When England lost the World Cup final to South Africa in 2019, it seemed that the team would begin a transitional period, much like many of their Six Nations counterparts, who switched coaches and introduced new players ahead of last year’s tournament.
England of course were one of just two teams who went into the 2020 Six Nations with their World Cup coach still in charge, but it seemed like many of England’s players had pulled on the white jersey of their country for the final time in Japan.
“This team is finished now. There will be a new team made,” England head coach Eddie Jones said after the excruciating 32-12 World Cup final defeat to the Springboks.
However, whilst the Australian coach has capped 11 new players in the time since, the recent defeat to Wales in Cardiff is perhaps the best indication yet that not much has changed in the England camp over the course of the last 18 months or so.
As Jones’ men fell foul to their second defeat in their opening three Six Nations games against Wayne Pivac’s side at the Principality Stadium, leaving their title defence in tatters and England unfavourable in the odds for the Six Nations Championship, it was clear that a new team had not been made by Jones.
In fact, it was quite the opposite. 12 of the 15 players that started the World Cup final lined up to face Wales and had the likes of Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi not been carrying injuries, then Jones could have potentially named the entire XI from that final in Japan.
On top of claiming a new team will be made, the Australian told the media last year that he didn’t think that that group of players had ‘another World Cup in them.’ Yet, in the build-up to Saturday’s crucial game against France at Twickenham, Jones has now stated that he believes that ‘anywhere up to 70 percent’ of the current crop will feature in the 2023 World Cup in France. That’s a stark contrast.
So, why is that almost two years after the World Cup, Jones is still sticking with the old guard? You can’t deny the fact that they bounced back in emphatic fashion from that World Cup defeat in last year’s Six Nations, as they denied a fantastic France side their first title since 2010.
However, with the next World Cup still two years away, now is arguably the perfect time to start integrating new faces into the squad to give them the wealth of experience needed to challenge for the title in France.
Just look at Wales for example, they largely struggled in the first 12 months of Wayne Pivac’s tenure, as the New Zealand native transitioned the side. But now they have won the Triple Crown and the Six Nations Betting Tips are very much in their favour.
Perhaps the same faces have ruled the roost for the last few years because England don’t have better players coming through the ranks, and that is something that Jones has admitted that he has no control over.
“As the national coach I don’t control the talent coming through,” the 61-year-old said recently. “I’ve just got to try and pick the best talent and luckily enough I get a lot of advice on that.”
“There’s never an equal flow of talent coming through. You get periods where you get great nines coming through, great tens coming through, great back-rowers, and then for some reason there is a dearth, and no-one seems to know why.
“We’ve just got to make do with what we have, try and find the best ones and nurture them, and give them the right sort of development so when they do play for England they go and play 50 caps.”
The task now for Jones is to salvage some pride from England’s last two remaining Six Nations games. After that they need to regroup and think about where they go from here. This team has bounced back before, and we’re sure they can do it again.