Eddie Jones Effect is Showing
Australia Series No 13 - Eddie Jones effect is showing in his hard-nosed team as England claim a notable scalp
This England squad is not the first group to be dispatched to the Australian colonies for a spot of hard labour and self-correction but to judge from their performance in Brisbane the Eddie Jones punishment fatigues are already having an effect.
There was a hardness, an edge, a bit of devil, too, to suggest that the constant harping about the need to be fitter, faster and smarter is beginning to make its mark. The man himself practises what he preaches, chasing around the field in his dark-suited civvies during the warm-up drills at the Suncorp, animated, engaged and involved, a remarkable sight. Played seven, won seven on Jones’s watch.
England are transformed from the limp World Cup lot, hag-worn back then, now uplifted by the energy and input of Jones as his pre-match antics typified. What might have been, eh? Who knows, perhaps even the Australians might doff the cap to the Poms if they were to close out the series, either in Melbourne next weekend or in Sydney seven days later?
Jones would have been privately delighted that he was once again subjected to public digs and slights on Saturday, fending off and then biting back at puerile goads about his try-celebrations alongside one of his coaches and childhood friend, Glen Ella. Respect is not easily earned in these parts.
There are a certain amount of dues that have to be paid as well as a tolerance to be adopted of what passes for sledging-type humour. Put it this way. If an Englishman had come out with some of the mickey-taking, patronising and pompous flim-flam that has been directed the way of Jones and his team, then the locals would have quickly been reaching for those clichéd terms of ‘English arrogance’. If others do it, with that mocking, sneering tone, highlighting how England have struggled here down the years and the Wallabies thrived, then it is depicted either as harmless banter or evidence of the superior hard-nosed nature of southern hemisphere sportsmen. It is nothing but guff. But you have to deal with it.
Jones, even while denouncing the dismissive attitude taken toward England by the host broadcasters in particular, he will have recognised instantly that the perfect means of keeping his own squad grounded was to hand. Far from crowing about England’s first win in Brisbane stretching back 41 years, Jones downplayed their entire exercise. It is customary for a southern hemisphere coach at this juncture to bang on about how much capacity for improvement there is in their ring-rusty teams coming together for the first time in seven months. Instead it was Jones who stated bluntly that England had not played well and will need to improve if they are to win again at the weekend. Anything you think you can do, we can do better.
There were echoes of the tone once adopted by former All Black captain, Buck Shelford who came into a press conference in the late eighties following a 50 point demolition of Wales – pretty much an unprecedented scoreline in those days – and bemoaned the sloppiness of his team. It was a genuine grievance. The All Black pursuit of excellence is the template.
Jones’s musings are a mix of various elements – a sincere reflection on England’s early torpor, a reminder to the Aussies that there is more to come and a dampening down of any undue euphoria in his own camp.
Winning the first test was the imperative for Jones. It is not impossible to come back from 1-0 down in a series but is damn difficult, all the more so at the end of a lengthy season. These are uncharted experiences for most of the England squad, a three test programme of the like only played before by the Lions.
Jones himself was on duty in Australian colours in 2001, coaching an A team against the Lions in a midweek game in Gosford, showing his pedigree back then by inflicting the only midweek defeat on that party with a 28-25 victory. Of more relevance now is the fact that Martin Johnson’s Lions also enjoyed a huge Brisbane lift when winning the first Test, 29-13 at the Gabba. The sequence of venues mirrors that of this trip, with a second Test in Melbourne followed by a Sydney finale. The Lions were so dominant, even up to the half-time interval at the Colonial Stadium in Melbourne, that the Aussie hacks were preparing the obit notices on Rod Macqueen’s Wallabies at the break.
Instead, one wild tackle by Australia centre, Nathan Grey, now assistant Wallaby coach, that put flanker Richard Hill out of the series, was enough to turn the tide, Australia taking that second test, 35-14, despite losing at half-time and finishing the job at the Olympic Stadium, 29-23. Johnson speaks of that series as his biggest disappointment. Grey and resurrection causes is sure to feature in Wallaby circles over the next few days.
Jones will not allow such things to come to pass easily. England will be on their mettle. Indeed they were back at the team hotel in Brisbane even before most of the media had returned to file their pieces, the recovery process already under way. Only a few hours later, one of the stars of the night, James Haskell was up and about. England are not intent on resting on laurels.
Jones is no sentimentalist. He believes in hard truths, as his unceremonious substituting of Luther Burrell showed. He considered that it needed to be done. So he did it. Jones will not allow his team to wallow.
There probably will not be any substantial changes, with the Ford/Farrell axis likely to be reinstated.
But the most striking thing about England, more than any mere change of personnel has been the sea-shift in attitude and outlook. England have been toughened up by the Jones regime, the Man in Black who is on their case.
And it is paying dividends.
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