Many fans and pundits are calling England’s victory against Ireland in Dublin last weekend their greatest victory under Eddie Jones. There have been some memorable victories, particularly those in the 3-0 whitewash over Australia in 2016, but last Saturday may have shaded that given the confidence that Ireland had going into the match.
Therefore, it is an extremely bold promise from Jones in a recent interview to say that their performance against the French this Sunday will be an improvement.
This could well just be a platitude that all managers will say after a good performance, although they don’t really mean it. But this may equally be an insight into Jones’ confidence in his team and where they can end up. Throughout his tenure in England, the Australian has insisted that the team can get much better, and he is obviously not satisfied yet.
Of course, the game will be different against the French; England had 20% less possession and made 55 fewer carries than Ireland in Dublin, and will expect much more from the ball at Twickenham. But in terms of their defence, and how clinical they were when they had the ball, it is quite some task to improve on that.
Jones also shed some light on the decision to start Chris Ashton ahead of Jack Nowell this Sunday, as he hopes the Sale winger will be able to score a try in the opening stages. England have started their games at a frenetic pace recently, and having a natural try scorer like Ashton can prove beneficial early on, as it did against the All Blacks in the Autumn.
Finally, Jones also provided the major boost to England fans over Maro Itoje’s fitness, suggesting the lock may be back sooner than expected, which will be huge as they will be hoping to hone in on a third Six Nations title in four years.
Sunday promises to be an exciting encounter if England seek to better their first round performance.
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