England vs Australia: Five things Stuart Lancaster has learned from the autumn Tests

England beat the Wallabies 26-17 to end their autumn campaign on a high

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Trust his judgement

No doubt the England coach has a rationale for all his selection decisions behind the scrum – the area of most contention in the past four games – but it does not look that way to outsiders.

Three different centre pairings in four games can be accounted for by injuries and Kyle Eastmond has been unlucky but Billy Twelvetrees (right) deserves the chance to rediscover his Six Nations form and Brad Barritt’s gutsy showing confirms his place as defensive captain.

 

Similarly on the wings, Jonny May and Anthony Watson (right) must be given a chance to consolidate. The time for tinkering with the back line is over; it faltered in defence in the third quarter here and line speed was not good but there is plenty of potential, and gas. Individuals like Semesa Rokoduguni may feel that international rugby passed him by against New Zealand but sport at the highest level can be cruel and Watson has shown his promise.

What to do with Manu Tuilagi when the Leicester centre returns to fitness is the question. England have had to get by without him frequently enough and must not make the mistake of picking him when he is not ready.

Settle his spine

This was a defining game for Ben Morgan at No 8. Two tries made him man of the match and he was still going strong after 80 minutes. Dylan Hartley’s place at hooker can be taken for granted while yesterday’s half backs worked well together and need game time.

Ben Youngs made a break in the opening moments (he made none against Samoa) and George Ford pushed England into the right places and showed good variety. Ford’s goal-kicking could be more solid but he will point to 16 points and has been a positive influence all month, marshalling the side well.

Determine his style

England wanted to put pace on the game throughout, but it was important they showed faith in their base platform, the scrum and the driving maul. Their power  led to both Morgan’s tries.

With the lineout operating well and plenty of good forwards returning from injuries, a decent set piece seems assured so play to it. The breakdown remains an area where England concede penalties and do not force enough turnover ball  and until they find continuity there, the backs will not function as well as they should.

Find greater game management

In this autumn series, Ford has managed better than Owen Farrell but Farrell has credit in the bank. It is form in 2014-15 that counts more, and Farrell has work to do at club level before challenging once more at fly-half.

Ford1.jpg
George Ford's emergence has been one of the more encouraging aspects of a disappointing autumn

Ford’s decision making has been excellent. Significantly, he demonstrated this against Australia to back up his showing against Samoa. The great regret is that Lancaster did not trust him to start against New Zealand at the beginning of the month, when Farrell’s club time had been far too limited.

And who looks best?

With success over South Africa and Australia, unbeaten Ireland enter the Six Nations with confidence.  The other home unions remain works in progress: England’s failings against All Black and Springbok will trouble them.

Their opening Six Nations game, against World Cup group rivals Wales in Cardiff, will be instructive for both sides. Wales will feel good about themselves after yesterday’s win over South Africa but won’t be entirely satisfied with the month as a whole, while Scotland look to be far more positive under Vern Cotter’s coaching.

Comments