“So, For Us, It’s Been Enormously Beneficial”
Eddie Jones remarks in his post-match interview, after their third consecutive defeat, have drawn criticism from some quarters. However, I feel like there is virtue in what he says.
Eddie Jones established a strong starting Fifteen in his first Six Nations. There are still a few marginal calls. His main problem is the versatility of Maro Itoje. Itoje has served a different role in each Six Nations since the World Cup. Once they decide which role they want him to fill, a lot of England’s choices become easier.
In 2017, Jones started to conduct experiments with the team. Undoubtedly the most successful of which was with Elliot Daly, who took the 11 jersey for his own. He was also able to usher in newer talents like Kyle Sinckler, Ben Te’o and Jamie George, all of whom became Lions.
This Six Nations, Jones developed his squad further. A lot of players were given a chance in positions they don’t usually play, or instead of their more experienced rivals.
“Other Guys Are Maybe Going to Struggle to Participate in the Future”
A lot has been made of this comment but Jones is just accepting where in the World Cup Cycle we are. He has to make sure he is giving time to those who need it most. Who will struggle to feature? The data gives us some potential answers.
England’s Points Difference with Farrell at 12 is +156 (which is higher than England’s total Points Difference across the Six Nations since the World Cup), with Te’o it is -18. A large amount of this comes down to Farrell’s underrated defensive attributes. For instance, Te’o was nowhere to be seen when Bundee Aki broke through England’s line for Ireland’s second Try.
Watson showed some promise at Full Back for the Lions. Unfortunately, Johnny Sexton took only 3 minutes to punt the ball straight at Watson and create a Try, against Ireland. He also picked up a costly Yellow against France.
Sinckler has been getting more and more game time at Tight Head. Jones gave Sinckler his first start against Ireland. However, he was only able to get less than a Metre per Run. Sinckler is a Prop who is famed for his ball carrying. This is not good enough.
In this game, Vunipola managed to overtake Joe Marler’s Minutes in the Six Nations. Unfortunately, England’s Points Difference with Marler on the pitch is +72, whilst with Vunipola it is only +42. This is a massive difference at this level.
I don’t believe Jones has been given enough credit for the risks he took against Ireland. England started to turn the game round when more experienced heads like; Ford, Brown, Care, Cole, and Marler entered the fray. This is probably not the lesson he wanted to learn, but it is still a valuable one nonetheless. In this tournament, he gave his players a chance to fail. They now have a chance to learn and grow from it.
Author: Stewart Marshall
I played Rugby for years until discovering my agility and pace was better suited to Basketball. I became a qualified coach by the time I was 16. Unfortunately, an injury brought my sporting pursuits to an abrupt end.
Fortunately, whilst I was injured I found Theatre and I’ve never looked back. I now run a small Theatre company which has worked throughout Scotland and England.