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Jones' bizarre 'right direction' and 'not far away' England claim

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Alex Davidson/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Eddie Jones has remarkably claimed that his England team are not far away even though Saturday evening’s 13-27 hammering by the Springboks miserably brought the curtain down on the country’s worst series of results in a calendar year since 2008. Ten months out from the start of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, the English were dominated in the air and at the scrum in a defiant show of South African power.


The heavy loss – the second-worst England margin of defeat against the Springboks at Twickenham – left Jones with a bleak 2022 record of Played 12: Won 5, Drew 1, Lost 6, with two of those losses coming in an abject November month in front of the home fans in London.

Only Japan were beaten across the past four Saturdays at HQ, England woundingly losing to Argentina and South Africa and managing a miracle 25-all draw with the All Blacks after trailing 6-25 with eight minutes remaining.

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Against the Springboks, England were 6-27 behind when Thomas du Toit was red-carded in the 61st minute but, unlike last weekend, there were no Hollywood fireworks on this occasion and the converted Henry Slade try was but a mere consolation on a devastating evening when boos rang around the ground at full-time.

At this post-game media briefing, Jones initially tried to claim England were moving in the correct direction, yet some minutes he did eventually hold his hand up and take responsibility for the serious downturn in results.


“On results, we are not happy but I feel like we are building a really good base to have a really good go at the World Cup, a really good base. A number of young players got some great experience today. They will come back better players from that and we have got other players coming back to form, some of our more senior players and we are not far away,” he said.

“We had five guys all under 20 Tests playing today, that’s one-third of the team… Selection-wise we are moving in the right direction. We have got a number of good young players coming through. A number of guys who have been out are coming back and are going to be in better form by the World Cup. I think we are (going) in the right direction.


“In terms of strategy, strategy is an interesting word in rugby. We want to play to our strengths and sometimes you are allowed to play to your strengths and sometimes you have got to find another way to play so we are always looking to see how we can become more adaptable in that area.”

But seriously Eddie, if that is what moving in the right direction looks like, are you suggesting that losing doesn’t really matter for England? “It’s always a problem. We want to win. We don’t want to get beaten by a big score by South Africa and we don’t want to have the worst record since 2008 so it’s a problem. I accept full responsibility for that so that is all I can say.

“It’s a bit of a watershed game for us,” he continued. “We came into this game with high expectations of how we wanted to play on the back of New Zealand and Japan and you know if you look at the first three games we have dominated territory and possession and this game, South Africa were a bit too tough for us in the air, a bit too tough for us at the set-piece so I know exactly where we have got to improve.

“We lost the air, lost the scrum battle. When you play against a team as uncompromising as South Africa and you lose both of those key contests, it’s hard to get in the game. I can’t fault the effort of our team. We went in there with a good design on how we wanted to play. When you lose those two key contests it’s hard to turn the game around, it’s hard to find a way into the game.”


Rubbing salt in the gaping England wound was the casualty rate on a night they were physically beaten up in the collision zone by the Springboks. “We have got a few (Injuries). Will Stuart, elbow. Not sure of the extent. Marcus Smith, ankle. Kyle Sinckler has got a hip injury. It wasn’t a good day for us. It’s one of those days when nothing seems to go right.”


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