Even though the terrain covered from Perth to Sydney was unknown to most in the England party, the route itself was all too familiar. England have made the journey along redemption road many times before, all too often for comfort.There is little doubt that the next five days will have significant bearing for Martin Johnson and his entire squad, for coaches as well as for players.They will be fighting for credibility on Saturday night, for a sense that they are not to be eternal also-rans, rugby’s economic superpower reduced to pauper status.”I’m sick and tired of being on the wrong end of results, sick and tired of being in a review meeting having to learn more lessons,” No.8 Nick Easter said.England’s World Cup campaign will be derailed before it has even begun if they do not show some wit, invention and get-up-and-go in the second Test.Johnson had been bullish in the build-up. By the final whistle he had been reduced to beetle-browed despair, even making disparaging comment on his own players – a rare state of affairs.Johnson admitted that he did not know why his team made so many mistakes, particularly in the first half; why the kick-chase was so limp, why the close defence was so ruinously flaccid. He was locked in meetings with his coaches until the early hours.The England coach has never ducked his own responsibility. He knows that if the squad has spent plenty of time in his company then he and his coaches have to share the blame for such a lacklustre, angst-ridden display. The mood was despondent as the squad crossed Australia on Sunday.They still maintain, though, that morale is as high as it’s ever been. “A loss will not shake your belief,” Graham Rowntree, the scrum coach, said on arrival in Sydney.”You can’t start questioning belief. And, yes, I have got every faith in Martin. I trust him and he is the right man for the job. But, bloody hell, we do need that breakthrough win. I can’t hide from the fact that we’re not getting wins.”The Wallabies will be licking their lips, seen where they’ve beaten us and seen our lack of tries. It sounds flowery to say our environment is good but the proof is in the pudding.”And that is results. England did as England have done at Subiaco Oval. They scrummed the opposition into a state of collapse, enough to yield two penalty tries, a return never seen before in a match between the major nations. But that was it.The scrum is one of the elements that defines rugby. The Wallabies are a clever, tricky, inventive side. But they cannot lay claim to being top-rank while their scrummaging resources are such a laughing stock.Their props were woeful, their we-all-fall-down antics a betrayal of the game’s fundamentals. Referee Nigel Owens should have reached for the yellow card earlier than he did when sin-binning Salesi Ma’afu in the 67th minute. Romain Poite, the French referee, is unlikely to be as lenient in the second Test on Saturday.Therein lies the problem for England. Even though Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau is back in contention after being named yesterday in the Australian Barbarians side to play England tonight at Gosford, coach Robbie Deans has pledged to back the men who suffered such misery at Subiaco Oval.More of the same for England will take them where exactly? Even Johnson acknowledged that they will not get such dominance as a matter of course in the Test arena. If they rely again only on their scrum to deliver the spoils, it might bring victory but it will be a pyrrhic one. England have to show that they can attack on a broader front. Even one of the few who emerged in credit on Saturday conceded as much. “We’ve got to find other ways to play,” said Leicester tight-head Dan Cole.”We knew the scrum would be important but it’s not the be-all and end-all. We’ve all got to sharpen up.”Telegraph, London
Nanjing Night Net