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6 Nations 2021: Fixture List May Save England Players

For England to lose its first home game of the 6 Nations 2021 at Twickenham and then face Italy at home a week later is a lot more palatable than Wales, France, or Ireland away.

By no means am I being disrespectful to Italy. In fact, they showed more attacking creativity in a 50-point loss than England did in a 5-point loss.

However, a substantial England win over Italy will vindicate Eddie‘s comment – “we had a bad day”.

There has been a lack of variety in attack with England for a while now. Farrell is a shadow of the player he was, yet he commands a place at 10 or 12. Opposition coaches will be aware of his decline. Running is as much about instinct as thought. When you consider should I kick or run…it’s too late!

The best captains over the years have led by example on the field, by presence not by talking…there is no time. The great ones get you on the front foot again. Follow me rather than do this. Farrell had to run England back into the game, even off limited ball. When he kicked despite a 5 v 2 you felt Scotland would win.

Redpath showed an instinct to run into space. If the defence drifted, he attacked it by running back at it, exposing any lazy inside defender. He made it look effortless and he made ground.

The transitioning of players from Academy/U20s to first team or International status can be varied. Some players just need the exposure.

For example, when I recommended Ed Slater to Richard Cockerill at Tigers, I pressed hard for him to work with the first team forwards immediately he got off the plane. I felt he could cope! Other young players need the security of the team playing structure.

France demonstrated this in the recent extra time loss to England and the win over Italy. The young players who lost by a point in extra time against England relished the opportunity to play in the 6 Nations. They didn’t just turn up and get a cap, they came to win. Now the French can play with flair and structure, the balance is a potent weapon. France may say, they have playing maturity in youth.

Italy’s International players lack winning club experience. Benneton and Zebra get the occasional win but try scoring experience is lacking. They may hold England for 20-30 minutes but when the pressure builds their passing accuracy disintegrates.

England will put in a “reaction performance on the field.” And Eddie will make changes. The question remains, will they be significant changes?

Some years ago, the England soccer manager Terry Venables stated it is hard coaching at the highest level to find some private thinking time in the week prior to the game. If Andy Farrell did manage to find that time, I doubt he would have considered a 14th minute sending off and an injury time missed kick to touch.

The sending off seemed to inspire Ireland who raised their intensity and dominated the half. In contrast, Wales went into sleep mode – surely it should have been the other way round.

Should coaches always expect the unexpected?

Round two is upon us immediately. If the game is played between the ears:

• England will react for sure, but the win will not answer many questions.
• Scotland will have too much passion for Wales.
• Ireland and France will draw a pulsating game in Dublin.

If you were to give one line of advice to your players…it might be “don’t run into space, accelerate into space“.

Check out Mike’s other Articles about the 6 Nations here.

About Mike Penistone

Mike has coached at all levels of the game, from under-7's through to elite international players at the highest level, in both the northern and southern hemispheres. A few notable positions include serving as Head Coach for Great Britain Students (Rugby League), Head Coach at Nottingham RUFC and Head of Elite Player Development at Leicester Tigers Academy. Mike also served as the U21's Coach at the NSW Warratahs and Director of Coaching at Eastern Suburbs Sydney. He continues to coach across the globe running his consultancy. Check out his website: here. View all posts by Mike Penistone

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