England vs Scotland will be the match of the Six-Nations that will be examined to infinity, by both rugby analysts and English rugby supporters alike. English fans will be watching with great anticipation how England will emerge from the global tournament slump, and how they will come out playing under the new regime of Eddie Jones.
Jones has managed to work wonders with teams he has been involved in. He played a critical role in South Africa’s 2007 world cup winning campaign, he managed to lead Japan to victory over Wales for the first time in Japanese rugby history, and completely out coached Springbok coach Heynke Meyer in the past World Cup, where Japan managed to pull off the biggest upset in World Rugby history. Jones had a hand in all the above, and there is a belief that he can carry “his miracle work” over to England rugby.
Turning Average Players Into World Class Players
There is a huge expectation on Jones’s shoulders to replicate what Sir Clive Woodward managed to do in 2003, in an era long gone where England used to be the dominant force in World Rugby. However the question remains, does Jones have the necessary players at his disposal to achieve what Woodward did in 2003. England has no standout players at the moment who will get picked in the best world 15 rugby team, which according to former Springbok coach Nick Mallet is the most indicative factor of where a team is currently standing.
Woodward had Jonny Wilkinson at his disposal which the whole game plan essentially revolved around. Aside from Wilkinson, there was Dallaglio, inspirational captain Martin Johnson, the small but illusive Jason Robinson and many more who all could easily made a world 15.
The problem which Jones will be facing is that there are no standout players who would put up their hand as the best in their position, with the exception of Robshaw which perhaps will make it as a substitute for a current world 15.
Jones’s challenge will be, not only to put belief back into the squad but to coach the current group of players at his disposal to become some of the best players in the world. While at the same time developing a strategy (gameplan) which can be utilized to take advantage of the players he has at his disposal while they are improving into the next generation of Dallaglio’s and Wilkinsons.
Jones to take England rugby back to basics
In our opinion, Jones has already taken a step in the right direction, which is as simple as going back to basics and playing towards England’s traditional strength which is a forward orientated game plan. England front rower, Dan Cols, recently emphasised this by saying:
As an English forward I understand the tradition of our game, which is built around the set piece. Eddie mentions that the World Cup-winning side of 2003 was based on the set piece and the maul, and he wants the same thing now. And as a pack, we’d happily take a game where the backs don’t touch the ball.”
While going back to England’s traditional strength is certainly a positive a worrying factor about the above quote; is Cole mentioning that “England will be happy to play a game where the backs don’t touch the ball”. In an era where rugby is in a revolution phase, and more emphasis is being added to a running game to encourage attacking rugby with the rules being adjusted accordingly.
If Jones and England do take on a purely forward orientated game they will have little success while such a game plan might have been successful a few years back, it is now clearly outdated and ineffective in the current era. Perhaps South Africa and the Bulls Super Rugby franchise being the best example that the forward orientated game plan simply does not work anymore.
With that being said Jones is certainly no slouch and he will be well aware of the above. If England is going to be successful under Jones they will have to play a game which is both forward and backline orientated. Again the problem comes back to Jones not having much at his disposal in terms of attacking ability, and it will take time to develop a world class backline.
We believe Coles was misquoted when he said: “we’d happily take a game where the backs don’t touch the ball.” It is of our opinion what Jones will be hoping to achieve, is turning England into the world’s most dominant forward pack, by going back to the basics. Get a dominant scrum, which England hasn’t had for a long time, getting outmuscled by teams like Fiji. A strong scrum combined with a solid lineout and a mobile forward pack will be Jones’s first objective.
Only after a dominant forward pack has been established can the backline work start, since no backline can be successful without a forward pack which assists them. Jones is a master of backline trickery and has a huge array of skills in his armoury that he will no doubt incorporate with the English backline.
Eddie Jones and England Rugby Conclusion
Don’t be surprised if you see an unstoppable English forward pack demolishing their opponents, both in set-piece plays and open field play, in the near future. A skillful English backline will take some time to develop, but there is no person better than Eddie Jones, that can turn an average team, into a world class team. Over the next 2-years England’s backline will start to take shape, expect a similar style of play from England’s backline that you have seen from Australia in the past.
Making England competitive again will take time, by competitive we mean, being able to compete and win against the Southern Hemisphere’s big-3 on a consistent basis both home and away.
No doubt Jones and England will have a 4-year plan building towards Japan 2019. We don’t expect Jones’s England team to work miracles within the next couple of months, but we certainly won’t be surprised if they become the team to beat in 2 or 3 years time.
If you are a betting man – place your bets early on England to win Japan 2019 while the odds are still long. We expect Jones to replicate what Sir Clive Woodward did in 2003 and bring some pride back to the English rugby.