I can’t remember the last time I felt this bad about an English side thrashing another team. England cantered to a very large victory in Paris yesterday against a very lacklustre French outfit that for the first half at least looked like they couldn’t be bothered. Although England will no doubt give all that talk about ‘beating what’s put in front of you’ and will no doubt be pleased with the result, it was a match that gave us no real indication as to how good this England side really is, because the home side were so bad.
From the moment Ryan Atkins went over for England’s first try in the seventh minute, this game was over. England continued scoring at slightly over a point a minute for the rest of the first half, and even though they did it with some nice long range efforts, it should be pointed out that France seemed to offer minimal resistance. Their defensive structures were absolutely appalling and left far too much space on the fringes for English players to run into untouched. On the odd occasion that they actually managed to get to a player like Gareth Hock, they were still usually powerless to stop the offload. France were missing some of their front-line forward pack (Fakir, Elima etc.) but the guys who replaced them offered no fight down the middle. France were barely able to get out of their own half. It was not a good start for Bobby Goulding. I know he wants to avoid using French-based Australians, but if Clint Greenshields makes himself available for the 4 Nations, is Goulding really in a position to turn him down?
As for England, I’m not sure how much we learned apart from the fact that they can thrash a poor French side. Nobody looked out of place and I was glad to see Ryan Hall go well on debut because the wing is a position where England really need players to step up a level or two. It has to be said that the pack completely dominated the French and seemed to make twice as much ground per set as their cross-channel counterparts. Of course, whether they could do such a thing against the Kiwis or Kangaroos remains to be seen, and I would be skeptical about that happening.
I was hoping this would be a closer game, because it would be extremely beneficial for both sides if England and France could partake in a close game each year. England really need a boost in intensity, and I don’t think France at the moment provide it. Now I don’t think we should stop playing these games, but France really need to look at what they can do to raise their standards. The most worrying thing about this result is that it casts a shadow of doubt over the 4 Nations. If England can do that to France without ever really getting out of second gear, then what are the Kangaroos at full pelt going to do? Hopefully France raise their game so we don’t have to find out an answer to that…