Crashball Rugby's Ali Stokes highlights four things we learned from England's 45-63 loss to the Barbarians earlier today.
In a record defeat at Twickenham to the hands of Pat Lam’s Barbarians, England head coach Eddie Jones will be left to pick apart the positives from the negatives following their 45-63 loss earlier today.
As Jones will be reviewing and analysing the good, bad, average and sublime, we address five things we learned from England’s defeat earlier today.
Elliot Daly and Danny Cipriani provide real options at fullback.
Much to fans’ delight, Jones opted to allow Wasps and Lions wing/centre Daly take his shot at the 15 jersey opposite former England star wing Chris Ashton at Twickenham. While the 25-year-old was only permitted a mere 27-minutes at fullback, it was a roaring success. Before returning to his old position of outside centre following Henry Trinder’s HIA, the extra freedom and central view of events transpiring in front of him allowed Daly to produce some exceptional rugby. In addition to fancy footwork and smart running lines to bamboozle Barbarian defenders, the three-times Lions Test wing demonstrated exceptional strength to outmuscle the sizeable pairing of Josua Tuisova and Josh Matavesi for the first of England’s six tries.
Once Daly’s fleeting appearance at fullback was brought to a premature end, Wasps teammate Cipriani stepped in to fill the void in the backfield. The Gloucester-bound 30-year-old brought wondrous distributing and playmaking skills, setting up Jonny May and Denny Solomona on multiple occasions.
Previously a mainstay in England’s XV, Mike Brown’s lack of attacking flair seems to be at the forefront of Jones’ concerns and in Daly and Cipriani, he has two new auspicious options for the 15 jersey alongside injured Bath speedster Anthony Watson.
Tom Curry is still the best openside in England
Once again against the Barbarians, Tom Curry proved to everyone that a five-month absence due to a broken wrist was not enough to knock him off his imperious form. The 19-year-old Sale Sharks backrow presided over the contact area and breakdown in a performance more befitting of a 50-times-capped Test veteran than a teenager with a singular cap to his name. Curry often outperformed older, wiser and significantly larger opposition forwards at Twickenham today.
There can now be no doubt that the Sale teenager is the best openside flanker in England, ready for the rigorous physicality and speed of thought of the Test arena.
Jack Singleton can become an England regular
In the absence of Premiership final duo Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie and the injured pair of Dylan Hartley and Tom Dunn, Worcester Warriors’ hooker Jack Singleton stood up to be counted in the Twickenham sun today.
The 22-year-old was hugely impressive against the Barbarians, running some intelligent carrying lines, providing a reliable set-piece and more than handling himself in the tight. The Warriors’ hooker may have done enough to throw his hat into the ring for a late inclusion on the plane to South Africa next week, offering injury cover to George and Cowan-Dickie should injury strike.
Henry Trinder’s attacking genius tarnished with poor defensive showing
A man that proved this season injuries would not stifle his attacking ingenuity, Gloucester centre Henry Trinder has been terrorising Premiership defences at both outside centre and wing this year. However, an abject defensive performance at Twickenham today resulted in the Cherry and Whites’ fan favourite failing to return to the pitch today, despite passing his HIA within the first half hour.
The 29-year-old struggled to hold his ground against a star-studded Barbarians backline. Toulon centre/wing Semi Radradra in particular found success in running down Trinder’s channel. While it must be noted that Radradra gave even the most staunch English defender the cold shoulder today, Trinder was unfortunately exposed as a defensive weakness. As Teimana Harrison and Luther Burrell did in Australia two years ago, Trinder received the shepherd’s crook in his first international appearance in four years.
It is unfortunate for Trinder that his obvious, devastating attacking capabilities will now be tarnished in the eyes of Eddie Jones, inescapably linked with the disappointment of his work without the ball in England’s biggest loss at Twickenham in history.
Overall, a hugely disappointing result for England and Eddie Jones today, allowing a scratch Barbarians side put nine tries past them at the home of English rugby. A devastatingly porous defensive showing from England could not have come at a worse time, with defence coach Paul Gustard confirming his departure for Harlequins earlier this week.
England head into their three-Test series in the rainbow nation this summer with four consecutive losses to their backs. With the potential of a Springbok resurgence spearheaded by Rassie Erasmus, the summer series may not be the forgone conclusion many may have first thought.