England opened their Rugby World Cup campaign with 35-11 victory against Fiji at Twickenham on Friday night.
With squad players, star names and young prospects making a bid for more game time, there is much to ponder for head coach Stuart Lancaster. So what have we learned from the game? Let’s take a look:
Inexperience could be costly
Only six players from the squad in 2011 made this year’s 31-man group, and it showed. Anthony Watson, who had impressed in the warm-ups, struggled to get a foothold in the opener. However, he was not alone as centre Brad Barritt and opposite wing Jonny May also found it tough to establish themselves in the game on their World Cup bows. Now those debut nerves are over Lancaster will be keen for his key players to put in a better performance when they take on Wales next Saturday. If they don’t it could cost the hosts as it will be undoubtedly a closely fought match.
The scrum is still having issues
It is so unlike England traditionally, but they look vulnerable at the scrum. Fiji, in fact, disrupted the hosts so much that England were only able to win five of eight scrums where they had the put in. The Fijians on one occasion were even able to pinch possession deep in their own 22. Stuart Lancaster must address this problem before they take on Wales as the men in red are very efficient in the scrum.
Brown is a superstar
England’s fullback put in a man of the match display in the Rugby World Cup opener. He took his two tries superbly and in what was overall a nervy performance from the men in white the 30-year old looked totally calm under the pressure. His ability to beat a man and surpass the gain line regularly making him a constant threat from start to finish. He is truly one of the superstars of World Rugby, and England must keep him fit it they are going to have any chance of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup.
The jury is still out on whether Chris Robshaw is the inspirational Captain England need. He was left out of the World Cup squad in 2011 and has since missed out on a place during the Lions tour in 2013, but the flanker insists he has learned from those incidents. The skipper in fairness played decent enough against Fiji but following the overall unconvincing display the jury is still out on whether he is the right man for the position. Hopefully, he can quieten the doubters next weekend.