Three things Eddie Jones must do to turn England's Six Nations campaign around

Alex Broun 25/02/2018
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England coach Eddie Jones has work to do.

As the saying goes – this was coming.

Far from impressive against Italy, lucky against Wales, Eddie Jones’ much vaunted England were finally undone by a brave Scotland team.

As JK Rowling, Scotland Rugby’s No1 fan tweeted near the end of the game: “SCO 25 ENG 13 THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING BUT IT IS.”

And no spells from Harry Potter required.

So if the rest of us could see the writing was on the wall, why not Jones, who has shown time and time again what a shrewd, tactical genius he is?

Here is what Eddie must change to turn England around.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 10: Courtney Lawes of England looks on during the NatWest Six Nations round two match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on February 10, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

England’s backrow is top heavy and completely unbalanced.

The backrow is too slow

You simply can not play a backrow of Courtney Lawes, Chris Robshaw and Nathan Hughes in contemporary rugby.

Yes they are big and strong and might win you some lineout ball – England won 11 from 11 lineouts, Scotland 13 from 15 – but you will get killed at the breakdown and also have no linking play between backs and forwards.

England conceded 13 turnovers and also gave up the same number of penalties, many of those at the breakdown.

Scotland’s open side Hamish Watson may be small by Test standards (1.85m and 102kgs to Lawes’ 2.01m and 115kgs) but he was everywhere, constantly getting to the breakdown seconds before the English loose trio.

It was the same with Scottish captain John Barclay.

The really telling statistic was both England wings Anthony Watson and Jonny May gave up three turnovers each – as they were swamped by the faster Scotland backrow and the English backrow were late in support.

The only other player to give up three turnovers – Lawes himself – was again left vulnerable by his backrow partners.

In comparison, Watson conceded just one turnover and Barclay none.

Jones must bring in a more mobile flanker for the last two matches, in the mode of the great Neil Back or Australia’s Michael Hooper.

The only problem is who.

The most likely candidate is Exeter’s Sam Simmonds but he is out injured and mobile English backrowers are in short supply.

Time for Te’o

It’s hard to remember a more ineffective performance from an England backline – apart from the Sam Burgess disaster at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

In total they made just four clean breaks in the entire match – three of those to May, meaning the rest of the team managed just one.

Scotland managed eight – with Huw Jones matching the entire England total.

Joseph also made 23 run metres to Jones’ 115.

It is perhaps unfair to compare Joseph to Jones, who had a career making match similar to the young Brian O’Driscoll. But Joseph is meant to be known for his defence – he made four tackles. Jones made 13.

England simply must get more attacking metres from this position and Jones must look at Owen Farrell swapping to fly-half with Ben Te’o at No12 and Jack Nowell No13.

This would get your most dangerous runners into the game earlier and remove the innocuous George Ford.

Ben Youngs is also clearly missed.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 24: Eddie Jones, Head Coach of England talks with Dylan Hartley after defeat in the NatWest Six Nations match between Scotland and England at Murrayfield on February 24, 2018 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Where to now for Eddie Jones and Dylan Hartley?

Discover a ‘plan B’

When Jones first took over at England he introduced a power game that simply blew other teams off the park – resulting in a world record-equaling 18 consecutive Test victories.

England dominated up front, build up momentum through forward charges and then with the defence backpedaling released their deceptive backline.

But for that plan to work the forwards must be going forward and against Wales and now Scotland, that has not been the case.

The backline is getting static slow ball, or even ball on the backfoot – and they are getting belted.

A lot of the time it looks like England are in slow motion.

Certainly a more fleet-footed backrow would help but he has one solution sitting on the bench – Lions hooker Jamie George. George would instantly give the English pack more dynamism.

Jones has made his point with Dylan Hartley but time to move on. England need a new No2.

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Ken Owens laments Wales' poor discipline after Ireland Six Nation's defeat

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Ken Owens has lamented poor discipline from Wales that effectively saw the whistle blown on their Six Nations title hopes.

A 37-27 defeat against championship favourites and leaders Ireland in Dublin means Wales’ wait for a first Six Nations crown since 2013 is set to continue.

