England set for shake-up against Ireland after surrendering Six Nations title
England have only a week to to rectify the shortcomings shown in the back-to-back defeats against Scotland and France.
Eddie Jones is ready to make changes in response to the alarming power deficit exposed by the surrender of England’s NatWest 6 Nations title to Ireland.
For a second successive match the fallen champions were over-run at the breakdown as France sealed a 22-16 victory in Paris that has swept the trophy from Twickenham to Dublin with a round to spare.
England will be condemned to their worst Six Nations performance since 2006 and could finish as low as fifth if they fail to prevent Ireland from completing the Grand Slam, leaving only a week to rectify the shortcomings evident against Scotland and France.
The damning post-match statistics listed 11 turnovers and 16 penalties conceded, figures so high that Jones sees no option other than to make personnel adjustments having reached the conclusion that his team have been left behind at the breakdown.
“The game is changing at the moment which will enforce some selection changes,” Jones said.
“If you don’t have power, it’s very hard to get momentum. Power is force times mass, and it’s how quickly you can accelerate it.
“Significantly, we gave too many penalties away, which was the difference in the game, and the breakdown again caused us trouble.
“We did not learn quickly enough. Why? I am not 100 per cent sure. There’s no lack of effort. The game is changing a little bit and we have probably been slow to adapt to it.
“We are not adapting to the referee’s interpretation at the ruck as well as we should. These are painful lessons at the moment.”
England spent the fortnight after the Calcutta Cup rout at Murrayfield working on their breakdown, only for the same to issue to surface in Paris, a consequence of which was their attack never left first gear.
James Haskell, who as a third-quarter replacement provided the type of power that had been missing, cites a difference in emphasis between club and international rugby as the source of the problem.
“We’re coming from the Premiership, where no one competes at the breakdown, into the Six Nations, where every team is throwing lots of people into it. We haven’t been quick enough to adjust to that,” Haskell said.
“It very hard to adapt to international rugby. You have a go and you get penalised, so you don’t want to go in again.
“International rugby is dramatically different now to where it was 12 months ago. It’s a lot more of a power game with more physicality around the breakdown.”
Ireland’s 28-8 victory over Scotland meant England had to win with a bonus point to take their title defence to the final weekend, yet Jones revealed in his pre-match interview that the permutations had not been discussed.
Scoring one try alone took 73 minutes – Jonny May eventually went over – and the closing moments hinted at a Red Rose victory, but even with a malfunctioning set-piece wasteful France should have been out of sight.
“I’ve been here before, probably in more difficult circumstances, but this is a test for this team,” Haskell said.
“It’s a personal pride perspective because we probably haven’t done what we set out to do and that doesn’t sit well.”