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The three fixable factors behind Eddie Jones' England stagnation

Eddie Jones' England weren't far away from making the grade.

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Jones backtracks on TV Smith/Farrell quip and has pop at Woodward

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Eddie Jones has backtracked on his live TV comment that Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell is a strategy now seemingly set in stone for his England team. The teething 10/12 combination of the respective Harlequins and Saracens out-halves had its best outing yet on Saturday when seven tries – including two from Smith – and 52 points were scored against an outclassed Japan in the second match of their four-game Autumn Nations Series.

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That performance has put England back on track following last Sunday’s 29-30 slip-up versus Argentina, rejuvenating confidence that next weekend’s glamour Twickenham clash against the All Blacks is not a mission impossible for a home team that has struggled with inconsistent displays.

Jones implied during an interview on Amazon Prime that the Smith/Farrell combination was now here to stay. However, when the remark was said back to him at his media centre briefing about an hour after full-time, he retracted what he had suggested and added that if better information was required, journalists should instead ask ex-England boss Clive Woodward, one of Jones’ fiercest critics in recent times.

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The subject of Smith and Farrell in tandem at the heart of English creativity behind a dominant pack was raised when a journalist said: “I think you said on telly you have already decided that Marcus and Owen are going to play together again. Have you set that in motion for the autumn now?”

Jones laughed when he heard this and he quickly put his big-sounding TV comment into context. “Well, that was with Dylan (Hartley) and Matt Giteau, it was like drinking at the bar, two old players.

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“But look, we think Marcus and Owen can be really good together but like any strategy, you have just got to keep having results and there is no reason why they shouldn’t continue being that, but we don’t get a team sheet and put those two names in ink that you can’t rub out.

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“So yes, yes, we really like it but there is always changes that you need to make and we need to be flexible and we need to be adaptable and we will be. So this obsession with saying these two need to be ten and twelve is not the way we really think.

“You (media) guys can think like that. I am sure Clive Woodward has got his thoughts on it, so maybe you can ask him. He can maybe give you some better information than I can.”

Having chuckled at himself for taking his latest swipe at Woodward, Jones went on to agree that the England attack did look far more potent than six days earlier when greatly shackled by the Pumas. “Our running and kicking game gave us opportunities to move the ball. They are a handy team, Japan – it was just seven points to the All Blacks (when they played in Tokyo two weeks ago).

“So we were able to get on the front foot through our running and kicking and then we were able to move the ball in the space but we probably missed 20 points. Conservatively we missed 20 points out there.”

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