Located to the west of London, its games include the opening match, both semifinal matches, and the final.
Located to the west of London, its games include the opening match, both semifinal matches, and the final. AP Photo - Alastair Grant

Pressure: How England collapsed against Wales


IF there were any doubt about the role pressure will play at this World Cup, there won't be now following the collapse of England at Twickenham.

And it was a collapse. Wales can and should be lauded for their bravery; for their depth of character, graft and moment of inspiration that saw them conjure a try to haul their way back into the contest.

As it happened: Wales beat England

But long before Gareth Davies touched down under the posts, England should have had the game wrapped up.

It was theirs. They had it just about in the bag when they led 22-12 early in the second half. The foot was on the throat at that point.

England were in control. The crowd was behind them. The nation was behind them and one more penalty or even a try and the Welsh resistance would snap.

It had to because they hadn't mounted any sustained pressure: it was all smash and grab raids when they did make it deeper into England's territory.

But this is the beauty of World Cups - things change so quickly. The tiniest mistake or serious of mistakes and the pendulum can swing in the other direction.

England's coaching team's mistake - although some of it may have been borne out of injury-enforced necessity - was to bring the bench on. One minute they had control and fluidity, the next they were conceding penalties and losing their shape.

The players could sense it and instead of continuing to play their natural game, England clammed up in the final quarter. They felt the pressure.

And the mistakes came. They conceded dumb penalties at the breakdown. They kicked too long and too much and the biggest mistake of all was made by Brad Barritt who charged out of the line in the build up to Davies' try.

There was no need for that. Wales were drifting behind the gainline and could have easily been herded into touch. But Barritt came up too hard, too fast and he created space on the outside and one pass, one kick, one sweet pick and dive and Wales were level. One mistake and they were back in it.

Two mistakes - holding onto the ball at the ruck - and Wales were ahead.

The third mistake England made - and this really was where the pressure told - was opting to spurn a kickable penalty to instead bang it into the corner and back their lineout drive.

It was no gimme but Owen Farrell had been immaculate off the tee. If he'd nailed it, most likely the game would have been drawn - although there would have been time for England to mount one last attack.

Read more: Six things we learned from Wales' win

A draw? Normally no one ever wants to draw but at a World Cup, in the Pool of Death, a draw would have left England right in the mix.

Instead, they were bundled into touch as they tried to set their lineout drive and with that, their chance was gone. Now they are in a bit of bother.

They still have hope because the beauty of their pool is that Wales still have two brutal games left to come, as do Australia and losing one was never going to be terminal.

What might, however, make England's predicament too much for them to scape, is that pressure that will have intensified by twofold at least by the time they run out to play Australia next Sunday.

In their minds will be the knowledge that they could be the first hosts knocked out in the pool round. This could be their worst campaign a the biggest World Cup of all. Their World Cup.

Pressure is the hidden enemy at this World Cup and England have failed to deal with it in their first big confrontation.

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