England pack deserve better backs
England pack deserve better backsSHARE
Whilst the England forward pack have shown themselves capable of taking on the best in the world, their backline lacks the same cutting edge.
The England forwards were impressive in their spirited 30-22 loss to the All Blacks at Twickenham, which followed big performances in their victories over Australia and Argentina, but their backline was not able to pose nearly as much of a threat.
Former coach Clive Woodward pointed out in his newspaper column that if England are to challenge for the World Cup on home soil in 2015 they will need to make significant strides in their backline play.
"The lesson of the autumn is that England have a magic bunch of forwards tough enough to win a World Cup," Woodward wrote.
"But – and it is a big but – there is simply no element of genuine fear of our back division.
"We have learned little other than we have a pragmatic backline who fail to exploit the brilliant work of the pack and are a long way off the standard required if England really do have aspirations to lift the World Cup again."
Admittedly, Stuart Lancaster, the current England coach, was without injured first-choice centres Manu Tuilagi and Brad Barritt, both of whom scored tries in England's shock 38-21 win over the All Blacks at Twickenham last year.
He also was deprived of injured wings Marlon Yarde and Christian Wade.
"If you took four players out of the All Blacks team and had new combinations working together it would be challenging for them too," insisted Lancaster.
England have rarely been renowned for the quality of their backline but the best Red Rose sides of recent times have contained at least one assured playmaker and finisher, be it Jeremy Guscott and Rory Underwood in the 1990s or Will Greenwood and Jason Robinson in the World Cup-winning team.
Indeed the player England have struggled most to replace since 2003 is not goal-kicking ace Jonny Wilkinson, who has a successor in FOwen arrell, but ball-playing centre Greenwood.
Hopes remain that Billy Twelvetrees, in the England side on Saturday, could be that player but the jury remains out on whether the Gloucester midfielder can deliver on the world stage.