Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

England progress under Eddie Jones

England remain in pursuit of the Grand Slam after two rounds of the 2016 RBS 6 Nations. Here Press Association Sport examines what has gone right and wrong so far in the Eddie Jones era.


Results: After four successive runners-up finishes in the Championship, Jones was recruited with the sole purpose of delivering silverware. A pair of victories have raised hopes of claiming a first Six Nations crown since 2011, but far tougher assignments than Scotland and Italy await over the next five weeks with Ireland and Wales due at Twickenham before a climatic showdown against France on March 19.

Selection: It is hard to argue against Jones' team selection with two wins in the bank, even if grumblings over the Australian's conservatism are not without merit given the previously uncapped but highly-promising Jack Clifford and Maro Itoje have been introduced cautiously. Itoje perhaps should have been blooded before the Stadio Olimpico, but Jones' faith in Jonathan Joseph over Elliot Daly was rewarded with a hat-trick of tries against Italy and there were signs in Rome that George Ford may be exiting his slump and deserves to continue at fly-half.

Tactics: Pragmatism dictates the tactical blueprint under Jones and against Scotland and Italy it worked. Initial exuberance and willingness to attack from all quarters at Murrayfield was abandoned for a narrower approach when English ambition yielded few gains and in Rome the match unfolded exactly as the head coach predicted with Italy needing 50 minutes of softening up before the gaps appeared. Particularly pleasing in Edinburgh was the players' willingness to adapt when Plan A was failing.


Attack: The department of England's game that will take longest to sharpen with Jones overseeing its development himself. Scotland and Italy looked the more natural attacking teams with the ball in hand and at Murrayfield in particular execution fell well short of intent. A lack of accuracy, fluency and imagination have been evident so far, but in running five tries past the Azzurri there were encouraging sings and the finishing has been impressive.

Underpowered midfield: While Owen Farrell's presence at inside centre offers England another distributor whose hands helped create tries for Jack Nowell and Ford, he has yet to make an impact as a carrier. He has run the straight lines Jones demands of his 12, but lacks the power to make a real impression on defences. Joseph's value lies in his artistry, not his strength, and on one occasion he was brushed aside by his opposite number in Rome. With the diminutive Ford starting at 10, the midfield lacks a muscular rallying point.

Discipline: England continue to concede penalties freely - a problem that pre-dates the new regime. Many of them are brainless and there are one or two serial offenders. Jones makes the point that the most successful teams are also the one most heavily penalised by referee, but they also know the timing of when to infringe is key.


From Belfast Telegraph