Goode shows the value of Creativity

England’s 54-12 win over Fiji may not have been perfect, despite the rather large scoreline, however it was noticeable that the major criticism of their play was their inability to finish chances rather than that they simply were not creating them.

For years now the criticism of England has been that inability to create, and walking into the ground it was obvious that this was still a concern of many of the fans after Stuart Lancaster had selected Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi in the midfield. Two fine players, but distribution is not their forte.

The England coaching staff had set much stall by their decision to play Alex Goode at full back though. Picking him ahead of the in form Mike Brown was an opportunity to use his distribution skills and his ability to read the game and the space, we were told.

If I’m honest though, there were a lot of sceptics about. Not about the decision to pick him, he deserved to be selected, but as to whether he would be able to influence the game in the manner described, to be able to change the nature of the England attack in just his second cap seemed a tall order.

How wrong we were though, for it was down to Goode that it was simply the butchering of chances that brought criticism, not a lack of creation. With Goode popping up in various positions in the backline, England were creating chances at will thanks to the addition of his skills. We musn’t forget of course that playing against Fiji made the creation of chances that much easier, you can only play what’s put in front of you though, and Goode did that.

His performance highlighted just how important it is to have two creators in the backline, not since Riki Flutey have England regularly had that, so far as I can recall, and he ended up touring with the Lions after his exploits in that role.

Stuart Lancaster must now consider the fact that for England to continue to progress he must continue to play with two distributers, placing all of the burden on the 10 just doesn’t work, and has been proved not to, and on the strength of yesterday’s performance, Alex Goode must be given the opportunity to be that second creator.

This is not jumping on the bandwagon after one good performance, it is simply a fact that England need to be playing with two ball players, and after yesterday Goode deserves to at least have a shot at being that man.

England’s attack coach, Mike Catt, is one of England’s greatest ‘second distributers’, winning 75 caps for his country and one for the Lions, he is a man whom his charges must learn from.

Chopped and changed between fly half and full back in his early career, as Goode has been, he eventually settled at inside centre and became the man credited with having the most creative attacking mind in the country.

It could well be worth a look at Goode in that position too. It’s a decision fraught with problems, chief of which is his lack of game time there, and that he is unlikely to get very much club time there either, what with Saracens strength in depth in the centres.

However, with such strength in the full back position from more ‘traditional’ options such as Ben Foden and Mike Brown, it might be worth having a look at Goode in the centres.

Certainly his distribution and eye for space could be used more regularly, which you would think could be quite a nice addition, and while some may question the solidity of a backline of that makeup, let us think of the team that Sir Clive Woodward suggested in the Sunday Times last week.

For those that didn’t see it, it read:

15 Brown 14 Wade 13 D Armitage/May 12 Burns 11 Ashton 10 Cipriani 9 Care; 1 Sheridan 2 Hartley 3 Cole 4 Lawes 5 Parling 6 Robshaw 7 Saull 8 Easter

There is no Goode in there but that is not the point, the point is that it is a backline full of attacking creativity. Now there may actually be a little too much in that particular backline, England would still be well served to have one ‘robust’ centre as Woodward did with Tindall when he won the World Cup.

In any case, Goode has certainly played his way into contention to start against the Southern Hemisphere big boys in the coming weeks, and Catt must keep drumming home to Stuart Lancaster of the need to continue to play with the two creators.

How refreshing it would be to see England be brave though and try him in the centres, it may not work, but it might at the very least herald a shift in attitude towards ball playing midfielders.

Next up though for England are Australia, and after a heavy 33-6 defeat to France this is a real opportunity for England to claim the scalp of one of rugby’s superpowers.

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