Richard Wigglesworth defends England attack after Scotland disaster

Richard Wigglesworth during the England team run at Murrayfield
Richard Wigglesworth during the England team run at Murrayfield

England coach Richard Wigglesworth has defended the team’s approach in their error-strewn defeat by Scotland as he vowed to learn from ‘basic errors’ in their attacking play.

Having started well at Murrayfield with George Furbank’s slick try from a strike play in the opening minutes England then lost their way, leading to 25 handling errors as they slipped to a fourth successive defeat by Scotland for the first time since 1896.

“It’s not so much about going away from plans but we didn’t really play as us,” Wigglesworth said. “We didn’t play how we set out to and how we’d been building to, so that was the disappointment for everyone.

“There were times when we weren’t attacking the line, times when we were a pass early away from the line and not challenging the line, and then we made basic errors on the back of doing things we haven’t done in the last couple of weeks. Errors are going to happen in Test matches, but errors when you are trying to put your best foot forward and challenge a defence is one thing, and errors without challenging are another.

“Your error rate goes up if you are doing something you are not used to. We are used to trying to challenge the line, move the ball, get quick ball, and we were away from most of those things.”

Wigglesworth was preparing to carry out his attacking review with the squad on Thursday evening, but admitted that going away from the style England wanted to produce led to nerves among the players, hence the collection of unusual mistakes such as Ollie Lawrence’s pass directly into touch.

Jamie George
England did not attack as they had planned to attack because the players were increasingly tense and failed to attack the line - Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

“We were very reflective afterwards. I think because we weren’t playing as we wanted to it probably becomes a bit more risky, because you have not practised [playing that way],” Wigglesworth said.

“We looked slightly tense and maybe we got more tense as things went on. We will take those learnings and make sure that if we make errors trying to attack like England do, then we will be better. We will learn from them. It is hard to learn from errors when we are not attacking as we want to. That will be a big learning for us, what our mindset is, always wanting to look like us. If it doesn’t go right, then we will improve and take the lessons. We are reviewing a bit of the mindset, how I trained it, how we got to that point.”

When asked how much harder it is to ensure players stick to attacking shapes at international level, Wigglesworth responded: “I think everyone is really into shapes and it looking pretty at the minute. Lads, it’s not what scores, go and take a look. It’s challenging defences and players, making sure I can get players in the best spots for them to go and attack the opposition and make stuff happen. That’s what we didn’t do well at the weekend. We started to see some development of that in the first couple of games and we didn’t see that at the weekend, so that was disappointing.”

England will train in front of a crowd of 8,500 in York on Friday, when Alex Mitchell and Marcus Smith will link up with the group to continue their injury rehabilitation. Wigglesworth described Friday as “a big day for them” in terms of their recovery, although neither player will train with the group. England remain “hopeful” they could be involved by the end of next week before facing Ireland.

For Wigglesworth, Lancashire born and raised, the opportunity to train in the north of England has been welcomed with open arms. England’s last Test up north came in 2019 against Italy in Newcastle, and Wigglesworth recalled watching England play Holland in a Rugby World Cup qualifier in Huddersfield back in 1998, an 110-0 win in which England scored 16 tries.

“We know that Twickenham is the traditional home of English rugby and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a great place to play, but I grew up up north, I know how passionate the people are up here about the game, and I’d love to see us having these sorts of weeks,” he noted.

“It’s a well-supported and played game. My son plays on a Sunday, my nephew plays on a Sunday at Preston, I grew up playing at Fylde and Preston Grasshoppers and these places. They’re mad into their rugby, and the same in Yorkshire.

“So, it’s great to be here, and we absolutely know that not everyone can come to Twickenham, but we want to make sure England rugby is for everyone, and we’re fully invested in being part of that.”

Asked about another Test up north, Wigglesworth replied: “More important [people] than me make those decisions – I’d love to play a Test in every town in the country. We know there’s a business and everything else to run. Hopefully at some point that’s a good option for England rugby, but we want to make sure we’re engaging everyone, not just where we’re based.”

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