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'P45 time': Ex-England player reckons Jones' job is on the line

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by PA)

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Former England international Austin Healey has claimed that Eddie Jones should lose his job if the final two results in this year’s Guinness Six Nations go a certain way against him. Jones’ guided the English to the title in 2020 but this was followed by a brutal fifth-place finish last term – and the outcome of their game this Saturday at home to Ireland will now decide whether they can take their 2022 title challenge into the final weekend next Saturday away to Grand Slam-chasing France.

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Healey has increasingly become an outspoken critic of Jones, his commentary even provoking the England coach to respond unsolicited via the media at his post-game press briefing last month in Rome. The coach claimed at the time that there was egg all over the pundit’s face but there could be egg coming the way of Jones’ face if England fail to deliver an encouraging finish to their slow burning campaign.   

“The ramifications for this game are enormous,” wrote Healey in his UK Telegraph column previewing the round four championship match. “If England lose heavily at home to Ireland then they would have to go to Paris to take on France in the final round – the best French team we’ve seen in a generation, who are still in the hunt for a Grand Slam – and it would be very difficult to see how you talk your way out of those losses. It could be another successive fifth-place finish.

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“Playing well and losing to Ireland and then losing to France might just about be enough. But if England are beaten convincingly – two scores or more – by the Irish and then lose in Paris, then it’s P45 time.”

What Healey wants to see from England against the Irish is their pack to stand up and deliver the type of dominant performance they have not produced in quite a while. “I have not seen an England pack dominate another for a while and that’s a concern. I want to see England’s forwards dominate their Irish counterparts. 

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“If they achieve that, then developing the younger spine of the team – especially the half-backs – will be far easier. Think of the wonders it would do for Harry Randall and Marcus Smith’s confidence if they were playing behind a dominant pack on Saturday against, in essence, one of the best teams in the world.

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“If Johnny Sexton is persistently retreating and his ball is always slow, then Ireland will have issues. If I were England, I would be piling into every ruck; three players at least, to make the ball super slow. Fighting and fighting to make life as difficult as possible for Jamison Gibson-Park to get the ball away.

“England have been pretty good with territory so far this championship. If they can continue with that, then they might as well compete like crazy at the breakdown. That is something that England have not done overly well. They have stood off a bit and that will be a mistake against Ireland – they have so many fast rucks and, if they get to the fourth or fifth phase at speed, then you will get cut apart.” 

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