Eddie Jones picked another England team with fingers crossed.
After he named his side for the second Test against Australia in the Brisbane Jones said on Saturday: “This game is the perfect practice for the World Cup.”
Funny. What does Eddie mean by that?
England are not on a development tour. You talk about the World Cup when it comes. If you’re constantly looking to the future instead of the next game, it sets the wrong tone entirely.
Eddie Jones made four changes to the team that lost 30-28 to Australia in Perth
His comments made the crucial second Test look like a World Cup dress rehearsal
A three-match tour of Australia is as big as it gets. The same goes for Six Nations campaigns and, frankly, any time you run for England. I don’t believe you can show up at the World Cup and say, “Right, that’s it.”
You learn to play under pressure and get the best out of your players, treating every opportunity like a World Cup final. That’s how you grow and realize what your players are really capable of.
But no, Australia v England is now a dress rehearsal. This message reaches the players. It should be about today, not about the future.
It is not only England, but also other countries. That’s not what championship teams do. It’s a way for managers to keep their jobs on four-year cycles, but the constant talk of development and the long-term picture means the England team has lost its edge both mentally and physically.
They need to toughen up – and fast.
Jones went bankrupt with his picks including Jack van Poortvleet (pictured)
England were thrashed by South Africa in the last World Cup final and since then we’ve had nothing with that team for three years because the focus wasn’t on winning the next game.
Earlier in the week, I urged Jones to go bankrupt with the selection for the second Test. He did so with the selection of Jack van Poortvliet, Guy Porter and Tommy Freeman, but then watered it down with one word – ‘practice’.
It will be tough to beat Australia in Brisbane, but this is not the Wallabies team of old. This England side can win this weekend. The problem is that we have yet another selection where Jones and everyone who loves English rugby is just praying that things work out.
This is not an England team that will strike fear into the best sides in the world. At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be any structure or method of selection. At the moment, the back line is about Joe Marchant and Joe Coconasiga. The next time they were nowhere to be seen and were dropped by Porter and Freeman.
Joe Marchant (pictured) and Joe Cocanciga lost in the English carousel
The team selection method is all over the place. I wonder what the players from the selection carousel are doing. Jones has more than 30 players in Australia and it won’t be a happy bunch.
What does Danny Kerr think? He spent four years in the wilderness, got off to a losing start in Perth, and now he’s been dropped.
He didn’t have his worst game last weekend – and he wasn’t his best – and I still wanted Van Poortvliet to start, but the scrum-half pipeline sums up the team’s inconsistency. Harry Randall was selected ahead of Ben Young in the Six Nations and was vice-captain against the Barbarians. Now he’s kicking his heels and holding tackle bags, probably wondering what the world is going on.
England’s backline for Brisbane includes Van Poortvleet, Freeman and Freddie Steward, who are all 21. Then there’s Marcus Smith, still only 23, and Porter, 25. These are young, exciting players, but age doesn’t matter.
Danny Kerr spent four years in the wilderness before the first Test and now he has been taken off
If they are the best players for the job, they should be picked, although I would start with Henry Arundel. He is back on the bench despite a great effort in the first Test.
Speaking of the bench, I think going with a six-two split is a big risk and I don’t think you should go for it. Kerr can only play in one position, leaving Arundel to occupy the rest of the backline. England are just a few injuries away from being stuck there.
Sam Underhill replacing Tom Curry is the only change in the forwards, but I’d like to see Jack Willis. We have to get the pace in the back row and work on Michael Hooper.
Australia’s captain was all over the place in the first Test and is such a nuisance at the breakdown. England need to stop him from getting over the ball or it could be another defeat and a series loss.
Henry Arundel was again benched despite a brilliant effort in the first test
Australia will not be intimidated by this England team, especially after beating them with 14 men in the first game. In fact, no team in the world would look at Jones’ men right now and not be scared. This is a big concern.
I said before England left for Australia this tour would be about finding out if Smith and Owen Farrell could play together. I still have my doubts and would argue that it has to be either/or, but we also have to give this pairing time to see if it can work.
This was not the case in the first test. Let’s hope for an improvement on Saturday. Farrell’s presence is also very important because there is a lot of experience in the second division. At 30 and with 95 caps for England, he needs to take control of the rookies around him and be the captain.
Australia were also forced to make changes due to yet more injuries and suspensions. But they have Taniela Tupou back, which is a big boost for them. Tupo is a good player and will give England something to think about. England lose 1-0 and win against themselves.
Jack Willis was also not included in Jones’ starting line-up for Saturday’s second Test
In many ways, they were lucky to be in Australia this summer, rather than South Africa or New Zealand. If they were up against the Springboks or the All Blacks, it could be a lot worse than it is.
Australia can pick quality players but they are not world leaders. Not yet, anyway. Even so, they were still too good for England last week despite Darcy Swain being sent off in the first half. They have the momentum as England cruise for answers.
The Jones pick could work, but we’re again crossing everything in hopes that it does.
English rugby needs to be a lot better than this.