A clean sweep of European Champions Cup victories was achieved by our Aviva Premiership sides this weekend for the first time since December 2008. Alongside this, 4 out of 6 sides gained victories in the European Challenge Cup, thus delivering one of the most successful European pool weekends ever for English rugby.
Prior to the round unfolding Australian Eddie Jones was unveiled as England Rugby's new head coach, the first non Englishman to take the post, and he spoke openly about the journey ahead of him;
"There are two things that you need to win games of rugby, you need to have talent and you need cohesion. There's plenty of talent in England so the thing that we have to work on is cohesion."
Of course any coach or individual will tell you that it is better than have too much rather than too little to work with. However, make no bones about it, the depth of talent in England will challenge even the astute coaching brain of Eddie Jones.
Let's take the centres as an example shall we... a few of the names that immediately spring to mind for England colours are Henry Slade, Kyle Eastmond, Brad Barritt, Jonathan Joseph, Elliot Daly, Luther Burrell, if fit Manu Tuilagi and potentially Owen Farrell if you see him as as 12. This European weekend I would argue that four of this group excelled and when Jonathan Joseph is fit he puts a very strong case forward for inclusion in any side. The fact of the matter is, that in this area and many others, England's new head coach is spoilt for choice.
"Over the next 6-8 weeks I'll be watching games, looking at the talent and working out a style of play, that we want to play, that is going to be effective."
My personal hope is that this style will be one akin to the purposeful endeavour that England Rugby showed during the 2014 RBS 6 Nations. In that tournament, particularly towards the latter stages, England showed a hunger to play rugby and to score points. Yes, they needed to against France in order to deliver the Championship, however when you read the names above and combined them with the other individuals available, the majority are ball players.
Of course pragmatism and adapting to the conditions, referees and situations is critical to becoming a Championship winning side however I truly hope that England's foundation is based on a desire to score points and to play front foot rugby. England have individuals like George Ford, Joe Simpson, Henry Slade and Jonathan Joseph in their mix. In my view it is a gross waste of immense talent if they are not used to their full potential on the International stage and given license to play.
Clearly the buck doesn't stop with England's attack, they need to have a rock solid set piece, strong defence and powerful pack. This Rugby World Cup highlighted to us all, once again, the importance of the breakdown at International level and Eddie Jones' selection in this area will be scrutinised to the nth degree. 'We need to develop openside flankers' were the words of England's new head coach on Friday morning and they were not a direct dig at England's RWC captain Chris Robshaw. Instead, they were voiced as a statement of fact. Calum Clark's injury is unfortunately timed however there are others within the Aviva Premiership that will want to show that they fit the opened mould and are ready for action.
In short England Rugby's new head coach has a tremendous amount of talent at his disposal and I for one will be extremely intrigued to see the make up of Eddie Jones' England and the game plan that put on the park.Suggest a correction