By Jeremy Guscott
Enough is enough, it’s time for Eddie Jones to ditch the George Ford-Owen Farrell axis and play a more direct, route one game to utilise the explosive attacking prowess of Ben Te’o.
Yes it has worked at times with Farrell outside Ford but come on, we’ve had enough of this. Ford has become increasingly anonymous in games and Farrell is clearly the best fly-half in the country. Eddie needs to stick him in at 10.
Why not be more dynamic and put Te’o at 12 and get him straightening up the line. So what if defenders know what is coming, they’ve still got to stop someone who is 6ft 3ins and 17 stone running really quickly. It’s the same with Mathieu Bastareaud, who’s been outstanding in the last couple of matches. You know what’s coming but to stop it is seriously difficult, especially when they’re pumped and playing well.
Te’o could do the same for England. He is a player with a good enough skillset to be man of the match every time he plays – if he wants –it just seems he’s got to want it more. He made a great break but poor execution with the pass saw the move break down, although not many of these players can pass accurately under pressure. It’s their responsibility to be the best they can every time they go out and play with an intensity that absolutely blows the opposition off the field.
Too often they seemed to be lacking communication and have poor execution in the England attack.You just have to run straight sometimes and not over complicate things which England did time after time when they were on the front foot.
The attack play was too passive and players were all over the place at times which slowed it down. England don’t have a specific attack coach and we are starting to see the results of that. Eddie much get one in very quickly, unless he has taken responsibility for it.
Key to Eddie’s leadership are talent spotting, getting clarity in performance and team cohesion – but there didn’t seem to be a lot of clarity out there and there was not a lot of cohesion. The talent certainly is there but if none of these players are at their best it’s very difficult to get wins – especially away from home.
I agree with Eddie when he says England were good enough to beat Scotland and France on paper – but the mental side of this team seems quite frail and that comes down to confidence. He must work out why they aren’t confident of going out and performing to their best. Are they tired from the Lions tour? As much as you want to play for England if you’re not fit and healthy enough mentally to go out there and do it they should bail themselves out and get a rest.
I felt England got beaten by Scotland quite convincingly in the end. It looked closer than it was because the Farrell and Danny Care tries were disallowed – but apart from that I don’t think England really looked like scoring. In contrast, in the plus column against France they had some good scoring opportunities right up until the very last minute when Luke Cowan-Dickie took that short ball when it had to go out to
Farrell, who had three players outside him to walk it in. That for me is a lack of communication, lack of vision and poor decision making. While that continues England are going to struggle.
England are plodding around the field at the moment and it bugs me that the starters aren’t running onto the ball at pace like Kyle Sinckler was at the end. These guys have some big questions to answer because at the moment they’re not. Yes it is hard to win away from home but the French have a pretty minimal attacking game and actually looked more dangerous defending than attacking.
Maro Itoje’s impact was fine in the first half but he tailed off as the game wore on and after England were absolutely rinsed at the breakdown against Scotland I was surprised they went with the same back row – I don’t understand how Eddie thought it was going to get any better.
If Sam Underhill is going to be continually injured and not there consistently – and with Sale’s Tom Curry also missing – the next best option at seven is Sam Simmonds, so play him there. No.8 Zach Mercer is back fit and playing for Bath and after he was in the running before injury, why not give him a go next week if Nathan Hughes isn’t fit? Against Ireland there don’t have to be massive changes and winning at home is important.
There were over 900 caps in the line-up against France so these problems England are facing are not due to lack of experience. Instead, perhaps one or two are getting a bit old – for instance is Dan Cole explosive enough still to be nailed on at tight-head?
Again, as so often happens with England, none of the changes in personnel really put their hand up demanding they keep the jersey for next week. Jamie George didn’t make a huge statement that he should start ahead of Dylan Hartley and while Anthony Watson did okay at full-back, he didn’t do enough to definitely keep the jersey. Plus he made the high-tackle error to give away the penalty try and yellow card. However, I would persist with him in that position because I think he is a better long-term World Cup option at 15.
Te’o didn’t really stamp his authority either and say this is my No.13 shirt from now on because in reality, it’s not – we want him in the 12 jersey.
Ireland deservedly won the Championship. They won narrowly in France first up with the Johnny Sexton drop-goal and they’ve steadily improved. They work so hard on not giving away penalties or turnovers with every one of the players knowing exactly what they are doing. While England lack clarity, Ireland have certainly got it.
England at the moment don’t have very good attacking structure and are not prepared to go from within their own 22. The Irish certainly will because they have been together a long time and understand their game. But we will see how good Ireland really are when they go to Twickenham because everyone is struggling away from home.