Ireland’s bonus-point victory mirrored overwhelming domination of possession and territory, while Wales’ nine penalties conceded equaled the total in their previous two games – against Scotland and England – combined.

“There are plenty of positives, but we need to tidy up that discipline issue we probably had out there,” Wales hooker Owens said.

“We conceded nine penalties, and it does frustrate your game. It stops your momentum, and we have just got to be a little more accurate.

“In the first half, probably our discipline cost us, giving them some easy outs and giving them territory in our half, which they took full advantage of.

“We can’t have had more than 20 per cent possession and territory in that first half.

Ireland v Wales

“It is frustrating that we put ourselves under pressure at times.”

Despite tries from Gareth Davies, Aaron Shingler and Steff Evans, Wales slipped to a second successive loss on the road, leaving next month’s Cardiff appointments with Italy and France very much a case of after the Lord Mayor’s Show.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland looks set to make changes for the Azzurri’s visit on March 11 – wing George North moving to centre could be one of them – and Owens says there must be no let-up.

“We’ve got two games left and we have just got to go into them positively,” Owens added.

“There are 10 points up for grabs, and we’ve just got to try and get them and keep playing positive Rugby.

“I think we’ve been pretty good this campaign. Everyone has written us off, and we’ve turned some heads.

“When we keep hold of the ball, we create chances. We had three opportunities to score, and we took three chances.

“Italy have been dangerous, to be fair to them. They’ve scored tries, so they are not going to be a walkover.

“We are going to have to be at the top of our game. We can’t turn up and just think we are going to roll over them and get five points.

“We need to really work hard and play smart Rugby.

“We are going in the right direction, we are still blooding new players and we had some boys back from injury (against Ireland), which is great.

“Ireland are a great side, and if you are indisciplined against them, they punish you, and that’s what they did.”

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Huw Jones urges Scotland to improve their away form ahead of Ireland clash

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Huw Jones has been one of the leading lights for Scotland.

Scotland’s match-winner Huw Jones has called for an improvement in away form if they are to mount a serious bid for the Six Nations.

A gripping 25-13 win over England on Saturday saw Scotland lift the Calcutta Cup for the first time in a decade but more importantly kept them alive in this year’s tournament.

A lot was expected of Scotland in the lead-up to the Six Nations, with many tipping them as potential dark horses before an opening-round defeat in Wales tempered the optimism that had been around the camp following a superb autumn.

They showed character to come back and beat France at Murrayfield, and backed that up against England thanks to two tries from the in-form Jones, whose record in a Scotland shirt is now an impressive 10 tries in 14 games.

However, they face a daunting trip to play Ireland in Dublin in two weeks when they have to win to maintain their outside hope of lifting the title.

“This game is obviously a massive confidence booster,” Jones said. “We’re under no illusions, we’ve got a really tough away game.

“We’ve turned Murrayfield into a bit of a fortress now. I think in our last nine games we’ve lost one and that was a real close one (against New Zealand).

“If we’re going to become a really great team we’re going to have to start winning away, which we haven’t really done for a while.

Scotland 1

“That next game is a massive test and that’s what we’re thinking about now.”

Despite the hugely impressive showing against England, Jones admitted Scotland need to improve again if they are to claim points in Ireland.

He said: “A lot of people will say England maybe didn’t have their best game and if Ireland have their best game it will be a much tougher game.

“They’ll have the home crowd, they’ll have the sort of lift that we got today from our supporters.

“Going over there, whatever we did today we’ll have to up that performance.”

Aside from keeping Scotland’s hopes alive in this season’s tournament, the win against England will also provide peace of mind to several members of the squad who suffered humiliation at Twickenham last year.

An in-form side suffered a 61-21 thrashing last March, and there were emotional celebrations on the pitch as the Scots gained revenge with their first win over England since 2008.

Jones said: “You could see before the game how much it meant to the guys that have been around for a while, Barcs (John Barclay) and Greig (Laidlaw).

“You could see the motivation they were trying to instil in everyone else and it paid off.

“To see their faces after the game and how much it meant to them… it means the world to all of us, but those guys that have been around for a while and had some not so good times in a Scotland shirt, it’s massive for them.”

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