I'm a little unsure how to evaluate England's November. If the Autumn Internationals told us anything it’s that any major nation can be beat anyone else (New Zealand aside) and no team summed this point up more than the English.
There was a lot to be positive about, but it's too easy to put the change in fortunes from the Wallaby game to the Springbok game solely down to inconsistency. I think there’s a bigger point to be made, that this England side struggle when they are dragged into a scrap.
This might not seem like a deep piece of analysis, but bear with me for a moment. You see this England team are a side in the process of redefining their identity. They are rightly leaving the days of turgid 10-man rugby behind and replacing it with a more ambitious game plan. But England have so far only been able to apply this new philosophy against opponents who let them play, they haven’t yet worked out how to apply it against teams who set out to disrupt. The Springbok test showed us this.
Why is this point so important? Well I can think of two teams in the World Rugby who are more adept than most at turning games into disjointed, messy affairs: Scotland and Argentina. Coincidentally both in England’s World Cup group.
If England play well they should have no problem dispatching either the Scots or the Argentinians, no doubt about that. But in September the pressure will all be on England, the venue will be neutral, and the opposition will be doing everything in their power to make a mess of the breakdown and to slow the tempo of the game. In these conditions I can see England being dragged into an error strewn kicking duel, giving both Scotland and Argentina a real chance of springing an upset.