ENGLAND’S World Cup train came off the rails as it left the departure station in a Cardiff horror show.
Steve Borthwick picked a shadow side ahead of his final squad selection meeting last night.
England had an afternoon to forget against Wales[/caption]
Gareth Davies and George North scored tries as Wales beat their great rivals[/caption]
But the inquest will have been deep, dark and depressing as two months of training ground drills added up to more of the same messfans endured in the Six Nations.
While Borthwick fielded only two of the likely starting team againstmonth, the coach expected far more and for his men to lay down a marker.
Instead it was a repetition of the failures of last season, far too many on display damaging their hopes of being named in the 33, rather than helping them.
Sadly, aswas preparing to entertain down the road at Cardiff Castle, it’s not unusual to be depressed by England.
This was more of the same.
Too many wrong decisions. Too many basic errors, knock-ons and failed line-outs. Too many soft tries conceded.
Even when Marcus Smith kicked England into the half-time lead that should have been far greater, there was no conviction about the performance.
And a team that shipped 18 tries in five matches in thewas exposed once again, scores from scrum half Gareth Davies and long-time nemesis George North sending them tumbling to another miserable defeat.
These two teams are seeded to meet in a Marseille quarter-final in October.
That prospect felt a long way distant, especially for England, who appeared to have learned no lessons at all.
Borthwick’s interval frustrations after his side squandered a series of openings under the Principality roof will surely have been replaced by anger at the end.
Four early knock-ons, two in prime position deep in the Welsh 22, were unacceptable even if this was an England “B” side in all-but name.
But for Joe Cokanasiga, spilling consecutive aerials, and the mis-communicating line-out which wasted two opportunities 15 metres out, such failings could prove decisive on the eve of selection.
Two early Smith penalties, conceded by ascrum that lost hamstring victim hooker Ryan Elias in the opening exchanges, should have settled England down.
England boss Steve Borthwick has a lot to think about before the World Cup[/caption]
England need answers fast before the tournament in France[/caption]
Instead, they lost composure too easily, offside infringements from George Martin and debut-making flanker Tom Pearson allowing Leigh Halfpenny to mark his 100th cap by drawing the home side level.
That was ridiculous, given how much control England had enjoyed, especially in the front row.
Even so, with Smith growing into the game and enjoying the link-up with Joe Marchant, Borthwick’s side created half-openings only to lack the precision required innext month.
Max Malins was crowded out in the right corner after the Smith-Marchant combination had taken England close, Cokanasiga likewise on the other wing after an Alex Dombrandt surge.
At least Smith’s third penalty, with the final kick of the half after yet another scrum penalty was conceded by the home side, ensured they had the narrow lead.
Only for eight minutes of the second period though.
Wales gambled on a penalty advantage and Sam Costelow’s cross-kick, gathered by No 8 Aaron Wainwright against a ragged defence, ended with scrum half Davies burrowing over, Halfpenny adding the extras.
Poor defensively, once again. So much for eight weeks of work on that.
Borthwick turned to his bench but the pendulum had swung, with Dan Biggar coming on and kicking England to bits.
Wales sensed their moment, three goalline tackles keeping them at bay briefly, only for George North to go over without a hand on him.
Even with Georgeon for Smith, there was no way back.
Only a lengthy TMOprevented further humiliation when Louis Rees-Zammit was ruled to have knocked on as he grounded his own chip.
But nothing could spare England – who again knocked on under the posts with the last play – another evening of painful reflection.
They MUST get immediate revenge when Wales visit Twickenham next week.
Find out how it all happened in our blog below…