Eddie Jones concedes the breakdown deficiencies exposed during the demise of England’s NatWest 6 Nations title defence could persist until the World Cup.
A 22-16 loss to France in Paris has allowed Ireland to seize the crown from Twickenham with a round to spare and on Saturday Joe Schmidt’s men travel to London on the brink of a Grand Slam.
The damning post-match statistics from the Stade de France revealed 11 turnovers and 16 penalties conceded and for a second successive match the fallen champions have been demolished at the breakdown.
Jones insists it could take another 18 months before his players learn to adjust to the difference in emphasis between international rugby and the Aviva Premiership, in which fewer numbers are committed to the ruck.
“It’s not a clubs problem, it’s our problem. We’ve got to fix it because that’s the sort of rugby we’re playing. I can’t blame the Premiership,” Jones said.
“We’ve got our problems that we’ve got to sort out at international level. Our players are used to playing a certain way and we’re finding it hard to change their habits. Again, that’s our responsibility and my coaching is not good enough.
“We can’t expect club teams to play international rugby, just as we can’t expect to play club rugby.
“It’s a sizeable but fixable problem. We can address it and keep getting better at it, but the reality is that we probably won’t get better at it until the World Cup.’
Defeat by Ireland will condemn England to their worst Six Nations performance since 2006 – the last time they lost three matches – and a possible fifth-placed finish.
Scotland and now France have capitalised on previously uncovered fault lines to lift some of the shine off Jones’ outstanding record of 24 wins from 27 Tests, but the Australian head coach is determined to retain perspective.
“We’re not in any cycle. We’ve lost two games of rugby. One’s by a hair’s breadth against France and in the other one we were outplayed. So I don’t see any cycle,” Jones said.
“I don’t think this spell was inevitable, but I think it’s normal. If you think this is abnormal, I think that thinking is abnormal.
“We’re being exposed in certain areas at the moment. And it’s better happening now because it gives us a chance to fix it. We’re finding out all the issues that we need to fix before the World Cup.
“I always said this year would be the hardest year we’d have. We win together, we lose together. There’s no such thing as a cuddle or a bollocking.
“Each player will get what they need to get. We’ve got to pick them up to play well against Ireland. We’re all disappointed, we’re all gutted.”
England knew before kick off that they must win while registering a bonus point to keep their title hopes alive following Ireland’s rout of Scotland, yet Jones was disinterested in the permutations.
“We didn’t have to score four tries, we had to win the Test match. And then if we won the Test match, well we’d score four tries,” Jones said.