England creating Rugby World Cup siege mentality after catalogue of calamity

England creating Rugby World Cup siege mentality after catalogue of calamity

England today jetted out to France hoping a growing siege mentality can give their Rugby World Cup campaign lift-off.

The players are itching for the team to take flight after three defeats in four warm-up matches and six losses in nine Test matches under Steve Borthwick.

While the ultra-measured head coach bottles up his frustrations, at least in public, the players have been struggling to keep a lid on theirs.

Vice-captain Ellis Genge and senior pro Joe Marler have both vented their ire on social media in the wake of Saturday’s chastening 30-22 defeat by Fiji at Twickenham.

“Write us off now, all the best,” said Genge on Twitter, before adding: “To all the England rugby fans ‘supporting’ us, we know we’re not where we need to be at all right now. We will get there, stick with us through the dark, thanks for the love, we appreciate it.”

Marler said: “Thanks to the fans for your support, we will try and do better in France.”

A first-ever loss to Fiji was hardly the send-off England wanted, with any designs on valedictory addresses to an adoring crowd well and truly scotched.

England can bemoan their poor form, continue without blinking or get angry. The latter seems by far the most likely to generate a response to find favour with demoralised fans.

While Genge and Marler will probably have had knuckles rapped for those social-media sound-offs, England have to start building a response from somewhere.

And any riposte that is led by the players harbours a small chance of creating lasting change.

A catalogue of calamity has befallen England in the past month and, yet, heading out to France offers a clean slate - mentally for the squad, at least.

England should seize that fresh start with gusto, fire back into training and finally find their groove. This England team is the most disjointed of the professional era, but there is plenty of talent in the ranks capable of shaking that tag.

George Ford recently insisted that creating and implementing a sophisticated attacking ­framework does not take as long as people tend to think. The Sale fly-half numbers among England’s deepest rugby thinkers, so let us hope he is correct — and can drag others on to his wavelength.

England will certainly have to deliver a completely different product in order to beat Argentina in their World Cup opener in Marseille on Saturday week.

Michael Cheika’s Pumas will eat up the hackneyed, error-strewn and laboured performances England delivered in their four August warm-up Tests.

Disarray: England’s World Cup preparations have been dire, finishing with a historic first defeat by Fiji at Twickenham (Action Images via Reuters)
Disarray: England’s World Cup preparations have been dire, finishing with a historic first defeat by Fiji at Twickenham (Action Images via Reuters)

England have been determined to kick for attacking gain under Borthwick but, so far, unsuccessfully. Ford has all the tricks in his armoury to boss a fluent backline, and it is high time

England backed themselves and each other to dominate the ball. That means committing the correct numbers to rucks, recycling ball far more cleanly and quickly — and then sorting out their lopsided backline spacing.

In the rare times England have probed in backline phase play this month, all too often the spaces between the players have been all wrong: too tight at one turn, too far apart the next.

Alex Mitchell’s crisp service offset yet more misalignment against Fiji, but the problems have not gone away.

England simply must have held back a wealth of rugby intellectual property for the World Cup itself, otherwise the only people they are kidding with notions of it will be alright on the night are themselves.

Borthwick’s men do not even need to beat Argentina to reach the quarter-finals in any case. Wins over Japan, Chile and Samoa will do it, though the way Samoa applied the squeeze on Ireland, that Pool D finale looms ever more ominously.

England’s players are clearly unhappy with what they perceive as being written off by their own fans. No England supporter has dismissed their team’s chances, though. Far from it, in fact.

One element of fandom that players may understandably forget is that it is the hope that kills you. Supporters will never lose that longing for their team to come good, no matter the situation.

England will land on new shores today, with new horizons and a fresh outlook as they head to their training base in Le Touquet, a resort on the coast near Calais. Borthwick’s men have the full capability to subdue Argentina next week.

They must avoid any smugness if they do succeed. If the concept of being written off spurs England to victory, great, but it will only ever have been a construct.