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Why England boss Jones isn't smiling about Prem's high try count

By Stefan Frost
(Photo by David Rogers/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

The towering try counts which continue to mark out this season’s Gallagher Premiership might just be irking England boss Eddie Jones. Just over a week ago, a grand total of 417 points were scored across six games in round three. That was the second highest tally ever recorded in the league – the final round of the 1998/99 campaign still tops the charts – and included a mouth-watering 56 tries, the fourth highest ever scored in a single round.

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In response to the watershed weekend, the England head coach blasted the lukewarm approach to defence on offer and gave words of warning to prospective players, advising them to commit to tackling if want to play international rugby.

His comments became even more prescient following the completion of round four where just five games were played but the try-line was breached a staggering 42 times. Leaky defence does not sit well with Jones, who used the recent Rugby Championship as a case in point for why tackling remains an important facet of international rugby.

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“The commitment to make a tackle is important in rugby and the players that we select will have to be committed to making them. Players that don’t won’t get picked,” Jones said. “You saw how important it was in the Rugby Championship and on the summer tours, especially now that the ball is spread more than two passes only 30 per cent of the time.

“The ability to make an effective tackle not only stops the opposition going forward, but also creates a transition opportunity or a turnover opportunity, so backs who can take the legs away from the opposition are so important. We will be looking for players that are productive with the ball and without the ball.”

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At the moment teams seem to be much more productive with the ball in hand. This was evident throughout round four whereby at least nine tries were scored in three different games. The pick of the bunch was the showdown between London Irish and Bath, which finished 47-38 in favour of the Londoners.

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Fans visiting the Gtech Community Stadium were dished up an encounter to remember, as a monstrous 13 tries were converted across the 80 minutes. Irish wingers Ollie Hassell-Collins and Ben Loader both bagged hat-tricks, while the visitors managed to claim six of their own and a losing bonus-point as a commiseration prize.

An equally absorbing try-fest took place at the StoneX as Saracens and Leicester Tigers faced off in a repeat of last season’s Premiership final. The men in black, having lost that previous encounter, quickly cemented their title credentials by blowing apart the reigning champions, crossing the line seven times.

Player of the match Theo McFarland was among the scorers and consistently used his aerial handling ability to disrupt the opposition’s lineout, helping Mark McCall’s men cruise to a 51-18 win.

Harlequins claimed the final big win of the weekend after they scored six against Northampton Saints. The Londoners nabbed their fifth of the afternoon when winger Cadan Murley expertly evaded the tackle of Tommy Freeman and acrobatically finished in the corner.

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However, they did ease off the accelerator in the final quarter and allowed Saints back in the game but did just enough to hold out, winning 35-29 in yet another high-scoring Premiership match.

For spectators, this high-octane attacking rugby might be thrilling to watch but for England coach Jones, it signposts weakness in defence and it doesn’t stack up well with what’s happening in Test rugby.

In England’s summer series win over Australia, they conceded 2.33 tries a game, a telling stat and one that no doubt helped see the men in white emerge victorious. In round four of the Gallagher Premiership, the sides involved conceded an average of 4.2 tries a game.

Defence will be at the front of Jones’ mind when he picks his England squad for the upcoming Autumn Nations Series against Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa.

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RUGBYPASS+ England feel the hurt and Eddie Jones feels the heat England feel the hurt and Eddie Jones feels the heat
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