England, better with thirteen men than

with fourteen.

England nearly blew it again against the Taffy Boyos but the pundits got it wrong to blame the near defeat on Eddie Jones’ substitutions.

Posted here a number of times of my dislike of Stuart Lancaster’s substitutions by the numbers. It generally took a winning team and stifled them, basically most of the time those coming off the bench were no improvement on a player even though they had played an hour. Tom Youngs, yes, I’m looking at you.

What we heard after England beat Wales at Twickenham was just about the last 20 minutes and that it was the substitutions that caused England to almost throw it away, again. Err, no.

The rot set in before the substitutions and was exacerbated by the sin binning of Dan Cole. The two substitutions that were mostly picked on made the team better.

Again I read and heard much praise for Ben Youngs, which didn’t add up to what actuality went on. It was a bog standard Youngs game, in which he was slow of thought and deed. Bar two occasions, he was behind the play.

The first was a free kick or penalty, can’t remember, that he took a quick tap from. The second time he quickly followed it up with helping Wales to score.

After bending but not breaking under some Welsh pressure inside their own five metres, gave away a few penalties at those scrums, the ball came lose and Youngs “pounced” on it. England get a penalty and Farrell kicks to touch.

Now first thing that kick was awful. Farrell was excellent from the tee, thankfully or who knows but penalties from hand were atrocious. A number of times England should have been taking a line-out at about the halfway line after a pressure relieving kick, yet found themselves around their own 22.

So from the line-out, too deep in their own half, Youngs flings out another slow awful pass that Ford picks off his toes and then proceeds to kick into Biggar. He must have been the only person that didn’t see the Welsh fly-half there.

England walk away from all that pressure without conceding a point and then gift away seven. Wales don’t get anything there and they don’t get anything in the rest of the match.

The substitutions, Youngs and Ford going off for Care and Manu, with the positional shift of Farrell from centre to 10 didn’t upset England, it finally meant they had the best players out there, in their right position.

Clive Woodward bemoaned it, stating that which shift from two play makers at 10 and 12 when it was working so well. But it wasn’t. What play did Ford make? He was missing again. As for Youngs, well Care immediately showed what is missing when Youngs is playing. He was up with the action from the off, conducting those around him like a good 9 should. Youngs is always behind play, behind mauls, behind scrums, behind the breakdown. Always a day late and a dollar short. Care was right there also doing a bit of refereeing, which always helps, unlike the absent Youngs.

The ball was quicker away as Care didn’t hang about and there wasn’t that passing dithering that is Youngs’ trademark. How many steps does he need, why can’t he get the ball out of his hands? The yips? Or does he like playing others into trouble?

England played that first 60 minutes with 13 men.

So Wales come away from all that pressure without even three points from a penalty kick and their heads are so far down looking at a big duck egg on the scoreboard and even with Cole’s cared they don’t get back into the game.

Though in the end it didn’t matter the game was won as was the championship as the Jocks beat the Frogs, good old Jocks even when they win they lose.

So a wounded French team, imagine the embarrassment of losing to Scotland, now if Jones would only pick the best starting XV for the Grand Slam…

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