Whilst he has been a somewhat divisive figure, there’s no denying that Eddie Jones has done very well as coach of the England rugby team. Three Six Nations Championships, including a memorable Grand Slam win in 2016, and then finishing runner-up in the World Cup in 2019, shows that progress has been made. The defeat to South Africa on the biggest stage was tough to take, but the semi-final win over New Zealand is one that will live long in the memory.
That was the sort of statement victory that saw the team play in the way that Jones wants. England was powerful, disciplined yet aggressive, and ruthless in the way they defended the line and attacked in numbers.
England will face France in the Autumn Nations Cup final after beating Wales.
And head coach Eddie Jones says England still haven’t reached their peak.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) November 29, 2020
So, despite the loss to South Africa, there was still a real hope that this England team could kick on. Instead, they’ve stuttered. That’s not to say the past two years have been unsuccessful, but performances in the Six Nations recently prove that a lot of work needs to be done.
This is reflected in the latest rugby union betting odds for the World Cup, with Jones’ men now third favourites to win the tournament, behind New Zealand and France. Even though it may seem a long way away, the World Cup in France is what’s on the mind of all connected to England. It’s what they want to win, and it’s what Jones has been working towards since they lost that game to South Africa.
Of course, they are still contenders for the crown, but the reality is that their recent form is a concern – and there are some that believe that a lot of it is down to the coach. The Australian has warned his players that places in the squad for the World Cup are up for grabs, but some feel he is acting too late. There is a very exciting new generation of players coming through with England, and fans are starting to be increasingly annoyed, and bemused, by the constant omissions.
On one hand, you can understand why Jones is keeping faith in the old guard. They are the ones he trusts, and they have generally done well for him over his period in charge. Yet, performances over the past few months mean changes have to be in his thinking.
Plus, standards have started to slip. Captain Owen Farrell hasn’t been at his influential best, whilst the forwards have a worrying tendency to give away penalties. The latter has to be rectified, or it will prove costly when the serious stuff starts.
— Times Sport (@TimesSport) February 2, 2020
At this stage of preparations for the World Cup, Jones would’ve wanted to have a clearer mind on who was going to make up his team. Instead, he is having to shuffle the pack, and he must be tempted to turn to some on the fringes for the upcoming internationals.
Whether he does or not remains to be seen. Ultimately, though, the World Cup is looming large on the horizon, and England doesn’t look suitably prepared. So, big, quick decisions need to be made if Jones is to leave as a world champion.