England’s rugby team has daunting trip to Australia after Barbarians thrashing

England's rugby team player Jonny May celebrates scoring his team's second try on June 19, 2022
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The Barbarians thrashing of England’s rugby team on Sunday has heaped more pressure on Eddie Jones. With Australia eagerly awaiting a three-test match series on their home turf, it won’t get any easier for Jones or the national side. This was a chastening weekend for England rugby.

Last Sunday, the Barbarians put 50 points playing with 14 men for most of the match. England’s rugby team had countless errors to go with an uncomfortable game-plan that never materialized. To make matters worse for Jones were the performances of some of Saracens’ experienced England internationals. Charlie Inglefield examines a chastening weekend’s action and the ramifications for England rugby.

England’s rugby team has daunting trip to AUS after Barbarians ‘thrashing’

England’s breakdown was a disaster and their set-piece was decimated by the Barbarians’ front five. England’s attack was all over the shop with intercepts, dropped passes, and schoolboy errors. What was meant to be a positive showing before flying to Australia was anything but. In truth, this was a horrible performance by an England rugby team who looked rudderless, orderly, and out of their depth.

What does this mean in the context of the 2023 Rugby World Cup? Eddie Jones was bristling with tension in the post-match interview and understandably so. The comments around keeping the faith and experimenting on game plans are becoming all too familiar. England’s rugby team is no clearer in their attacking ambitions than what we saw in the 2022 Six Nations. Martin Gleeson, England’s attack coach has not so far unlocked England’s attacking abilities.

England squad analysis – Freeman and Cokanasiga earn their plane tickets

There were some bright moments from England’s new boys. Callum Chick, in after Alex Dombrandt’s withdrawal with a knee injury put in a decent shift in defence and attack. It was not enough for him to get on the plane to Australia. Tommy Freeman also showed that he can belong at this level with a tireless 80-minute showing at full-back. He was the one back in England’s rugby team to play in sync with the dancing Marcus Smith.

The other player to shine after a long time out with injury was Bath’s Joe Cokanasiga. He was a constant menace with the ball in hand and gave England a point of difference getting over the gain line. Out of the more experienced heads, Jonny May was industrious on his return to the England side. Jack Nowell was also strong when he came on in the final quarter.

Eddie Jones’ squad announcement on Monday posed a few surprises. He has gone for experience, which is understandable given where his team is at and the challenge of a test match series in Australia. Billy Vunipola was immense in a losing cause on Saturday and deserves another go at the international level. This is especially true with Sam Simmonds and Alex Dombrandt both injured. Danny Care has also been rewarded for his excellent form over the last two seasons.

Tommy Freeman and Leicester’s Guy Porter are two exciting players to look out for among the new boys coming into the squad. Freeman did not look out of place on Sunday against the Barbarians and Porter was excellent against a star-studded Saracens backline. Fraser Dingwall is another one to watch out for after a strong season for the Northampton Saints.

Omission: Ben Earl is hugely unlucky to miss out

Out of the players who are not required for the tour to Australia, Ben Earl is perhaps the unluckiest. He was not helped by a strangely flat performance by his Saracens teammates on Saturday. In another worrying sign for Eddie Jones, all of England’s internationals playing for Saracens had disappointing outings. Billy Vunipola is an honourable exception. That said, Ben Earl has been destructive all season and is desperately unlucky not to tour Australia.

Ollie Chessum’s performance in the Leicester Tigers’ back row might have shunted Earl off the plane. Chessum is growing in stature as an effective ball carrier and as a line-out option. Max Malins and Elliot Daly are also deemed surplus to requirements. Northampton’s Alex Mitchell is also unlucky not to make it on the plane. The merry-go-round selections at scrum-half continue and Danny Care may have played himself into a starting jumper for Perth on 2 July.

Following the call on experience, out of that Sarries side who played last Saturday, Owen Farrell, Jamie George, both the Vunipola brothers, Nick Isiekwe and Maro Itoje will likely be in the starting line-up against the Wallabies. Jones will be desperately hoping that they all get their mojo back; from what we saw in the Gallagher Premiership final.

See the full touring squad list here.

Defiant Jones reverts back to experience to turn to form around

The England tour to Australia follows on from two poor Six Nations campaigns. It is a daunting task – three tests away from home against a resurgent Wallaby team who like nothing better than to stick it to England. Danny Care and Billy Vunipola represent a safety net of experience with genuine test match quality inside them. Despite some very decent talent in the Gallagher Premiership, the production line making the transition from club to international level has been slow.

What does this mean for England’s rugby team and 2023 World Cup chances? Jones may believe that he has no choice but to go back to experienced hands like the Vunipola brothers and Danny Care – and stick with them all the way through to France. It would be an understandable decision. The Barbarians thrashing England at Twickenham over the weekend has shown just how strong French rugby has become. England in comparison looked woefully short on quality and cohesion. England may need to go back to basics first to move forward again.

The author of this article, Charlie Inglefield, looks at the shafts of light to hold onto if you are an England fan. Since Jones took over as England coach Australia has never beaten England. The Wallabies are a work in progress and are certainly improving but, they have a long way to go to be considered alongside the French, Ireland and the All Blacks.

Jones has loaded up on experience and perhaps a shift back to England’s traditional strengths – which is the set-piece and a territory game. It is not pretty but, it might just get the victory in Perth that England so desperately needs to inject some belief back into England’s rugby team.

Look for more coverage of the Australia v England summer Test series from Last Word on Rugby. How do you see this tour going? Comment below and, if you would like to contribute in this capacity, then look to the menu and click on the menubar to apply now and join the LWOS network.

 

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