When ‘grunt’ is preferable to ‘flair’

ON THE BALL: France’s destruction of England, answers all the questions about the English Rose, but what will happen to France when they come face to face with the Springboks? Lucky Maree asks.

Anybody who wondered if Steve Borthwick was on the right track with the England rugby side can stop wondering.

Not only is it a fact that this is the first time France have beaten England at Twickenham in 18 years, but they did it by 43 points, the biggest margin ever. What is less obvious but perhaps more damaging is the way they did it.

England can no longer hide the reality that they don’t have forwards. Analysts have even been saying that the great Maro Itoje, that workhorse of English rugby, should be a flank and not a lock. Except, moving him to flank would mean that England would have no worthwhile locks at all. Locks are like kidneys. You can kinda operate successfully with one, but functioning without any kidneys at all is a little more complicated.

Prop Ellis Genge took the England captaincy very seriously. He whined into referee Ben O’Keeffe’s ear every time play was stopped. However, if his role was to stabilise the scrum, he didn’t particularly perform that task well. 

It is clear that Wales fired Wayne Pivac for the wrong reasons. Warren Gatland has publicly confirmed that. It is becoming clear that Eddie Jones was fired for the wrong reasons as well. It’s like thinking load shedding will magically disappear now that Andre de Ruyter isn’t there anymore.

England have effectively played themselves out of the Six Nations, but that is only the beginning. Even the most die-hard England supporter will have to accept that England have shown that they are not a serious contender for any sort of success at the World Cup.

This is what we now know about England. What do we know about France?

Behind a dominant pack, they are unbeatable – but that applies to about any team. On Saturday, France did their image of potential World Cup winners a great deal of good. But have we forgotten that only a month ago, they were left at sixes and sevens in Dublin against Ireland?

What will happen to France when they come face to face with the Springboks? France love to play off the front foot, but will they be as rampant if they get pushed onto the back foot?

England’s backs performed slightly better than the forwards. Fullback Freddie Steward deserved to score England’s solitary try. As always, Marcus Smith did okay. Sometimes he tends to run around like a chicken with its head chopped off, but he did his best. 

France has players like Antoine Dupont. He may just be the best scrumhalf in the world right now. But any backline needs a solid scrum if they’re going to look good. 

All the legendary “flair” that France is always labelled with means nothing if the scrum doesn’t dominate – and that is where the crunch comes. The Boks are one of the few teams that can contain the French because they have the scrum to do it. Looking to spoil the French party are players like Ox Nche, Evan Roos, Siya Kolisi, Eben and Bismarck – and that’s only in the scrum.  

Right now the All Blacks don’t have the best forwards, but they may have sorted out their problems when the World Cup kicks off. The Irish may have what it takes, but for now, Rassie and Co must be very happy with the way things are stacking up. “Quietly confident” is the catchphrase that probably describes them best.

France may have the flair, but the Springboks have the grunt. Which do you prefer?

Pictured above: The Springbok family 

Image source: SA Rugby

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