Six Nations: 'We were playing for pride at the end... it was humiliating' - Geoff Parling

England were beaten 30-3 in Cardiff

At least England were not kidding themselves in the aftermath of their most chastening Six Nations defeat since the Grand Slam pratfall in Dublin two years ago – or, it is equally reasonable to argue, the terrible 43-13 beating they suffered in the same city in 2007. "Humiliating," said Geoff Parling, one of the better red rose performers on a day when "better" did not add up to much. "That's the first time we've found ourselves playing for pride at the end and it wasn't a good feeling."

Like the rest of his countrymen, the Leicester lineout specialist had suffered his share of cruelties and indignities in the course of a record defeat at the hands of the Welsh: not in his chosen area of expertise, for the visitors were reasonably secure on their own throw, but pretty much everywhere else.

Even at the death, the rugby gods were having their evil way with him. Having launched a last, despairing attack with a long run up the middle of the pitch, he fumbled a pass as the ball was switched back across field from the ruck. It was the final English error of an error-strewn occasion.

"The worst thing about it is that we can't point to one thing as the reason we lost," he continued. "Usually, if one part of your game is going wrong, you can rely on other things going right and find your way out of trouble. We couldn't do that out there because it all fell apart.

"Plan A didn't work, plan B didn't work, and as a result we've finished this tournament on a real low. We have to bottle this up and use it to come back stronger."

Parling, never less than honest in his appraisal of a weekend's thud-and-blunder and one of the more erudite members of the second-row fraternity, was lost for words when it came to explaining the whys and wherefores of England's startling demise.

He could be forgiven his bewilderment. Not since his formative years as a professional player, spent shoring up a lightweight Newcastle pack, had the Tynesider been part of a scrum so comprehensively dismantled. With Leicester, he has taken precious few backward steps. Ditto with England. Until now.

He also found the tackle area hard to fathom. "We went out there looking for a contest at the breakdown, but it didn't happen," he said with a shake of the head. "We thought we were legal in what we doing because we had been right through the tournament, but the referee decided we weren't legal at all. And that being the case, I suppose we were a little slow in adapting."

Wales were anything but slow. When Sam Warburton engaged the referee Steve Walsh in a long conversation after being penalised for competing too hungrily at a first-half ruck, he arrived at a swift and extremely important conclusion: that if Walsh was going to load everything in favour of the side in possession, the Welsh forwards may as well butt out of the breakdowns and play the game on their feet. It was manna from heaven from their perspective.

That being said, the home pack were in such control at the set-piece – still the key psychological tipping point in a game of rugby despite years of tinkering by the law-makers – England could have been given free gifts by Walsh around the tackle ball and still finished a distant second. It was one of the great performances by a Welsh eight, and at the heart of it was Parling's opponent, Alun Wyn Jones.

"People were questioning the character of this side at the back end of the autumn, when we'd lost all four of our games, and it's quite something for a team to turn it around to this degree," Jones remarked. "Did we always have it in us, that character? I think we did, and it came out at the right time."

Jones did not suggest for a second that England might be short in the character department, but red-rose followers will have to wait a long time to find out just how strong the spirit might be. The next time Parling and company play a game at full strength will be against the Wallabies in early November, almost eight months distant.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US