‘Boks will be more physical than ever’

What the English newspapers are saying ahead of the Test against the Springboks at Twickenham on Saturday.

The consensus among the British scribes is that the 24-21 scoreline at Twickenham this past Saturday flattered England. Stuart Lancaster’s side have now lost four matches this year to the All Blacks, and there is a feeling in the local media that time is running out to make a statement.

Following the recent defeat, the next three weeks have been described as ‘huge’. It's a concern that they will face the Springboks this weekend without centre Luther Burrell and probably without lock Courtney Lawes, who left the field last Saturday with a concussion. They are already missing forwards of the quality of Alex Corbisiero, Geoff Parling and Joe Launchbury.

‘All Blacks: Lancaster’s men going backwards’ reads the title of a backpage sidebar in today's Daily Mail. The All Blacks have said that England weren’t as competitive on Saturday as they were in the three-Test series in June.

World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward believes England need more grunt in their game. ‘We have to circle the wagons, get some sulphur flying around, add some real anger into this team and concentrate on playing ruthless world-class rugby. Winning the next match is all that matters’.

Woodward expects a Bok backlash this week. ‘This week is going to be one of the toughest of Stuart Lancaster’s career. The Boks will be up for it physically more than ever, so England must look to out-think and out-smart them and that needs great coaching and great selecting’. Woodward feels Danny Cipriani should start at No 10 and Owen Farrell at 12 to give England more tactical-kicking options.

There is plenty of reflection and analysis in today’s edition of the The Times. ‘Confident Lancaster needs new firepower to fend off snipers’ is the headline of Owen Slot’s piece. Slot writes that there were positives to be taken from the narrow loss to the All Blacks in the first match of the June series. However, he feels that there was little to be enthused about regarding the most recent defeat. ‘The clock has ticked on too far for such comfort to remain … they have found four consecutive ways of losing to the All Blacks of late’.

Slot believes that Lancaster has plenty to ponder in terms of his selections, especially at flyhalf. ‘Owen Farrell’s kicking was poor, his game management was poor … what if Farrell’s qualities are sufficient to win a Six Nations game but not one against a giant from the southern hemisphere?’ He then goes on to suggest that George Ford may be the best option at pivot, and that Farrell could be a handy No 12.

In the same paper, former England playmaker Stuart Barnes laments the team’s inability to build on a good start against the All Blacks. Barnes also criticises Farrell’s tactical kicking and says ‘packs do not win matches if backs cannot put them in the right position’.

The headlines in today’s Daily Telegraph are less complimentary. ‘England accused of going backwards’ is the headline of Gavin Mairs’s piece, while Mick Cleary asserts that ‘All Blacks shine light on hosts’ enduring frailty’. The title of Brian Moore’s column, 'Time for taking positives is running out’, suggests England are under pressure to get things right against the Boks.

Cleary observes: ‘Perhaps this is the real England, incomplete, maddeningly inconsistent on this showing, capable but not commanding. Test rugby is not about flashes of brilliance, it is about sustained excellence’. He also notes that the Boks will be keen to prove a point after their own failure at the Aviva Stadium. ‘The Springboks will be beasting themselves over the next few days after the horrors of Dublin. There will be no talk of positives in their defeat’.

‘England sunk by inability to think quickly under attack’ reads the headline in today’s Guardian. A smaller piece by Dean Ryan is titled ‘Home side lose sight of basics and pressure is now on’.

‘England needed three wins this autumn to show they are moving in the right direction,’ Ryan writes. ‘Two was just about the pass mark, but after the goings-on in Dublin on Saturday, England have to nail the Boks and to do otherwise would suddenly make Australia, and even Samoa, potential banana skins’.

By Jon Cardinelli

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Jon Cardinelli