Former England centre Will Greenwood has candidly expressed his reservations about England’s new defensive strategy, labelling it as ugly but advocating for its persistence.
Following another halftime deficit, England managed to secure a hard-fought victory against a spirited Wales side during the Six Nations clash at Twickenham.
Greenwood highlighted the recurring halftime challenges, reminiscent of their previous match in Rome. “In Felix Jones, England has the blitz-defence mastermind. The bloke has won two World Cups with South Africa, banging the drum for this system. The issue that England has is that they are not the Springboks,” Greenwood stated in his column for The Telegraph.
The victory over Wales saw Fraser Dingwall’s crucial try and George Ford’s penalty securing the win, but once again, England’s defense faced scrutiny, prompting Greenwood to foresee challenges against Scotland’s Finn Russell at Murrayfield.
He pointed out the distinct playing styles between England and South Africa, emphasizing that England lacks players with the abrasive qualities of Springbok midfielders. “But in England, it is not. This is going to take time and it will often look ugly. England do not have a De Allende nor a Kriel. But it was not just a midfield thing,” Greenwood explained.
The former center highlighted defensive lapses from players like Ollie Chessum and Will Stuart, stating, “if someone is too slow off the line, like Will Stuart for Alex Mann’s try, or even too quick – like Chessum in Rome – then you’re toast.”
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Expressing concern about the upcoming challenges, Greenwood noted, “Right now, Finn Russell will be licking his lips at the thought of taking on this defense in just under a fortnight’s time; so, too, Jamison Gibson-Park two weeks after.”
Despite the defensive struggles, Greenwood stressed the importance of sticking with the current system for long-term gains. “The temptation would be to return to the traditional drift defense, but I’m not sure what that will achieve. It would be a stop-gap, a short-term fix, but we know that Borthwick and Jones are building for the long term,” he said.
“In the meantime, defensively, it might be a horrible watch, just as the two Italy tries were, and just as Mann’s score was. But perseverance and patience will be key – as will scoring tries,” Greenwood concluded.
“Hero to zero” – 5 England players who underperformed against Wales
Looking ahead to the next match against Scotland at Murrayfield in two weeks, we identify four players who may need to step out of the starting team.
#1. Ethan Roots
Evening Standard 6/10: “Showed his inexperience at the level for his yellow card, but recovered as the game progressed.”
Telegraph 5/10: “Struggled to match the heights of last week, losing the ball in contact deep inside the Welsh 22 before conceding a penalty and yellow card for killing a maul.”
Planet Rugby 4/10: “A great debut last week but not so good this time around. The yellow card was needless as all he had to do was hold them up as he had got onto the ball.”
RUCK 6/10: “Collapsed the maul as Wales trundle towards the goal-line. Awarded a yellow card as Wales get a penalty try. Provided a new role as a line out jumper at the back. Spilt the ball after 47 minute re-start. Didnt have the best game to build on his MOTM performance v Italy, but put in strong hits around the pitch. Off for Alex Coles (72)”