acumen or accurate execution. In short, it turned into the proverbial arm-wrestle.

One would have expected more from Jones and the No 2-ranked side in the world and Warren Gatland and the No 5-ranked side in the world.

Then again, Gatland has often flattered to deceive at the top level with Wales. His record against Southern Hemisphere sides is appalling, but this was a prime opportunity for his team to build on the high notes of the hiding of Scotland.

As it happens, Wales could have won were it not the Anscombe non-try and if Scott Williams had dived a fraction of a second later in the tackle of the unlikely Sam Underhill.

So many ifs.

One would have expected more from Jones and the No 2-ranked side in the world and Warren Gatland and the No 5-ranked side in the world.

On the evidence of last weekend, Steve Hansen's charges would have put 25 on either team.



Blues put aside Tens triumph to focus on Super Rugby as star All Blacks return

The Blues will be back to full strength in their final pre-season game against the Hurricanes on Thursday in Warkworth, with the return of their All Blacks who have been named to play.

Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Jerome Kaino, Rieko Ioane, Sonny Bill Williams and Matt Duffie have been named to start with Patrick Tuipulotu set to play in the second half at the Mahurangi Rugby Club in Warkworth, just north of Auckland.

Blues coach Tama Umaga said the team named to play against the Hurricanes had trained all of last week while the Tens team were in Brisbane and said their intensity levels in camp has boosted the teams energy throughout training.

"The experienced players have merged into the squad seamlessly and have worked very hard, and it is also good to see a number of players back training fully after some time out with injuries," said Umaga.

"This is our last hit out before Super Rugby so it is an important game for us to test our systems and our combinations. We will give most of the squad the opportunity to put their hands up for consideration for our first Super game."

Umaga admitted he was happy to win the Brisbane Global Tens title on Saturday but said his squad have immediately switched their focus to the upcoming Super Rugby season which kicks off next weekend for the Auckland franchise.

"We are excited to transfer the hard work on the practice field, in the gym and in our planning into the game situation."

Blues starting team:

1 Alex Hodgman, 2 James Parsons, 3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 4 Josh Goodhue, 5 Scott Scrafton, 6 Jerome Kaino, 7 Dalton Papalii, 8 Jimmy Tupou, 9 Augustine Pulu (c), 10 Bryn Gatland, 11 Rieko Ioane, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 13 TJ Faiane, 14 Matt Duffie/Jordan Trainor, 15 Melani Nanai.

Second half Blues team:

Pauliasi Manu, Leni Apisai, Sione Mafileo, Patrick Tuipulotu, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Glenn Preston, Murphy Taramai, Akira Ioane, Jonathan Ruru, Daniel Kirkpatrick, Jordan Hyland, TJ Faiane, Orbyn Leger, Tamati Tua, Jordan Trainor.

Replacements: Mike Tamoaieta, Ross Wright, Jacob Pierce, Sione Havili, Sam Nock, George Moala.

Coach Tana Umaga says that his players have "been working hard". Source: 1 NEWS


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'I'm sick of it mate' - Fired up England coach Eddie Jones unleashes verbal spray on English media

England's rugby coach Eddie Jones has unleashed a verbal attack on the English media about the treatment of his fullback Mike Brown, giving one reporter a piece of his mind.

After his side's Six Nations 12-6 win over Wales yesterday, Jones gave BBC Five Live radio's reporter Chris Jones a dressing down.

Brown was awarded the man-of-the-match after his impressive performance under the high ball.

The BBC reporter asked Jones about his thoughts of Brown's work ethic during the match.

"You guys tell me he can't play Test rugby, and now you're telling me he's good," said Jones.

"You guys are unbelievable. Fair dinkum, you guys are unbelievable.

"You're always criticising him, and now he has a good game, you're all on the band wagon."

Chris Jones suggested to the England coach not to treat all media as one, which infuriated the former Wallabies coach even more.

"Oh, I think we can. I think we can. And I'm sick of it, mate."

Jones continued his attack on the poor BBC reporter, saying reporters believe they know more than him and his staff.

"And you guys are better selectors than we are. That's what you think you are. And now he (Brown) plays a good game, you're all on the band wagon," said Jones.

"He's been excellent for 23 games for us. so I don't know what was different today."

England take on Scotland next in their Six Nations competition on February 25.


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