Whilst there was a noticeable improvement from England there are still serious issues and 4th place in the table is entirely justified. I still think Itoje is getting picked on reputation, he's becoming a liability with the number of penalties he gives away and I still don't think Dombrant is an International standard No8 as excellent as he is for Quins. We've still got major issues with 12 and 13. Our defence is still poor, Ireland's first try was a decidedly antique move off a line out. If you're conceding tries from a first phase move like that you've got problems.
I have to admit however that I switched off after the first half having seen the ridiculous red card given to Steward. England were never going to win the game but it might have been a decent close match. Pundits all saying that once the referee applied the protocols he had to go but I don't agree and the protocols are clearly wrong anyway.
Jaco Peyper claimed that there was no mitigation and a high degree of danger. Really? Mitigation was that Keenan was stooping to pick up a ball that had gone forward in spite of an England defender bearing down on him. He put himself in a dangerous position. Steward did everything he could in a split second to avoid contact, that's mitigation. High degree of danger? Really? In the Women's World Cup final, Kiwi Kennedy Simon ran 15 meters and head butted Abby Dow who was running at full speed -and she's quick- and that was deemed to be only worthy of a Yellow Card despite the speed of the collision and the time the New Zealand player had to make sure she tackled legally. That could have been a career ending injury for either player, now THAT'S high degree of danger.
The protocol needs a serious examination to make sure that there's a degree of common sense. Yes, we want to reduce head contact where possible but rugby is a full contact sport, that's what people- players and supporters- love about it, there are going to be collisions, get over it. Make players wear scrum caps if you want (but please not the 150lbs of body armour that American Footballer wear). Protocol should be; was there head contact? Was it a deliberate, malicious act? Was it a reckless act? Who instigated the collision, did the ball carrier hit the defender or vice versa? Apply that and you don't even need to consider mitigation. If there was no recklessness and the ball carrier hit the defender rather than round the other way it's a rugby incident, get on with the game.
In the 2001 Lions tour of Australia, Duncan McRae pinned Ronan O'Gara on the ground and punched him 11 times. He got the same punishment- a red card- as Freddie Steward who accidentally collided with Keenan. Ludicrous.