England might have made it two wins from two in the 2024 Six Nations with a narrow victory over Wales but former scrum half Matt Dawson has been scathing about the team’s pledge to entertain fans. A late penalty from George Ford eventually settled matters after the hosts overcame a nine-point half-time deficit, and two yellow cards, to prevail 16-14.
During the build-up, there had been as much talk about the Twickenham crowd as there had the potential result. The RFU have been plagued by fan complaints over their experience at the stadium, and players were jeered in their previous home game against Fiji before the World Cup.
Despite victory for the Red Roses on Saturday there was again a sense of despondency with Wales perceived to be inexperienced and injury-ravaged opponents. Dawson conceded that the result was paramount, but argued the pre-game promises were not fulfilled.
“They have come out of their bubble to say they care how the fans feel and that they know what the fans want,” he wrote in his BBC column. “That is fine, but it gives the public the right to reply.
“The performance was not necessarily how they said they would do it. It was not raining heavily and there were loads of opportunities to play in a different way. The modern generation of England players feel like they want to entertain the public but you have to be able to stand by that.”
Dawson, 51, also argued supporters would take greater excitement out of watching a dominant England display, dismissing the notion that some of the idea pitched around the actual game – such as streaming the players walking from the changing room on the big screen – would make any difference. And he implied his own generation satisfied supporters via performance, not style of play.
“If they go out there and win games with physicality, endeavour and striking at the right time, I can guarantee the fans will go wild,” he added. “What excites the fans is them turning up to Twickenham and thinking no visitors win here.”
The 2003 World Cup winner cited a phase of play in the first half when the hosts won turnover of the ball 30m from their own line, but despite space out wide Elliot Daly opted to boot the ball long rather than attack. Regardless, an unlikely Grand Slam remains a possibility ahead of a Calcutta Cup clash in Scotland on February 24.
That follows another home game against Ireland (March 9) before Steve Borthwick’s side finish their campaign in France on March 16. It’s the Irish who currently look odds-on for the title, with Andy Farrell’s team taking a maximum 10 points from their opening two games.