Correspondent in London
On the eve of the World Cup, many media outlets have inevitably drawn up their lists of the best players in the world. The Telegraph did its own. And, in publishing its top 20, the conservative daily so quick to strike a patriotic chord wrote in the subtitle: “And not an English player”…
Among the commentators and among the supporters of the XV of the Rose, the mood is gloomy. The national team does not seem to extricate itself from its bad patch. And few dare to predict a great course for him. The latest news did not cheer up. For having received a red card against Wales due to a dangerous tackle three weeks ago, captain Owen Farrell will miss the first two (crucial) meetings of the World Cup, against Argentina then Japan. To make matters worse, third-line center Billy Vunipola, also suspended, will miss the first game.
The last World Cup, four years ago, seems like another era. The England team had tackled it in the peloton of favorites and had reached the final by losing to South Africa. Since then, the star of the English XV has faded and doubt camped in its 22 meters. The historic defeat against Fiji on August 26 at Twickenham did not help matters. Steve Borthwick's men have been struggling for a year (7 defeats, 1 draw, 4 victories) while the arrival of the new coach at the start of the year - after the dismissal of Eddie Jones - was supposed to provide a boost. whip.
The entire press is wondering how to get out of this slump. “Can England win the World Cup?”, asks the Times, appealing to the verdict of its specialist Oval journalists. He's rough. Alex Lowe, chief rugby correspondent, believes that the players must “take ownership of the team and take responsibility”, as in 2007. He deplores the absence of cohesion, motivation and ambition. “Steve Borthwick's strategy does not have everyone's support. The group is not united enough. The players do not have enough confidence in each other,” he wrote. He also criticizes the coach for protecting star players who are currently performing poorly.
For Stephen Jones of the Sunday Times, “confusion is in control, clarity is not there”. He deplores that the team today is so clumsy, slow-witted and locked into formulas (which are otherwise not very effective). “She is so afraid to play, he believes, the players need a breath of fresh air, to remember how to operate with the technical freedom they have all shown in their clubs”.
In an article in the Guardian where he wonders "why things have gone wrong for England since the last World Cup", Gerard Meagher is also harsh on Borthwick's strategy. “He took a conservative approach, picked an aging squad and sought to implement a risk-free game plan that worked for him with the (Leicester) Tigers but it’s not working,” he wrote.
He is saddened that it was a team in crisis, only eighth in the world rankings, which arrived in France. “Expectations are at rock bottom”. The supporters are not mistaken there, he notes. It was enough to see the unprecedented number of empty seats during the match against Fiji...