England attack coach says wholesale changes not the answer as they prepare for Ireland game

Prospect of half-back pairing Marcus Smith and Alex Mitchell being fit for Ireland game could give England’s attack an extra edge

The England attack coach, Richard Wigglesworth, has warned that wholesale changes will not fix the problems Steve Borthwick’s side have had in possession in the Six Nations, and has suggested long-term cohesion is more likely to make them a fluent side.

England are spending the fallow week in York to prepare for next weekend’s Twickenham showdown with Ireland. After last weekend’s Calcutta Cup defeat by Scotland, talk centred on the need for an honest review to ensure England do not look as clunky in attack for the rest of the tournament.

But Wigglesworth laughed off the idea of intense, aggressive review sessions, saying the coaching staff would take a measured approach to breaking down where England were going wrong. “This is sport,” he said. “You’re dictated by win and loss performance, and it’s up to us to get them to a place where we want to get them to.

“But wholesale changes are rarely the answer. We’ve spoken about growing cohesiveness and we have to know what changes we want to make and the reasons why. Those days are long gone; I once played a Test match in New Zealand and the whole backline was axed the week after, but the pack wasn’t. There needs to be clear rationale, you want everything to be explained and under Steve we’re doing that.”

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Wigglesworth described England’s attacking display at Murrayfield as tense, and said: “There were signs from early on that we weren’t attacking the line. We were passing early away from the line and not challenging the defence. Then we made basic errors on the back of doing things that we hadn’t done in the previous 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 defence is one thing and errors without challenging is another. Actually, your error rate goes up if you’re doing something you’re 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.”

The prospect of half-back pairing Marcus Smith and Alex Mitchell being fit for the Ireland game would undoubtedly give England’s attack an extra edge, and Wigglesworth said he was optimistic both had a chance of featuring. Smith has not yet featured in this tournament, while Mitchell missed the Scotland defeat with a knee problem. “We’re hopeful, but we’ve not done anything yet in terms of seeing if they could get involved in a Test match,” Wigglesworth said. “We’ll see how they go today and then tomorrow will be a big day for them. Then we’ll see how they go at the start of next week.”

Smith’s return would create a fascinating three-way battle for the No 10 shirt with Fin Smith and George Ford, but Wigglesworth said that despite facing a side as ominously impressive as Ireland England have no fears about throwing their younger players into battle against such opposition. “If a player’s ready then he’s ready for us, it’s not he can’t play against X, Y or Z. That is doing ourselves a disservice because we’re not picking someone who’s ready. I’d be confident in our lads – if we think they’re best to start they’re ready to go.” – Guardian