You can’t give away that many penalties
England did well in the first half at Twickenham last night by getting the basics right and – after the first minute or two – maintaining their discipline.
But that deserted them in the second half. As soon as they seemed likely to get away, a penalty brought Wales back into it and that was decisive. You simply cannot give so many penalties away.
I also thought Wales would spend more time trying to turn England’s 10, 12 and 13 but they only chipped over the top once and that surprised me.
But England had it won, only to let it slip away.
Twickers crowd was great motivation
The atmosphere at Twickenham last night was absolutely mind-blowing. It was genuinely sensational. Everyone there added to the theatre of the occasion, and there is no doubt it would have been an extra motivation for the players.
I’m not sure if it was the best I have ever experienced at Twickenham, though. There were some pretty special days during my playing career, but I was so focused on what was going on between the white lines that I blocked most of it out. But last night was very special, and very vocal.
Giantkillers Japan pay for quick turnaround
I couldn’t believe Gavin Hastings’ comment that Japan hadn’t been affected by the quick turnaround when they lost to Scotland on Wednesday after beating South Africa so memorably four days before.
I would say, absolutely it did affect the Japanese, emotionally and physically. But the Scots won’t worry, they played some good stuff, and now face the USA and South Africa.
There’s a guy called WP Nel you should keep an eye out for. Tighthead prop, South African – and playing for Scotland. He was brought over in 2012, during my time working with Edinburgh, as one of a number of players who might qualify for the Scots on residency. Very quiet, very humble, strong and technically good, he has improved massively.
I understand this process of recruitment and Scotland need to be creative because they have just two professional teams, Edinburgh and Glasgow. That’s a pool of just 60 players to pick from whereas England, for example, have 12 Premiership clubs, and three or four more in the Championship, from which to develop players.
It’s an uneven battle and Scotland are only doing what’s allowed within the rules. Every single national team, including New Zealand and England, is at it to some degree.
McCaw won’t let the boos bother him
Like any good flanker – and he’s a great one – Richie McCaw tiptoes along the tightrope of the laws of rugby. Occasionally he’ll topple over and get caught, as he did when tripping Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe in the match with Argentina.
For this, Richie got loudly booed at Wembley – and he deserved it – although I am sure what he did was just an automatic reaction. You don’t practise trips in training.
The booing won’t bother McCaw one bit. He’ll just move on to the next game, with bigger matters to worry about, like New Zealand attempting to be the first team to retain the World Cup. The All Blacks are on track, but it’s early days.
Players will always push the boundaries
The McCaw trip highlighted the referee’s use of TV replays in this World Cup, as did the disallowed try involving Fiji’s scrum-half Niko Matawalu against England.
It set off a debate over whether a team might quickly drop-kick a conversion if they thought there was doubt over a try being legitimate – to beat the referee and the TMO to the punch, as it were.
Some might argue this would be against the spirit of the game. Well, to me, the spirit of rugby is winning, and players push the boundaries all the time.
To take it to ridiculous lengths, you could review every scrum and bring it back for a crooked feed if you wanted to.
But a player drop-kicking a conversion because he suspected his team-mate hadn’t scored? I can’t see it ever happening.
Take a leaf from the footballers’ book
When you go to World Cup matches at Twickenham, there are TVs everywhere – in the hospitality boxes, above your head in the seats and, of course, the two huge screens at either end of the pitch.
Which is fine but what about when the screens are showing controversial incidents? The players are warned strongly to abide by rugby’s treasured code of conduct and not to get on the referee’s back, but what about 80,000 spectators screaming blue murder at the officials?
It is bound to create emotional pressure on the referee. The answer is to do what is done in football, and not show the controversial replays.
Neil Back was a member of England’s World Cup-winning squad in 2003 and earned 66 caps for his country and five British and Irish Lions capsReuse content