England face consistency challenge - Jones

Last updated 10:52 07/12/2012
England rugby
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CONSISTENCY CONUNDRUM: Pressure now goes on the young England side to repeat their performance that knocked over the All Blacks at Twickenham.

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Can England handle the expectation that will come with their stunning upset of the All Blacks?

That's the big question in front of Stuart Lancaster and his side, according to Eddie Jones, the former Wallabies coach now in charge of Japan and a man never shy to offer his opinion on the game's hot topics.

Jones was in London representing Japan at the 2015 World Cup draw and didn't hesitate to give his views to The Guardian.

He believes consistency is the big challenge facing the young England side and says Lancaster needs to emulate the approach of the last successful England coach, Sir Clive Woodward who masterminded their only World Cup success in 2003.

"England went into the game against New Zealand with no fear. No one expected them to win and I know it sounds funny, but you can go out then and play rugby," Jones said of England's 38-21 demolition of the All Blacks at Twickenham last Sunday.

"They were also good tactically and the big test is how they deal with the expectation that will now be on them. Will they have the courage to play the same way?

"The only coach who has been able to get that out of them is Woodward and, since he went, it has been a case of peaks and troughs.

"Stuart Lancaster's job now is to make sure England continue to play without fear. The question going forward is over their mental ability."

That pressure of expectation would now come in the Six Nations championship.

Jones felt the just completed test season in Europe had confirmed there was a transitional phase under way since last year's World Cup which was won by the All Blacks in New Zealand.

Most of the teams had featured new players and it was now a matter of who capitalised on their fresh talent best.

"A number of sides are building. South Africa have gone from a forward pack with 400-plus caps to 150, England the same. France and Wales have young players coming through. The race to 2015 is about who becomes the most stable," Jones said.

"We did not see a shift in power last month.

"South Africa did not play particularly well but they won their three tests. They had a number of injuries and they did enough in each game, if no more. I think they are the most pragmatic side in the world: they do what they have to do to win.

"Australia had good results in England, Italy and Wales after losing to France and they have some really good young players coming through. They have a really attacking back line when everyone is fit, but it is a question of finding balance. There have been concerns expressed about the future of Australian rugby, but because of the sporting environment in the country there will always be a good Wallabies team."

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With that in mind, Jones believed the Wallabies had shown enough to suggest next year's three test series against the British & Irish Lions in Australia would be highly competitive.

"It will be a great series against the Lions and I think it will be as close as it was in 2001 when the Lions were the best team in the first two hours of the tests and the Wallabies were in charge in the final two hours. It came down to a final lineout and could do so again," Jones predicted.

- Fairfax Media

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