Austin Healey: England must change everything ahead of the Six Nations
Australia and New Zealand will go head to head at Twickenham in the World Cup final this weekend and while it is sure to be a spectacle I’m not convinced it’s the final all the neutrals wanted.
A lot of people wanted to see Argentina there with their style of play bringing huge amounts of excitement throughout the tournament.
I think overall though you have to say the best two teams have made the final. Australia started particularly well and their performance against England was one of the best of the tournament. They have also had to play a lot of hard games though and the question now is can they resurrect that sort of performance level after a break of just six days?
You do wonder how the bodies and the players are coping. You only have to look at David Pocock’s face to realise the huge battles they have met over the last few weeks.
Can the Aussies still front up? They’ve had a lot of close games so they are accustomed to it but New Zealand also had a really close match with South Africa so that should stand them in good stead and you’d expect the All Blacks to go on and lift the trophy.
There may still be the final of the biggest and best Rugby World Cup ever to come but with no Home Nations, or Northern Hemisphere side for that matter, still in the running attention will start to turn towards the Six Nations, if it hasn’t already.
Here’s my summation of the Six Nations sides’ performances in the World Cup and what they need to get right to stand a chance in February.
England’s issues are more deep-seated than just problems with the coaching and playing staff. But the selections were appalling and Stuart Lancaster cracked under pressure a few times both before and during the tournament.
If they are to have a strong Six Nations they need new coaching staff, a new captain, new players and a new mindset. The style of play also needs to change in the Aviva Premiership as it’s currently too negative and too boring and that isn’t helping and is certainly not going to win you any big tournaments.
It all went wrong at the worst time for the Irish. They lost their four most experienced players just when they needed them, one to an avoidable ban, and that ultimately cost them I think. Had they had those players it would have been far more likely that they would have progressed.
The priority ahead of the Six Nations is to rebuild and get back to playing a more exciting style of rugby. They’ve got a good coaching staff and some good young players but they need to rebuild a bit and play the way they can rather than the secure games we’ve been seeing. They’ve definitely got more talent than they have been showing.
But for a bad decision they could potentially be in the final so they won’t be too worried. Of all the Northern Hemisphere sides they performed best, with a solid defence and some attacking flair.
They look like a formidable side now and they will be a big threat at the Six Nations, which will be a huge turnaround considering they picked up the Wooden Spoon last year.
Wales, like Ireland, were outdone by injuries but they showed tremendous spirit they were close to beating South Africa. They just ran out of steam and that was a culmination of what had happened before. They will definitely be a threat in February. All the Home Nations were outpowered by the Southern Hemisphere sides, both physically and in terms of skill, but Wales probably felt that more than most
You never know what’s going to happen with France. They have got some really good players but the strength of their domestic scene is hampering them internationally.
They have too many foreigners in the Top 14 and it is clearly hurting their chances. It’s unlikely to change any time soon though, so it’s a toss of a coin as far as their Six Nations campaign is concerned, they could finish first or they could finish fourth.
And finally, before I sign off for the 2015 World Cup, here are a few of my highlights from the tournament.
For me it has to be David Pocock – he has made as many turnovers as Richie McCaw and Kieran Read put together despite missing a game. His attitude is also great. He recently said that rugby won’t define him and there’s more to life than sport and that’s a great attitude to have.
There have been a few but I’d have to say Japan’s try to win the game against South Africa, if only for the shock and emotion surrounding that moment.
Japan beating the Springboks was great, as results like that just don’t happen, but for me Argentina v Australia was probably the best game to watch. All the quarter-finals were good games too but that match definitely stands out
England – We organised and ran the tournament extremely well and it has been the best World Cup ever but for the host nation not to reach the knockout stages is a joke.
The citing commission as they have got it wrong on so many occasions.
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