Jonathan Davies: Woodward's champions seriously out of phase

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We saw the old England yesterday: the pre-Woodward version in which they had a very strong pack and nothing behind that resembled a cutting edge. That's why the Aussies were able to win easily despite their own pack struggling at scrums and line-outs.

Add a shortage of basic skills, a bit of lethargy and a lack of confidence, and it's no mystery why Australia stuck 51 points on England.

And didn't the Aussies love it. When the score stood at 48-15 and they had a penalty, captain George Gregan didn't hesitate to tell Joe Roff to kick for goal. To break the 50-point mark against the world champions was the best gift he could present to his nation ,which has now taken back the chortling rights.

There's no way, of course, that you can compare yesterday with the World Cup final last November. That's when the real chips were down. Unfortunately, being best in the world requires some attention in between World Cups. You have to carry the mantle high. Australia had to when they held the title - they didn't get beaten often, and certainly not by these margins.

It's strange, but the more games Jonny Wilkinson and Jason Robinson miss, the better players they become. Without Wilkinson's decision-making and Robinson's penetrating edge, England are floundering. Even if those two had been there, things aren't working like they used to. Building the phases with ruck after ruck, trying to create overlaps, isn't good enough - especially when you make crucial mistakes that the opposition are able to swoop on as efficiently as Australia did.

You must have backs able to go past opponents and create gaps, and if you can do that from first phase, so much the better.

They say that in the modern game you can't attack from first phase. Australia proved how wrong that is, because they attacked from first phase, but the point was that they did so from deep. That's another modern misconception - that you have to play flat and hit holes.

Well, the Aussies attacked from deep and England couldn't cope, because their defensive system was not as strong as it had been.

England's rush defence, which has worked for Wasps so well at home this season, is fine against a flat line. But against a team attacking from depth it can be dealt with as Australia did: they sucked players in and then gave deft inside balls.

Their handling was crisp and they got on the outside of the outside-centre. They really had England worked out and were also helped by the amount of loose ball England gave away. On the plus side, Lawrence Dallaglio was again immense. He has been head and shoulders above his team recently, and his performance is one plus for England. Simon Shaw also played well after his disappointment of last weekend.

But I wonder if we will ever solve the problem of the different refereeing approaches between the hemispheres. This is particularly noticeable in the tackle area, where the northern teams want to contest the tackle and compete for the ball while the southerners tend to leave the ball and let the attacking side carry on. Southern-hemisphere refs seem conscious of the entertainment aspect.

Wales suffered from the interpretations of the New Zealand ref in their heavy defeat against South Africa yesterday. But, as far as Wales are concerned, the lesson is that you can't win Test matches if you don't win ball.

Wales also missed too many first-up tackles to have any chance of holding the Springboks who, like Australia and New Zealand, have benefited greatly from the visits of the four home countries over the past few weeks.

It is very generous of us to want to restore their self-esteem after their failings in the World Cup.

What was in it for us? You'd better ask the financial men who are running the show these days. They made money and the boys, tired after more than a year of flat-out rugby, took a series of good hidings. That's fair enough, isn't it?

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