Eddie Jones agrees new England deal: what can we now expect from him going forward?

England head coach Eddie Jones has signed a new deal with the Rugby Football Union (RFU), in order to remain with the England national side for at least the next four years. So what does he need to address before the next World Cup, scheduled to take place in France in 2023? Here are some of the things I think England need to sort out in the next four years.

1) Winning the Six Nations

When Eddie Jones was appointed back in 2015, following the dismal showing of the side in the home World Cup, he urgently needed to address several problems. However, the first time we really got to see his tactics and ideas for the England team was the 2016 Six Nations. A Grand Slam, Triple Crown and 27th title showed that he had got the ears of his players, and whilst on the whole the Six Nations tournaments have been pretty good, last year, the 2019 edition, was a disaster for England, with the Calcutta Cup match result summing up how poor England were. At that point, it didn’t look like England were in great shape for the World Cup at all, but they did come through to finish as runners-up. To be fair, Eddie Jones did say that he wasn’t worried, because his focus was on the World Cup, and the Six Nations was just a series of 5 warm-up games.

This year, it didn’t start well before they managed to place top when the tournament broke so that the world could deal with the coronavirus outbreak. The simple fact of the matter is that England needs to get at least one more Six Nations title before the 2023 World Cup. That is one thing that needs to be in his in-tray.

2) Owen Farrell

The next thing he needs to think about is captain Owen Farrell. What we have seen is that England, particularly in the Six Nations this year, seem to wilt when Farrell is not playing at his best, and his emotions show. That leaks into the rest of the team, and it means England lose more games more easily.

As I said, the Six Nations was where this became very evident. In the first game against France, England just didn’t seem to turn up.

I’m not saying that Farrell needs to be replaced as captain, but I think Eddie Jones should give some thought as to how he is going to keep his team going mentally when they are down, and nothing seems to be going for them.

3) Bringing young players through

There has been a lot of debate in this year’s Six Nations about players missing out who fans think should be in the team, but aren’t. Most of the debate has centred around the Number 8 position, where England’s first choice, Saracens’ Billy Vunipola, has been injured, and Eddie Jones seems to want to keep the place ready for him when he returns to the international fold.

However, this means that other Number 8’s, who are deserving of a place in the England team, are not being given a chance to stake their claim for the spot. Those players are Harlequins’ Alex Dombrandt and Bath’s Zach Mercer, both of whom have been in scintillating form this season.

Instead, Eddie Jones seemingly wanted to use Sale Sharks’ flanker Tom Curry in that position, which just didn’t make sense to a lot of people. There was a lot of confusion over why he didn’t seem too keen on bringing through the next generation when he had the opportunity to give them some time on the pitch.

There are other positions where he needs to look at the next generation too. In the forwards, he needs to look at some new locks, with Saracens’ George Kruis investigating a possible move to Japanese club rugby (ruling him out of an England call-up), and Northampton Saints’ Courtney Lawes now over 30. He has addressed this in part, with Bath captain Charlie Ewels coming through, whilst Maro Itoje is still only 25, so he’s got a few seasons left in him too. Hooker Jamie George will be 32 by the time the next World Cup comes around, although his Saracens team-mate Jack Singleton and Exeter Chiefs’ Luke Cowan-Dickie are his back-ups in that position. In the back row, he has Bath’s Sam Underhill (23), Northampton’s Lewis Ludlam (24) and newcomer Ben Earl (22) of Saracens, as well as Curry obviously, so he’s spoilt for choice there.

In the backs, he needs to look at new scrum-halves, with Leicester Tigers’ Ben Youngs and Gloucester’s Willi Heinz now the ripe old ages of 30 and 33 respectively. On the wings, Leicester’s Jonny May is now 29, but Gloucester’s Ollie Thorley is being given international experience in preparation for when May calls it a day. Northampton full-back George Furbank is also being given England minutes, to get him ready to take over when some of the old guard hang up their boots too.

There are other players who will likely be being brought into the international set-up over the next four years or so, but it’s definitely something Eddie Jones needs to give some thought to.

 

These are just three of the things that he needs to address going forward, but there are others. It is a big four years for him now, because with England finishing as runners-up at last year’s World Cup, there is an expectation that they can go one better and win it again, putting themselves into the history books. However, just whether that is possible depends on what he does year-by-year, with bringing through players, sorting out his team’s mentality issues, and winning the Six Nations again.

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