Eddie Jones says Courtney Lawes’ ‘laconic style’ was key to England victory

While many questions remain about England’s progress to next year’s World Cup after a run of victories against Australia, the one about Eddie Jones’ future has found an unequivocal answer.

In other words, Jones can finally look forward to visiting his elderly mother who, alarmed by speculation about his dismissal, had warned him earlier in the tour not to come home until the victory is over. would not have been assured. “She’ll be very happy,” Jones said after the series ended in Sydney. “I could get a good sukiyaki from her.”

Certainly a second series win in Australia gives Jones significant breathing space and there is considerable doubt as to whether his employer would have been willing to wield the ax even in the event of three defeats. There are undoubtedly more signs of tangible progress than when the Rugby Football Union made such a claim after another dismal Six Nations and there are platforms on which Jones can build towards the fall which, like this becomes a recurring theme, it has already presented as a “mini-world cup”.

Main among the positives is that there is clearly a unity in this team. Courtney Lawes is an immensely popular frontman and while there was some degree of friction when Owen Farrell was let go as captain, they obviously developed a thriving working relationship. “With Courtney’s more laconic style, they created a great fit at the top,” Jones said.

Ellis Genge has become an integral part of this team, someone who sets the tone for the team, while Richard Cockerill – who has appeared to return to his usual animated persona in Australia – has forged a formidable pack with a maul who can now be seen. as a serious weapon. The improvements to the breakdown – with Lawes leading – were evident after struggles in the opening defeat in Perth, and in Brisbane and Sydney England were able to wrap up wins against a fearsome Wallabies comeback.

While there were defensive frailties early on in Sydney, there was a robustness to the closing holds that once again spoke of the unity forged within the team. The emergence of players such as Tommy Freeman and Jack van Poortvliet is a major plus, although the tour was disappointing for Danny Care, Joe Cokanasiga and Joe Marchant.

Equally, there are doubts about the extent of progress made when considering the coaches’ goals before leaving for Australia. The humiliating loss to the Barbarians was brushed aside by Jones as England experimented with new ways of attacking, but while that continued in the defeat at Perth there was a change of course in Brisbane and Sydney. Playing a power play based on physicality and abrasiveness is certainly effective, but the way England returned to it suggested an acceptance that development of new attacking methods should be put on hold after the first Test defeat .

England head coach Eddie Jones before the Third Test match between Australia and England at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Eddie Jones’ second victory in Australia silenced critics after an indifferent Six Nations campaign. Photography: James Gourley/AAP

Ahead of the tour, attacking coach Martin Gleeson said ‘we hope to see the biggest difference in our attack’, on the back of a Six Nations who gave three tries, despite the game against Italy . Despite all the talk of the promise, jam tomorrow, demonstrable progress in that direction is slim on the ground. In Perth they were too sideways, in Brisbane they reverted to a route-one approach, and in Sydney, as Lawes admitted, England barely fired a shot.

At the heart of the case is Marcus Smith’s partnership with Farrell in the 10-12 axis. It’s probably too early to label Smith and Farrell England’s rugby equivalent of the Lampard-Gerrard conundrum given that they’ve only played four matches together but are yet to click as a double deed.

In the first test, Farrell interfered too often at first receiver and if that is part of the plan to give Smith a little more space, England ended the series with six tries, two of which were scored at the end. of the game in Perth. . Of the other four, two came from driving mauls, one when Smith grabbed a loose ball and only one who showed an element of creativity. “With the players we have we can score a lot of tries,” Smith said. “We just scratched the surface of that.”

In Sydney there were glimpses, particularly when Smith passed Farrell, who tipped Jamie George, who freed Freeman down the left, but moments like that were rare throughout of the tour. Smith now has 13 caps for England – ‘now no more layers’, according to Jones – and is adjusting after the honeymoon period to cap Harlequins’ final 2021 Premiership triumph with his first two caps and a call-up to the British and Irish Lions tour. . “I guess when I started I was a bit naive,” he said. “Just thinking I could do what I did and it got me in trouble. I learned from a few bad experiences in an England shirt and I’m desperate to learn as fast as possible.

Jones is stubbornly laudable of the Smith-Farrell partnership, but his belief will be tested if Manu Tuilagi can prove his form and fitness in the fall while Henry Slade also enters the equation.

Smith wouldn’t be the first player to struggle with life in Farrell’s shadow, but there’s an insistence within the camp that the partnership will go smoothly. If nothing else, winning the series in Australia left more time to persevere.

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