"Dysfunctional Mess" - Ex-Ireland Flanker Alan Quinlan Critiques England Ahead of Rugby World Cup - Ruck

“Dysfunctional Mess” – Ex-Ireland Flanker Alan Quinlan Critiques England Ahead of Rugby World Cup

Former Ireland back-row Alan Quinlan has criticised England’s recent performances heading into the 2023 Rugby World Cup, referring to Steve Borthwick’s side as a “dysfunctional mess”. Quinlan also believes that Andy Farrell will in no way be taking over Borthwick’s role, and that the Springboks are the team to beat at the upcoming tournament.

Speaking to about their Rugby World Cup odds, ex-Ireland star Quinlan said: “England are a dysfunctional mess who panic under pressure, something is wrong.”

“England have a very inexperienced coaching group. England are trying desperately hard but there is such a dysfunction in attack and also defensively they are very poor. Fiji sensed that vulnerability. They showed they are going to be a dangerous side at the World Cup. England were awful. Defensively they were falling off a lot of tackles. They just don’t look like a team with any confidence. If the pressure comes on they panic and give away penalties.”

After a fourth place finish in the 2023 Six Nations, England had an underwhelming Summer Nations Series. Steve Borthwick’s side recorded just one win out of four matches, with losses to Wales, Ireland and the aforementioned first ever defeat to Fiji. Quinlan highlighted where England have been struggling, with their World Cup opener against Argentina taking place this Saturday in Marseille.

England team line up for the national anthems during the Six Nations Championship match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on February 26th 2021. – PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

“It started badly and has got worse and that can happen when you’re chasing and trying to get out of a rut. It is difficult, people lose confidence and become nervous.

“They are a side lacking ideas, particularly around their attack. The England team on paper have a lot of good players who have played on Lions tours. 

“It doesn’t make sense. There is something missing. Maybe they are trying to shake off the shackles of Eddie Jones. He got them to a point when they nearly won a World Cup in 2019.

“There is similarity to the Ireland situation at the end of Joe Schmidt’s term as coach. They had so much focus on the way they played they struggled to adapt.

“England need to find some attack in their game and some cohesion. They kick the ball way too much. Everything is preordained;  they slow rucks down in the middle of the field to get set up for box-kicks. It is very difficult to win games when you do that. They are trying to find a way out but seem to revert to type and they are in a really tough place. I am not sure how they are going to get out of it.”

Steve Borthwick and Neal Hatley talk before the Guinness Six Nations Championship match between Wales and England at Principality Stadium on February 23, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

Despite having taken the reigns of England for just nine matches, there has already been speculation regarding Borthwick’s replacement. Ireland Head Coach Andy Farrell has been a name amongst the discussion, with his son Owen the captain of the current England side. However, Quinlan doubts that any family re-union is coming up at an England camp, as the former Munster flanker sees Farrell’s future remaining in Dublin.

“I don’t think Andy Farrell would even consider going to England. He is so settled in Dublin, his son is at school there, he loves what he is doing with this group. Even if they have a bad World Cup, Andy Farrell is with Ireland for at least another couple of years. He has built up enough credit now. England may try but he won’t go and do that.

“For anyone to take the England job it’s a big ask. You have got to assess what is wrong, the players, the club game, the RFU, the structures and find the optimism and enthusiasm to think that you can be a part of something. England have been a powerhouse for so long. They should be still. But they are not. Borthwick is under real pressure at the moment.”

Quinlan represented Ireland across nine years, after making his test debut against Romania in the 1999 Autumn Nations Series. The 49-year-old believes that Ireland have the capabilities for an extended run in the Rugby World Cup, however he backs South Africa to retain the Web Ellis Trophy once all is said and done.

“I would be really excited for this group of players. I am optimistic they can get to a semi-final. There will be bumps and bruises. You need a bit of luck especially round injuries, not least to Johnny Sexton.

“If Ireland are fit and healthy after South Africa and Scotland (Pool B matches) I would be confident no matter who they are playing they would have a really good chance in a quarter final. But I would be a fool to say Ireland are going to win the World Cup.

“It’s between France and South Africa, with Ireland and New Zealand just behind them and it is a bit of a lottery after that. Argentina could rattle a few cages on that side of the draw.

“I think South Africa will win. I hope it’s Ireland but at the moment South Africa have so much strength in depth across the board.”