Six Nations - England coach admits failings

Reuters - Tue, 09 Mar 20:06:00 2010

The man charged with putting the spark into England's attack has admitted what everybody else has been saying for a long time: it is not working.

Brian Smith - England - 0

For Brian Smith, one of the most positive men in the game, that is some pronouncement but anyone who thinks the Australian is about to take radical action is in for a long wait.

Manager Martin Johnson named the same backs who spluttered unconvincingly in the Six Nations against Italy and Ireland when he unveiled his team to play Scotland on Saturday and attack coach Smith was fully in accord.

Almost from the day he joined the England set-up almost two years ago, the man who turned London Irish into the most entertaining team in the country has been defending England's performances.

For every complaint about lack of cutting edge Smith would find a statistic to prove England were, in fact, the most creative force in the game.

Now, having seen Ireland score three sparkling tries at Twickenham where England managed just one pushover score despite dominating possession, he accepts there is a problem.

"We are making breaks, creating chances, but we are not finishing them off," he said.

"What we are most disappointed with is the accuracy of our support lines because when you make clean breaks, particularly from set play, you have to be clinical and that support problem is a back three issue."

The back three -- full-back Delon Armitage and wings Mark Cueto and Ugo Monye -- have yet to score a try between them in three Six Nations games and, more worryingly, have rarely looked close to doing so.

Yet in-form Northampton full-back Ben Foden has to again settle for a place on the bench - and winger Chris Ashton cannot even make the replacements despite being far and away the leading try-scorer in the Premiership.

"Look at the backline guys not in the team, real quality, and we've told them they have to put the pressure on," Johnson said.

Public pressure, the form of widespread disenchantment with the dull, kick-led performance in Rome, did seem to get to the England players but Smith said they probably tried too hard to run the ball in the next game against Ireland.

"In the Italian game there were three times we had good chances to run the ball back and we should have hung on to it while against Ireland there were three we should have kicked but held on and put ourselves under pressure," he said.

"We tried to be as positive as we could be in that last game and possibly at times to our detriment. We got to nine or 10 phases when maybe kicking on fourth would have been better," said Smith.

"We are not always trying to kick to the 22, sometimes we're kicking to contest and if the accuracy isn't spot on you lose the chance to compete in the air for the ball and it can sometimes look like aimless kicking."

It did, and not just sometimes, yet Smith was not about to sign off on a negative.

"Perception can be misleading," he said. "We kicked only about 25 per cent of our possession in the last game when most teams are operating at about 50 per cent."


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