“Dear Eddie…….” Letter No 2

Dear Eddie
I wrote to you almost 2 weeks ago. Almost 550 people read my letter, but I don’t think that you were one of them.
Things have got worse since my last letter, following the calamity in Paris. I am afraid that in the circumstances, I have no option but to write to you again. Please please read this.  Please listen. Yet again, I urge you to do so for your own sake, and for that of the nation.
In my last letter, I complemented you, for by and large the results had been excellent. However there was a but ……and that but is that results and performances were beginning to unravel. This time I am not going to be so kind, it is now time for some very serious and straight talking.
There have now been four very poor performances. Your team are now regularly being outfought and outbattled, bashed at the breakdown, giving away far too many penalties and looking extremely inept as an attacking force. There is absolutely no doubt that this team, playing as it is, will not win the World Cup. You must recognise this, you are not stupid. 
In the light of this latest wretched performance against France, you need to have a good hard look at yourself. Eddie, please open your mind. 
As I wrote previously,  consistency of selection is essentially a good thing, but when a side is struggling or going backwards then things need to be done and changes need to be made. Your loyalty to certain players is now proving to be more than a little misplaced and misguided.
The problems that I previously identified remain and indeed are getting worse. The attack is simply pedestrian, ponderous and offers very little threat. This is a result of three things, namely slow ball, a lack of skill and creative flair from the inside backs and a lack of any form of cohesive attacking strategy.  How many times did England’s props taking phased ball, standing still, off the scrum half and trundle for a metre or two, get pushed back and the whole process would start all over again. It was painful to watch.
The introduction of Watson at full back least offers something and he must remain in the side in this position. This was one of the principle suggestions in my last letter and I applaud you for dropping Mike Brown. Daly’s return was also helpful and your back three is now looking better with pace and a little fizz about it.
Yet again,  I am simply amazed that there still appear to be no planned backs moves especially off first phase ball, which are essential to find space and create opportunities. The inside backs appear devoid of ideas and there is simply little flair or imagination.
I wrote that if you are to keep the same players, then you will need to spend far greater time on the training ground working on some set moves and plays. I have since changed my mind. Not only do you need to spend more time on the training ground, I actually think that you need to change some of the players, by bringing in those with more natural flair and spark. Maybe a dedicated attacking coach might be worth investing in during the summer too.
Firstly, at fly half. To repeat myself, to win a World Cup, a team really needs to have a world class fly half who can dictate a game, who can put his team in the right areas of the pitch with his kicking game yet have the vision to see space and create opportunities, both with ball in hand and running himself or by putting others into space. I know that you have invested so much time in Ford, and he has rarely let you down, but he is not the man to play in such a pivotal position to win a World Cup.  Danny Cipriani or Alex Lozowski must come into the reckoning. 

If not, you must pick Farrell at fly half, granted he did not particularly excel on Saturday in Paris, but with either Lozowski or Henry Slade, both natural ball players, alongside him. One thing is for certain, Ford’s time is over. A change must be made.
Secondly, you talk about the need for ‘finishers’, your invention, your word.  By definition, players who can come on and make a difference, who can change a game which, after all, is what you want your replacements to do.  Kyle Sinckler and Luke Cowan-Dickie did just that, both good selections, well done. However, it should not really be necessary for me to congratulate you on these two selections, it should be obvious. Young hungry dynamic individuals to come on and change the game when others are tiring. Obvious. Yet credit where credit is due.
Indeed it can be argued that James Haskell did just that too, but he is not the long term answer, even though he is more dynamic than his old mucker Chris Robshaw.  Players must take the ball at pace and be explosive. Robshaw simply cannot do that. More on him later.
So, continuing the ‘finishers’ theme. Scrum half. Richard Wigglesworth. Please Eddie, please please. The man has no pace and he is just the sort of player to bring on when you want to slow the game down, not quicken it up. He did absolutely nothing when he came on yesterday. It has to be Dan Robson or Will Chudley, they offer pace and an eye for a gap, absolutely critical when trying to chase a game. Even Danny Care is suffering too at the moment and maybe a return to the bench might do him some good, for him to watch and observe, and to give him some time to get his mojo back.
More on the ‘finishers’, this time for the outside backs. Mike Brown. You have at long last recognised that he is not an attacking force yet, to let him down slowly, you decide to put him on the replacements bench. “There you go Mike, sit on the bench, you’ll still get a run out. Good lad.”  Eddie, like Wigglesworth, Brown is not a finisher. He is less of a finisher than he is a starter. He simply adds nothing to an attack. So, any opposing team will look at England’s bench. They will see Brown’s name and they will smile. Thank goodness for that, they will think. No Christian Wade, no Denny Solomona, no Marlon Yarde, arguably the quickest and most dangerous try scorers in the Premiership. Admittedly Joseph was an improvement when he came on yesterday but he is far from the answer for the number 12 or 13 shirt, for his distribution skills are lacking. 
Thirdly, the forwards. In my last letter, I praised you, for I thought that by and large you were getting this right, by trying to introduce fresh, young, dynamic and hungry talent. 
However, I noted that you did seem to want to persist with the ageing warriors, such as Captain Dylan Hartley and Chris Robshaw, your loyal servants. Against France you were spared the ignominy of dropping Hartley, as he was out injured anyway, but sometimes you need to look forward and pick men who will make a difference now and in the future, not those who are surviving on past glories. 
Robshaw is a plodder, a hard working and committed one I grant you, but he is still a plodder. He would not get anywhere near playing for any of the other 6 Nations teams, including Italy. Eddie, he must go.
As I wrote previously, you must be congratulated for selecting the likes of Sam Simmonds and Sam Underhill, who have both made an impression. You must now go one step further and consider the likes of Jack Willis. Your selection of Don Armand be a good one for a start, for he is a very effective and uncompromising operator and he has a winners’ mentality playing at Exeter.  
You just need to get the make up of the back row correct. As things stand, it seriously lacks pace and dynamism. Billy is a huge loss but everyone else has to make do with injuries. Indeed Wales have positively thrived in this position. Nathan Hughes is not yet fit and firing and his latest injury makes matters worse. I note that Courtney Lawes is now also out of the next match, which  is possibly no bad thing from the point of view of the make up of the back row. Whilst he is strong, powerful and reasonably athletic for a lock, he is not the answer as a flanker for he is too slow and lacks mobility for this position.  Like Robshaw, both are TOO SLOW for the back row. 
Eddie, you have openly stated that you want to be the best. Whilst your team might defeat Ireland next week at Twickenham, it will only paper over the cracks. You are losing in the hard places, in the likes of Dublin, Edinburgh and Paris. 
You must make some changes now, take same hard choices. In many ways, you have little to lose against Ireland, for there is a fair chance that England will come no higher than third in the Championship, even if you win, so it makes sense to make some changes now. 
Be bold Eddie, before it is too late. Time is running out. Japan is looming on the horizon. It is decision time. You have been warned.
As ever, best wishes and good luck
For and on behalf of the English Rugby Nation

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