Outspoken pundit thinks ‘abject’ England could ship 40 against Ireland

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

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

Former Scotland coach Matt Williams believes that England are in for a thrashing against Ireland if they repeat their “abject” display from the weekend.

The Red Rose went into their Calcutta Cup clash unbeaten after victories over Italy and Wales, but Saturday’s efforts gave a better indication as to where they are really at.

Steve Borthwick’s men made far too many errors as they went down 30-21 to the Scots at Murrayfield, with their Six Nations title hopes significantly diminishing as a result.

Imperious Ireland

England next take on the imperious Irish, who have secured three dominant victories in succession to put them on course for a second consecutive Grand Slam.

And Williams suggests that the Red Rose will face a long 80 minutes in two weeks’ time, despite the game taking place at Twickenham.

“England have got a new offence and a new defence and they are dropping like a rock! They are mentally nowhere,” he told Virgin Media.

“22 turnovers, they engaged too early in scrums, that last [Scotland] try came from an English lost lineout. They were abject.

“After that first try, which was a cracker of a try from a scrum, they were abject. If they play like that against Ireland, it doesn’t matter that it’s at Twickenham, they will get beaten by 40.”

England are looking to revolutionise their game, implementing a new defensive system and a more expansive game plan, but it did not pay off on Saturday.

Former Ireland fly-half Ian Madigan thinks that the Red Rose’s only chance will be to hope for rain, which will enable them to simplify their game plan.

Inclement weather, akin to their Rugby World Cup semi-final clash against the Springboks, would effectively force them to go back to their conservative template from the recent global tournament.

“You look at the semi-final of the World Cup, England came within a kick of beating South Africa. There is a style of play that they can play that could really challenge us,” Madigan said.

“A wet day at Twickenham, it turns into an arm-wrestle, a kick battle, they win the aerial battle, so they will be in with a chance.

“There’s enough brains there that they will be able to craft out a game plan that they will have full belief in to be able to beat this Irish side.

“[But] in my opinion, there’s not many ways to beat us with the way we’re playing at the moment.”

Spreading it wide

Williams agreed with Madigan, noting that poor weather would reduce Ireland’s chances of getting the ball away from England’s narrow blitz defence.

“If it’s a wet day… that drops Ireland’s skills and ability to move the ball wide. If Ireland move the ball to the wide channels and their attacking system gets the ball outside the 15 metre line, England will be really, really uncomfortable,” the ex-Scotland head coach said.

“Ireland are the best team in the competition by a considerable margin. On every metric, on every stat you’re looking it, they’re the best team. It’s not bragging, that’s just evidence.

“If they perform at their best – they’ve got to be better than they were against Wales, let’s put it that way – they should do pretty well.”

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