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14th May 2009, 10:42

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Jonny Wilkinson: England's scapegoat?

Jonny Wilkinson: England's scapegoat?

With so many disgruntled England fans fuming over their team's lacklustre performance against Scotland over the weekend, the Barmy Army's blood pressure reached boiling point after Jonny Wilkinson was the only member of the team made to pay for the Six Nations loss.

With so many disgruntled England fans fuming over their team's lacklustre performance against Scotland over the weekend, the Barmy Army's blood pressure reached boiling point after Jonny Wilkinson was the only member of the team made to pay for the Six Nations loss.

Without forgetting Wales' attempt at Grand Slam glory, the main topic of discussion this week has been aimed at England's failed Six Nations campaign. This is what you had to say...

Six Nations reaction:

Well, I didn't watch the 6N this weekend - just read the results and analysis of the games. The reason I don't watch the 6N and European rugby is quite obvious based on the weekend's results. I learned my lesson a long time ago. If we are to expand rugby, then we must dissuade British rugby from being telecasted!

Johnny Wilkinson is the perfect example of European rugby: a player who sits deep in the pocket behind a pack of forwards and attempts drop-goals. He is bound to make one of significant value over time as he has. The result though: a boring, counter-productive spectacle time and time again, but he keeps getting selected because you people think this is great! A huge salary and royally knighted is his reward, and so long as England beats New Zealand periodically 1 out of 6 times (scoring less tries in doing so and getting the benefit of dodgy officiating, not to mention the 40-point hammerings of the other 5 times) then all is well for rugby in Europe.

- The Balls (Canada)

Suddenly less than two months seems a yawning chasm in time between hope and reality. ".......let's assess the evidence. What evidence, I hear the cry?" (Andrew Baldock). Quite. The folly of using club results to predict Six Nations results returns with unerring frequency to haunt those making such predictions. When will they learn? Poor old "title chasing" England! Quite a few chickens coming home to roost as stark reality hits home.

- Richard Guest (Edinburgh)

I have just watched Wales beat Ireland and am happy with the result. However I am not so happy with the decisions of a very poor referee (Wayne Barnes). I thought he was incredibly biased in his rulings and some of them were outrageous. The stamping at the rucks went un-noticed for one. The decision NOT to send off the Ireland player for the blatant illegal hit on Ryan Jones in the 74th minute. Does anyone watch these people and discipline them when they have a bad game? Two of our players were sin-binned for offences but not one Irishman. Looking at the replay of the match the incidents are worse.

Can referees even be cited?

- S Jones (Wales)

The Murrayfield defeat is all the evidence we need. Ashton's silly reaction to the Cipriani photo is only one of a number of miscalculations.
English Rugby Union players are grown up professionals and need to be treated like that. The only way to win a game is to select the best team available regardless of prejudice and treat every game like the last. Only then will England get the team and the results they need.
Vickery knew the challenge posed by the Scotland game and the players knew. This was a time to be bigger than petty rules and schoolmasterish amateurism.

England needed the very best side and inspired tactics to tackle Scotland and go forward in the six nations,
pity Ashton did not provide either, and he let his players his fans and his country down.

It is time to stop playing and find a professional coach big enough to face the challenge of leading the English team. Saturday's defeat was a sad indictment of the amateurish attitudes which still pervade national rugby in England. Most fans would rather the entire England team had been out clubbing this week - they would probably have bonded and performed better!

Let's grow up and treat the players as adults - a coach does not form a team the players themselves do that- if they are allowed to
Ashton has badly let the fans down tonight and must seriously reflect upon that.

- Andy Rowley

Right then, where to start if you are an England fan?

Again, we are relying on out muscling professional teams. This doesn't work and is an indication of the major limitations that we have as a rugby team. England are the Brizzle of world rugby, relying on forward power and penalties to win games. Occasionally, we get a lucky score and beat a team (Wilko's chip v Italy, Sackey v France, Lewsey v France at the WC) but we don't have any penetration.

The biggest problem is that we start to deep. Wilko is stood 10-12 yards behind the gain line and receives the ball standing; any defensive coach worth his salt will simply utilise a press / rush defense and we then struggle to create any impact. Most England attacks go lineout, pick and drive, pass to Wilko, pass to a forward, lose 5 yards. We then rinse and repeat a couple of times before launching it aimlessly downfield via Wilko or Flood. Occasionally, these kicks are good and we earn territory but mostly, they are counter attacking opportunities.

Compare Masi's performance yesterday with Wilkinson's from Saturday; there is little difference outside of the goal kicking and Masi is not a 10. Wilko at his best was taking the ball pretty flat and on the move. This pins the defense and allows runners to take the ball at pace and hit the gain line. I think we need to bite the bullet and use Wilko to close games out, but start with Cipriani or Lamb, in order to attack opposition teams. We also need to lose Flood from the midfield and try and develop a true centre at 12. Be that Tindall, when fit, or Barkley or Geraghty or we look further afield and consider Powell of Sarries, Armitage of London Irish or Allen at Gloucester (although, how much game time he gets next year might be an issue).

We seem to have found a true finisher in Sackey and Big Les will get better. He also gives England a serious option coming in off the wing but is criminally underused. He is so desperate to do something when he gets the ball that his eagerness can lead to errors; better involvement would stem that. As seen on Saturday, with a quick tap and go, he can beat the first man and create a bit of space. 15 is an issue and is dependant on how England want to play. If we are simply going to bang the ball back, then Cueto is an option, as is Mike Brown. If we are going to make teams chase everything down due to counter attacking running, then Balshaw, Tait or Foden is an option. Tait is a better centre but as a counter attacking / broken field runner, he is pretty special.

We seem to have gone for the option of picking hard working, limited players, who are unable to create space. For instance, Noon is a In the short term, I would even consider Farrell at 12 - he takes the ball up hard to the gain line and has the ability to offload really well. In last years 6N, he created a number of tries due to his ability to hit a flat pass into a runner at the gain