Former England head coach Sir Clive Woodward has issued his former side a scathing rebuke in the wake of their defeat to Scotland on Saturday.
The English opened their Six Nations campaign in dire fashion, going down 11-6 to the Scots, their first loss to their northern rivals at Twickenham since 1983.
The result not only allowed Scotland to walk away with the Calcutta Cup for the third time in four years, but it also leaves England in fifth place on the Six Nations table following the opening weekend of action.
It was the way in which Eddie Jones’ side lost to Scotland that has riled Woodward up though, with the 2003 World Cup-winning coach taking to his Daily Mail column to blast his countrymen for their blunt efforts.
Woodward wrote that, having watched “every England game since the mid-1970s”, their performance over the weekend was “the worst I have ever seen England play by some margin given what was at stake”.
The 65-year-old added that despite the five-point losing margin, the result “felt like a 30-point defeat” and that there “was no reason for England not to be at their best”.
“Scotland were magnificent but England, other than a resolute defence which at least earned a losing bonus point, were indescribably bad,” Woodward wrote in the Daily Mail.
“They were off the pace, had no attacking ideas, kicked away what little quality possession they did earn and were ill-disciplined, coughing up nine penalties in the first 23 minutes.
“The latter can partly be attributed to the huge pressure Scotland built, but good sides and one as experienced as England find ways to absorb it. It is exactly then that you must not lose it mentally and give away penalties.”
Woodward attributed England’s loss to issues that stem from their 2019 World Cup final loss to the Springboks.
The former 23-test midfielder noted there had been no inquest following that defeat – which he said should have been a victory – because “the England hierarchy pointed to a decent campaign and an excellent semi-final win over New Zealand and seemed content with that”.
“That was a World Cup England should have won, but they blew it and serious questions needed to be asked.”
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According to Woodward, a mediocre 15 months of rugby has followed for England, even in spite of their Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup titles last year.
“Eddie and the RFU could point to a Six Nations title and an Autumn Nations Cup, but from the outside everybody could see a team struggling with its identity,” Woodward wrote in the Daily Mail.
“England have been a side locked into the most conservative, talent-quashing kicking game plan imaginable, ensuring that they underperformed.
“They kept winning, just, but Saturday was the moment of truth. They should have lost to a France third XV in December and now they have been played off the park by Scotland in a Calcutta Cup encounter at home.”
With four matches still to play in this year’s Six Nations, Woodward implored England to use the rest of the campaign to rethink their game plan, calling for quicker loose forwards and a more skilful backline.
He added the pain of this defeat must be used to drive England to better results over the coming weeks, pointing to England’s loss to Scotland at Murrayfield in 2000, a match he described as “the worst loss and moment of my career”, during his tenure as head coach as an example of how to source motivation in times of trouble.
“England must use this defeat. For 20 years after that defeat at Murrayfield my computer screensaver was a picture of the Scotland captain Andy Nicol and his team celebrating that win.
“I used the hurt of that defeat for the rest of my tenure as England coach and still the lessons from that day keep my feet on the ground. I hope defeat is hurting this England team as much this morning.”
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