Eddie Jones is the most successful England coach in history in terms of win percentage, but his tenure has come under fire after underwhelming in the Six Nations in back-to-back years.
The Red Rose have won only four of their ten matches over the last two seasons, with two of those triumphs coming home and away against Italy. Jones’ men have endured a major fall from grace after reaching the final of the World Cup in 2019 and winning the Six Nations in 2020, losing only one game in the process.
However, England’s methods have looked antiquated and rigid compared to the free-flowing style of France, who defeated the Red Rose in the final game of the 2022 competition to win their first Grand Slam in 12 years. England are now playing catch-up to Les Bleus ahead of the World Cup, with Jones’ men backed in the rugby union odds at 6/1 to win the trophy in Paris in 2023.
France are the leading contenders for the crown at 2/1, and considering their exploits in Six Nations it is hard to overlook their credentials. Jones and his team are going to have to raise their game to an exceptional level standard to match France.
England have announced a tour of Australia in the summer of 2022 to rebuild their confidence after a disappointing start to the year. In 2016 on England’s last tour Down Under, the Red Rose crushed the Wallabies, winning all three matches by comfortable margins. The performances in Australia marked a high point for England under Jones, never before had the Red Rose dominated their rivals so thoroughly in their own backyard.
The Wallabies were not able to get close to their opponents, suffering a whitewash. England were slick in attack and stoic in defence when the situation required. The two sides were night and day from the Australia side that defeated England with relish in the 2015 World Cup, when the Red Rose were coached by Stuart Lancaster.
The 2022 series will provide a litmus test for where England are at the moment and if they can rekindle their old magic under Jones. A further step back against the Wallabies could be fatal for Jones’ hopes of remaining in his post. The RFU have been steadfast in their defence of Jones and his tenure, even after the disappointment of the 2022 Six Nations. However, a series loss against Australia, especially a team that are far from the behemoths they once were in rugby union, would ramp up the pressure on Jones.
England are fast running out of time ahead of the World Cup, but do have a lot of promising talent at their disposal, especially in the backfield. Marcus Smith was sensational in his first Six Nations, while Freddie Steward, Harry Randall, Joe Marchant, Max Malins among others have displayed promise in the early stages of their international careers.
Jones has been handed a promising deck, but he now needs to deliver just as he did in the early stages of his reign. If England are unable to compete with Australia, then even the RFU might have to concede that he is yesterday’s man.