France didn’t deserve the Grand Slam

for Saturday night’s performance.

But they certainly deserved it over the whole tournament.

You have to wonder if one of the management or playing staff got a word to whoever was in charge of the celebration, glossy, souvenir programme and told them to pull it. Not because of the anti-English article in the one printed but because France were about to produce an England style display that has so infuriated and bored to death fans of the game.

Now can you imagine the outrage and gnashing of teeth if England produce a programme slagging off one of the chippy nations on their borders or the one over what John Inverdale rechristened the British Channel last week, or indeed had the t-shirts all printed up well in advance.

Anyway back to the actual game, as England played like France and France played like England and the ultimate irony of the torrential downpours upsetting the visitors play rather than the hosts. What could have been if the heavens hadn’t opened or if France hadn’t the benefit of 16 men throughout the game?

There’s been some shockingly awful officiating displays of late but this has to be the worst. And when a referee can take that title away from Jonathan Kaplan, you know he’s been both inept and biased to an amazing degree. One incident, early on in the second half, just completely highlighted the problem with the individual in charge. As England had a maul going inside the French 22 working it towards the try line, three successive players in blue came in the side, right in front of him. Blatant and bleeding obvious to everyone, except one individual. Ah but god forbid and English prop didn’t touch his opposite number at the exact moment the referee said so in a scrum. Whistle, free kick or penalty France. That’s of course when he wasn’t shouting at those in white to get back, even if they were behind the back foot, where apparently those in blue were allowed to stand wherever they liked, well it was their home pitch after all.

There are far too many officials who think that those watching, whether punters in the crowd or on TV, are doing so to watch them. Prima donnas, who want to be the centre of attention.

So England finally put a performance in, no coincidence that captain dullard was missing, can he please be missing for every game now. Hell it was even more preferable listening to Mad Dog being miserable in the post match interview than Borthwick talking everything up. Of course Lewis led by example on the field as the back-row finally turned up and completely quietened Dusautoir, Bonnaire and the number 8 who was variously called “Hari-the-door-key” or “Hari-the-donkey” or “Harry Donachie” by BBC co-commentator and pundit Jonathan Davies and was probably the player of the tournament no matter what he was called.

Of course some will say it was no coincidence this turn around in England’s play came when Wilkinson was replaced by Flood at stand-off. Yes Flood had a good game and fitted in well but then he did have a back-row performing, he did have a scrum-half performing and he had centres and a back-line that actually turned up. With all those around him Jonny could have done the same.

The question has to be asked yet again why weren’t they all in place. Why wasn’t Foden, Tindall and Ashton there against the Jocks. If they had been and England played like that then it wouldn’t have been the embarrassing dirge of a draw we all witnessed.

But then with them and against a French side that played a very limited game, of Parra box-kicks, they couldn’t actually win on Saturday to spoil the party. Yes the ref handed them enough free points but if chances created by England were taken. Ashton keeping possession when what started as a one-on-one with Poitrenaud but ended up as a four-on-one just after he kicked the ball away. And not being able to work their way down the field near the final whistle to give Jonny that one chance, a chance I have no doubt he would have taken, unlike Flood who bottled it the week before.

Would having a certain player on the field have made a difference and why wasn’t he there. Tindall, had a great game, doing everything that was asked of him and more. The calming head that would have led the team down field, but he was on the sidelines, telling a reporter that he was fine, not injured and not tired enough to come off.

But he was and that strikes you as one of the main problems still hanging about, the management. This had the look and feel of managing by numbers, so many minutes on the clock make the substitution, no matter how well the player is performing. It set England back. Yes they got it right with the other changes, prop and hooker at half-time and bringing Jonny on for Flutey – who was still pretty anonymous – and moving Flood to centre, instead of a straight swap 10 for 10. But there was no need to replace Tindall with the prannying about Tait.

The players introduced on Saturday made a big difference and created hope for an improving England side but so did players last season but under this management regime that was coached out of them in time. Is there not someone out there that is somewhere between Brian Ashton and this lot. Knows that the players can’t completely think for themselves but they can at times and can’t have everything mapped out for them in a game?

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