5 Reasons why it has all gone wrong for England
England have lost five Test matches in succession.
England have lost their series to South Africa as they trail 2-0 with the climax to the tour in Cape Town still to be played.
Here, Press Association Sport identifies five reasons for a decline that now numbers five successive Test defeats.
No fault of Eddie Jones’ is the lack of strong leadership within his squad. Dylan Hartley is the most accomplished captain but even he has proved unable to instigate change on the hoof at times when clear thinking is needed, while his ongoing concussion problems cast doubt over his future. Owen Farrell is captain in South Africa but the confrontational manner that makes him such a force as a player does not lend itself to communication with referees. Alarmingly, beyond these two the cupboard is bare of credible candidates.
The two players Jones can least afford to lose are Farrell and Billy Vunipola, yet they have missed one of their standard bearers for virtually the entirety of the last 15 months. Vunipola has incurred a succession of injuries, robbing England of their most devastating carrier.
Jones is a demanding coach whose work ethic is punishing. Those around him are driven hard and it is no coincidence that there has been a steady churn of staff since his arrival at Twickenham. Players are closely monitored across a variety of criteria including sleep, psychological well being and effort level during recovery sessions and are put through the hardest training sessions they have experienced. It is hard to quantify, but there is clearly an accumulative toll.
The fault line present for the entirety of the downward spiral has been the recurring disciplinary issues that have seen England hammered on the penalty count game after game. Even Jones himself is struggling to understand why they are repeatedly falling foul of the referee’s whistle. It is costing them games and must be fixed.
Jones loves a fight and the list of verbal spats he has instigated is extensive. Johnny Sexton, Rhys Patchell, Warren Gatland, Bruce Craig, Michael Cheika, the media – among others – have fallen into his crosshairs. At times it has been a fun ride, but the appetite for confrontation is surely tiring for those around him.