Home Rugby English Rugby The Three Games That Should Have Alerted Eddie Jones to England’s Problems

The Three Games That Should Have Alerted Eddie Jones to England’s Problems

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: England's Head Coach Eddie Jones during the pre match warm up before the NatWest Six Nations Championship match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium on March 17, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Ashley Western - MB Media via Getty Images)

The Last Time England did this badly in a Six Nations, Total Eclipse of the Heart topped the UK Charts, Ronald Reagan had just labelled the Soviet Union an ‘Evil Empire’ and Margaret Thatcher was in her first term as Prime Minister.

It was a disastrous campaign, particularly given they were 2 from 2 and expected to challenge Ireland for a grand-slam on the final day.

Not even in the dark days of Andy Robinson, as England slumped for four years after their World Cup win, did they suffer a tournament so poor.

Many said they saw it coming, but it would be wrong to say that this has been an inevitability, nor that England’s progressed has been halted for a while.

They put 60 on Scotland in March of last year, and went on a highly successful Argentina tour with 16 first team squad players away with the Lions.

So where were the ominous signs and should Jones have spotted them?

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England 21-8 Argentina (11/11/2017)

The first time, other than defeat at the Aviva Stadium, that England didn’t show a new quality in a game under Eddie Jones. It was a lame performance, and showed that taking out a few key parts (Vunipola, Farrell and Itoje), left England’s attack seem pretty toothless.

Of course, they had their moments, but were reliant on two fantastic finishes from flying Fijians Nathan Hughes and Semesa Rokoduguni.

Jones was visibly annoyed and his post-match comments, chiefly “I don’t see there’s any reason why I shouldn’t be frustrated.”, seemed blatantly false.

Up to then, Jones had seemed to be telling the truth in every press conference and post-match interview. Whether it meant saying something brutally honest, like England should give Italy a hiding, or what he thought of the Azzurri’s tactics in the game the year after.

But here, you sensed someone trying to hide something. England were poor.

Whereas you saw shades of New Zealand in the ruthless way England had dispatched Australia four times in 2016, smashed the Scots the following year and won consecutive Six Nations’, they put in a performance that resembled the Martin Johnson days.

Unconvincing, lacklustre and devoid of a plan, it was a bad day at the office, but for some reason, Jones wouldn’t admit it.

Did he see what everyone else saw, or did he honestly think it was good enough?

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England 30-6 Australia (18/11/2017)

Looking at England’s scoreline in the record win over Australia, it seems bizarre that this would be another game that can be highlighted as an indication that England were in for the Six Nations that they were, but, anyone who actually watched the game could see major flaws.

It was an unconvincing offensive display. One freak Elliot Daly try and three moments of magic from Danny Care ultimately gave England a thumping win, but up until the last ten minutes they showed no evidence they were a real attacking force.

Defensively they were good, but Australia were on their try line for large periods and had two tries very harshly ruled out.

England got the rub of the green, they were lucky, and once again you looked at the game and felt that, whilst England had done well to get the win, they hadn’t shown anything that indicated a team making great strides.

I’d expected England to ring the changes for this autumn series, for Jones to start shifting the squad towards the sort of team that would play the World Cup.

Instead, he chose to make piecemeal changes, with this game seen as must win.

And when he got the win, he was incredibly satisfied. Grinning as he spoke about how Australia ‘fell apart’.

That would make it all the more satisfying for his critics when England ‘fell apart’ in the first half against Scotland and Ireland, and the second half against France.

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England 12-6 Wales

The first 20 minutes of this encounter were thrilling. Resolute last ditch defending and some inventive attacking play saw England lead 12-0 with Jonny May crossing twice.

Wales worked their way back into the game before the break, but after half-time England resumed their dominance.

But they wouldn’t add a single point, let alone two tries to earn the bonus point, as Wales turned over their ball in the 22 and defended with a lot of spirit.

It seemed like a missed opportunity, but once again, Jones was once again happy to grind out a win. He used the post-match interview to attack the media over Mike Brown, and once again seemed satisfied.

Yet, this was perhaps the clearest indication that England were not progressing. Leading an experienced Wales side 12-0, a world-beating side would have started to rub salt into the wounds.

England had chances, but individual errors and an attack that wasn’t getting quick enough ball or playing with any real invention meant that Wales’ defence coach Shaun Edwards could watch the last hour of the game with a smile on his face.

And England haven’t won a game since.

About Nick Powell

English A-Level student who loves all sport, but especially rugby.