France have given England a very big wakeup call in the opening game of the Four Nations, leading by 12-4 at halftime only to fade badly in the second half to give England the 34-12 victory.
For all of the talk out of Enngland that they have the best forward pack in the world, the English pack was completely dominated by the French early on. Englands pack was fired up and clearly expected the French side to not be up to the challenge, but they were, and it was only about 10 minutes into the game when France were dominating up front.
As you see a lot with English sides, when things don’t go as expected, they wilt, there is no Plan B, their football becomes boring and predictable and they are there to be beat.
France really should have gone on to win thios game, however a few things just went against them.
The New Zealand referee, who did well, was right on top of any infringement and I felt that the French side didn’t so much get bad calls, but boy, they were not given an ounce of leeway.
There were a few bounces that went against them and just tiny things that, had they gone France’s way, would have seen them with at least a 24 point first half.
Tony Smith will have got a few things out of his sides first half performance.
Firstly, England have massive defensive problems out wide. French coach Bobby Goulding had done his homework and when France put a bit of pressure on the English backline there were breaks and half breaks to be made every single time.
England’s halves were dreadful in the first half. The kicking game, which I said needed to be good in this game, was terrible, the French were ten times better than them in this department for the full 80 minutes.
Englands halves pairing offered nothing in attack at all.
Richie Myler will not doubt get all the pats on the back for scoring two tries, but the fact is the tries he scored were not from halfback play. He was dreadful as was McGuire who, for all his experience in big Super League games, goes completely missing at Test level.
I was really impressed with French hooker Kane Bently. Born in New Zealand and moving to France when his Dad went over to play Rugby League there, he has that real Australian style of play out of dummy half, he is a great player for France to have.
Greenshields added some good experience and put on a great try in the first half while Dimitri Pelo looked dangerous every time her got the ball.
But it was the French pack that was the most impressive aspect of the side. Sure they fell away in the second half, but they did such a good job against England.
As for the Poms, its hard to really find too many positives out of their performance. They had a few lucky breaks and the bounce of the ball went their way in the second half.
They get the points and now face Australia next week, and I fear its going to be a slaughtering.
The English backs in attack look clumsy, as if they have never played the game before. However its their defense that will be a problem. Those half chances will be tries with the likes of Inglis and Hodges out wide.
The other thing England needs to do is put some variety in their forward play.
If there is one thing this game shows its that one out hit ups are easy for any team absorb. England needs more out of dummy half, they need to ask a few questions of the line and not telegraph the fact that player A, B or C is just taking a one out hit up.
There is a lot of work for England to do, and they have 7 days to get it right.
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