England’s discipline issues persist; Steve Borthwick’s anonymous backs | Ireland’s strength in depth

We pick through the aftermath of England’s 29-10 World Cup warm-up defeat to Ireland; we look at issues facing Steve Borthwick, as England’s ill-discipline shows no sign of improving after Billy Vunipola’s red card, while the backs continue to prove anonymous within stunted attack

        England's discipline issues persist; Steve Borthwick's anonymous backs | Ireland's strength in depth

Billy Vunipola picked up a red card in Dublin – England’s second in two weeks

Saturday’s 29-10 defeat for England to Ireland in Dublin brought more negativity, and another red card: this time to Billy Vunipola.

Steve Borthwick’s charges succumbed to defeat in Dublin as Ireland scored five tries through centres Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose, wings James Lowe and Mack Hansen, and replacement Keith Earls on his 100th Test cap, while England registered a sole penalty until Kyle Sinckler’s consolation try in the 72nd minute.

Below we look at the continued concerns for England, as well as Ireland’s strength in depth as they maintain their world No 1 ranking…

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England’s discipline issues show no sign of improving

Only one place to start with: a second England red card in two Tests, to go with three yellows, just three weeks before the start of the next Rugby World Cup in France.

Billy Vunipola’s 53rd-minute red card vs Ireland on Saturday was another hugely damaging blow to England, off the back of skipper Owen Farrell’s red card vs Wales at Twickenham last week. It ended any chance England had of competing in the Irish capital, and will see the No 8 miss at least part of the World Cup.

Henry Arundell, Ellis Genge and Freddie Steward were all sin-binned last week, while Maro Itoje was perhaps fortunate to avoid yellow vs Ireland for a high tackle on Hugo Keenan, after Vunipola had been dismissed.

Vunipola’s red card, for a clear no-arms high tackle to the head of Andrew Porter, which saw him fail to wrap his right arm at any point and lean dangerously into contact, will likely see him banned for at least three games, potentially more, and came in an England performance which saw the concession of 13 penalties.

        England's discipline issues persist; Steve Borthwick's anonymous backs | Ireland's strength in depth

Referee Paul Williams sent Vunipola from the field of play for a no-arms high tackle on Andrew Porter

Six of those came at the ruck, which is a killer to any side, with a further two at the scrum – which remains a concern.

Itoje and Vunipola conceded three penalties each, failing to hold their discipline. Similar performances at the World Cup will render England’s chances zero.

Borthwick has spoken repeatedly about the need for his side to remain at a full complement. But the message clearly isn’t getting through.

“It’s going to be another week of disruption,” he said. “We knew that was coming already [with Owen Farrell’s hearing on Tuesday], it’s now been amplified by the situation with Billy.

        England's discipline issues persist; Steve Borthwick's anonymous backs | Ireland's strength in depth

Vunipola’s red card will almost certainly see him part of the World Cup in France

“Right now, I feel the same as every English fan feels – disappointed with the result and disappointed with the feeling of a lack of progress in the areas we want to, and obviously going to 14 men again.

“We spoke before the game, you want to be at 15 men and you’ve got to be at 15 men.”

Borthwick’s backs continue to prove anonymous

The other area of major concern for England at present is their attack.

Borthwick and Richard Wigglesworth’s charges are struggling hugely to impact Tests, with their backs almost anonymous within games.

Wings Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly made a total of just 37 metres between them at the Aviva Stadium, which is extraordinarily low.

        England's discipline issues persist; Steve Borthwick's anonymous backs | Ireland's strength in depth

Anthony Watson made just 13 metres with ball in hand – an exceptionally low statistic for a back-three player

Watson, who was barely involved in the game at all, received the ball just five times, making only four carries. Daly received the ball 13 times for seven carries.

England’s attack through half-backs George Ford and Ben Youngs is immensely focussed on kicking, and is quite a negative type of attack. And not only that, it’s a negative form of attack which is not being executed to a good standard, let alone great.

Borthwick won a title with Leicester Tigers playing such a style, but he’s struggling in his role with England. No question.

        England's discipline issues persist; Steve Borthwick's anonymous backs | Ireland's strength in depth

Steve Borthwick is struggling in his role as England head coach

Ireland far from their best, but show strength in depth

It’s perhaps a measure of Ireland’s strength at the moment that the dominant reaction from their camp post-match, was one of slight disappointment over their first-half display and lineout issues.

After all, such comments come off the back of a display in which they scored five tries, won convincingly over England, and did so without the likes of Johnny Sexton, Caelan Doris, Jack Conan, Robbie Henshaw, Ronan Kelleher and Iain Henderson, and were without Dan Sheehan for most of the game after his foot injury.

“We were a little bit rusty in the first 40 and England had a lot to do with that. We all know England’s lineout defence is very good and we couldn’t get our rhythm in that regard,” head coach Andy Farrell said.

“But I’m really proud of how we found that rhythm back, certainly with the lineout. We found our rhythm in the second half and played some good stuff.”

        England's discipline issues persist; Steve Borthwick's anonymous backs | Ireland's strength in depth

Ireland were far from their best, but still scored five tries in victory over England

Ireland lost three lineouts, conceded one penalty at the set-piece, and also saw several mauls defended by England, resulting in unplayable ball and turnovers.

The scrum was somewhat of a lottery for both sides, mainly down to the officiating of Paul Williams, but Ireland’s play for much of the contest was clunky in general.

Ross Byrne failed to make the most of his opportunity with Sexton missing, failing to get Ireland’s attack firing with the fluidity we have become accustomed. But Jack Crowley came on to nail a touchline conversion, which will please Farrell.

Overall, Ireland will be content on the whole.