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'It's gone down a second': Difference in ruck speed elsewhere preys on England's mind

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Eddie Jones has spoken about one of the key areas of the game where England will need to improve if they are to be a rejuvenated force by the time the 2023 World Cup starts in France. The English head coach was savagely criticised after his team plummeted to a derisory fifth-place finish in the recent Guinness Six Nations. Having been finalists at the 2019 World Cup and champions in the 2020 Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup, England’s brutal 2021 Six Nations campaign resulted in an RFU review that Jones now hopes can help revive his team’s fortunes.

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With attack coach Simon Amor departing by mutual consent following the losses to Scotland, Wales and Ireland, Jones will temporarily take on the attack coach brief for the upcoming summer series where England will play Scotland A, the USA and Canada.

Jones is set to announce his squad for those England fixtures on June 10 and he will be looking to quicken the speed of England’s play from the breakdown after he identified an increase in its tempo in other tournaments, particularly in the southern hemisphere.

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“The breakdown has changed the game considerably,” reported Jones when fronting his first England media conference on Wednesday since the deflating March 20 Six Nations loss away to Ireland. “The average speed of rucks in some competitions has gone down a second, from three seconds to two approximately. They are approximations which means there is a lot greater chance to attack off fast ball.

“World Rugby, of which I’m part of the working committee, is very insistent about we want a better game of rugby and to get that we need more consistent ruck speed and that has been happening in competitions to varying degrees. It’s a lot different from one competition to the other but we are anticipating at the World Cup in 2023 the ruck speed is going to be pretty quick which then allows you to attack on frontfoot ball which brings in more instinctive skills rather than pattern rugby.

“We are seeing that come to the fore probably more in the southern hemisphere at this stage than in the northern hemisphere, so we want to make sure we prepare for that and then conversely in defence your defence is under more pressure because you have got less time to get set. So it’s a really exciting time for rugby generally and we’re lucky to be part of it and lucky to play in front of crowds in July at Twickenham and we can’t wait to get there. It is going to be a new squad to a large degree so we have got a great chance to put down some foundations for the next two years to the World Cup in 2023 where we want to be the best team in the world.”

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Asked to elaborate on what he has seen in the southern hemisphere that has quickened up the breakdown, Jones added: “The referees are very diligent on the roll away in the tackle, very diligent on the jackler, of the poacher doing it correctly. There may be a little more leniency in the northern hemisphere for the poacher and the jackler.

“That might be an over-generalisation but the ball tends to be a little bit slower. What you have seen in the Premiership, particularly over the last three weeks when the sun is shining and the tennis shorts are out, the ball has got quicker and because of that, it seems like there is more space on the field now.

“Now the reason there is more space on the field is because the ball is quicker and defence is struggling to get set so that is something that is set in place by World Rugby because the game was starting to tighten up too much, the ruck speed was too slow and every time you have got slow ruck speed you allow the defence to set which results in double tackles which then results in a slower ruck which then results in kicking, so the game is moving in the really positive fashion and we want to be at the forefront of how to play under those conditions mate.”

Switching to the recent RFU inquest into England’s 2021 Six Nations campaign, Jones felt it wasn’t a problem that his methods were reviewed by his employer. “There is only one head coach, mate,” he said, insisting that the process hadn’t undermined his position of authority.

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“At the end of the day when the team wins or loses the responsibility is mine. I use a series of experts in and outside the game to come up with the best coaching environment and I welcome any good advice, I welcome any wisdom that I can get and I’m always looking for that, so that is no different than it has ever been.

“We all do that [regularly review] but because of the situation it became more of a formal review which is understandable and useful because you get different people involved in the review with different ideas and that can be all be useful. We have taken that on board and that is part of planning going forward.

“We are two years out from the World Cup so it is a time where we are always looking to change the squad. I work in a three-tiered project for a World Cup. You have got your four years where the first two years you have got to establish a base and then the next two years you are looking towards picking the squad for the World Cup and that is where we are at the moment.

“Because of the northern hemisphere, the Lions always cuts a line in the sand about where that is because it opens up the opportunity to play some younger players at a higher level. We saw how the last tour in 2017, (Tom) Curry and (Sam) Underhill came out of that [the England tour to Argentina].

“Curry is now 22, played 32 Tests, captained his country for a small period of time. Underhill at his best is one of the best flankers in the world so if we were able to get two or three players out of this campaign of that level it is going to make a hell of a difference to the team.”

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'It's gone down a second': Difference in ruck speed elsewhere preys on England's mind

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