Eddie Jones focused on progress but Ireland game could be watershed moment in England rebuild

Lose to Ireland at Twickenham tomorrow and they face a second consecutive fifth-place finish in the Six Nations with a trip to Paris next week to face a potential Grand Slam-seeking France.

Jones has already partially used this weekend’s preparation to prepare himself and his players for a crash.

While it was a second Six Nations defeat in just four matches, the England head coach said he was still confident England “are making good progress, we continue to we will develop as a team and we will learn from it. We don’t have to worry about that at this stage.”

But consecutive fifth places 18 months from the World Cup would be an uncomfortable position for Jones and his players.

He tried to label England an underdog while pointing out that various former players – Irish and English – and even a barista who served him coffee this week named the visitors as favourites.

Jones has repeatedly said that Ireland are the most consistent team in world rugby and clearly hold Andy Farrell, his former Saracens player and Ireland manager, in high regard.

A new look England did not quite click in this tournament. They had all the possession and panache early on against Scotland but failed to make it count, crashing against Italy and nearly breaking away against a Welsh fight back.

Against Ireland, they face a team better run and of better caliber than the three obviously in this Six Nations, as well as a more solid defense.

Jones will be hoping this will be the game when things finally fall into place with the young attacking trio of Harry Randall, Marcus Smith and Freddie Steward.

“We’re not far off,” was Jones’ pre-game assessment. “We’re one pass, one accurate kick, one good back line away from very good. But we are a work in progress.

“We have increased our stroke counters in 12 months by 40%. We’re really happy with how it’s going, but it’s not turning into trials. The game is always about scoring tries, but that will come. We would like it to be this week, but if not, it could be next week. If it’s not next week, it might be on the Australian tour, but it’s coming. It’s like this wave. You can see it coming and all of a sudden it collapses and all this power comes out. This is how we will be.

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This England team is not lacking in power. Sam Simmonds is back at No. 8 in a pack including forces such as Maro Itoje, illness permitting, Courtney Lawes and props Kyle Sinckler and Ellis Genge. And with such weapons, he promised to take on Ireland, get in the face and disrupt the collapse.

Since 2010, Ireland have beaten England just once at Twickenham in the Six Nations, a victory in 2018 far more resounding than the suggested 24-15 scoreline.

And for all Jones’ assessments that pundits have it as an Irish win and nothing else, former Ireland center Gordon D’Arcy may have dispelled the idea of ​​a Twickenham fortress but still talked about England’s chances.

“In my experience, we were never afraid to play against England in their backyard but, although we were largely tuned in mentally, Ireland’s wins at Twickenham were a long way off. to be commonplace,” he said. “Ireland must be great and if they are, they will still be close. It’s always been that way.

The loss to Ireland in last year’s Six Nations was recently called a moment in the sand by Charlie Ewels as Jones decided some players were now surplus to requirements.

At present, England are in the early stages of this rebuilding phase, which Jones seems genuinely excited about.

“The team doesn’t know how good they can be and we will definitely find out on Saturday how good we can be,” he said. How he wishes that moment were tomorrow.


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