Five lessons from the past weekend's World Cup warm-up matches, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
George Ford has secured the England No 10 jersey
England coach Stuart Lancaster told Ford in the build-up to Saturday's match against Ireland at Twickenham that Owen Farrell was breathing down his neck. Ford responded with a calm, composed performance. He kicked well for goal, nailing a touchline conversion and a long-range penalty, and out of hand, with his pin-point crosskick resulting in Anthony Watson's try. Farrell came on with 20 minutes to go, and while he slotted two late penalties to seal the win, he botched a try when he threw a long skip pass to Mike Brown, instead of using the three players on his outside when England had an overlap.
England's set pieces still require attention
Having lost the scrum battle to France in Paris, as well as four of their own lineouts, England were looking for an improved set-piece performance against Ireland. However, they conceded two tightheads at scrum time, and while they won all of their own lineouts, Ireland were able to cause enough disruption to ensure the possession was scrappy.
World Cup warm-up wins can come at a big cost
Wales' 23-19 victory against Italy in Cardiff was overshadowed by the serious injuries suffered by scrumhalf Rhys Webb (ankle) and fullback Leigh Halfpenny (knee). Both were stretchered off the field, while wearing oxygen masks to help ease the pain, and look set to miss the World Cup. It would be a huge blow for Wales, who will already be without injured midfielder Jonathan Davies.
Scotland still lack that killer instinct
Having recorded back-to-back wins against Italy, Scotland believed they could beat France in Paris for the first time since 1999. And it looked like they would when they led 16-12 with 10 minutes to go. But Dave Denton was yellow-carded for a professional foul at the breakdown, and soon after Noa Nakaitaci scored France's second try. In the final minute of the match, Sean Maitland broke away but his offload went forward and Scotland were left wondering what might have been following yet another 'brave defeat'.
There's a gulf in class between the Wallabies best and next best
Apart from openside flanker Sean McMahon, who had a good game, Australia's second stringers did little against the 16th-ranked USA in Chicago to advance their World Cup selection cause. The Wallabies led just 14-10 at the break following a shocking first-half performance, with coach Michael Cheika turning to his bench as early as the 46th minute. The substitutes had the desired effect, with the visitors going on to score five second-half tries.
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