Wayne Barnes has been enforcing the law with the England team this week after a high penalty count in the first three rounds helped the champions give up their title early. Having canceled an 11-point deficit against Wales in Cardiff to equalize in the final round, three offenses in nine minutes punctured the comeback and increased the prospect of a bottom-half finish.
England, who got in touch with Barnes, the game’s most experienced test referee, after conceding 42 penalties in three matches, will face undefeated France at Twickenham on Saturday and as The Blues have not won a tournament match on the field since 2005, driven by a reserve team’s performance in the Fall Nations Cup final in December, when England needed extra time to prevail after losing the most of the party.
“We need to get our discipline in order,” England defense coach John Mitchell said. “It means more education and awareness: we don’t want to stop playing on the edge or being physical, but we have to get smarter and smarter. It’s a feeling and we’ve had Wayne Barnes and Matthew Carley [another English Test referee] in this week’s training, refereeing what they saw and explaining why they made a decision. “
England’s main offender in Cardiff was second row Maro Itoje, who gave away five penalties, more than a third of the total. “He’s colossal, one of the most destructive footballers in the world,” Mitchell said. “We want him to continue with that and it is about understanding where we have to clarify.”
Wing Tom Curry said France, which have lost one of their last eight Six Nations games, their best streak since winning the tournament in 2010, was the perfect opponent for England as they looked to end the campaign with two wins.
“France could not come at a better time and is the ideal rival because we know that we are going to have to contribute our game A,” he said.
“Our discipline has not been good enough and there is an element of individual responsibility. We have a chance to fix things. A couple of games do not define you as a team or where you are going. It’s never going to be perfect or perfect, but the growth we have is exciting. “
England does not expect France to lead them into an open and unstructured game. “They’re focused on a long kicking game and attacking lineouts,” Mitchell said.
“Some people have the perception that French players are expressive, quirky and keep the ball alive. They have that ability, but this successful French team is conservative in the sense that they try to win the kicking game and wait for the chances before they jump in. “
France was left out of the final round after their match with Scotland in Paris was postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak at their camp. “There’s no hangover from that and we won’t use it as an excuse,” said his defense coach, Shaun Edwards. “Athletes face all kinds of challenges every week and we are super motivated to get a result at Twickenham against a team that played good rugby in Cardiff.”
France need to win to keep up with the leader, Wales, who named their team early for the game against Italy in Rome on Saturday. Their head coach Wayne Pivac has made two changes from the team that defeated England with Cory Hill replacing Adam Beard in the second row and Gareth Davies replacing the injured Kieran Hardy at scrum-half.
The starting lineup shares 969 games with just five of the players who have yet to reach 50 games. “Three out of three is a great start, but there is a lot to do,” said Pivac. “We are ready to go on Saturday and we have trained very well.”
The Wales team will play against Italy on Saturday: Liam Williams (scarlet); L Rees-Zammit (Gloucester), G North (Ospreys), J Davies (Scarlets), J Adams (Cardiff Blues); D Biggar (Northampton), G Davies (Scarlets); W Jones (Scarlets), K Owens (Scarlets), T Francis (Exeter), C Hill (Cardiff Blues), AW Jones (Ospreys, capt), J Navidi (Cardiff Blues), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Faletau (Bath ). Replacements: E Dee (Dragons), R Carre (Cardiff Blues), L Brown (Dragons), J Ball (Scarlets), A Wainwright (Dragons), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues), C Sheedy (Bristol), W Halaholo (Cardiff Blues) .
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism