After England beat Italy in the Six Nations in a thoroughly unconvincing manner and by an equally disappointing five points, Steve Borthwick was quoted saying: "Obviously, we want to win all our games by as big a margin as we can, but we did some fantastic stuff."
At this point, I knew it was absolutely imperative that England didn't win their last three matches in the tournament, unless there were significant changes in style and selection. The reason for this is because of the mantra Martin Johnson coaches by-results are the be all and end all. This is a philosophy which only leads to long term mediocrity at best. By placing no emphasis on performance, the smallest win against the most mediocre of opponents is deemed acceptable.
The problem for England is that their international timetable is largely dominated by average northern hemisphere opponents. Sure, there are a few Autumn internationals and end of season tours which have recently become a joke (South Africa in 2007 anyone?).
Therefore, the results-based approach against the northern hemisphere teams leads to embarrassment against the class of the southern hemisphere. England is the richest, most populous union, it should not be losing year in and year out at Twickenham to Australia.
Thankfully, England failed to win their final three games and this already has, and surely will, prompt further change. Johnson puts a lot of stock in experience and is very loyal to some players, but after the dire performance and subsequent draw against Scotland, he knew changes had to be made.
In came Foden, Ashton, Flood, and Moody as captain and an immediately improved performance. He still holds too much faith in the faded hero that is Johnny Wilkinson, whose inability to stand flat and ask telling questions of international defences is frankly shocking. Wilkinson should never have been brought on for the admittedly flat Flutey, Tindall should have stayed on and moved in one to accommodate Tait on the outside.
With the loss to France came a promising performance. Let's hope Johnson realises this and doesn't revert back to the players he was so loyal to before. Instead, let's hope that while it was a good performance, changes still need to be made. Borthwick, who was injured, should not get his place or captaincy back and persisting with Louis Deacon made England's second row just about the least dynamic on earth. England needs dynamism and athletic ability here and my suggestion would be Lawes and Kennedy.
The back row is another selectorial headache. Moody should remain and Easter can be a good player. He has the unique ability to offload well and keep the ball alive; the final spot is up for grabs. Haskell had his chance, but proved to be nothing more then a gym bunny, Worsley is a great tackler and a destructive presence, but offers nothing in attack, which is precisely England's problem.
My choice would be Dowson, a fantastic footballer with some brain power. His positioning and reading of the game provides a unique skill set which could really help link forwards and backs. Youngs must come in for Care and I would like to see if Hape has anything about him in the centres.
Finally, Johnson needs to stop worrying about errors and give his players the freedom to go out and express themselves. They shouldn't be scared to make mistakes as long as they are trying things. The only mistakes to be treated harshly should be the silly ones or those made multiple times. A telling stat is that France lost more turnovers than any other team, yet played the best rugby and won the grand slam. This is because they were playing a less inhibited, more advanced brand then any other side which inevitably led to mistakes, but also brought great success.
Let's hope that the poor finish to England's six nations campaign facilitates the changes I have highlighted above because you can be sure that if England had squeaked out wins over Ireland, Scotland, and France, the same dross mediocrity would have been accepted by the management because it was 'winning'.