Cool heads and flexibility: what we learned from England's win
Oita (Japan) (AFP)
England advanced to the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup with a 40-16 victory over Australia on Saturday.
Here are five things we learned from England's emphatic win at Oita Stadium:
- Possession isn't everything -
Australia had 64 percent of the ball compared to England's 36 percent yet England still outscored the Wallabies four tries to one. The territory statistics were similar, proving that while possession is all well and good, what matters more is making the most of your chances when they arise.
- Turnover ball is good ball -
One area, other than the scoreboard, where England finished with a huge numerical advantage was in forcing 18 Australia turnovers with Eddie Jones's men only coughing up eight of their own.
Turnovers are valuable because they create attacking opportunities against teams, who because they were going forward themselves, haven't had time to set their defence.
And with England's young flankers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill -- dubbed the "kamikaze kids" by Jones for their fearless all-action style -- leading the way, the Red Rose brigade were able to dominate a key aspect of the match.
- Handle with care -
Australia's game revolves around quick passing and slick handling. Yet they made 12 handling errors to England's five, often coughing up possession in key areas as, frustratingly for the Wallabies, periods of prolonged possession ended without them having any points to show for it.
In part this was a consequence of England's resilience, with prop Kyle Sinckler -- who scored his maiden Test try in this match -- making one of several important defensive rips.
- England keep their cool -
Although the final result was decisive, Australia cut England's lead to just a point at 17-16 three minutes into the second half.
Previous England sides may well have lost their composure in similar circumstances, and with it the game.
It was a personal triumph for England captain Owen Farrell, who also had a flawless match from the tee in landing all eight of his goalkicks for a 20-point haul.
There has long been the suspicion opponents can rattle the fiery fly-half-cum-centre, but what Farrell noted of his team afterwards was also true of the Saracens atar himself.
"The boys were calm and in control and we had clear messages about what we were going to do next," he said.
- Flexibility a friend -
The very best teams have a game-plan they trust but also an ability to vary their tactics if the situation demands it.
While Australia went through several half-back pairings at the World Cup without a noticeable change in their game, Jones's decision to bench George Ford, move Farrell to fly-half from centre and recall Henry Slade helped shore up England's midfield defence.
It also meant Slade could produce the excellent grubber kick that led to the second of wing Jonny May's two tries in three minutes.
Meanwhile Australia coach Michael Cheika responded to his seventh straight loss to an England side coached by former Randwick team-mate Jones by saying: "I would rather win playing our way, that's the way Aussies want us to play."
© 2019 AFP