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What Jones makes of North vs South debate following Autumn Nations

By Liam Heagney

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With the 2021 Autumn Nations Series now over, there has been much debate since the last weekend about what the results mean for northern hemisphere sides compared to the rival teams from the southern hemisphere, but it’s a debate that England boss Eddie Jones doesn’t have any time for. 

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The All Blacks were beaten on successive Saturdays by Ireland and France, the Wallabies lost to Scotland and Wales inside six days while Jones’ own England side prevented the Springboks from finishing their European tour unbeaten with an 80th-minute penalty from Marcus Smith proving decisive at Twickenham last Saturday. 

With the next World Cup just 22 months away from starting in France, the November results are being used as evidence that the northern hemisphere can be optimistic about what might unfold at a tournament where eight of the nine previous winners have hailed from the south, England the only exception with their 2003 victory. 

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Guess the celebrity Rose | Adebayo Akinfenwa | England Rugby
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Guess the celebrity Rose | Adebayo Akinfenwa | England Rugby

The pool draw for 2023 has pitted France versus the All Blacks, Ireland versus the Springboks, Wales against the Wallabies to name just some of the group stage fixtures, but the England coach Jones has insisted he has never been a coach who has looked at international rugby results from a two-hemisphere perspective.  

“I am not too concerned about the northern hemisphere,” he said when asked what the Autumn Nations Series results meant for the Six Nations teams compared to their Rugby Championship rivals. “The only thing I am concerned about is England and I know we are going to be in a better position after the Six Nations because we will keep improving.

“I am not a big northern, southern hemisphere person having coached in both of them,” continued the former Wallabies 2003 World Cup boss who was a consultant for the Springboks at the finals four years later. “They come up here in November and the southern hemisphere teams have always operated like club teams. They basically get together at the end of Super Rugby and they are together until November so they have that opportunity, they have a long period of time together which is an advantage but there is also a disadvantage. 

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“They are playing at the end of a season that for most of them probably started in February or March. There are the pros and cons of it. When England go to Australia in July 2022 we are going there on the back of a season that started in September for the players but we will also have the opportunity to have time together on tour which is invaluable so that is the positive. The negative is you have got a bit of fatigue. 

“But the other overriding factor in all of those pros and cons is that the Covid situation has presented problematic team environments. We are so lucky to be able to play a high-level sport in such a difficult time but given the restriction of the team environments sometimes it gets difficult for the players,” continued Jones, who headed to France on Monday on a recce of the facilities there for the 2023 World Cup.

“You think about South Africa, they have been on the road away from home for at least 18 weeks so that does present some challenges and there may be some mental fatigue that gets exacerbated by those conditions. We certainly found the last Six Nations as a team very difficult with the restrictions we had in the team environment so that puts another layer on that equation.”

England are set for a three-match series away to the Wallabies next summer, Ireland are due to play the same amount of games away to the All Blacks as are Wales when they visit the Springboks and Scotland who are set to play in Argentina.  

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What Jones makes of North vs South debate following Autumn Nations

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