THE BLOG
08/02/2016 12:48 GMT | Updated 08/02/2017 05:12 GMT

A Victorious Platform to Work From - England Rugby

The Calcutta Cup has been a part of rugby history since 1882 and in recent years the fixture has been largely dominated by England. However leading into this year's meeting the feeling was that it was going to be tighter, and closer, than ever before.

Scotland's World Cup was extremely productive and, by in large, positive whereas England's was testing, taxing and at times torturous. The view in Scotland, and many other places, was that this would be the year that the Scots finally re-gained the Calcutta Cup and in doing so make the start of Eddie Jones' reign a challenging one.

Scotland were fielding a settled and dynamic back line, they had the advantage of two sevens in their starting XV and props that were ready, and capable, of disrupting. However instead of taking opportunities when they arose old demons haunted them and chances were missed; the most obvious being Finn Russell's squandering of his second-half interception. If Russell had looked left instead of putting boot to ball we may have been contemplating and analysing a totally different result, however Stuart Hogg never entered his vision and the golden moment passed.

Of course Scotland's inability to take the match wasn't all down to their own doing, England must be credited greatly with taking the match by the scruff of its neck and making it their own. Scotland will have wished that John Lacey hadn't blown his half-time whistle, for they were in the ascendancy at that point. However it was perfectly timed for England as they re-grouped and after the break re-gained their hold on the game.

This week Eddie Jones ardently defended the 23 that he had selected when some called it 'boring' and 'expected' and he was right to do so. England were never going to win this fixture with a whole host of new personnel instead it needed guys that had been there and done it before. Test rugby is about riding out the ebbs and flows and keeping a cool head while doing so; England's players did this and then their head coach used his substitutions wisely. Jones was clear that this match was never about 'giving guys opportunities', it was about winning test rugby and we saw him use his bench early and for the right reasons. The new entrants provided fresh legs to spark and to lift key areas of the game as opposed to stock changes on 60 minutes and that was refreshing to see.

Pleasingly, for Eddie Jones and for all of us observing, England's pack proved their point well as they set the platform required both at the scrummage and lineout. WP Nel and Al Dickinson weren't allowed to have the impact they would have wanted and instead the trio of Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole fronted up. Jones had heaped a whole world of pressure on Dan Cole, who knew it, and shone while Dylan Hartley cemented his opening performance as captain by nailing what he described as at the 'non-negotiables' at the set piece and conducting himself in a manner that will have silenced a fair few doubters.

Off the back of this platform the execution in attack wasn't always pristine however I believe that the Ford and Farrell dynamic at the heart did, and will, work well. Clearly the advantage of both on the pitch is that it makes opponents think, provides the side with more options and I believe helps both players to have the other there. Jack Nowell's try was well taken and vital; Mako Vunipola's hands in the build up were part of a superb display from Vunipola senior while Vunipola junior was head and shoulders above the rest. Billy was as rampaging and destructive as a world-class Number 8 should be and his personal influence on the match cannot be underestimated.

Finally a word for England's defence which was rock solid. Paul Gustard should be been pleased with what he saw out there, for like the rest of the performance, it provides the basis on which he can layer his detail. England's line speed was crisp, sharp and fast and they defended with the type of physical and emotional intensity that their defence coach would have asked of them.

For Eddie Jones' England, this year's Calcutta Cup was all about the result and actually the fact that the performance was a largely pleasing will be an added bonus to the squad and to their new head coach. The World Cup was a sobering affair that knocked players' confidence, even if they'll tell you publicly that it didn't, and I for one am not underestimating the importance of this victory for morale as much as anything else.

The opening game between Italy and France highlighted that the Italians won't be the walk over that we all thought that they might be however England have set out their stall in exactly the right fashion. Was it vintage? No. Was it perfect? No. However it was a victory and a first hit out that contained plenty that Eddie Jones will be quietly content with.