Following England’s Six Nations win and their first Grand Slam since 2003 after beating France in Paris this past weekend, every man and his dog is offering up their opinion on the future of England rugby.
I have been asked what I would do if I was Eddie jones. So, I am going to provide you my thoughts AS IF I were Eddie.
QNow that the 6 nation’s title is tucked away and relatively easily, how are you going to approach the tour to Australia in June?
Well we have to accept that winning the 6 nations is a genuine achievement as it is very hard to do, history supports that fact! So we have to take this winning confidence down under. We know from previous tours to Australia that you have to be mentally tough down under. Woodward’s team lost by over 70pts in Brisbane. It is when you are under pressure that; and even the poor teams have a good 10 minutes, you have to be technically correct, maintain concentration and outwork your opponents until you re-gain possession and control.
QHow do you stop Australia scoring tries?
Against France the deep alignment of their attack caused us some problems! Our backline was sucked towards them and the French backs got around the outside. We should have employed an up-hold and drift defence. When our forwards were in our defensive backline they should have drifted earlier as they don’t have the pace to go up first. Keeping the tackled player off the ground will nullify the ground work of Hooper and Pocock but we have to get a support tackler in on the ball early. We have to re-establish solid go forward scrummaging, especially as Itoje and Kruis are good at applying pressure/stealing ball at the lineout.
QHow are England going to score tries?
We have to respect the ability of Hooper and Pocock to win turn-over ball wide out.
I like the idea of more switch plays in attack to concentrate the Australian back row defence closer to source; staying on our feet and driving forward, before moving the ball wider. Using our wingers in mid-field from first phase and in phase play will also be deceptive and cause a change in defensive back row running lines.
QWhich positions/combinations concern you in this England team?
Nationally we don’t have a convincing ball winning No7 at the tackle contest. At the world cup we paid a heavy price. Haskell, Robshaw and Vunipola are effective close quarter battlers but we need each or all 3 in other areas of the field at times. Itoje is our best inside support player, and from the second row! If Australia chop-tackle Billy Vunipola at source, this will affect our go-forward close in and produce slow ball for our backs? Billy needs to be a foil as well as an attacker.
QCan your bench players change your style of play?
We have depth and in Manu Tuilagi a player who is strong in the 10/12 channel. He could influence our style at the expense of Ford or Farrell. Mako Vunipola replacing Joe Marler gives us more ball movement but his scrummaging is suspect to refereeing interpretation.
QYou have a policy of a less prescriptive approach to playing the game. Are you happy with the player’s response to date?
Sure am. I like to create a working environment where players have more say in the decision making process, giving them the freedom to explore the practices at training as well as playing off learned instinct during the games. We will have to be more instinctive and direct off turn –over ball when we play the Southern Hemisphere teams. Our reaction times have to improve in both attack and defence as well as our overall team mobility. We have to run and keep running for longer periods!
QWhat changes will you make to your training programme between now and the tour to Australia?
We need to find time to improve each individual player’s skill levels. Players need to be multi-skilled and improve all facets of their game. Clubs can help in this process by devoting time during the week to personal skills sessions as well as core skills sessions.
QCan England win the series?
I think 3-0 is a real possibility. We are a group with growing self – belief as well as playing capability. Plus the Australians have failed to show any respect for us as a team by playing the tests in the smaller stadiums!! Maybe now we have won the grand slam they will wish they had chosen the bigger venues?