May 26, 2024

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“The room we needed”… how the British bounced back from last year's defeat

“The room we needed”… how the British bounced back from last year's defeat

England's biggest defeat at home was 76-0 and 58-10 in Australia in 1998, and also the third-worst in their history, against Rose's crushed XV (10-53) in South Africa in 2007. In France, the 110th crunch has been loved/analyzed from all angles since March 11, 2023, almost a holiday for French rugby, and we haven't taken time to think about its ramifications across the channel.

Former England international Steffon Armitage (5 caps from 2009 to 2011) will never forget the match he watched on TV “only with French friends”.

“I've lived in France for thirteen years, so it's home for me,” says the three-time European champion with RC Toulon (2013, 2014 and 2015). But there, it was a little hard to see, while I imagined a very close match, with few points. All the British were embarrassed. »

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“Twickenham is the home of rugby and we were humiliated there,” he continues. Defeat is the way to go, fight to the end, but the team gave up right there, unforgivable. This is not a contest you can do on video. Forget about it and throw it straight in the trash. He didn't even dare to read the English magazines behind it. »

The telegram, for example, had fun renaming the stadium “Twickenham-sur-Seine”. “It was an embarrassing result against a rival not just in the Six Nations, but with the World Cup on the horizon,” recalled the paper's journalist Charles Richardson. Those present that day were notable for their French performance. »

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However, this historic tartas at Twickenham for XV de la Rose had a founding dimension according to Stéphane Armitage, now a player for Perre-l'Etang (5th division Bouches-du-Rhône). “It's a much-needed boost for England as they prepare for the World Cup,” he said. France was then one of the best countries in the world and showed the way to follow. A lot of things had to change in the mindset. »

Borthwick, “a wonderful coach”

Former international pillar (8 selections from 2000 to 2002), now valued consultant, David Flatman agrees: “A shock? In a way I think, but this match helped prove that the England team is not where it should be. This kind of effect may hurt at the moment, but it can also help accelerate the necessary changes. Today, the choice is very favorable. »

Then coach Steve Borthwick, who arrived in December 2022 in the ruins of the much-criticised, Eddie Jones era, resisted the shock wave. With a strategy to start from scratch for the 2023 World Cup in France, before developing a more ambitious plan for the benefit.

England coach Steve Borthwick during last week's huge win over Ireland.– Tom Sandberg / PPAUK / Shutterstock / Ciba

“Borthwick is a wonderful, studious and meticulous coach, but he needs time,” said Judge Charles Richardson. However, ten months before the World Cup he was immediately thrown into the mix and we had to find a short-term solution, which was this minimal game. Now he can build a team for a long time in his style, more complete and ambitious. »

“We had to put things back together by asserting ourselves and committing against Japan (34-12, during the second match of the World Cup)”, admits Stephen Armitage.

Then the game evolved little by little, representing RCT's former third line. Against Ireland (23-22), no one imagined a victory, even in the English press, we saw that the team wanted to go forward, wanted to score tries and above all not satisfied with kicking. It's a throwback to the days when Jonny Wilkinson was on the attack. It is a matter of great pride for a team the size of Ireland to offer more sport. » »

In exactly one year, XV de la Rose went from one of the worst nightmares in its history to one of its most spectacular successes. Thanks to a drop after the siren by prodigy opener Marcus Smith (23-22), only six survivors of the debacle against France scored against Ireland: centers Ollie Lawrence and Henry Slade, forwards Jamie George (now captain), Ellis Kenge, Maro Itoje. and Ollie Sesame.

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“Wild and Smiling Soldiers”

Key elements of this renewal include 3rd row Ben Earl (age 26, Saracens), wingers Tommy Freeman (age 23, Northampton) and Emmanuel Faye-Waboso (age 22, Exeter) and the return of George Furbank (28, Northampton).

Third line center Ben Earl is one of England XV's new spearheads.
Third line center Ben Earl is one of England XV's new spearheads.– Simon King / ProSports / Shutterstock / Ciba

Two weeks after the disappointment in Scotland (30-21), David Blatman admitted he was “pleasantly surprised” by the performance against the Irish side, the banning XV of recent years (four English defeats in a row).

“The players play fantastic rugby in the Premiership so we all know what they are capable of, but it was huge! The atmosphere at Twickenham changed, they were both lively and smiling. It was great to see for an England fan. We hope there will be more matches like this in the future.”

Two exams are required to confirm their renewal

For his part, Stefan Armitage is confident that England have made the most of the extremely unfavorable environment surrounding the 2023 World Cup – VI Nations 2024 line-up, a challenge we love, he smiles. I know that England will not miss their World Cup and are capable of troubling South Africa till the end like they did in the semi-final (15-16). »

He now sees this Saturday's (9pm) meeting in Lyon-Décines as “the first real crisis in a long time”, with two selections “awaiting confirmation”. A year and five days later, a golden opportunity for revenge and redemption.

Because after all, even the absolute icon Jonny Wilkinson suffered a 76-0 thrashing in Australia five years before becoming world champions against the Wallabies. “It was a real opportunity for purification for me and a great lesson in humility,” the former England opener explained to ITV in March 2023. A lesson well learned by the gang at Steve Borthwick.

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