Fluency in possession has so far eluded head coach Steve Borthwick and attack specialist Richard Wigglesworth this summer.
Against Japan, however, England will be given the chance to play expansively, thanks to the Brave Blossoms’ open, high-tempo game-plan.
Over the next three weeks, as England progress through their Pool D programme in France, it will become clear whether Borthwick’s Red Rose joint is a hackneyed reworking or a classic cover version.
England’s backline has become fractured into two parts, and the coaches must find a way to mend the fissures that run between the two centres.
The current Test set-up in attack looks as though England are employing one system for scrum-half, fly-half and inside centre, and another for outside centre, the two wings and the full-back.
In the car trade, the most dangerous of practices is the ‘cut and shut’, where two vehicles damaged in accidents at either end are split apart. The damaged sections are dispensed, while the intact corresponding parts are welded together into a makeshift new vehicle. A degree in mechanical engineering is not required to know the danger involved.
England’s two backline halves at times feel welded together in similarly slipshod and worrying fashion. Henry Slade provided a perfect blowtorch patch-up job at outside centre in the closing stages of Eddie Jones’s tenure last year, and also in the Six Nations.
Borthwick omitted the 30-year-old from his World Cup squad, however, so cannot turn to the Exeter playmaker here in France. Slade operated manfully in the 13 channel, but also did so as an auxiliary fly-half.
England would often shift the ball and run out of ideas and steam in centre field, whereupon Slade would take over and almost run a mini backline of his own in the wide channels.
This allowed for a football-style overload, where one group of players overwhelms the opposition on a specific flank. In the rugby version, Slade the outside centre become an honorary fly-half, with the blindside winger stepping off his flank, too.
Tighten up those centres, shore up that secondary supply line to the backfield, and Ford can elevate England’s approach several more levels
Slade would then have the option of both wingers around him and the full-back as a direct running line threat. This set-up covered a multitude of cracks for an England team that had lost its attacking direction in the last days of Jones’s tenure.
Borthwick’s reign has yet to find its attacking road, too, but the perfect opportunity to plot that new route has been mapped out for England over the next few weeks.
England could look to urge Elliot Daly to drift into that 13 channel off his blindside wing spot, and use all his playmaking and creative skills to fill that role left vacant by Slade.
Max Malins can operate in a similar vein, and both accomplished backs could add an intelligent edge to England’s attacking operation. Another option would be to send big runners on wide attacking lines outside Joe Marchant at outside centre.
The former Harlequins centre boasts a classic outside break in the mould of the legendary Jerry Guscott. If England can send Marchant across the line on an arcing run, then others can cut straight angles off him that can bamboozle opposition defences.
England dispatched Argentina last weekend with punishing defence and relentless play on the fringes with the ball in hand. George Ford piloted the side expertly in Marseille, ticking the scoreboard again and again with penalties and drop goals.
Japan play with width, pace and ambition, though, so Sunday’s clash in Nice will offer a fine opportunity for England to road-test another element of their attacking motorcade.
Ford’s focus was drop goals and penalties to drive Argentina to distraction, but now England need his attacking acumen to come to the fore. The Sale playmaker can be as good as any fly-half in the world at bossing an aggressive, destructive backline attack, too, however.
Tighten up those centres, shore up that secondary supply line to the backfield, and Ford can elevate England’s approach several more levels this weekend. England now have a chance to build into this tournament — and Ford is just the right man to deliver on that more rounded attacking range.