England’s 30-3 loss to Wales at the Six Nations was a savage and dizzying one. As the worst ever defeat to their near neighbours, it left many pondering what is missing with this England team.

Hammering | England head coach Stuart Lancaster and his dejected players walk off after the defeat to Wales. (Image | The Sun)

Hammering | England head coach Stuart Lancaster and his players walk off dejectedly after the defeat to Wales. (Image | The Sun)

Perhaps the answer is not that difficult, and the key ingredient is nothing more than a bit of swagger.

We should remember where the England rugby union team were when Stuart Lancaster took over as head coach.

The squad were in disarray, coming off a dismal showing at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and damaged further by embarrassing revelations about the rot that had set in.

Into the breach stepped Lancaster, at the time a relative unknown. Not only that, but he was employed on an interim basis, while the RFU made overtures to appoint Nick Mallett as permanent coach.

Those that have witnessed the travails of Rafael Benítez at Chelsea will appreciate that Lancaster was hardly operating from a position of strength.

For this reason, he deserves credit for making the best of a difficult situation. Lancaster began by bringing in a key and intelligent change to the England training camp.

Players had become accustomed to jetting off to Portugal for warm-weather training in rather salubrious surroundings. However, the new boss opted to alter this somewhat.

Rather than training in the Iberian sun, Lancaster decided that his charges should be put through their paces in the more inclement conditions of Yorkshire.

Putting aside the ridiculous stereotype that the north of England is an intrinsically tougher place, it was a smart PR move.

Following the post-World Cup revelations, English rugby union players were in serious danger of being perceived in a similarly negative way to Premier League footballers.

Lancaster’s first job was to heal the relationship between players and fans. He managed to do this by making the present England side a humble one.

It appears to have become a Six Nations tradition for somebody to brand the English “arrogant” shortly before the competition begins.

This time around it was former Scotland and Lions coach Jim Telfer. Clearly, he has not been paying attention, for England have an unassuming air: they are individuals many would be happy for their siblings to go out with.

Picturing Chris Robshaw helping out at a homeless shelter is not particularly difficult, for instance. This approach has worked for the national side, up to a point.

England soon dragged themselves out of their Rugby World Cup funk and Lancaster is now permanently ensconced as head coach, with over-reaching powers that now make him one of the most important men in English rugby union.

While England have their most solid foundations in years, they need to find a way to train on from this.

While I do not advocate England turning into a rugby hybrid of Kevin Pietersen and Adrien Broner, a more discernible confidence must be added to their game.

Heart, doggedness and unity are readily available, but that which separates a good side from a trophy-winning outfit is missing.

Players such as Freddie Burns, Billy Twelvetrees and Christian Wade need to be slotted in alongside the skill of Brad Barritt and Mike Brown.

Lacklustre | Chris Ashton had a disappointing Six Nations for England, and needs to recapture his spark. (Image | The Telegraph)

Lacklustre | Chris Ashton had a disappointing Six Nations for England, and needs to recapture his spark. (Image | The Telegraph)

And lest we forget Chris Ashton, whose career could fast go the way of Danny Cipriani. He is a microcosm of the problems England face.

His cocksure “joy of life”, best exemplified by the way in which he used to celebrate scoring tries, has been conspicuous by its absence. Ashton currently looks like a neutered pit bull on the English right wing.

It is an inescapable fact that most of the greatest sporting sides have a swagger to them. Even the World Cup-winning England team of 2003 had it.

They may not have been an ostentatious bunch, but every time they went out to play, England looked at their opponents and thought: “You aren’t as good as us. And over the next 80 minutes, we’re going to prove it.”

As unorthodox as this sounds, it could be worth getting the England team to listen to M.I.A song Paper Planes, and take some of its mindset onto the pitch with them.

Paper Planes includes the line: “No one on the corner has swagger like us.” If England are to make the home World Cup in 2015 a successful one, they must heed these words and add some swagger to their substance.

Have your say | Tweet the author | @TGEISH

Back to Rugby

Twitter | @armchairpundit2

Facebook | The Armchair Pundits


Interested in writing for The Armchair Pundits?

We’re always on the lookout for aspiring journalists, click here for details on how you can start contributing.