The Springboks transformation that Jones wants England to mirror
Eddie Jones has insisted that England are on track to peak at the 2023 World Cup, the under-fire coach adamant he has no regrets about not blooding youngsters like Marcus Smith earlier and adding that his team are capable of enjoying a South Africa-like rise to the summit of world rugby.
Defending his currently gloomy fortunes in charge of England, Jones referenced the transformation the Springboks had under Rassie Erasmus where they went from getting written off as contenders in 2018 to lifting the World Cup a year later.
England are fresh off the back of a second successive Guinness Six Nations where they managed just two wins from their five matches, but Jones has been fighting his corner since the round five defeat to France.
He first staged a breakfast time media debrief on Sunday from Paris before an RFU statement followed later that afternoon stated that the Australian’s job wasn’t under threat and that he had their full support.
Asked about Saturday night in Paris and whether he can see anybody beating France at the World Cup they will host next year, Jones replied: “You’re making judgments on a team now and the World Cup is in 14 months’ time.
“So if you were to make a judgment on South Africa 14 months before the (2019) World Cup, you would have said South Africa can’t win the World Cup, they had won 40 per cent of their Tests in the previous twelve months. Those sorts of judgments are premature.
“In 14 months, that will be the case for us – the team will change considerably and we will either get stronger or get weaker and our aim is going to make them stronger and you can’t know what is going to happen to France. You don’t know who is going to be available for them but certainly, the atmosphere (Saturday night) was intoxicating.
“That is the great thing about sport, you don’t know when a team is going to peak and your aim as a coach is to peak them at the right time and our aim is to peak at the World Cup and I have said that consistently. That has been the plan and that is what we are going to do. Now whether France peaks too early as teams can do, no one really knows. Maybe there is more in them, may there is not.
“Your job as a coach is to make sure you maximise the cycle of that team, which I think we did with the 2016 to 2019 team. They came back and won the Six Nations in 2020,” continued Jones, reacting to the suggestion that he started the overhaul of his current team far too late unlike France when Fabien Galthie came in post the 2019 World Cup and immediately rung the changes.
“2021 was a difficult season for us with Saracens and covid and we probably didn’t handle that as well as we could but because of that we didn’t see a lot of young players in that period play and it was only post the break out of covid that we were able to see the young talent come through and the timing of bringing the young talent through has been correct.
“If I look at the performance of (Harry) Randall, (Marcus) Smith and (Freddie) Steward, particularly those three guys, and then some of the young forwards, (Alex) Dombrandt and (Sam) Simmonds, their performance has been at a consistently good level in the Six Nations so the timing of bringing those in was right.
“And everyone has a different cycle. This job was always going to be challenging for this four-year cycle because we were always going to have a team that went a little longer and then you have got to break that team up and start again – but I think our timing is right.
“The World Cup is the pinnacle of success in world rugby. In the Six Nations, we are not thinking about the World Cup, we’re thinking about being at our best in the Six Nations but sometimes there is a progression for a team,” he added when quizzed why England seemingly can’t annually peak for the Six Nations while also still plotting long term for the World Cup.
“We have gone through a situation where we had a very settled team from 2016 to 2020 and then that team got old and we needed to change the team and we are rebuilding the team at the moment and going through those difficulties of rebuilding a team.
“We have got youngsters coming through who have great potential and we need to have faith in them, but sometimes they are a little bit inconsistent and therefore we will continue that process.”
Jones will now conduct a two-day Six Nations debrief with his staff at Pennyhill Park before they take a break ahead of the three-Test Australian tour in 16 weeks’ time. He insisted he won’t stay in the job beyond his current contract but stressed he retains the hunger to get the job done.
“There is no desire to go beyond ’23. My stated aim is to be the best coach I can be until 2023… If I didn’t have the petrol in the tank, why would I be sitting here?”
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