Indecision, spats and flogged players – England crumble under Eddie Jones

first_img Since you’re here… South Africa rugby team The Eddie Jones era has been nothing if not educational for the Rugby Football Union. The idea was to hire the world’s most experienced coach, shower him in cash and then sit back and watch him reel in the 2019 World Cup. The only thing Jones will be catching between now and Christmas, at this rate, is a flight back to Australia.Harsh, perhaps, on the guru who steered England to 24 wins in his first 25 matches, but those halcyon days are starting to read like dog-eared fable. England have lost five Tests in succession, are in danger of unravelling as World Cup contenders and, on and off the field, seem to have had the joy and personality sucked out of them. Twitter features Topics Share on Messenger Pinterest Aside from Jonny May, how many England players would make a combined XV picked purely on the evidence of the first two Tests? Nor is Owen Farrell’s first tour as captain proving an auspicious one. Twice his team have made positive starts only to be overtaken by a Springbok side playing with appreciably more belief. The Saracens fly-half’s warrior qualities are well chronicled but schmoozing referees is not his strongest point and the past two weeks have been sobering.“When the pressure has come on we have not been as clear as we should have been,” Farrell said. “We are going to have to figure it out if we are going to start turning it round.”Switching him to his preferred No 10 shirt next season and finding an alternative captain may sound an extreme solution but England cannot afford to rule out anything.It is yet another item for Jones’s bulging in-tray, with the third and final Test in Cape Town on Saturday a dead rubber. South Africa are planning to name a reshuffled side, with Schalk Brits at hooker. Of greater relevance is what may unfold in November, just a year out from the World Cup, when England host the Springboks, New Zealand, Japan and Australia on successive Saturdays.Jones says England require only a “two or three per cent” improvement to turn things around but their descent to sixth place in the world rankings would suggest otherwise. With Billy Vunipola under another injury cloud and more question marks hanging over the front five, the back‑row balance, half-back and midfield, an instant cure is unavailable. Eddie Jones: ‘Defeat to South Africa was like a horror movie’ Share on LinkedIn England rugby union team It is reaching a point where their morale is almost as shaken as it was in the aftermath of the 2015 World Cup. Things do not feel entirely right behind the scenes, with Jones’s all-pervasive influence at risk of becoming counter-productive. The players seem caught in a fug of indecision, many of the feted Lions of 12 months ago are shadows of their old selves, assistant coaches are either leaving or communicating publicly in robot-speak and the roster of backroom staff has been allowed to become ridiculously bloated.Worse still, England are acquiring a reputation that will concern the RFU even more than recent results. In addition to a few terse media interviews and unseemly on-field spats, both the coach and a squad member have been drawn into verbal altercations with supporters immediately after games. Travelling English fans staying at the team hotel in Bloemfontein reported even polite requests for pictures were frowned on. They were similarly unimpressed when a senior player jumped a lengthy reception queue saying he had an emergency, which turned out to be requesting an extension lead for his PlayStation.Jones remains a knowledgeable rugby man with a vast repertoire of amusing soundbites but the unhealthy culture he is overseeing needs rebooting. Too few English players are demonstrating an ability to think on their feet and, for whatever reason, good players are being sucked into a tactical morass. Blaming the absence of several players from this tour is a red herring; South Africa have lost hundreds of players to overseas clubs and have been comfortably the better side in the series. England coach Eddie Jones and his methods still in favour with RFU Support The Guardian Share on Facebook Read more Share via Email Rugby union Share on Pinterest Rugby Football Union … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Share on Twitter The RFU also needs its cricket-loving coach to take a fresh guard. From slagging off the Welsh and Irish and comparing the Bath owner, Bruce Craig, to Donald Trump, to flogging players in training and unsuccessfully preparing in Durban for two Tests at altitude, Jones has not got a great deal off the square lately.Smashing the daylights out of an already weary squad during the Six Nations, ignoring some of the Premiership’s better players for no logical reason, conceding nine tries to the Barbarians, bringing players on tour who probably should have been rested, blooding youngsters only to humiliate them by dragging them off at half-time: it is not an edifying list.A damp forecast for Cape Town is the latest complication; a slower track should theoretically help England but without the two Vunipolas and Ellis Genge they are running short of dynamic ball-carriers. Biting the bullet and giving Danny Cipriani his first England start in a decade has to be one option, with Dan Robson also overdue a start at scrum-half.Neither is weighed down by the frustrating baggage of recent months, both are desperate for a proper chance to alter Jones’s perception of them. England need all the renewed energy and bright ideas they can muster. Facebook Share on WhatsApp Owen Farrell’s first tour as the England captain is not proving an auspicious one. Photograph: Gerhard Steenkamp/Rex/Shutterstock Eddie Jones Owen Farrell Reuse this content Read morelast_img read more