How Eddie Jones turned England from wasters into world beaters...
WHEN EDDIE JONES arrived at Twickenham, he was met by a team who had just been dumped out of the World Cup at the group stage. What he’s done with them is incredible, and the players’ willingness to trust him has helped.
It started with fitness. When Jones came in, he told the players to get 30% fitter, and they did. It’s improved some of them no end (Billy Vunipola!), and while training sessions have resulted in a few injuries, they’re shorter than before, and loaded with intensity instead. The players prefer it that way, rather than training for the sake of it.
The fitness has obviously helped with the defence – as has Paul Gustard’s arrival as coach – but it’s in attack where it really shows. Jones’ gameplan involves players standing square to the breakdown five or six yards away, then taking a ball with options to pull it deep or hit contact. Being fitter allows them to get around the corner and make up those yards.
Elsewhere, a tough edge has been introduced. Dylan Hartley as captain was a statement, and one his team take onto the field; ‘we’re not taking a backwards step, so find a way to beat us.’ (Read FS magazine's exclusive interview with Dylan Hartley).
Then there’s the backline, where he has shown trust in Youngs, Ford and Farrell, and let them mould and grow the unit around them. That, and trusting players to have a beer after a game, is the kind of thing that builds a team.
Finally, Jones isn’t shy to talk his side up when the time suits. It’s something the great sides do, and something England sometimes shy away from. After winning the Six Nations, he just said England SHOULD be winning it. His players won’t pat themselves on the back until they win a World Cup. Keep this up, and they just might get there…