‘I don’t see leadership on pitch to deal with England’s ill-discipline’on February 28, 2021 at 9:00 am

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Ex-England scrum-half Matt Dawson discusses the team’s penalty count during defeat in Cardiff – and Wales’ controversial tries.Matt Dawson

This is not the first time it has happened – England have conceded 41 penalties in total across their first three games in the tournament.

There are no excuses for it. The only solution is for the players to sort it out themselves.

I do not see the leadership on the pitch to deal with the adversity.

For all the record-breaking experience that this England team have, in a weird kind of way they do not actually have the right type of leadership to win rugby games.

I want to see a player going up to another England player, in his face, telling him to stop giving penalties away. Screaming at the forwards when they get into a decent area so that they do not concede any penalties.

Because there are no fans, you can hear everything now. I hear the England players and it is all cajoling and tapping people on the bum telling them it is OK when they have just given away their 13th penalty.

Then you look at Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones when something does not go right – he has this steely look about him.

I was co-commentating with Wales fly-half Rhys Patchell and he called it the “Alun Wyn stare”. Everybody knows if you make a mistake and he gives you one of those looks, you are never going to do it again.

That does not exist within this England team. They are all best mates and loving every minute of being part of the England camp, but there is no friction.

Plenty of people I played with for England did not like me because I could be obnoxious on the pitch.

But I would like to think that when I said something that was a bit forthright, those players might have got it and it made a difference. Sometimes you need those prickly characters.

We have to be careful to look after the mental health of sportspeople and avoid bullying.

I understand that, but if somebody is doing something wrong continually and you have 10 minutes to win the game, you have not got time to assess it afterwards because you lose.

‘I do not know how Itoje was not sin-binned’

Lock Maro Itoje conceded five of England’s 14 penalties against Wales.

He is a star player who plays on the edge. There is no question about that. With his work-rate, enthusiasm, talent and energy, he is England’s top player.

It may have been a mindset thing or the referee’s interpretation. I do not care how good a player you are, once you have given three penalties away alarm bells have to be going in your head.

Something has to change. You have to get your head down and not compete for 50-50 balls. I do not know how he was not sin-binned with five penalties.

If you give fewer than 10 penalties away in a game, that is OK. England have given away double digits three games in a row. No-one other than the players can fix that.

It is the most experienced England side ever. Players must recognise when the penalty count is getting too high at crucial moments.

‘England were stitched up by the officials’

Like I said, England did brilliantly to get back in the game after Wales’ first two tries.

The final 40-24 scoreline looks like a bit of a thumping – but that is the result of what happened in the first half.

England were royally stitched up by the officials. Many teams would have disappeared after that. Your head would be gone.

Before Wales’ first try, referee Pascal Gauzere had asked Owen Farrell to talk to his players about discipline.

Usually the captain says they will and does not talk to the players, but Farrell brought all the players into a huddle to tell them to sort the discipline out.

As they turned around, the players were barely past the width of the posts and the referee said to play on, allowing Dan Biggar to kick wide for Josh Adams to score.

I found that disrespectful to Farrell and the fact he did not lose his mind there is a credit to him. It was an utter nonsense.

Then, Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit gathered a kick and, in my opinion, knocked the ball on before Liam Williams scored a try.

There is not one Wales player – including Rees-Zammit – who would have given that try. I do not even think any of the fans would have.

The officials had the chance to look at multiple angles and they gave a try. What on earth happened? It was a total and utter shambles.

It was not only the fact that 14 points were unnecessarily handed to Wales. It is the ripple effect that that has.

When England got back to 17-14 before half-time, I was convinced they were going to go on and win the game.

‘Wales are right on it’

Wales remain on course to win a Grand Slam after claiming the Triple Crown but they have a tough fixture in France on the final weekend.

Wayne Pivac’s side will go to Rome in the next round full of confidence and Italy are not going to cause a problem.

France’s game against Scotland was postponed because of a coronavirus outbreak in the French camp, so who knows where France are going to be in a couple of weeks’ time? But Wales are right on it.

They have history of building momentum when people have written them off. Wales have got people like Jonathan Davies, George North, Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric – players who have done it before and know how to bottle up winning ways.

The tournament so far has been epic so it would be disappointing if the France v Scotland game is not played soon.

It is set to be an incredible final game between France and Wales in Paris.

Matt Dawson was speaking to BBC Sport’s Becky Grey.

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