Eddie Jones has made three changes to his backline for Saturday’s second Test against Australia
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane Date: Saturday, July 9 Reset: 10:55 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, the BBC Sport website and app

Ahead of the first Test against Australia last Saturday, England boss Eddie Jones was in high spirits.

“We haven’t had the opportunity to choose such a side for a long time,” he said cheerfully.

But despite being able to win the game against 14 people, England lost 30-28 fourth defeat in six Test matches in 2022 after Wallabies’ second-half onslaught.

Jones replied bell changes in the spins for Saturday’s must-win second Test in Brisbane.

Of the three rookies he has selected, Guy Porter and Tommy Freeman are debutants, while Jack van Poortvliet has only a handful of minutes of Test rugby on the bench.

All three are exciting players who have impressed at club level, but as he tears up his backline, Jones maintains the need for consistency – citing a lack of cohesion as a factor in the team’s regular last-quarter failures.

“The more you play together, the more you develop new habits, the more likely you are to work together under pressure,” Jones told Rugby Union Weekly’s weekly podcast.

“It’s a classic case of a new team finding their way.”

English fans can be forgiven for feeling confused. The side have been stuck in a rut since the 2019 World Cup, with Jones talking about “development” and a “new team” for much of the last three years.

New players came and went. Experienced players left, then come again. The identity and style of the team is hard to define.

While Jones is desperate to develop Marcus Smith’s partnership with Owen Farrell, they are very different players, with Smith part of a loose Harlequins squad while Farrell manages the more prosaic Saracens.

In Perth, Smith’s club-mate Danny Kerr started the game at scrum-half but has now dropped to the bench as Van Poortvleet comes on.

“It’s hard for me to understand what they’re trying to do with Danny Carr, Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell,” former England international Chris Ashton told Rugby Union Weekly.

“It’s in the middle, I think, in terms of style. Owen has the opposite style [to Care and Smith] as we saw from Saracens and Harlequins in the Premier League semi-final; they are polar opposites.

“So how do you expect it all to work together? I don’t know how.”

The results have always been contradictory. According to Jones, there are extenuating circumstances with Covid and others Saracens salary cap scandal both contribute to malaise.

“It was a difficult period,” he said.

“Saracens’ relegation has definitely affected the team quicker than I thought. I thought we would have had a more consistent plan and transition to a new team, whereas we should have been a little more deliberate in making some more aggressive changes.”

But when fans tire of the excuses? How long can poor performances be explained as part of the process leading up to the 2023 World Cup?

“I think we’re making good strides – and we’ll see that on Saturday,” Jones said.

“It’s all part of the process for me. I was offered—and decided to accept—this task of rebuilding the team. I’m enjoying the challenge and I don’t feel any extra pressure than when I coached the first game for England, or the second game, or the third game, or the fourth game.

“There’s always pressure. And if I didn’t like the pressure, I wouldn’t be working.”

Jones has been here before.

His job was in jeopardy in 2018 after a poor Six Nations and two defeats in South Africa. England stubbornly a A 25-10 win in the third test in Cape Town and 16 months later they were in the World Cup final.

“We’re one kick, one tackle, one pass away from being a very good team,” Jones said. “It will come on Saturday.”

Whether that’s a realistic view or blind faith, England fans – and those in power at the Rugby Football Union – will be desperately hoping he’s right.

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