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Where Has It All Gone Wrong For Eddie Jones' England World Beaters?

Where Has It All Gone Wrong For Eddie Jones' England World Beaters?
Thursday,March 15,2018

Back in October I wrote that England once again had the best rugby team in the world lamenting that the next World Cup isn’t until 2019.


Now, after back-to-back defeats, and Six Nations champions Ireland to come, Eddie Jones and his charges are on the verge of crisis. Where did it all go wrong?


To begin with, Jones seemed to have the Midas touch, taking over a team that had gone out in the group stages as hosts of the last Rugby World Cup and taking them on a world record equalling 18-game winning streak and two straight Six Nations title, the first including a Grand Slam.


Opening wins over Italy and Wales looked like it was business as usual in the 2018 championship, but successive defeats against Scotland and France, the first time they’ve lost two games in a Six Nations since the dark days of 2010, mean the wheels have well and truly come off.


With the champions Ireland yet to come, an unthinkable third loss is on the cards, with Joe Schmidt’s impressive outfit odds on with most bookies this weekend.


After the 22-16 loss in France, Jones said England were “two or three percent” short of where they need to be. Looking at the stats, they don’t look a long way further away than that, with problems mounting at the breakdown, with discipline and in attack.


Scotland forced 10 turnovers against England on their way to their 25-13 win at Murrayfield, and France managed a further nine. England’s back row needs a lot of work at the breakdown, and it may be time to bring in some fresh blood.


England have developed an unwanted habit of giving away double digit penalties in every game. They conceded 13 in Scotland and 16 in France. Even worse, nearly half of those last weekend probably were when they were in possession of the ball, a double disaster.


And, possibly most importantly, in attack, England look bereft of ideas.


On their winning run they were taking lines that opponents couldn’t cope with, a danger from anywhere on the pitch and looked one of the most potent attacking forces around.


Now, whether it’s a lack of confidence, the fact opponents have worked them out, or a combination of the two, England’s attack just isn’t clicking.


England have specialist coaches for the forwards (Steve Borthwick), defence (Paul Gustard) and the scrum (Neal Hatley), but no attack coach.


Jones has prided himself on looking after that area himself, but the time has come to address that and bring in some specialist help.


Too often England’s attack in this Six Nations has consisted of slow ball being recycled and the first receiver trundling into contact and the process being repeated; the pacy backline that caused so much carnage a year ago is being utilised less and less.


While there have been problems in defence, they have not scored the kind of points you would expect, and have become used to, given the attacking talent on display, with scores of just 46 (against Italy), 12 (against Wales), 13 (against Scotland) and 16 (against France).


Going past 20 points just once in their opening four games would have been a massive price prior to this season’s Six Nations starting.


Whether it’s time for wholesale changes remains to be seen. These consecutive defeats may spell the end for some of England’s old guard.


It’s still 18 months until the World Cup in Japan. That couldn’t come soon enough for England rugby fans until recently, but now it looks like it will be a period of intense hard work.


Eddie Jones has garnered a reputation for having a big impact when he takes over a new job, but has never lasted more than four years. Now’s his chance to show why he’s paid the big bucks, starting with Ireland this weekend.


Despite seeing the title already head across the Irish Sea, England have got to dig deep and put in a big performance this weekend.


A third defeat on the spin is almost unthinkable, and if it happens, the murmuring and grumbling will become a crescendo demanding wholesale changes and a complete shake up. England expects.


Six Nations Week 5: We’re still the place to be to turn your Six Nations knowledge into some tidy cash, with plenty of pools to play. We’re running a Match Pool for each match, which all take place on Saturday, including that England v Ireland clash. Just make seven predictions on how you see the action unfolding, including picking a try scorer and what the first scoring play will be, and if you scoop the most points, you’ll win the pool. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a final week Predictor to play covering all three matches, so don’t delay in getting your predictions in!


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