Eddie Jones must find England’s winning chemistry
As England struggle to live with top teams, I suspect Eddie will be back at the drawing board looking for ways to unleash his team’s potential. There are enough qualified players in England of world-class quality in the Premiership that he can make a realistic challenge for the next World Cup, it is now a matter of selection, direction and rubbing the green with things like wounds and form.
The problem for Eddie may not be so much the strength of Premiership clubs as their distinctiveness. Among the 13 teams he can choose from, there is a wide range of tactical approaches. At one end you have the defensive teams crunching opponents, with Exeter Chiefs and Sales Sharks dominating possession through their pack, while the Saracens wolfpack defense has always squeezed out the teams life. Leicester Tigers play a game built around an extremely effective chasing kick, while Gloucester bases their goalscoring potential on the most effective lineout drive in English club rugby.
At the other end of the spectrum are the four attacking and counter-attacking teams – Harlequins, Northampton Saints, Wasps and London Irish – who can tear through defenses from anywhere on the pitch if they can win the ball with their front foot . Between these two poles lie a variety of attacking and defensive styles, but the key point is that no two sides operate quite alike.
In many ways, Eddie suffers from the curse of all England managers, which is too much choice. But he must also remember that the most successful English coaches – Geoff Cooke and Sir Clive Woodward to name just two – did so by ensuring above all a continuity of selection. It means deciding how you want to play and sticking to it, which is not clear England have done during these Six Nations.
Push now manages to hustle. There are three main batches of Test matches coming up – the summer tour of Australia, Tests against Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa in the fall, followed by the Six Nations the next year. Eddie still has plenty of time to adjust the way he plays and to try new partnerships in his bid to forge a winning England team for 2023, but there is no more time to waste.
Continuity and chemistry are key to bringing out the best in England.