"We've just beaten Wales by five tries to one and we're talking about a guy that missed a few goals. That's quite amazing, it just shows the negative reaction in English rugby. I find it quite sad to be honest. We've beaten Wales five tries to one, when do you score five tries against Wales? Wales are at full strength and we're missing 11 players and we're talking about a young kid that missed a few kicks. I think we need to get some perspective on where we are going with the game here."
When Eddie Jones has a point to make he delivers it. There's no beating around the bush, instead he gets straight to the point and speaks his mind in no uncertain terms. It is something that his players have expressed their wholehearted support for and it's something that I personally believe will hold England Rugby in very good stead during the course of his four-year tenure.
Anyone with eyes could see that George Ford had a day to forget off the kicking tee. Mark my words, as any professional sportsman would be, the 23-year-old will be more disappointed than anyone else at his own performance. Off days happen, they're part of life and every fly-half in the world has them as former All Black Nick Evans was quick to share on social media. Of course the focus on this one in particular was greater given the fact many people thought Danny Cipriani's exclusion wasn't warranted and the extra attention that's been put on George and how he's coping with the recent dismissal of his dad from Bath. But, to focus so wholeheartedly on his missed goal kicks ignores his other work around the park that was delivered under intense pressure from Wales' defenders. Ford plays flatter to the line than any other, it's a key asset of his, but it puts him in the outrageously difficult firing line of Roberts and co. As Eddie Jones rightly highlighted after the game a team cannot score four tries from their backs without a stand off that's doing his job. Also the intense focus on goal kicking alone does a very great disservice the side's emphatic victory over a largely full strength Welsh side.
Emphatic is not a word that I use lightly but from half-time onwards there was only one team in the game and that was the home side. The Welsh promised so much and started strongly but showed their classic problem of being unable to finish their chances. In contrast when England's arrived their backs made the most of them and in particular Anthony Watson's 33rd minute finish was of the highest order.
Luther Burrell looks to have played his way onto the plane and personally I was extremely impressed with his 80 minutes. The Northampton Saint showed the fruits of his fitness labour, he ran some delightful lines, was rumbustious over the park and took his try well. (Of course his placed was confirmed by Eddie Jones on Sunday morning.) At the heart of team captain Dylan Hartley showed his side how it was done as he worked his lungs to bursting point playing for 76-minutes after so little rugby since the RBS 6 Nations. Dylan's work rate and leadership spoke volumes of him as a person and as their leader and I was mightily impressed with England's captain. Elsewhere on the field Joe Launchbury had a stormer, the lock was absolutely everywhere and was at his athletic best. The Wasp, alongside Courtney Lawes, will have watched the world and his wife hail Itoje and Kruis to the moon and back through gritted teeth and to have the chance to remind Eddie Jones what he is capable of meant that he delivered a monumental individual performance.
"The great thing about today is that it has just added depth to our squad. To win the World Cup which is our ultimate aim, you need 28 really good players. Everyone says 30 but if you get 28 really good players you can win a World Cup. There were guys today that put up their hand that said we're capable of pushing for a permanent position and that's what we want."
The key lesson from the Old Mutual Wealth Cup match was that Eddie Jones' England is looking in rude health. From the front-row to the back three and everywhere in between we are starting to see true, high class strength in depth and this is only the beginning. The Australian expects a tremendous amount from his players and as a collective they're responding to his coaching methods, man management and years of experience. It's been a matter of months since the Rugby World Cup but it seems a long time ago and with the talent that's also travelling to South Africa with the Saxons there's every reason for England fans to feel positive,
A victorious platform was exactly what England required before embarking on the real challenge, a three test series in Australia. This year England have proved themselves to be the strongest in Europe but the Wallabies are a whole different ball game. As Eddie Jones has said, multiple times, Southern Hemisphere rugby is played at a higher intensity than our International players have experienced to date and will put new demands on them. On squad announcement day he likened meeting the Wallabies in the First Test in Brisbane to facing a fast bowler saying;
"It's like facing a fast bowler, the first ball you face from a fast bowler you don't see. The second ball if you're lucky you see it and it doesn't hit you and by the third ball you get on the front foot and you can hit it. That's what we need to be like, we've got to make sure that when we're ready to play the first test we're like that third ball and we're on the front foot ready to hit it."
Personally I can't wait to see how England step up, the RBS 6 Nations saw the test team grow with every game played and at Twickenham Stadium they toppled a Welsh side that were odds on favourites to be victorious. Once they arrive in Australia Eddie Jones and his management have their work cut out in order to get them to that stage of the third ball but if they do it could be a very positive summer for England Rugby.
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