Ex-England star calls for ‘basic competence’ against Ireland after ‘maddening to watch’ Scotland disaster

Colin Newboult
England players during their Six Nations clash with Scotland in 2024.

England players during their Six Nations clash with Scotland in 2024.

England great Brian Moore has poured scorn on the ‘soundbites’ coming out of camp and insists that their actions need to match their words.

Steve Borthwick’s men faced heavy criticism following their display in Round Three as they succumbed to Scotland for the fourth time in a row.

The Red Rose’s 30-21 defeat in the Calcutta Cup contained a series of handling errors, leading to several questions of the team’s skill level.

Recent revelations

Since then, several revelations have come to light after ex-Test wing Jonny May stated that attack was not prioritised under Eddie Jones, before the Telegraph claimed that some people in the current set-up are becoming disillusioned with Borthwick’s focus on defence.

If that was the case, it would put into context England’s struggles at Murrayfield, but Elliot Daly has recently asserted that they are “clear” in how they want to play with ball in hand.

Moore, however, is not so sure and wants Daly’s statement to be backed up by a much-improved display against Ireland in the Six Nations.

“It has been maddening to watch moves like the scything line break Daly himself made to set up George Furbank’s first try against Scotland, only to watch England totally lose not only their shape but also the ball in series after series of turnovers or ineffectual carries into multiple defenders,” the former hooker wrote in his Telegraph column.

“Daly’s further claim to want to entertain the home faithful is a good soundbite but it will mean nothing if basic competence in attack cannot be achieved.”

Moore believes that England’s attacking shape is in stark contrast to Saturday’s opponents, who have claimed three dominant wins so far in 2024.

“If you want to contrast the two attacks you need look no further than the triple-layered challenge that Ireland manage to pose for defenders,” he wrote.

“Most of their ball-carriers have support runners who offer options for the carrier to pass flat balls inside or outside and right on the gain line.

“Add to this the second wave of clearing support players and you get clean and very quick ruck speed.

“Add to that a third wave of backs that are working hard to appear out of position in supporting runs and you have an attack that stresses each individual defender and, as a unit, threatens to constantly pull defences out of shape.”

Questions over Borthwick

Moore has also queried whether England have actually developed under their head coach. Borthwick took over from Jones in December 2022 and led them to the Rugby World Cup semi-final last year, but several weaknesses remain in their game.

“As it stands, it is difficult to make a case that England have made genuine and lasting improvements under Borthwick,” he added.

“However uncomfortable this is for those directly connected with the England team, the evidence is simply not there.

“You have to hope that the litany of very basic handling errors that England committed against Scotland was a simple aberration but until England put together a coherent 80 minutes of play, the noises of discontent are going to grow.”

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