England recorded a first ever victory in Brisbane over the Wallabies in the opening match of the June International Series. The 39-28 victory was not a complete performance from England but highlighted the belief and battling qualities that Eddie Jones has instilled in this relatively young squad. The cauldron arena of test rugby is one in which talent alone is not sufficient for a team to excel. Jones has brought that clinical edge that England has been lacking in recent years.
A performance, as witnessed on Saturday night in Brisbane, would have in recent years led to the kind of result witnessed at the World Cup when Australia ran riot. With the Wallabies 10-0 up within 16 minutes and England having had barely a touch of the ball other than to return it to the relentless waves of green and gold attackers, previous England sides would have capitulated. Yet the current squad have been given the tools to overcome and chipped away at the scoreboard through the boot of Owen Farrell to keep themselves in the match at all times and ultimately take the historic victory.
Eddie Jones Takes Centre Stage
Much has been made of the clash between the opposing coaches, Eddie Jones and Michael Cheika, two former Randwick teammates and two proponents of a masterclass in mind games. Whilst much of the focus in the press has been on England’s record coming into this Test Series, Jones has been able to keep the spotlight firmly on himself. The Australian knows all too well the effect of the local press and has certainly kept them entertained. Claiming that his side would be impeded throughout even down to customs to checking his baggage upon arrival down under.
Are these the actions of a megalomaniac? Or are they the skills of a man looking to let his team make statement on the field? As much as many observers would like to criticise Jones for wanting to be the centre of attention he has clearly allowed his players the freedom to stay out of the press and let their skills take centre stage. Leadership qualities such as these are not unique to Eddie Jones but he has become particularly adept at them. The ability to transfer focus and pressure off of players is vital at the highest level of sport.
Australian Pundits Look to Counter Jones
With all the focus on Jones and much of the remainder of the press in Australia focused on how the new Wallabies midfield would fair, England’s players went rather unscathed into the first test. Minutes after the first test was over as England celebrated the first shots were fired in what has become a predictable and tiresome battleground. Fox Sports pundit and former Wallaby hooker Phil Kearns accused England prop Dan Cole of angling in resulting in Scott Sio’s yellow card. Reminiscent of the barrage of criticism levelled at Joe Marler at the Rugby World Cup, Kearns is attempting to once again centre attention of the English scrum and influence the referee heading into the second test in Melbourne. He is looking to take Eddie Jones out of the picture and get back to the standard of ripping apart the English players off and on the field. Suggested topics that are likely to receive an airing in the coming week alongside the scrummaging debate Dylan Hartley’s discipline record, the English back rows breakdown technique, as well as George Ford and Farrell’s relationship at 10 and 12 and England’s over reliance on Australian league converts with Ben Te’o in the squad.
World Cup Disappointment Gone, But Can’t Be Forgotten
Since Eddie Jones took over as Head Coach of England he has led them to a Six Nations Grand Slam and now victory over the Wallabies. In doing so he has enacted a little revenge for the embarrassment of last year’s World Cup performances but England cannot get too ahead of themselves as they continue to look to rebuild. It may well have been a win in Brisbane but it was not exactly a dominant performance from a side who are looking to return to the summit of world rugby. Jones will take the win but will no doubt be looking to move on straight away as one win does not make England world beaters. With plenty to work on they will now head to Melbourne brimming with confidence. The hurt of those World Cup losses remains with a large number of the squad and those scars should be worn on their chest with pride as they head into battle.
Eddie Jones has undoubtedly instilled belief in an England squad that has only been marginally changed since the World Cup. It is his ability as a leader that has allowed England’s talented players to focus on producing form on the pitch and not allowing any off field issues to take precedent. The level at which he can successfully do this will be truly tested in the week leading up to the next test as the Australian press looks to find a chink in Eddie’s armour clad English rose.