Jonathan Davies: Sir Clive's big challenge: making his players hungry again

Friday 27 September 2013 02:59

The more you examine England's performances in what was a fascinating Six Nations tournament, the more difficult it is to put your finger on what went wrong.

But I am sure it is something more than the absence of Martin Johnson and Jonny Wilkinson. They missed them but there was a more significant absentee - the killer instinct. When you have just won the World Cup, any other goal must suffer and this might explain the difficulty England had in displaying enough zest and ambition.

On the occasions that they managed to raise their game they picked up and drove powerfully, got over the gain-line and looked a different side. But they couldn't sustain the will to win which was their hallmark in the years leading up to the World Cup.

Now, Sir Clive Woodward faces the task of rediscovering that lost bite and it would be a good idea if they found it before they go back Down Under this summer. Otherwise, life is not going to be easy for them.

A Six Nations immediately following a World Cup is always going to be a transition. You are either licking your wounds or trying to build on any plus points. France managed to wipe out the memory of their semi-final defeat by England and reminded us of what they can do. Not that they ever do much more than they need to, but they restored their faith in their front five, who were dynamic in most facets of the game and especially in the driving maul.

I am still not sure about Frédéric Michalak. There's no doubt that he is a world- class player but where his talents are best used is another matter. In my opinion he is a No 9 playing at No 10.

Ireland had a great tournament and but for that lack- lustre display against France might have had more to celebrate than just the Triple Crown. But they'll be satisfied with that, the pleasure of beating England and the form shown by so many players.

Gordon D'Arcy was the revelation of the tournament, Geordan Murphy made a triumphant return to fitness and will soon be followed by Denis Hickie. With their forwards seeming to gain strength with every game, they are on course to share the top level with France and England.

With more shape and solidity up front Wales could have a achieved a lot more. It is not too fanciful to say that they could have beaten France and England had their forwards held themselves together. Their ability and pace out wide was a big feature of the tournament and while their departing coach Steve Hansen can claim credit for that, his stubborness led to the forward failings that cost his team dear.

He was so determined to stick with his original squad choices that he refused to strengthen his scrum from outside. The vital strength and ability that players like Darren Morris, Duncan Bell, John Davies and Vernon Cooper could have brought to the team were steadfastly ignored.

He would not be budged from the squad system even to the extent of replacing key players like Gareth Cooper and Iestyn Harris in the middle of the action.

Scotland's coach, Matt Williams, must have realised that instead of trying to match his players to his expansive gameplan he'll have to formulate tactics to suit his players' lack of a cutting edge.

Italy will have to find some backs to go with their excellent pack. They simply lack the ability to worry anybody.

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