England win can’t hide issues – Barnes


England win can’t hide issues – Barnes

England win can’t hide issues – Barnes

Writing in his skysports.com column, Barnes said: “If England are at, or very near, their best, they have a major chance of winning the World Cup.

“But I have to reiterate the other side of the coin; that England have to be able to handle the momentum-shifting periods of pressure.

“This game did not address those issues,” he said.

Ireland had added to any exaggerated sense of England excellence, Barnes said.

“They were terrible and 2019 has been a bad year for Ireland after their wondrous 2018.

“Joe Schmidt’s side looked a long way from that 2018 vintage through the course of the last Six Nations. They were lethargic against Italy in the first warm-up. They turned up against England – a rare first-phase try – but not for long.

“Word is the Ireland team are one week behind England in terms of preparation but judging the events of Saturday, I’ll stick with my feeling that it is Ireland who have left their best behind them,” he said.

Barnes said host nation Japan would be looking at results in Europe and thinking they could have a chance of repeating their 2015 upset win over South Africa. Ireland, Scotland and Samoa are also in Japan’s pool.

“The more I think about this pool, the more I see at least one shock result,” Barnes said.

England’s use of two openside flankers [Sam Underhill and Tom Curry] had been a success, he said.

“Although with such dominance all over the park, it is difficult to judge how the two sevens system will stand up to the rigours of the World Cup.

“With Sam Cane and Ardie Savea combining for New Zealand, and Michael Hooper and David Pocock a likely Australian pair of sevens, England wouldn’t be the only team addressing the tackle, and tackle area, with two specialist opensides. It is an experiment worth pursuing,” he said.

Barnes did feel England had a problem at halfback where Ben Youngs had been ‘slow and sloppy’ with his passing.

“With only an inexperienced 32-year-old newcomer to Test rugby as an alternative – Willi Heinz – England look potentially weak in a crucial position. [Coach Eddie] Jones has placed great faith in the Leicester scrum-half for the best part of four years. Youngs needs to repay it,” he said.

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