Former England international Lawrence Dallaglio has outlined what he believes is the one key area Eddie Jones needs to address in his England team. Despite winning both the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup in recent weeks, Jones has come in for heavy criticism for England’s style of play throughout the year, with the gameplan focused largely on defence, set-piece and kicking since last year’s Rugby World Cup final defeat to South Africa.
Jones hit out at the critics after his team needed extra-time to beat a heavily depleted France side in Sunday’s Autumn Nations Cup finale, accusing the media of being “totally disrespectful to the players.”
Dallaglio, who won four Six Nations titles and a World Cup during his playing career, understands where the England head coach is coming from, and believes the players may have a more pragmatic view of the increasingly divisive style of play.
“It’s a tough one. If you’re inside the camp, you’re winning. Rugby is about getting the right result, isn’t it really, if you’re a player or a coach? Sometimes the fan might have a slightly different view. But England have played alright over the last 12 months,” Dallaglio said.
“I think the challenge for everyone when they see England is when they know what they are capable of.
“There’s been some pretty exciting performances (over the last two years), particularly away in Ireland and in Yokohama against New Zealand, and I think when you see the standards that those guys are capable of, I think what’s been served up across the board in the Autumn internationals has been a long way away from that.
“So I think that’s where the disappointment lies, but I think equally, this is a team that knows how to win, and they’re winning trophies. But it’s not for everyone, I agree with that. As I said, it’s a tough one for the fans. I don’t think the tournament itself helped, I don’t think it captured the imagination.”
However, the former Wasps backrow does believe that there is one clear area of weakness in Jones’ team.
“I think the challenge for this England team is when they get matched physically, which they were against France in Paris (earlier this year), and against France at the weekend, and against South Africa in the World Cup final… Maybe in some of those one-to-one battles they even got beaten physically. Then they have to understand how to win the game, and I think that’s maybe something Eddie needs to evolve with the team,” he explained.
“And the team needs to have an input into that as well. The best teams need the players to challenge the coaches and the coaches need to challenge the players.
“I played in some terrible games of rugby myself that people would have switched off at half-time if they could, so I’m not going to sit here and criticise the boys for winning another trophy.
“But equally, I think England need to work out when they get beaten in the physical battle, which happens in a game of rugby by the way, you’ve got to think your way around your opponent in a different way.
“France have done that to them twice now and caused them a few problems, and I think that will be eating away at Eddie and he’ll come back with something.
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“Maybe a little bit more innovation, like what we saw in Dublin (against Ireland) last year, and what we saw in the first lineout against the All Blacks (in the World Cup).
“(The problem is) Where’s the element of surprise gone? Because I think England played exactly the way France expected them too (on Sunday), and I would have loved to have seen a couple of things thrown in there that maybe would have changed the mindset of the French.
“It’s always tough when you are playing against a side who you are expected to beat comfortably because maybe they’re not first choice players, but I think France were always going to come to Twickenham, and especially coached by Shaun Edwards, they’re going to be wound up. That’s something England have to realise. If you want to play against a team that is coached by him, you’ve got to be suitably wound up as well.”
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