‘England’s loss to Ireland is gold dust’


Matt Dawson

What happened to England against Ireland on Saturday will be gold dust for the future.

Whatever team you are in, whether it is in sport, a school or a business, everyone constantly goes on about team spirit.

Sometimes, you have just got to go to the absolute depths and throw the rule book away. You have to look each other in the eye and recognise that only the players on the pitch are going to win that game. Not the coaches, no-one else, you have got to climb that mountain together.

When Charlie Ewels was sent off for a high tackle, England did that.

The bounceback from England showed character that I have not ever seen from that side.

They are great in the gym, they have got amazing skills and they are super fit but there is something unique about being able to take yourself to a place that you did not realise you could go – not just physically but mentally.

If you want to win big championships or the World Cup, you have to go through those types of scenarios.

Thinking back to England’s defeat against South Africa in the 2019 World Cup final, Kyle Sinckler went off injured early and South Africa scored a couple of penalties.

Then England were in trouble and they lost the referee, they lost momentum. They were losing their bearings.

Against Ireland, in a similar moment England’s reaction was the complete opposite. They went for a simple, basic gameplan. They had a great kick-chase and a fantastic defence and were just seeing what they could do.

Of course they were a man down against a top-quality side and they ran out of steam, but they were in it for 70 minutes and that change in mentality will stand them in good stead.

‘England should have their feet up all week’

I just hope now that the England coaching team can harness the change.

Maybe it shows the coaches that whatever environment they put them in, the players are capable of running that team themselves and playing how they should play on the day.

The defeat puts England out of the title race, but if Eddie Jones’ side beat Grand Slam-chasing France Ireland could claim the trophy.

I think England can beat France and to prepare for that game, they should have their feet up all week.

They need full rehab, chilling out, a couple of walkthrough sessions. They have got to have every ounce of energy in the tank if they want to beat France.

You could see that they were gone by the end of the Ireland game, as they should be given the amount of mental and physical energy they put into it.

It would be detrimental to the performance at the weekend if they are asked to do any serious training this week.

England could still finish fifth in the tournament for the second year in a row and if they do, the media might use that to suggest that England are heading towards failure.

Head coach Jones will say it is all about preparing for the World Cup.

When I was playing, I know I won one Grand Slam but I could not tell you when I came second, third, fourth or fifth.

When you are a player you are living in the present. You want to win games and if you lose, you move on to the next one. The media will be interested in positions, the players will not be fussed about that.

‘England have nothing to lose’

France have played incredibly well all tournament but the reason I think England can win is that there is nothing on the match for them.

I think this England side gets a bit locked up and tight about outcomes. It is tough playing for England – there is a lot of pressure and expectation.

There is no expectation for them now. Against Ireland, they showed that they have got their set-piece and kicking game sorted then there is the added nugget of their team spirit.

The thing is, France are going to score tries. If they are going to score three tries, you know you are going to need to score four and it might just be that England need a bit of French flair to do that.

There is a nothing-to-lose mentality on the back of them showing some incredible grit. They were probably thinking after the Ireland game that they were not sure they had that in them, and now they can produce it again.

A Six Nations table showing: 1. France P 4 W 4 D 0 L 0 PD 56 B 2 Pts 18; 2. Ireland P 4 W 3 D 0 L 1 PD 84 B 4 Pts 16; 3. England P 4 W 2 D 0 L 2 PD 17 B 2 Pts 10; 4. Scotland P 4 W 2 D 0 L 2 PD -8 B 2 Pts 10; 5. Wales P 4 W 1 D 0 L 3 PD -27 B 2 Pts 6; 6. Italy P 4 W 0 D 0 L 4 PD -122 B 0 Pts 0

Conversely, France cannot get away from the fact that they are chasing a first Grand Slam and title since 2010.

England should be discussing that in their meetings this week. Put yourself in France’s shoes. A decade of nothing and everybody is now saying they are the best team in the world.

They showed they were a bit nervous against Wales. They showed against Ireland that even though they play a great style of rugby, if they get disrupted they are going to be like any other team and force it a bit.

England are going to get opportunities against France and they can take them if they turn up in Paris with the mindset they discovered against Ireland.

Matt Dawson was speaking to BBC Sport’s Becky Grey.

The BBC's Six Nations final round coverage starts with Wales v Italy on BBC One
All matches on Saturday, 19 March

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