Eddie Jones’ Fall Team in England Shaped by ‘Gaming Trends’ and Lawsuits | Eddie jones
Eddie Jones believes the trials of rugby have led to a rebalancing of the world game, with a greater possibility for teams to attack by running the ball as well as kicking.
England head coach said “trends in the game” helped inform the selection for the fall testing against Tonga, Australia and South Africa, with stalwarts such as Billy Saracens’ Vunipola ignored as preparations for the 2023 World Cup began in earnest.
Changes to the testing law this season include the 50:22 kick, which means the attacking team lines up if an inside kick of their own half bounces back before going out of play in opposition 22. World Rugby said the 50:22 “is intended to create space through a tactical choice for players to get off the defensive line”.
“We’ve seen the attack develop a bit,” Jones said of the action he’s watched this season, including the Rugby Championship in the Southern Hemisphere. “The balance between the way you move forward, between kicking and between running, has balanced out a bit.
“So teams don’t necessarily have to hit more than the opponent to win. You can run more than the opposition to win. This balance, where the game lies, has become a little less clear. “
When asked how this affected the form of his last team, Jones said, “We look at trends in the game… We are no different from other teams in modern sport. We all have a data analysis team. They can tell you 99.9% of teams that are going to win based on metrics. We have the latest measurements, so we use them to help us in our selection.
The presence of full-backs such as Sam Simmonds and Alex Dombrant at Vunipola’s expense may indicate a willingness to aim for more possession phases rather than relying heavily on tactical kicks, the norm under Jones.
Simmonds and Dombrandt are very mobile No 8s while Vunipola’s play is more about power, although Jones says the door is not closed to the 28-year-old.
Jones also believes that stricter tackle area refereeing helps teams gain yards by carrying instead of kicking. “The big determinants of the game are the speed of the ruck and the scrum,” says Jones. “It’s 80% of the penalties. And the speed of the ruck, because the umpires umpired the tackler rolling really hard, and largely controlling the second man released, we saw a lot more fastballs, and with a fastball we saw defenses under pressure… I think that generally made for a better rugby game, which is good.
Jones stressed the need for referees to maintain a fair competition between offense and defense on the outage. “What we have to make sure is that the umpires stay diligent on this ruck, remain diligent on the defensive side, and also diligent on the offensive side, keeping a fight,” Jones said.
“If you’re good on offense you get fast pitch, and if you’re good on defense you get turnover. That’s the fascinating part of the game. But whenever we have it right, we get slack and the game turns into a slower version of itself. So we may be at the top of the game right now. “
In anticipation of perhaps the most anticipated fall test, against the world champions on November 20, Jones says: “South Africa went through a small period of slowdown after the Lions which is completely normal for most teams. We always found in the Tri-Nations, when a team played after the Lions they found the campaign quite long and I think especially with the bubble, it probably made it even more difficult for South Africa.
“But the way they responded, like all South African teams do, against the All Blacks [with a 31-29 win in Queensland] was absolutely exceptional. They’ve had a long season, but… we know how much they love to play against England, so it’s going to be a great game for us.
England will operate with reduced coronavirus measures after the RFU confirmed players and staff are above the required 85% vaccination target which allows for easing social distancing.