- Mike Catt assess England's attack through RBS 6 Nations
- Finishing can be improved but team is on right track
Finishing second in the RBS 6 Nations for the second successive year will give the England coaching staff reasons to be positive, but one area of the team’s game that has come under scrutiny is execution in the opposition half.
England’s try total of five was the joint lowest along with Ireland and Italy, with four of those coming in the side’s opening 38-18 win over Scotland. Dependency on the boots of Owen Farrell and Toby Flood, who kicked 69 points between them, helped keep England on course for their first grand slam since 2003 but a lack of clinical finishing in the final third meant Stuart Lancaster’s men missed out on the championship through points difference with Wales.
Historically England have used the potent combination of a strong pack of forwards augmented by the precise kicking of a No.10, forcing penalties on the opposition to gain an advantage on the scoreboard. But while England have demonstrated this so far in 2013, they also have the attacking weapon of Manu Tuilagi in the backs, who has scored five tries in his last seven starts and 10 in 20 Tests overall.
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Attacking Skills Coach Mike Catt has been tasked with masterminding England’s offensive patterns and although the team failed to score as many tries as Wales, who bagged nine, Catt is satisfied with how the attack has manipulated opposition defences.
“Everybody has been going on about the try count and stuff but the way I look at it is if we are not creating opportunities that’s when we need to worry,” said Catt, who started Tests for England in every position except scrum half. “I look back at all the games that we have played and we have created numerous opportunities, but it’s now down to the decision making and the finishing of the stuff that we are creating.
“I am very comfortable with where we are in attack, obviously I would like us to score four tries in a game, we are in the entertaining business and all that but not many sides do that so you have got to realise that defences are very very good and have been for the past four years and are very tough to break down.
“All in all we are going to get better, attack takes a long time to get things spot on but I would like to think with what we have created over the Six Nations, and going into Argentina and the autumn internationals we will continue to create but finish on the end of it as well.”
A team that has not struggled in going over the whitewash is the aforementioned Wales team, who also managed to balance their attacking flair with defensive solidity, conceding the least number of points in the tournament with 66.
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In their 30-3 humbling of England at the Millennium Stadium wing Alex Cuthbert notched two second-half tries after the Welsh forwards outmuscled Lancaster’s side at the breakdown. Keeping the ball and piling on the pressure in that manner is something that Catt wants to see in future England matches.
“Wales were exceptionally good at the weekend at holding onto the ball in our 22 for numerous phases and got points out of it, whether it was a drop goal, three points or a try and we didn’t do that in the first 20 minutes.
“We gave ball away and ended up getting turned over and then we found ourselves 80 metres down the park. We have to make sure we were playing in the right parts and make sure we then hold onto the ball and put teams under real pressure.
“But in relation to the Wales game we are going to take a hell of a lot out of those games, as a group of coaches and a group of players. What I have learnt in past experience is that you learn a lot more from your failures than you do from being too successful, so hopefully in a couple of years time we will look back and say that defeat was something we took on board.”